Entrepreneurs receiving loans and support from The Start-Up Loans Company will now also be offered a cost-effective way to take card payments and grow their business, backed-up by first rate customer support through WorldPay’s Pay As You Go (PAYG) Card Acceptance Service.
Geraldine Wilson, managing director, Micro Merchants at WorldPay, commented: “89 per cent of adults in the UK have at least one debit or credit card and one in three UK consumers carry less than £5 cash. This means that businesses which are still unable to accept card payments considerably risk losing out on custom.”
WorldPay PAYG allows sole traders and small businesses in mobile professions (such as mobile hairdressers, plumbers and photographers), who would traditionally need to rely on cash, cheque or bank transfer to quickly, easily and cost-effectively take card payments using their smartphone. The service is specifically designed for sole traders and small businesses with 1 to 5 employees and has no minimum commitments.
James Caan, entrepreneur and chairman of The Start-Up Loans Company, commented: “The Start-Up Loans Company was created to provide young entrepreneurs all the support and expertise they need when it comes to setting up their own businesses. We’re continually looking to partner with innovative businesses that can help entrepreneurs to increase their chances of success and improve the service they offer their customers. WorldPay is a great example of a large enterprise that recognises the importance of entrepreneurs and small businesses, as well as understanding the challenges they face. We’re looking forward to being able to offer this additional service and help even more young entrepreneurs succeed in building their own businesses.”
While GDP figures show 0.3% growth over the last quarter, some business sectors are performing against the odds and experiencing exceptional growth. Barclays Online Business Outlook 2013 released this week has revealed that companies that operate online are thriving, with half of those questioned having produced double digit growth in the last three years. The average online company surveyed experienced 11.4% compound annual growth over the last three years, that’s over 50 times the rate of the economy over the same period.
Sean Duffy, managing director and head of technology, media and telecoms at Barclays, commented: “Online businesses have bucked the trend over the last three years and experienced success in spite of the stagnant economic conditions. While today’s GDP figures show some growth in the economy, these businesses are optimistic about what the year ahead holds and we think they are in a strong position to sustain the growth they have experienced over the last few years, providing they can take advantage of new and rising trends.”
The report, ‘Collaborate UK’, highlights the new strategies being followed in response to the downturn, revealing a significant cultural shift among the dynamic SME community and the emergence of a new breed of leaner, more focused ‘size zero’ businesses.
It found that a quarter (24 per cent) of the 700 SMEs surveyed are now more open to working with other businesses than they were before the downturn and 14 per cent now work with more partners as a result. One in eight would even team up with a competitor if there was a business benefit.
The report identifies the emergence of a new breed of “size zero” businesses – organisations that are stripping out non-core functions by embracing outsourcing, exchanging services and sharing expertise, so that they can focus on their strengths:
- Smart outsourcing - 2.8 million SMEs have embraced outsourcing, buying in a mean of five non-core business functions. Among this group, the projected mean spend on outsourcing in 2013 is £143,000 with 18 per cent planning to increase it, while the biggest spenders can be found in the East of England, where SMEs plan to spend an average (mean) £203,000
- Exchanging services - nearly half a million SMEs are engaging in a ‘bartering’ economy, by trading their services with other businesses in lieu of payment. Wales is leading the way, with 16 per cent of SMEs there saying they have contra deals in place
- Sharing expertise - over a quarter (28 per cent) work with other businesses to obtain sales leads and win new business while 22 per cent share best practice with other businesses. A huge 28 per cent of businesses in Yorkshire and Humberside would even consider working with a competitor (compared to the national average of 12 per cent)
These smarter ways of working have perhaps contributed to a feeling of cautious optimism among SMEs as they look to create over 400,000 new jobs this year, with the West Midlands showing the biggest signs of optimism and the North East the lowest.
Professor Robert Blackburn, Director, Small Business Research Centre, Kingston University, comments on the findings: “This more open, collaborative culture not only strengthens the capabilities, flexibility and efficiency of SMEs but has a wider economic benefit, stimulating more opportunities for enterprises as ‘suppliers.’”
Patrick Gallagher, CEO of CitySprint commented: “By sharing expertise, exchanging services and embracing smart outsourcing, SMEs across the country are successfully stripping non-core functions out of their businesses. This is creating a new breed of leaner, “size zero” businesses, able to focus on their core area of expertise whilst tapping into their networks for everything else, as and when they need something.”
Gallagher concluded: “Our report shows that far from feeling isolated during the economic downturn, there are real opportunities for new intra-SME contracts across the sector and country and a real sense of optimism. Through the work we do, it has been really fascinating to see businesses seize this opportunity and, in many cases, play a part in it.”
Mike Harrison explains how SMEs can harness the power of social media to promote their business, increasing profits all the way.
A long time ago in a galaxy, which now seems extremely far away, there was no Internet. If you wanted to sell your products and/or services you relied on customers coming in to your shop and buying your goods. A sales person sold your products or services by telephone or face to face. Marketing, promotion and customer satisfaction surveys were carried out by word of mouth or direct mail. Advertising existed only on billboards, in directories, newspapers or magazines. Commerce existed and the system worked well for most.
The dawn of the Internet….
Woooossshhhh…. And the world changed. The rudiments of a business continue to exist and still work well for most businesses but the Internet offered new alternative ways for commerce and communication to prosper. Pushing the fast forward button and moving past website advertising like banners, and skyscrapers and PPC search on portals or search engines offering a gateway to your own business website and ecommerce facilities, social media has come about and potentially offers a new string to your business bow.
Back in the day, there existed one of the first ‘Social Networks’, called SixDegrees.com (1997-2001). It was named after the six degrees of the separation concept. It allowed users to list and ask acquaintances/friends/ family to join the site, send messages to people in their first, second and third degrees, post content to them and for individuals and groups to see each others connections. Friendster, MySpace, LinkedIn, XING and Facebook soon followed suit using the “social-circles network model”.
Social networking refers to one aspect of social media as a whole. The key areas of social media that most businesses focus on are:
- Blogs – Blogger, WordPress
- Content communities – Delicious, Flickr, You Tube, Reddit
- Social Networks – Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, My Space
Most of us have now experienced being part of this revolution. Maybe you have a Facebook account to stay in touch with your friends or loved ones or your children do. You may follow news groups like Newsvine or Reddit to catch up on topics you have an interest in as well as contribute to. You might have a LinkedIn account for your business contacts network. So why not promote your business as well?
Point of contact
Most social media platforms including the likes of You Tube, LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook will allow you to register as a user/contributor under the name of your business. You will also be able to include your business contact details. The benefit of this is that straight away, any form of communication that you make comes from your business.
Promote business and industry news
If your business website or blog is updated about your latest product or service or industry news you can also share it through social media platforms. You can do this one of two ways, manually sharing the link yourself – posting it to a social platform or by including plug-ins on the site such as Add This and Share This which will allow you or other users to share your content automatically at the touch of a button choosing which networks you want to post it on.
As you have decided to set up your own business, you probably feel that you have a sound level of understanding about your business and the wider industry. being a thought leader can help you leverage your business and social media is a very useful tool to help you do this. However, this is not license to let people know you’re going on holiday or had a tasty meal last night. A Facebook page for your business allows you to express your thoughts about what is happening in your industry and comment on trends. LinkedIn offers a number of excellent groups you can join. On Twitter, by using # Tags against key words such as #business, #engineering, #manufacturing, #retail and #SME in your micro-blog (entry) other users who either follow you or follow trends, searching for key words, will be able to find your content. The bonus is that if they like what you are saying they may also follow you or ‘Re-Tweet’ what you said. Facebook and LinkedIn allow people to ‘Like’ what you’re saying, which acts like a recommendation.
New product or service launch
If you have a new product or service you need to tell as many people as possible about it. You Tube and other video search websites such as Meta Cafe and Vimeo will allow you to create your own channel which you can use to broadcast videos of your goods and services to make them more tangible. You can also include links from your website to your channel on video search platforms and they can be given a page ranking by search engines and appear in people’s search results when they use key words (for example ‘New business software product’). Using the #Tag method you can also promote your new product/service to your followers or other people following the tag. The bottom line is that you can improve the routes to sale and customer base.
As well as the traditional ways to advertise, social media platforms allow you another way to advertise your products and services to existing and potential new buyers. The bonus is that it does not cost any money but it will cost you time if your prepared to follow it through. This does not mean you have to go out and employ a SMO (social media optimisation) professional to do it. A few chosen words, use of #tags, URL link to product or service page on your website on your social media platforms creates a call to action and means you have another avenue to advertise your business, what it does and what it sells.
To be able to offer the best customer experience to new and existing customers, you need to understand their buying habits and behavior, what they like, what they don’t like, where they are and what their aspirations are. Traditionally, direct mail has been a way to do this, as has over the phone customer service satisfaction surveys. By asking your social media audience questions about your business, you have another way of understanding relatively quickly what people think.
It’s extremely likely that there are other businesses who offer similar products or services to those which your business offers. By using social media to promote your business, you may be using a function your competitor(s) are not.
Running an effective and profitable business is ultimately your priority and there are only so many hours in the day. Updating your social media platforms on a regular basis is what keeps people coming back for more, keeps them interested in what you’re doing and what you have to say. If you’re not prepared to update your content regularly, don’t do it.
By using social media for your business there is always the possibility that the audience intended may not like what you have to say. They may also have negative comments about what you do. Be aware that social media is open to everybody and it is out of your control to a certain degree, how they engage with what you write or promote. Negative responses can be detrimental to your business. You can of course moderate your own platforms and remove any content which you think is damaging but word travels quick through the social world.
All social media platforms are open to malicious abuse. It’s very easy for those that want to cause trouble to hide behind the facade of someone else, claiming to be something else. There are no guarantees – In the same way a stock can go up or down in value when you buy it, just because you decide to employ social media it is certainly not set in stone that it will have a positive effect on your business. Furthermore, you can’t rely solely on social media to sell what your business and the products and/or services it offers.
In today’s connected world, consumers have become used to searching for the services they need online. Indeed, according to Google, 95 per cent of smartphone users regularly search for – and, as a result, get in contact with – local service providers online. What’s more, Google’s research reveals that when people use mobile search they tend to take action immediately, with one in five making an instant phone call (source: Google Research, September 2012). That’s why mobile friendly sites are so important, especially to small businesses.
For many small companies and local businesses, it’s all about time, effort, cost and perception and many companies think you need a heavyweight site that’s complicated to build and a hassle to maintain (think responsive design).
But, unless you’re selling a lot of stuff online, most people who want to find out about your business probably don’t want much more than your contact information and a basic overview of what you do.
All of which means it’s probably enough to just ‘mobilise’ your ‘contact us’ or ‘about us’ page of your traditional website (if you have one). If you’re in the restaurant business, for example, you may want to make your menu available too. Or you may want to feature the opening hours of your business, include a map, and offer customers the opportunity to follow you on social media, or promote a special offer.
That’s exactly what the new service from Telnames makes possible. In just minutes you can create a mobile-friendly .tel site that looks good and gives people all your essential contact information in one easy-to-view location. A Telnames.tel site works in parallel with your existing site (if you have one), so you really can have the best of both worlds and ensure that your online presence is covered – whether customers are searching on the move or from their desktop.
Telnames is continuously innovating to ensure that our customers are reaping the benefits from any Technology advances. We’re pleased to announce that Telnames now includes the option for .tel mobile website visitors to save listed vouchers to the new Apple Passbook app. This enables customers searching on the move to file promotions from their favourite local merchants in Apple’s “virtual folder”.
This means that consumers can now save vouchers to be scanned and redeemed at the point of purchase. What’s more, push notifications inform customers of new deals and promotions. This is a truly innovative platform for small local businesses as people are building their own ‘local directory’ in their pocket.
The number of retailers getting on board with Apple’s Passbook has grown rapidly since its launch last autumn, and many industry commentators are recognising its potential to transform the voucher industry. A Telnames mobile website can help merchants tap into this new technology to allow brands to build better relationships with their customers.
We are constantly adding functionality to our service and are set be making further announcements throughout 2013. One of the areas of interest is in helping our customers gain more visibility in search and Telnames will be launching some developments in the near future
To get an idea of some of the sites our customers have set up, Visit our Pinterest site to view examples of Telnames that our customers have put together www.pinterest.com/telnames
In a nutshell, Telnames lets you create a mobile friendly site that is great when viewed on all platforms, or one that complements your existing, non-mobile friendly site; we offer a service to companies and individuals to ensure their sites are fully compatible with all mobile devices.
Visit Telnames and get 40 per cent off on your mobile friendly website today, only for British SME visitors. – Enter code OFF40 at checkout to take advantage of this offer today!