The first step to effective business development: Do Something!

dosomethingDoing business is about engaging with people. A company does not do business with another company, people do business with people. Doing good business is about building a relationship between supplier and customer where the customer has confidence in the supplier and the supplier provides the products/services that deliver real value and benefit to the customer. Building relationships takes time. Whether it is a few minutes or several months, or even years, the development of the supplier/customer relationship is a process, not an event.

Stay pro-active

It never ceases to surprise me how many company owners say that they get all their business from repeat customers and word-of-mouth referrals. (i.e. they wait for their customers to come to them). There’s no question that repeat and referral business is typically very good business. The laissez-faire approach can be great while things are going well (low sales & marketing overhead means more opportunity for profit), but I believe it is dangerous. The wait for your customers to come to you scenario often arises where a company has a close relationship with a small number of key customers. The commitment to dealing with these customers and keeping the trading relationship good can mean that there seems to be no time to look more widely for business. And why should we? – things are going well! While these relationships may be good, the customers are also likely to be key target prospects for competitors and if the business of a key customer is lost – perhaps representing 20% or more of turnover, the consequences are obvious. Alternatively, a company may have promoted itself hard to build a customer base but as the business reaches a level where the owners are happy, the emphasis on Sales and Marketing reduces and after a while it can be difficult to get things moving again should circumstances change. I have said before that I see Business Development as a process, not an event. Even when things are going well in a business, perhaps to the extent that taking on more work could be embarrassing, the business development process should continue, albeit on tickover. Every business has its less profitable clients as well as its more profitable customers. New business opportunities might be a potential to reduce business with a less worthwhile customer to improve profitability without increasing the overall volume of business.

A sustained Marketing Process gives you control over your business.

Just do it!

The first step is simple. Decide to do something to develop your business Every Month – or Every Week. If you set aside half a day each week to focus on marketing and developing your business, you will be surprised what a difference it can make. I realise that the phone can ring and customers must be serviced but, in my experience, the time can be found. If you are really struggling, maybe you need to consider getting someone else involved? The word ‘consultant’ can be anathema to some people but, in my experience, they key is finding the right person and, if you do, the impact on both you and your business can be impressive. It certainly works for us! If you’d like to know our story, do get in touch I said earlier that doing business is about building relationships so a decision to approach even one or two new potential customers each week can be all that is required. As long as these contacts are tracked and developed the relationships which will lead to business can be built and the understanding of the market enhanced.  

Enhanced web hosting from BSA

bsahostingBSA is a marketing communications company. We help people develop and implement effective engagement with their customers and markets to drive business opportunities. We don’t make a big thing of our technology credentials though we appreciate that to deliver effective marketing services in the modern world, we need to have a solid understanding of the web, email and internet technologies – and we do! In the words of one of our clients:

"BSA has an incredible grasp of IT and marketing. They take the tech out of technology for the technically challenged and makes things work in a simple, easy to understand way."

You can read more about this here We reckon that great technology should be almost invisible. You should be able to get on with your job using IT systems that just work. With this in mind we like to make sure that we offer the most effective Web and Email hosting infrastucture that allows us to get on with helping you market your business. This is an ongoing process for us and we are pleased to announce our new partnership with award winning ISP UKFast who now supply our dedicated web servers. The vast majority of websites are hosted on a standard ‘shared’ webserver which can host hundreds of websites from all sorts of different companies and individuals.  This works fine for most and offers a low-cost web hosting option. While this is an ideal solution for the majority of businesses, if your site is mission-critical or you maybe find that as your site develops, it isn’t running quite as fast as it used to, upgrading your webserver can make a real difference that is well worth the modest cost increase. UKFast is one of the UK’s leading managed hosting providers, supplying dedicated server and cloud hosting solutions from an ISO-accredited data centre complex. Our partnership with UKFast represents a significant upscaling of our high-end hosting services and we look forward to a long and effective working relationship. If you’d like to know more, get in touch

Short Term or Long Term? Choose Wisely

short_termThe growth of digital technology has revolutionised the way we work, and delivered many & varied benefits to the business world, not least in the realm of the small and medium sized businesses where BSA has its focus. However, as with any great revolution, there is always a down side. In the case of the web, that downside is short term-ism and the desire to manage and analyse everything we do in infinite detail. A desire that is fed by the analytical tools of modern day marketing. Don’t get me wrong, I love the ability to analyse our marketing activity; the issue is what we do with that analysis and how it informs our actions. The trend in the instant world of the internet is to take short term data and act on them in the long term. However, just because a short term indicator isn’t showing you what you want to see, doesn’t mean your strategy is wrong. Sometimes you need to give a plan time to deliver – something that investors in the current equity markets are desperately trying to remember I am sure!! Good marketing and business planning relies on the development of a long term strategy, informed by macro analysis and experience. This strategy then translates into medium and short term action planning, all controlled and monitored through a robust planning cycle. But all too often, the the long term element of the plan gets lost, and the process becomes:

My sales are down -> I need more business -> I need more leads NOW!

This approach leads to short term tactical actions (E-mail, Advertising, Telemarketing etc) focused totally on delivering short term business. Fast forward a couple of months, and business is picking up again, maybe due to the activity, but more often that not because of an opportunity that came from left field, or an upturn in business generally, so the focus shifts away from marketing until the next time!

But there is another way

Maybe in shifting the process to:

I want more leads to grow my business -> I need a strategy for growth

The objective is still to deliver opportunities and increase sales, but by making the overall objective growth and sustainability, marketing becomes a part of the long term business process that then drives decisions on short term tactics (E-mail, Advertising, Telemarketing etc). In this context, short term analytics are still key, but key to informing day to day course adjustments rather than a complete switch of strategic direction. Furthermore, by taking a more long term view of business development it becomes possible to make investments in things like websites that, whilst vital to success, may take longer to pay off and deliver results.

The personal perspective

For BSA Marketing, this distinction is not purely theoretical. It is a shift we made over two and a half years ago when we took the strategic decision to “Stick to our Knitting”, focusing on what we do well – “Delivering joined-up, marketing-centred communication that works” – and resisting some of the opportunities that were good for the short term figures but not particularly helpful for delivering sustainable growth. Two and a half years on that strategy is paying off and I’m confident it will continue to do so. Looking back, had we focused purely on short term results, we would likely have given up and reverted to old ways, and would most definitely not be where we are today. Maybe some food for thought?

10,000 Character Twitter – a good idea?

You may have seen this week that Twitter is contemplating increasing it’s character limit from 140 to 10,000! This is the latest in a string of changes, ranging from allowing anyone to direct message you, to Twitter polls. Whilst the plan is still to show 140 characters in the feed, users will have to option to “read more”. I won’t talk you through the minutiae. You can read more about that here. Instead, I want to make a case for both sides. I did some research on Twitter, using #Twitter10k. Most tweets appeared to be opposed, however some users were in favour.

Reasons to accept the proposed 10,000 character limit

  • Content creation- Companies could harness the extra characters to use Twitter as a new medium of content creation and get more of their thoughts across.
  • Customer service- Twitter can now be used for in depth customer service issues that were previously difficult to conduct.
  • More valuable for business- More characters will mean more data and the ability to gain a deeper insight into an audience

Reasons to stick with the current 140 character limit

  • Drop in share value- When the news broke the Twitter were contemplating increasing the character limit, the value of their shares dropped 2%.
  • Main USP- The brevity of Twitter is a good thing for most, as well as offering something different from other social media platforms.
  • What’s the point?- Businesses should be using Twitter to provide a snapshot of info along with a link back to their website. Twitter is a very transient medium, do you really want your carefully crafted article to disappear into the ether.

My opinion? Well, with my work head on, I can see some good aspects to the idea. If users had the option of reading past the 140 character limit and read a longer message, what’s the problem? However, your platform for a longer message is your website (if it isn’t it, it should be!). Twitter bosses want to arrest the slide on active users but there are better ways to do this than selling their soul.

Stick to your knitting 2016

focus_finalScarily, it is 23 years since I walked out of Aston University fresh faced and clutching my MBA. Fast forward to today, and whilst much has changed (the birth of the internet and the advent of mobile computing to name 2), some things have not. During my studies, I learned 2 things which are still very relevant today:

  1. Stick to your Knitting
  2. The importance of the make or buy decision

In the world of SME businesses, these 2 elements are still key to creating a sustainable & profitable business.

Stick to your Knitting

Too many SMEs in their quest for growth, or more commonly in the fear for survival are too quick to say Yes when asked “Can you do …..”. Though this may deliver a short term boost to income, it rarely helps profitability & invariably leads to stress. If this sounds familiar, you may find this post on the subject – Are you too busy? We were… – interesting. Sticking to your knitting, is all about knowing what you are good at, excelling in your offering in that area, and avoiding doing stuff outside your remit. However, focusing on this alone, can lead to a business that is stagnating, and probably going nowhere.

Make or Buy

That’s where the “Make or Buy” decision comes in. To illustrate my point, let look at the the way BSA handled a couple of requests by clients

  1. “Can you host my website?”.

For BSA, our “knitting” is about

"Delivering Joined-up marketing communication that works" ...with the emphasis on Marketing.

So when clients started asking us to host their websites, the first question we asked was “does that fit with our core offering?”.

The simple answer to this is Yes – Websites are key to modern day marketing communication, so offering hosting is sensible.

Having taken this decision, the next step is to ask how best to resource the offering, do we develop the capability in house, buying servers & hiring techies to manage them, or do we partner with an expert in that field?

On looking at the business case for the various options, unsurprisingly our decision was to do the latter.

In-fact we partner with a range of providers in the field of hosting, allowing us the flexibility to offer the best solution for an individual client, from simple low cost, no frills to state of the art, bespoke hosting options.

  1. “Can you help us with Social Media

Again, on the question of is it within our remit, of Effective Marketing Communication, the answer is yes, But in this case the decision was taken to develop our capabilities by resourcing this in-house.

Whilst this did involve taking on and training additional staff, it was felt that the nature of social media, and the level by which it needs to be integrated into the wider marketing mix meant that outsourcing would not deliver the best solution either for us or our clients, and thus developing in-house capabilities was the best option.

The result is that by Sticking to our Knitting and developing our offering through partnership with other experts who are doing the same, or where appropriate developing capabilities in house, we add value to our offering in the eyes of clients, develop new revenue streams, whilst at the same time ensuring that our core business remains focused on what we do best

Delivering Joined-up marketing communication that works.