Creative Offline Marketing Ideas for Retailers

Offline marketing is all the activities that you can think of, from poster campaigns to handing out leaflets on the street, direct mail, outdoor banner stands and other printed kind of media. Many people wrongly assume that in the digital age, offline marketing has had its day. Let’s take a look at some more offline marketing ideas and how you can use them to promote your business.

The digital age and online marketing are no doubt important. But, putting offline marketing out to pasture could mean that you are missing a beat. Rather than assuming that everyone is online, why not assume that offline and online marketing combined, can be a powerful force for your business.

With this in mind, business owners look at their offline marketing plans and actions; what they see if the ‘same-old, same-old’ of activities. The time has come to add some pizzazz to offline marketing… try these creative ideas:

Shift the focus from selling to customers

Many businesses assume that they need to sell, sell, sell to every customer that crosses their threshold or sends an email enquiry but, by focusing too much on selling, you are losing the customer in the mix.

Offline marketing offer several ways to regain this important but lost ground:

  • Membership packages

Many small businesses assume that these are only for the ‘big boys’ but there is nothing stopping you from developing a membership package. If you have the type of product that can be bought on a monthly or frequent basis, why not create a better and more enticing product for repeat customers? There are many examples of small businesses creating successful membership scheme…

  • Special events

More and more retail and business experts are suggesting that shopping is no longer a single activity; creating an events is a way of revitalising the high street and creating an event at your business is a great way of bringing people in. Be careful that this doesn’t just become a selling forum, make sure you are demonstrating or being informative too.

  • In-store scavenger hunts

Print off gift vouchers or ‘golden tickets’ and hide so many in store on a given day (pick your slowest day), and invite customers to find them. You can release so many per hour and have a range of tantalising offers…

  • Party fun!

Not for the faint hearted but, having an event that is not linked to anything other than to have fun, and introduce prospective new customers to your business, a ‘party’ or themed event is a great way to do it. If you have the budget, you can really push the boat out, with cartoonists on hand, butlers with bubbles and all sorts… invite only (which need to be professionally printed, with logo and money off coupon!)

Hone your demographics

Knowing who your customers are is important but, this can mean that we neglect other groups of customers who actually may like to buy our products. For this reason, take some time over your offline marketing to pinpoint certain customers;

The grey pound

This may or may not be a pleasant term for those of a certain age, but it is becoming apparent here in the UK, that the older customer has the cash that so many businesses are chasing.

The older demographic however, are rarely marketed to but they are also savvy shoppers too, so don’t assume that they will be sucked in with rubbish deals that get them nowhere. It also doesn’t mean that you have to patronise them either… so take care that graphics, photos and language are not alienating this important shopping group.

The green pound

But, there is another marketing strand in the ring that has been shown to be successful with some groups; highlighting how your business is eco-friendly seems to be one way of harnessing people’s attention.

For example, making it clear you only print on recycled paper, your bags are made from recycled materials etc. and telling people about these eco-credentials has started to work as a one marketing hook. People like to feel good when they shop; they prefer taking their custom to a business that has values and it seems that green credentials is one of them!

But, what about competing with the BIG brands?

It can be tough on the high street. Competing with big, powerful brands who seem to have a huge marketing budget, constantly pushes your store in to the shade. It can be easy to become disheartened but there are small business and stores out there who are thriving… and their secret? Concentrate on the customer, not ‘just’ the selling.

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Kickstarting Your Home-Based Business

Nowadays, doing business from your home is not so rare thing to see as it was few years back. Pros and cons for this type of work are numerous, but people turn to it quite often, which shows us that it is something worth thinking about. If you are sick and tired of losing several hours for being stuck in a traffic jam on the road to and from work, then this is something you need to look upon carefully. In this article I will list several home-based business tips on what you need to pay attention to, if you wish to move the office to your home.

The idea

The very first thing you will need on order to start your business, is of course, your desired field of work. There are two ways for you to take, depending on your situation and preferences. You can either ask our employer if you can work from home, of course under the condition that you like your current job, and you wish to stick to it. On the other hand, if you wish to begin from the bottom, and move to the top, you will probably want to start your own business. All you need to do is to take a sheet of paper, and to write down all the things you are good at. Don’t miss anything, so you should cover your talents, skills and feats, and in that way you will get a close image about your future job. Next thing which should be taken into consideration is it possible to perform such job from your home. What is it good for you if you cannot do that kind of work from your living room?

Additional services

Naturally, not all the work can be done by you. You need to think about whether are you going to need additional help? If you are good with numbers, that is an excellent feature to possess, for you can regulate taxes, incomes and outcomes, and everything else that comes with this business. On the other hand, if you are not that good with keeping the bills clean, you might consider hiring someone, and do it so online. Numerous services offer their help at moderate price, so you can be free from worries on that side. Also, the Internet is your ally here, for you can also choose from wide plethora of business-oriented cloud services, in order to reduce the amount of paper stocked in your room. Skype and other free-to-use contacting services will be additional benefit, for you can make a conference call in no time, all of that from your living room.

Setting up the office

You will need some secluded space on this one, so it is of utmost importance that you have the space required. A part of a living room, separated by mobile, moving screens would do the trick, for in most of the cases, you will need room for a desk and maybe an office cabinet. Of course, computer or a laptop is an essential asset, something you cannot work without, so think whether you are going to use an existing one, or to invest a bit, and obtain the one you will be using for work strictly. Also, your working space must be set up in a way that nothing will distract you. Remember, when you are at work, you are right there, not in your living room. This is a hard thing to do for some people, and in time their business suffers and dies out. Avoid this trap. It would be wise also to invest a bit in your safety field, and to purchase one of those office safes, in order to store your important documents, licenses and other things. Not only for safety, many of those are fire resistant, so if the disaster happens, your most important data will survive without a scratch.

So, when everything said is taken into consideration, go through this article once more, and see if this kind of work is suitable for you. If the answer is positive, all that is left is to register your office/company, set up a web-site, and start working. On the other hand, if you are not sure how the things will work, maybe it would be wise to give yourself some time to think. After all, if you are uncertain and unsure, you can hardly succeed. Sheer determination is crucial.

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Ulster Bank host the 4th IDA “Meet Your Neighbours” Networking Event

The 4th IDA/Ulster Bank “Meet Your Neighbours” Networking Event took place in Ulster Bank, George’s Quay on Thursday evening, 19th March 2015. The event was a great success, driven by the strong attendance from a large number of innovative companies. Each of these companies has one thing in common – they have chosen Ireland as their investment location of choice.

The theme for the evening was Go Green Gathering, which brought some festive atmosphere in celebration of St Patrick’s Day.

There was a real buzz in the room as the event delivered traditional Irish music and served up staple Irish foods, as each of these young vibrant companies mingled, networked and exchanged ideas.

The IDA Emerging Business Division

The event is an IDA initiative, hosted by Ulster Bank, and it is a testament to the tremendous work of the IDA Emerging Business Division.

The IDA has successfully supported a large number of multinational companies with their expansion into Ireland, many of which are based in Dublin. The event allows companies an opportunity to share their experience of moving to, and doing business in, Ireland. It was also a chance for people to network as well as share their business concepts and ethos.

Companies that attended on the night included: Indeed, Google, Nitro, Borderfree and Stripe – many of whom donned some green for the occasion.

At the outset, Stephen Masterson (Director, Ulster Bank Corporate Banking) welcomed everyone on behalf of Ulster Bank and highlighted the fantastic work completed by the IDA in attracting these exciting businesses to Ireland.

Panel Discussion

Barry O’Dowd (Head of the IDA’s Emerging Business Division) was MC for the evening, and his job included interviewing a panel to discuss sector developments, why their company chose Ireland, disruption in their individual sectors and how their company maintains a competitive edge in today’s fast moving market.

There were three panel members, covering a good cross section of the types of companies that have chosen Ireland:

  • Aidan McLaughlin: Head of International Communications, Indeed.com
  • Hanni Ross: Business Development/Marketing, Slack, Inc
  • Thomas Hackett: General Manager, Modern Marketing Concepts, Inc

Barry’s Emerging Business Team were also in attendance, including Melissa O’ Connor, Gillian Lawless, Kathleen Bohan, Kevin Carroll, Jayne Wyatt, Patrick Gaule, Ciaran Chaney and Emma Mitchell.

Following a raffle, the remainder of the evening was spent enjoying the good company, food and music. There were plenty of business cards exchanged, as the attendees mingled, whilst admiring the impressive night-time view of the Custom House across the Liffey.

Ulster Bank and the IDA, are delighted to continue the “Meet Your Neighbours” tradition and look forward to the next event, bringing together Dublin’s international business community.

 

Ulster Bank host the 4th IDA “Meet Your Neighbours” Networking Event – Go Green Gathering

Ulster Bank host the 4th IDA “Meet Your Neighbours” Networking Event – Go Green Gathering

 

Ulster Bank host the 4th IDA “Meet Your Neighbours” Networking Event – Go Green Gathering

Ulster Bank host the 4th IDA “Meet Your Neighbours” Networking Event – Go Green Gathering

 

Ulster Bank host the 4th IDA “Meet Your Neighbours” Networking Event – Go Green Gathering

Ulster Bank host the 4th IDA “Meet Your Neighbours” Networking Event – Go Green Gathering

 

Ulster Bank host the 4th IDA “Meet Your Neighbours” Networking Event – Go Green Gathering

Ulster Bank host the 4th IDA “Meet Your Neighbours” Networking Event – Go Green Gathering

 

Ulster Bank host the 4th IDA “Meet Your Neighbours” Networking Event – Go Green Gathering

Ulster Bank host the 4th IDA “Meet Your Neighbours” Networking Event – Go Green Gathering

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Webinar Best Practices

Preparing a presentation through a webinar is only half effective as the preparation that goes into the webinar presentation. Webinars can be very cost effective and can reach a broad audience. The webinar can be as official, or as informal as the host wishes it to be. Depending on the sophistication of the marketing and IT departments, the webinar can be robust or elementary. Read on for Webinar Best Practices…

The goal is to effectively communicate with the intended audience. At this point it is presumed that the host has decided that the webinar is the most effecting medium to communicate the host’s message.

1. Select Your Presenters and Speakers

Your message cannot be effectively communicated if you chose the wrong communicators to convey your message. Understanding the type of medium that you are using with your webinar and the speaking style of your presenter. Your presenter may not be comfortable speaking during a webinar format. This should be addressed with a short test run prior to the actual presentation. Some speakers can be coached to present in the webinar format while others may find it difficult to adjust.

2. Determine Your Presentation Format

How you present your information is just as important as what you are trying to say. You will have to see you webinar presentation from the perspective of the your audience. Your presentation may be viewed on different mediums, including smart phones tablet devices, laptops as well as desktop computers. Again a test shot of how you may want to present your presentation is not as important as how your presentation will be received. If you ask two or three friends to view a five minute segment of your presentation you may receive valuable feedback regarding the proper manner to organize your information.

3. Plan Your Exhibits and Visual Displays

Your visuals are critical in a webinar. Depending on the receiving device graphics, it may not be visible to someone participating with your webinar using a smartphone or a tablet device. Some exhibits and visual displays may need to be distributed to the webinar participants prior to the presentation starting. Others may have to be simplified too so the images or graphics can be viewed easily.

4. Select Your Webinar Medium

There are many services that offer online meetings for free, and there are several for webinars as well. Most have a modest cost for their use, but will allow a free trial so you can see if the medium is easy to use and whether it is a site or program that you are comfortable with. Again you should decide on a webinar medium that is reliable and is easy for your audience to sign in to use. Also, you may want to compare the various features between the mediums. Use of graphics and playback ability are important in the communication of your message.

5. Determine Your Webinar Registration

If you have a specific guest list for your webinar you may want to ensure that your webinar facilities have the capability of easy registrations so you are able to tell who from your target audience is actually participating on your call. This will help you to determine if you need to take additional steps to advertise your webinar and the presentation subject matter. Webinars allow for very specific audiences and messages in a compelling way, with limited interaction. Ideally you’d want everyone on your business’s mailing list to attend, but don’t plan on it. You may also want to determine if you desire the registration list to be viewable to other participants of the call.

6. Prepare a Detailed Agenda

This is the most important part of your webinar. You must first decide how long your webinar will be and then literally script each segment of your webinar. If you plan to have a period for questions and answers you should plan a set amount of time for questions and answers and stick to that time period so you do not run out of time. Otherwise, members of your audience will start to fall off the webinar if they feel or sense that there is no structure to the presentation. Additionally, once an agenda is shared, your audience will know what subject matters are going to be covered and when to present timely questions.

7. Set and Execute a Dry Run in Front of a Test Audience

After you have put your presentation together you should do a real time presentation with a test audience to see if all facilities of the webinar work properly. This will help you to perfect your presentation and will keep your audience engaged.

8. Reserve and Check Your Equipment and Space

Prior to the commencement of your webinar presentation you or your staff should do a check of all of the systems to be used for your webinar. This includes making sure that call in or login numbers and passwords are working properly. This will avoid any unforeseen delays in the start of your presentation. Studies have shown that if someone has difficulty signing into a webinar then they will leave before 10 minutes and that audience is lost.

All and all, with these tips you’ll be on your way to a better, well-prepared webinar presentation.

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Generating B2B Leads in Challenging Circumstances

We have witnessed a huge growth in B2B SaaS startups in recent years, driven by a number of factors including easier access to finance, lower barriers to entry, and the lure of attractive business models once the ‘chasm has been crossed’ between early adopters and the early majority users. In the first of a two part series, Alan Gleeson explores some of the key challenges with lead generation, and describes some key building blocks to put in place before commencing a campaign. Read on for advice on generating B2B leads.

Where once competition was defined by geographic boundaries or industry space, it is increasingly viewed as the breadth of applications vying for the attention of your target audience.

“…in an information-rich world, the wealth of information means a dearth of something else: a scarcity of whatever it is that information consumes. What information consumes is rather obvious: it consumes the attention of its recipients. Hence a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention ….” (Herbert Simon, 1971).

Difficulty Sourcing Leads

In this battle for attention, B2B companies are all after the same thing: prospects or leads they can add to their Customer Relationship Management (CRM) platform to be successfully nurtured through their respective sales funnels. But for many, high quality leads are becoming harder to source due to a number of factors, including:

  • Gatekeepers becoming increasingly adept at screening out unsolicited calls.
  • The reduced efficacy of cold calling as desk phone use gets replaced by mobiles (it’s harder to obtain people’s mobile numbers).
  • Weaker demand due to budget freezes for non-essential purchases.
  • Decision makers with buying authority avoiding giving their contact details out.
  • Buyers researching solutions online, avoiding personal engagement until they are close to a purchase decision (it can be difficult to ascertain where prospects are in terms of a purchase decision before engaging with them).
  • The fragmentation of media making it harder to target prospects via traditional paid channels.

Finally, in terms of ‘buying lists’ (a long-favoured pursuit of B2B professionals) it is getting more difficult to buy a good list in a cost-effective manner. If this is a route you intend to explore, get a free sample of at least 100 prospects to test first. Routing these through your mail provider will give you some data on bounce rates/open rates etc. so you can assess the value in the list before spending money.

As most will quickly discover, generating leads through offering value to prospects will be a lot more effective than trying to pitch to a cold list of dubious quality.

So how do you offer value?

Implement A Lead Generation Campaign

Commencing a lead generation campaign represents the best means of creating awareness and gaining attention from your target audience. However, before you start, there are a number of building blocks to put in place first.

  1. Get a clear sense as to what a ‘typical buyer’ looks like, where they congregate online/offline and what urgent, expensive and pervasive pains they are trying to solve that relate to your proposition. Some companies create a number of ‘personas’ to help ensure features address primary customer needs. Knowing your customer (by segment) has never been more important.
  2. Consider demand generation techniques on a ‘horses for courses’ basis, as people working in different industries will have favoured sites or social media platforms and even adoption rates in terms of tech.
  3. Have a clear sense of the ‘lifetime value’ (LTV) of existing customers, so you know what your cost of customer acquisition (CAC) needs to be. This will help inform which paid media can be used and what a target ROI needs to look like.
  4. Ensure you have the basics in place before you commence your campaign, including:
    • CRM tool (Zoho , OnePage CRM, Salesforce etc)
    • Email marketing platform (Eloqua, Mailchimp, SensorPro)
    • Well-designed landing pages (Unbounce)
    • Clarity re Key Performance Indicators
    • Quality content for different stages of the funnel including whitepapers and case studies (ideally behind data capture form pages so you capture email addresses)
  5. Coordinate activities such that ‘paid campaigns’ support these other marketing initiatives as part of an integrated campaign:
    • Pay Per Click
    • Ad Retargeting
    • Facebook Adverts/LinkedIn/Twitter Cards
  6. Don’t forget the ‘silent benefits of PR’ as described by US venture capitalist, Mark Suster:

“PR is an insanely valuable activity in early-stage companies. Very few investors understand this and even fewer startups. When you’re an early-stage business every dollar matters and because many startup teams these days are very product- and technology-centric they often miscalculate the importance of PR. I believe PR is often not tangibly measurable and for quant-oriented people this is hard to accept. The benefits of PR are exactly that: immeasurable. They are silent. They don’t show up in a calculation that says I spent $7,000 and I got X-thousands inches of press. It doesn’t work that way.” Mark Suster

Finally, as more and more focus shifts to digital marketing as a means to generate demand, the cost of testing the various techniques you can utilise continues to fall. Regardless of the techniques used, the resultant data generated must be managed properly. KPI’s need to be set and improvements sought over time, whether that’s in; improving click through rate’s (CTR’s) on landing pages, open rates on targeted emails or leads entering the funnel.

There are no excuses – test, measure, learn, try again.

About Alan Gleeson

Alan Gleeson is a digital marketing consultant based in London.

Follow Alan on Twitter: @alangleeson

This article originally appeared on CMO.com

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8 Startup Tips for New British and Irish Companies in 2015: Networking

If you’re a budding business on the British or Irish financial market and you’re just striving to make it or at least, for the time being, to remain in the game, then you know that the guide articles and the tips which apply to the American economy don’t really apply in our business environment as well. It’s easy to find good and compelling business advice online, which is actually one of the best things about the maturing of the whole internet revolution which started 20 years ago; it’s a sign that things are really rounding up into a well-leveled and diverse community that actually shares information more and more complex and valuable. The same kind of revolution is taking place as we speak in the field of technology, which means the field of business itself is about to undergo a major revolution, not only in regards of what products we will market and sell, but also in regards of how the sales will be made, how different pieces of the puzzle will be connected and so on. Just think of how the new Bitcoin currency and its free transaction system have already started to leave their mark on the business world, for example (whether you’re a supporter of this initiative or not). Read on for more startup tips…

Our point is that the world of business is overall on the brink of some great global opportunities which are getting riper and riper for a mid-term plan henceforth, but part of being able to seize opportunities in the best way possible and to grow in a way which is healthy all around resides in how tightly knit your business environment is. Small companies and especially startups that are in the most delicate timeline of their existence need to be part of this larger business community in order to interconnect, to find out opportunities and pursue them together towards the greater end. Even though there are voices that say that professional networking is overrated, this is truer on the individual side (when a person is looking for a job) than it is when we’re talking about small companies.

Besides networking, a blooming startup also needs access to good counseling tools and for their managers to keep themselves informed and up to speed with what the authoritative voices in the field are saying overall. But this is hard to achieve when so much of the internet’s creative flow and huge potential for intelligent debate are channeled towards the U.S. scene and though some parts of the advice can apply to European small businesses as well, it’s not that effective really considering the impending differences between the two environments. This is why we’ve decided to take a step towards making this better, by comprising the best advices we’ve encountered for British and Irish small companies into a mid-length piece about how to become better in the business, with a special focus on what we deem to be essential, namely on networking.

Startup Tips: Why Is Networking Important in the UK?

Despite what critical voices say, we can argue that networking is still a major game-changer in business everywhere, not just in the UK, but here is one of the few places where this business tool isn’t getting the promotion it deserves. While networking certainly happens and seals a lot of deals in the UK business market as well, special networking events and extensive magazine pieces on how to become more efficient at it have just started to appear lately, and they’re still nowhere near the grand status which networking enjoys in the American business field. Over the ocean, the idea that entrepreneurs need to come together and share stories and experience and present opportunities to each other is much more wide-spread and unquestionable, while over here, when such actions do take place, they tend to do so more likely in an informal context and therefore at a smaller scale.

This is partly explainable through the fact that the British market is, of course, much smaller than the American one, thus allowing some of the actors to connect informally easier, as part of a “global village” type of community. But this is obviously not the sole explanation for the diminished praise which networking gets here compared to the cult status it benefits from on the other side of the ocean. If we want to truly become internationally competitive, it’s time to change that, which is why networking should be all the more important here and now, in the present UK business scene.

8 Tips for British and Irish Start-ups

Depending on your area of activity, not all of the following tips may apply to you, but most of them will surely make you see the way to approach business at least a little bit differently.

  1. Don’t be afraid of competition – This preconceived notion about competition is perhaps the most harmful idea still around from an age in which blueprints were stolen and you had to kick your competitors in the back in order to achieve anything. Nowadays, the competition is for various resources (including customers), but definitely not about information anymore (not that it had ever should have been about that in the first place). The more you share your knowledge and put together inspirational resources, the more the community and the ties among its members will grow, to the personal growth of all the involved micro businesses in it. This is why deepening the web content for this particular side of the business world (the UK and Ireland) should be one of our main priorities for the future.
  2. Don’t neglect the European market – It’s true that the web scene for business tips and resources should be a bit more focused on the local market, but that doesn’t mean the insular mind frame should continue to play a part in the strategy making of any UK-based businessman (or businesswoman). Having this notion that we are somehow apart and separate from the rest of the continent didn’t do us much good in the past, and though it did lead to some economic advantages, arguably (like the fact that keeping the pound led us to not be hit as hard as the EURO currency has been in the last few years), it’s not a strategy to keep in mind when expanding your business and growing is what you have in mind. After you secure a relatively decent foothold internally, in the UK and Irish markets, don’t hesitate to expand your services to our European neighbors – there are still some regulatory advantages we share that make it easier to expand on this market than on others far away, and the client profiles are so similar that your business is bound to bloom once you take that step.
  3. Try to strengthen the UK-Irish bonds on the greater business market – Still, do you know what even easier, paperwork-wise, than collaborations and interconnections between the UK market and European markets? That’s right, the connections and collaborations between various actors within the UK and Irish business scenes. Therefore, think big(ger) and don’t neglect considering what goes on the other side of the border whenever you’re on the brink of taking a business decision to help your startup advance towards its small and middle term goals. Since the two countries and markets are already very intertwined, the facilities for these kinds of transactions can make your life easier and also serve as a “practice-level” expansion.
  4. Think of going global – The world is comprised of much, much more than just the UK and Irish business scene, and this should be definitely taken into account when considering your future business strategy. It’s not something to postpone for the too far future though, since it’s not as risky as you fear and it may very well be that this precise move is what will help your company lift off from the ground level. Selling overseas is one of the best things you can do for your business, so stop postponing it.
  5. Maintain real / intensive contact with your clients and potential clients – Exquisite client care is one of the single advantages which a small company can have over a large corporate establishment. The humane and kind way in which you treat every client, the amount of time and patience you have with them, as well as how much you succeed in giving them the impression that you’re going out of your way to secure their satisfaction – these are all factors that make a client become a loyal regular for any of your offers. But to take this simple truth one step further and help this personal availability of your startup take it one step further the business edge you’re eyeing, you need to think ahead to the wishes of target clients. Order some qualitative research studies (even if you hear the misconception that quantitative studies tell you more) and you will know how to anticipate desires and attract the customers you don’t have yet. Don’t rely on hunches.
  6. Get an expert IT team to help you personalize your web interface – Of course, we’re not talking about personalizing your website to your company’s profile and not even to the personal preferences of important customers. We’re talking about using advanced web tools to make your website local for the various markets in which you’re trading (UK, Ireland, perhaps USA and then further), with all the intricate connections this implies (banking connections, postal connections and so on). It’s not like you have to invest in making an actual headquarters someplace else. All you need to do it have the website available in the local markets of the countries you’d like to receive orders from (and also to advertise the website through the local channels), and then just step back and watch the orders pour in. It’s on the plus-side of the whole globalization process.
  7. Don’t be afraid of non-conventional pathways – According to a Sage study published in 2014, it turns out that 25% of all British entrepreneurs didn’t wait until 18 to leave school and focus on coming up with an idea for a startup. A quarter of all the businesspeople in the country, therefore, were high school drop-outs that decided at 16 years old that formal education can’t really offer them as much as life experience could, and it turns out that for a large number of them, the dreams actually did came true. We’re by no means bashing formal education here, but we’re just saying that if a pathway is usually frowned upon, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it won’t lead you where you want to get.
  8. No capital doesn’t mean the entry on the scene is barred – If you have a great idea, but lack the funds to invest in it yourself, don’t worry (so much). First of all, you can focus on ways to start your business activity without needing much investing, and second of all, this is precisely where networking opportunities come in. Attend conferences and events focusing on encouraging the micro business scene and there will typically be chances to present your idea to groups of investors and perhaps come back home with a new business partner for the long term.

Upcoming Events

For Ireland-based startups, be sure not to miss the grand StartUp Gathering event which will debut on October 5th 2015. Entrepreneurs and small companies all over the country and beyond will round up to present their ideas to an audience of over 15,000 people and this chance to shine can do so much for your business that it would really be a shame to miss it. It will feature over 50 separate events (not just in Dublin) and also a national “Startup Demo Day” where you’ll get the chance to pitch your idea to top investors looking for great things to finance. This will be the first ever national event focusing on startups in Ireland, not to mention that its scale is going to make it enviable to any kind of business sector, beyond startups or micro scale companies.

For the UK business scene, make sure you don’t miss the talks given by the Kent Event Center (on the 20th of October 2015) or the Campus London events which take place there almost every week (check their timetable here).

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Start-up Story: SqueezeIT – My first Adventure

Read part 1 here.

Anyway, to make a long story even longer a friend of mine contacted me around then and told me about a place called the National Development Research Centre (NDRC) based in the Guinness brewery which at the time was looking for new businesses to apply for their start-up scheme which we did in relation to the app and some other ideas we wanted to pursue.

We were not successful and everyone subsequently went their separate ways and a few weeks later I got involved with a different strart-up with somenone else’s idea for a few months, unfortunately that didn’t work out either due to a lack of funding support but I did learn a lot from both projects which I have put to good use since then.

Written by Aidan Murray. As part of ‘Use SBC as a channel’ initiative, SqueezeIT has an exclusive offer for SBC members: “We will waive the 100 euro deposit for the first five companies that sign up for our service with us and will give a 50% discount for the next five businesses.”

For more information on this business visit Partner Site: emergo-online.com | Email: squeezeit@yandex.com |Phone: 087 261 7576.

 

 

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How to Know When a Business is Facing Financial Problems

Almost every business faces bumps in the road or periods of real operational difficulty but how do you know when challenging headwinds have become serious financial problems?

1 – Financial Problems and an Unsteady balance sheets

When sales momentum is heading in the wrong direction it is always likely to seem as if a company is struggling to compete. However, there are certain key factors that determine whether a business is in good enough financial shape to come out on the other side of a testing period.

Key to the whole equation is a company’s balance sheet. Cash can disappear quickly in times of trouble but if cash holdings remain largely intact then a business always has a fighting chance of turning its fortunes around.

2 – Interest payments are proving a heavy burden

Having debts to pay is not necessarily a bad thing and borrowing money to help prepare a business for a brighter future is very often essential for success. However, when interest payments on debts amount to a very significant portion of a company’s outgoings, it can be a sign of a business entering dangerous financial territory.

3 – Dividends being reigned in

A simple but often effective measure of how a company considers its prospects is the rate of dividend paid out to shareholders. When dividends are being consistently reigned in, it can be a sign of underlying financial troubles and concerns about the shape a business is in.

However, reducing or cutting a dividend is not always a sure sign that a company is struggling because there can be other reasons for reigning in the amounts of money paid out to shareholders or relevant parties.

4 – Assets going on sale

It doesn’t take too much of a leap of the imagination to guess that when a business is beginning to sell off some of its most valuable assets that the underlying financial picture might not be great.

Raising funds via any means necessary might be a prudent course of action for a business struggling to stay afloat but there is always likely to be a limit to what can be sold without a company damaging its own long-term prospects.

The key point here is to look out for really unusual behaviour and for sales that either don’t make much long-term sense or which undermine a company’s ability to operate.

5 – Directors jumping ship

When a company’s top managers start setting off for pastures new, it can be a clear sign that all is not as it should be as far as an organisation’s financial health is concerned. So if you see directors taking up new posts with rival companies and less senior employees being promoted with unusual haste then it might be worth looking deeper into what’s really going on.

6 – Perks becoming less perky

Most companies will want to keep their employees happy and offering perks can be an important means of attracting and retaining talented staff. But genuine financial problems and difficulties can only be ignored or brushed aside for so long. Eventually, struggling businesses are often obliged by financial necessity to cut back on the perks they offer their workforce.

7 – Accounting issues

When a company decides that it wants to change its auditor on short notice or based upon some sort of disagreement then it might be red flag and a sign of problems. Businesses do change who handles their books in the normal run of things but not often when their finances are ticking along quite nicely and the future is set fair.

Mark Halstead has worked at companies across the financial services industry and is a fellow of the Institute of Sales and Marketing. He is a key figure at Red Flag Alert, part of the Begbies Traynor Group, and is now in his 10th year with the business.

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Creating a Successful Employee Reward Program: 6 Key Strategies to Consider

Today’s workforce is more diversified than ever. And companies looking to leverage this rich and vast resource of multi-generational, multi-cultural and multi-lingual employees for competitive edge are finding employee reward programs very effective for upping employee satisfaction, spurring motivation and increasing productivity. Small businesses have the advantage of creating the employee rewards program they’d like to see implemented throughout the growth of the company.

The main challenge for companies in implementing a successful employee reward program is making sure the program is aligned with key business goals and objectives. To that end, here are six key strategies to consider for creating an employee reward program that works.

Begin with the end in mind: Corporate success comes from meeting specific goals, and those goals need to be made clear before implementing an employee reward program. After all, the achievement of corporate goals is dependent upon employee performance. And since employee performance is the product of actions and behaviors, both good and bad, it’s critical to reward employees in ways that reinforce only those actions and behaviors that align with corporate objectives and increase performance.

  • Make all employees eligible: In order to be successful, an employee rewards program must make all employees eligible for recognition. And that must be made abundantly clear to the entire workforce at the outset. Otherwise, at the first sign of favoritism, real or imagined, the program and those who implement it will suffer a damaging loss of credibility as employee morale takes a nose-dive. Without establishing and maintaining a level playing field for all employees even the best reward program will fail.
  • Make the program multigenerational and multicultural: No employee recognition program can be successful unless the rewards being offered are relevant and meaningful for all employees, regardless of age or culture. While taking generational and cultural differences among the workforce into account is no small feat for HR, the benefits are well worth the effort. A simple and direct way to gain a better understanding of what types of rewards might be preferred by employees of different generations and cultures is to ask them in an anonymous survey what culture they most closely relate to and what types of rewards motivate them most.
  • Give personalized rewards: While giving a reward that best matches the employee’s age and cultural background is critical, making that reward personal to them by including a note of thanks from upper management will go a long way in making the employee feel truly valued and appreciated. Long after the money is spent or the luster of the gift is gone, the power of a personal note or letter of recognition will continue to reinforce and reproduce positive employee behaviors.
  • Leverage technology: In order to be successful, employee reward programs must be effectively and efficiently communicated and promoted in order to maximize employee participation. In today’s tech connected world there are all kinds of ways to promote programs and educate employees using the communications platforms that they are most familiar with. Web based platforms, email, and social media are just a few tools that can be used to give extra depth and relevance to reward programs. And many companies are discovering the power of recognizing employees through social media platforms and delivering their rewards digitally.
  • Monitor effectiveness: Employee reward programs can go a long way in creating a positive corporate culture. That being said, it is still incumbent upon HR to show that the program is achieving the strategic objectives of the company, such as increased performance, productivity and ROI. Today’s sophisticated HR platforms allow businesses to accurately monitor and measure ROI as well as other key indicators of employee performance. Armed with this information, management has a better picture of how well the reward program is working as well as areas that can be improved upon to increase employee motivation and performance.

 The above six strategies will go far in helping an organization implement a successful employee reward program. To make any program more effective, it’s critical that employees understand that the reward is performance-based. It’s also important for management to present the reward sooner than later, as delaying a reward can dramatically reduce its effectiveness.

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UK Budget 2015 – Election Acts as a Speed Camera on the Pace of Austerity

This Budget more than any of the Osborne Budgets that went before it had one eye on the election. Previous Budgets focused on protecting the older generation, and again we saw this today with the confirmation of more pension flexibility for those people with annuities. However the younger so-called ‘jilted generation’ also featured on two key fronts – first of all, with employers national insurance contributions waived for under 21s and an additional waiver for employers hiring young apprentices next year; and secondly with the Help to Buy ISA, through which first time buyers will receive a bonus of up to £3,000 for saving for a deposit.

While this is welcome and will undoubtedly be attractive to many first time buyers, in Northern Ireland it is perhaps less economically significant than in the South East of England, as the issue with the local housing market is that there are too many potential home movers in negative equity or with not enough equity to move.

Download the complete budget here (.PDF 218 KB)

Raising Personal Allowance

As in previous Budgets, the Chancellor has continued his theme of raising the personal allowance. Given that Northern Ireland has lower average incomes than the rest of the UK, an increasing number of individuals locally will be taken out of income tax altogether.

Over the next 24 hours, the media headlines around the Budget are likely to focus on populist measures like the beer duty reduction and the Help to Buy ISA. However, attention will quickly return to the public finances. While these are improving, as the Chancellor highlighted today, the challenges of reducing our debt burden and cutting public expenditure remain.

Indeed, there are an additional £12 billion in welfare spending cuts included in the Budget, which will bring further financial and political challenges for Northern Ireland in particular.

While the pace of austerity appears to have eased relative to the Autumn Statement back in December, people should be under no illusion – the UK faces a second Parliament of fiscal pain. Such a scenario was flagged five years ago by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS). Day-to-day public spending is facing cuts in 2016/17 and 2017/18 that are more than twice what has been experienced on average over the last 5-years.

Effectively, the 2015 General Election has acted as a speed camera for the pace of austerity, and after May the austerity accelerator will have a heavy right foot on it again. It is likely that the most unpalatable medicine will be delivered at the start of the fixed 5-year Parliament.

Download the complete budget here (.PDF 218 KB)

Emergency Budget

Regardless of who wins the next election, a second ‘Emergency Budget’ is expected in June. Public spending growth is not expected to return until 2019-20. We also will face a Spending Review in the autumn. It is noted that in the first so called Parliament of pain, record low interest rates and a weak currency provided much needed tailwinds to the economy. Looking ahead into the second Parliament of pain, the public expenditure cuts for day-to-day spending will be deeper than experienced to date and the sterling / euro exchange rate is now a headwind not a tailwind.

Furthermore, it would be overly optimistic to assume that interest rates will remain on hold for another 5 years as has been the case for the last 6 years. Austerity may be easing and economic growth remains robust. Enjoy that combination while it lasts.

Download the complete budget here (.PDF 218 KB)

www.ulstereconomix.com

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