BSA Marketing https://www.bsamarketing.com/ Marketing by experts, for experts Thu, 09 Jun 2022 13:12:48 +0000 en-GB hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=6.1.1 https://www.bsamarketing.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/cropped-favicon-2-32x32.png BSA Marketing https://www.bsamarketing.com/ 32 32 120695122 Summer Quiz 2022 https://www.bsamarketing.com/summer-quiz-2022/ https://www.bsamarketing.com/summer-quiz-2022/#respond Thu, 09 Jun 2022 13:12:48 +0000 https://www.bsamarketing.com/?p=15811 Summer may not quite be here yet but our quiz is here to get you in the mood early. In a range of current affairs and summer-themed trivia, test your wit to these 13 increasingly difficult questions.

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Summer may not quite be here yet but our quiz is here to get you in the mood early.

In a range of current affairs and summer-themed trivia, test your wit to these 13 increasingly difficult questions.

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Effective Marketing Analytics https://www.bsamarketing.com/effective-marketing-analytics/ https://www.bsamarketing.com/effective-marketing-analytics/#respond Tue, 24 May 2022 13:57:50 +0000 https://www.bsamarketing.com/?p=15754 It is a while since we have turned our attention to effective marketing analytics (here are some of our previous musings) but there is a lot going on in the field just now so I felt it was high time for an update. What is Analytics? I know half my marketing spend is wasted - […]

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It is a while since we have turned our attention to effective marketing analytics (here are some of our previous musings) but there is a lot going on in the field just now so I felt it was high time for an update.

What is Analytics?

I know half my marketing spend is wasted - I just don't know which half.

This quote has been variously attributed to numerous business leaders over the past half-century or so. Sometimes perhaps, as a tongue-in-cheek jibe at the perceived smoke and mirrors nature of marketing. Marketing is speculative. You communicate your message to your market in the hope/expectation that they will see the benefit of your offering. You then wait for customers flocking to your door/website to do business.

An effective marketing process certainly achieves this success but the bottom line is that some elements of your process will work better than others. It’s just not always easy to tell which are the nuggets!

This is where analytics come in. In parallel with the rise and rise of the internet as a marketing platform, analytics have developed as a way to measure how your market responds to your marketing messages. It used to be that you had to wait to see how many orders you took and then try to equate this business to your marketing activity. With analytics, you can see a granular measurement of the impact of different actions you take. You can measure virtually any interaction with your website, social media, online advertising etc. Thanks to Google Analytics, you can often do this at little or no cost. This is both a blessing and a curse. There is so much data available. It is easy to disappear down the analytics rabbit hole and lose sight of your main objective: to drive effective marketing to improve your business.

Avoiding the Rabbit hole

The path taken by many people is to simply ignore analytics entirely! This may not be ideal but at least it makes the problem go away, albeit at the expense of missing out on any of the benefits that analytics can offer.

Analytics: Just another marketing tool

I suggest that a better approach is to see analytics for what it is: Another marketing tool. By itself, it isn’t necessarily a lot of help. However, incorporate selected analytics into your Planning, and it becomes immensely valuable.

I’m sorry but there is no such thing as a free lunch. So many marketing tools are promoted as a magic wand but they just aren’t! Like everything in business (and life!) to get good results you need to invest time and effort (and sometimes some money!).

Dashboards are a great start

An analytics dashboard can be a great way of sorting the wood from the trees. As part of your marketing plan, select a modest number of key metrics that can give you a real insight into your marketing process and then build these into a custom dashboard which can automatically collect the data you are interested in and present it in a clear, easily understood format of graphs and tables like this:

This is an example of one of our own BSA dashboards. If your marketing processes are more involved, it is perfectly possible to set up multiple dashboards. You can focus separate dashboards on different aspects of your business and marketing.

Integrated Analytics

By far the leader in the Analytics field is Google Analytics….and why not! It is free to use and, no matter which platforms and sites you use for your online marketing, you can integrate them into your Google Analytics account. This way, you create a one-stop shop for your web-based marketing data. As I mentioned before, it can have a steep learning curve. However, with a bit of help and/or some time spent researching, you can soon be generating valuable data to help you make effective marketing decisions.

However, changes are afoot….

All change for Google Analytics…

Google launched analytics in 2005, initially as a premium service but switched to the free model in the following year. The service is regularly updated with the (now ubiquitous) Universal Analytics (UA) platform being launched in 2012. Now, 10 years later, Google has announced that next year, Universal Analytics will stop tracking data. The service is being replaced by Google Analytics 4 (GA4). For the time being, UA and GA4 are running in parallel.

Make the switch to GA4

If you use Google analytics, now is a good time to set up GA4. Your existing UA setup will continue to work until the middle of 2023 but setting up the GA4 platform now will allow you to gather data on both platforms in parallel facilitating a seamless transfer next year. As things stand, Google has said that UA will continue to exist and hold historic data but it will not gather any new data after 1 July 2023.

There are lots of resources online to help you set up GA4 but if you would like some assistance, or to discuss analytics and marketing in the wider context of your business, do get in touch.

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SEO and joined-up marketing https://www.bsamarketing.com/seo-and-joined-up-marketing/ https://www.bsamarketing.com/seo-and-joined-up-marketing/#respond Thu, 12 May 2022 10:31:00 +0000 https://bsa.bsats5.co.uk/?p=1806 As we discuss in our latest podcast, one of the most common things we hear from clients is "What I need to do is get my website to the top of Google..."

Like so many marketing ideas, this seems to make sense yet the reality is so different.

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As we discuss in our latest podcast, one of the most common things we hear from clients is “What I need to do is get my website to the top of Google…”

Like so many marketing ideas, this seems to make sense yet the reality is so different.

Many digital marketers and agencies promote Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) as a stand-alone service: “…you pay me £xx per month and I will do stuff on your website to make it rank more highly….” The offer sounds plausible yet I rarely meet business owners who say that SEO has had a significant and positive impact on their business. Normally it is the opposite – another marketing service that sounds great but falls short on delivery of real benefit.

The truth is that SEO is simply a marketing tool and no single marketing tool is the answer. Effective marketing comes from a joined-up, holistic approach which considers all aspects of a business, its target market and how it engages with that market.

In simple terms, don’t try and force your marketing – just tell your story and show how people will benefit from doing business with you.

Technology is your friend

As the algorithms that lie behind modern search engines get ever more sophisticated, it becomes pointless to try to beat them. The goal of a search engine (conspiracy theories aside!) is to deliver effective, relevant answers to the queries that searchers put in. For your website, natural content is the best route. If you have good, relevant and engaging content, the search engines will find it. Visitors who then find your site and stay there, interacting with your content, tell the search engines that your content fits with their original search. This process can help make your site rank ever higher – all because you have good content.

SEO is just a tool. A well-written website with relevant content is likely to naturally rank well in all but the most competitive markets. There are some great tools out there to help you, as a business owner, take control of your own SEO. For WordPress users, check out YOAST

Creating engaging content is all very well but a business website should be doing more than just keeping site visitors happy. As a business owner, what’s in it for you?

What is your website for?

Ask most business owners why they have a website and their answer will be something along the lines of…”It’s my shop window“. Any high-street retailer will tell you about the importance of their shop window. On the street or on-line the shop window is a vital part of the business process charged with achieving 3 things for visitors/potential customers:

  1. Inform the visitor – “I think I am in the right place here to find what I am looking for”
  2. Engage – “I have confidence that this company can deliver on its proposition.”
  3. Encourage – “I can see what to do next, I want to take the next step”

Analytics – The unsung hero

One of the real strengths of internet marketing is the ability to measure. If SEO is about ranking, analytics is about monitoring visitors numbers and tracking what they do when they arrive at your site. Analytics is what tells you if your SEO efforts are doing you any good – or not! However, the majority of small business owners rarely, if ever, use analytics to manage their online marketing.

The issue isn’t cost – many powerful analytics tools are free. I believe it is one of understanding. Analytics has the potential to blind you with science. It can look so darned complicated it’s just too challenging to get your head around. Yet, actually, analytics isn’t complicated. The key is deciding what it is that you want to measure. Take this step and the rewards are plenty.

In the famous quote, 19th Century US businessman John Wanamaker said:

Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.”

Effective use of analytics can start to help answer this question. By getting earlier insight into how your market place is engaging with your marketing through your website you can tune your activities more quickly and cost-effectively.

Search marketing is not just about natural search rankings

If you do want to get your site onto the first page of Google, then natural SEO is to the only tool at your disposal. In many cases paid advertising is also well worth consideration. Yes this does have a direct cost, but so does natural optimisation (It takes time to implement, and time is money!). In reality, good marketing costs. One advantage of paid advertising is that this cost is direct and manageable. When combined with a clear understanding of what you are trying to achieve and the value of these interactions along side solid analytics, its possible to carefully manage these costs, and ensure that your advertising spend is delivering results..

Whilst not always appropriate, I would suggest that if you want to be found on search pages, then advertising is always worth considering as part of the mix.

Steps on the way

Content-driven SEO helps people find your website. Good, relevant content engages visitors, making them want to explore further. Effective ‘calls to action’ tell how to take the next step. By this stage, the website has done its job. If your site is e-commerce and the next step is to place an order, the business is secured. If the next step is to send an email or pick up the phone to make an enquiry, the process goes on…more steps in your business which need to be equally joined-up.

SEO may be the starting point of the business-development journey but to be truly effective, it needs to be integrated into the rest of your marketing. The whole process must be joined up end-to-end.

Stay in control of your marketing

You can’t sub-contract the marketing of your business. You can buy-in skills and advice but ultimately it is your business and you should be in control. Marketing is one of the core fundamentals in business – you need to be in charge of it.

Keep the plates spinning on all of these elements and manage your business to take it in the direction you want to go – your personal and business goals.

BSA can’t do your marketing for you but we can help you make sure your marketing really works for you and your business. Call us.

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Effective Collaboration – The power of partnership https://www.bsamarketing.com/effective-collaboration-the-power-of-partnership/ https://www.bsamarketing.com/effective-collaboration-the-power-of-partnership/#respond Tue, 26 Apr 2022 14:21:37 +0000 https://www.bsamarketing.com/?p=15732 Read pretty much any manual on the art of good business and sooner or later, you’ll read this. Surround yourself with talent. By building a team of people with the right skills and experience, you create a powerful platform to grow a great business. This is a great philosophy, and one that people running even […]

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Read pretty much any manual on the art of good business and sooner or later, you’ll read this. Surround yourself with talent. By building a team of people with the right skills and experience, you create a powerful platform to grow a great business. This is a great philosophy, and one that people running even a small business would be well-advised to embrace.

However, in the real world, we have to recognise that building a skilled and experienced team can require significant investment. In challenging economic times, this can be risky. While it might be great to build a team capable of dealing with all the needs of the business, the reality is that some demands, although important, are peripheral to your core business. It is also an oft-quoted adage that, in business, you should ‘stick to your knitting‘, focus on your core activities and make sure you don’t get sidetracked into non-core activities. But what if this non-core stuff is nonetheless important? Sometimes, engaging with external specialists to help you run your business can be a more appropriate option. Furthermore, it can allow you to offer broader services to your clients. Sometimes, partnerships with 3rd parties can be a powerful tool.

I can do that!

Sometimes a client might ask you for something that is not central to your offering. It can be tempting to think “I can do that”. By taking on this sort of request, you can grow your own revenue and also stop your client from looking elsewhere. However, this can be a dangerous approach. It might seem like a good idea in principle but there are risks in tackling work outside your core skillset:

  1. The solution you deliver might be sub-optimal for your client
  2. Delivering may create additional stress and take a disproportionate level of resource

This combination, whilst generating extra income, risks negatively impacting both your reputation and your profitability.

Just because you think you can do something doesn’t mean you should!

Stick to your knitting

I introduced this idea earlier but it is a really important concept that you should focus on your core strengths. Don’t try to be all things to all people. Have the confidence to concentrate on delivering great value and benefit in the areas where you are most at home.  This way you can build your reputation and avoid eth dangers of trying to be a ‘jack of all trades‘.

However, in focusing on your strengths, you are likely to expose gaps in your offering. This can reduce your ability to offer a joined-up approach to your clients. This brings us right back to the idea of surrounding yourself with people who have the skills and knowledge to complement your own. While building your own team of employees might feel the best approach, can you afford the investment while the team comes together and starts to grow your company revenues to pay for the increased headcount? This is where effective collaboration with partners can be really powerful.

As a small business, every new member of staff you add to your team is a big commitment in terms of both money and time. It might be that a better approach, particularly in the short term, is to identify independent contractors or other organisations whose own core strengths enrich and enhance your own. You aren’t just paying someone to do a job, rather you are collaborating in a partnership that allows you to deliver a wider range of complementary skills that deliver a full service to clients without anyone getting bogged down in areas where they are less competent.

Get it right and you, your partners and your clients can come together in a genuine win:win:win collaboration

Effective collaboration: a smaller slice of a bigger cake

It is true that collaborating with independent partners rather than trying to deliver everything yourself can impact revenues as some of the income that you would have earned is now going to your partners. However, effective collaboration allows you to focus on delivering real benefit and value, it is likely that the overall revenue can be higher. You might be getting a smaller slice of the cake, but it is a bigger cake!

You can take this idea further….a truly collaborative partnership needn’t be a one-way street. It is likely that your partners’ clients may have a need for services which are at your core, and peripheral to theirs. Here, it makes sense for you to do the work. Whilst the main objective of a collaborative partnership should always be delivering the best and most effective service to your clients, cross-referral of work between you and your partners can be a logical option. It is a great bonus when it happens, and it’s surprising how often it does.

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3cx – IP Telecoms 2 years On https://www.bsamarketing.com/3cx-ip-telecoms-2-years-on/ https://www.bsamarketing.com/3cx-ip-telecoms-2-years-on/#respond Thu, 14 Apr 2022 09:27:56 +0000 https://www.bsamarketing.com/?p=15716 Two years ago I wrote a post about 4 tools we could not do without, and number four was our Cloud IP phone system 3cx. Back then we had  only been using it for a few months, so I thought now would be a good time to update our experiences. Back in 2020 I wrote […]

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Two years ago I wrote a post about 4 tools we could not do without, and number four was our Cloud IP phone system 3cx. Back then we had  only been using it for a few months, so I thought now would be a good time to update our experiences.

Back in 2020 I wrote the following about the system

We switched from an office-hosted ISDN phone system to cloud-based 3cx just two months ago. Boy are we glad we did! 3CX works seamlessly when we are in the office, working as a traditional system with desktop extensions. When we were forced to work from home, switching the extensions to home was a doddle. Again, because everything is hosted in the cloud, all management of the system can be done online, anywhere with a connection to the web.

This was written in the height of COVID lockdown, so two years on when we are back in the office, am I still such fan? The simple answer is yes!

I’m no longer tied to the desk

We can’t get away from the fact that our clients value the ability to talk to us on the phone, so historically that meant either giving people mobile numbers or being sat at my desk. Now however as long as I tell the system where I am, when someone rings our main phone number I can have it ring at my desk, on my phone at home, on my mobile, or on a combination of all of them.  And most importantly, if I don’t want to be disturbed, I can have it go straight to voice mail or our answering service. In this, I have full flexibility to be out and about, whilst still being fully available when I need to be.

The same come when managing the system, as its based on a Google cloud server and accessible via a web browser, I can access the management interface from anywhere to edit or add users, or to perform system management. True flexibility.

The cost is down too

Whilst we did not undertake the switch to save money, compared to our old PBX the new system is definitely much more cost effective. Whilst there was an initial investment in handsets, unlike the old pbx, these are system agnostic so even should we need to switch to a different system, we could use the same handsets.

Furthermore, other than the handsets and a small piece of kit running on a low cost raspberry pi, there is no hardware either to buy or go wrong. Whilst we could have run the system locally on a PC on site, we went for the option of running it in the cloud on a Google server. As this was an option when we installed the system “Click here to install on a Google cloud server”, there was little technical knowledge required to get it up and running and whilst we do have a support contract on the system, in the last 2 years we have only called on it once.

Finally where cost is concerned, we also now have significantly more flexibility over the number of lines we have available (how many simultaneous calls we can make). With the PBX we were restricted to 8 lines using an ISDN 30 line. Now we can add and remove trunks at will. Whilst we started with 8, we have been able to reduce this to 4 without impacting usability now we have a clearer understanding of how people use the system.

Improved functionality

Being a fully IP system, 3cx has much more functionality compared to our old system. Voicemail, which previously was a separate system, is now fully integrated as are other communications platforms like web meetings, video calling, chat and webchat that can be integrated into your website. Whilst the way we operate means that we do not actually use much of this additional functionality (Other than voicemail), as an organisation focused on improving the way our clients engage with their markets, we can definitely see how useful it could be in the right circumstances.

Furthermore, as an open source system, 3cx is being continually developed and updated, both by the core team , and by third party developers. So as new updates and features are released, we can take advantage of these at the simple click of a button.

But what about the down sides

As with anything, there are down sides and the main one is reliability. With the old pbx, the line pretty much never went down and even in the event of a powercut, you could always fall back to a simple analogue handset. Now, power cuts are still a problem and if your internet connection goes down, so does the phone system in the building. however this is becoming increasingly rare and now, because the system is cloud based and linked to mobiles, in these circumstances it is only the desk phone that is affected and calls can still be made and received via the 3cx mobile app, so on balance, in the last two years this has never really been an issue.

We would never go back – even if we could

We had had people, calling in an attempt to sell us VOIP for a number of years, and it took us a while to bite the bullet and switch to IP telecoms, but now we have, we would not want to go back. Like many of the cloud systems we now use the benefits over the old way of doing things are substantial. PBX systems are now consigned to history, but even if this were not the case, and we could go back, but given the advantages of the new technology, why would we want to!

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Living with Xero – 4 years on https://www.bsamarketing.com/living-with-xero/ https://www.bsamarketing.com/living-with-xero/#respond Tue, 29 Mar 2022 14:23:50 +0000 https://www.bsamarketing.com/?p=15697 We have been living with Xero for 7 years since we took the plunge and switch from the classic Sage to the ‘new kid on the (cloud accounting) block‘. Our first full year of Xero was FY 2015-16. In this post from February 2018, I talk about our experiences (good and bad) in making the […]

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We have been living with Xero for 7 years since we took the plunge and switch from the classic Sage to the ‘new kid on the (cloud accounting) block‘. Our first full year of Xero was FY 2015-16.

In this post from February 2018, I talk about our experiences (good and bad) in making the switch.

Back then, we were still really only using the Xero basics. We were still comparing everything to the functionality we had from Sage and trying to replicate it – sometimes successfully and sometimes not! I can’t believe we are now a further 4 years on. Consequently, I felt it was worth bringing things up to date with a look at how our use of Xero has evolved.

Before I press on, a disclaimer…Thre are several cloud accounting offerings out there and I only have limited experience with the others. I’m sure they offer some great features. However, I have now built a solid, real-world knowledge of Xero, and I love it! It is also interesting to note that several of our clients and suppliers have switched to cloud accounting and every business (that I am aware of) has independently switched to Xero. Coincidence?

Key developments

First, I am not an accountant (though my accountant thinks I should be!). I have run BSA Marketing for over 30 years which means I get involved with pretty much everything! I have always believed that staying on top of the numbers (and particularly the bank account!) was a key to staying in business. Consequently, the accounts were always important, and for many years a real chore, as the cycle of Bank reconciliation, VAT Returns, Payroll and Year-end submission kept coming around.

I know I could have paid someone else to do it but I like having my finger on the pulse of the business!

Business accounting can be split into 3 distinct sections:

  1. Book-keeping & Statutory Returns – keeping the numbers up to date and accurate
  2. Sales Invoicing & Credit Control – keeping the cash flowing
  3. Management Accounts – understanding how your business is operating

Xero delivers in all 3. I don’t intend to go into the detail of how Xero delivers but I think the good old marketing staple of features and benefits will tell the story:

Living with Xero – Easier Book Keeping

  • Repeating Purchase invoices

    We have regular suppliers who invoice us every month. In many cases, they even invoice the same amount each month. Back in the day, every single one of these invoices had to be input individually. The same product/service details and often even the same numbers, time and time again, only the date changed.
    The Xero repeating purchase invoice system simply deals with this. You enter the details once and then, regular as clockwork, Xero creates the new transaction. All you have to do is edit changes (if any) and then click to approve.  You still have control but Xero handles the monotony.

  • Efficient Bank Reconciliation

    Reconciling the accounts to the bank statements was always the biggest pain. I used to set aside a day a month to do the bank rec. From the outset, Xero offered bank feeds to connect to your bank and automatically download/import statements and transactions. In 2018, this process was clunky and too slow. I didn’t use it, preferring to download and import transactions manually as and when I needed to. Even this was a big improvement on Sage. In Xero, I can set up rules so the system knows how to process particular transactions. Furthermore, Xero can learn. It will make suggestions as to how a transaction should be processed based on previous transactions. As always, you have the final say to approve, edit or delete any transaction.

    The manual import process took my day-a-month down to 2-3 hours. A big improvement but still a chunk of time out of a working day.

    Recently, things have improved even more. With recent developments in open banking, bank feeds have become more available and ‘real-time’. Whereas I might be manually importing and reconciling 100+ transactions in one sitting, I now do them almost imperceptibly. I tend to log into Xero most days and exch time, the bank feeds have done their work and there is a handful of transactions for my attention. They normally take less than 5 minutes to deal with. At the end of the month, the reconciliation is up to date and I have barely noticed doing it!

  • Efficient statutory routines

    Whether we like it or not, VAT and other statutory returns are a fact of business life. Furthermore, with the government pushing the Making Tax Digital agenda, the requirement for businesses to submit data is on the increase. Xero handles this really well. The automation in the book-keeping processes minimise the risk of data-entry errors and, while it always makes sense to review statutory submissions before you send them, in my experience, VAT returns etc. are always calculated accurately. In addition, there is the option to make amendments in future returns to resolve any errors or omissions.

Living with Xero – Efficient Sales Invoicing

  • Repeating Sales invoices

    If you have clients/customers that you invoice regularly then the Xero repeating invoice facility is great. Just like the purchase invoices discussed above, you tell Xero who to invoice, for what and how often – and it just does it. It is also a great way to make sure you don’t forget to invoice a customer! Again, you have complete control to edit or exclude individual invoices and only approve an invoice once you are happy with it. Once you have your Sales invoices, Xero can automatically create PDFs and email them directly to your customers. They can then view the invoice with a single click. You can even include the option to pay you online by credit card directly in your invoice.

Living with Xero – Better Management Accounting

If book-keeping, invoicing and statutory returns are the mundane essentials of accounting, management accounting is the interesting bit. Good management reports give you the information which allows you to see how well your business is performing, identify strengths and weaknesses and make plans to grow and drive towards your goals and objectives.

I have looked at how Xero helps minimise the time and effort required to keep on top of the basics but it also has a good offering in reporting to help you understand your business performance. This is also an area where the cloud concept shows its benefit. Xero has hundreds of thousands of users with all of them feeding ideas and usage stats into the Xero development team. If they see an opportunity to add functionality to the application this can be developed and launched into the live application so that all users benefit. There is no need to pay to ‘upgrade to the latest version!

I must admit that 4 years ago, the Xero reporting functionality was not its strength but this has steadily improved.  New and more flexible reports are added regularly.

I have recently been putting more focus on our own management accounts and I am uncovering some really neat features that are providing really useful information to our business.

Living with Xero – Limitations

Like any piece of software, Xero is not perfect. It is more suited to the simpler accounting of most SME businesses. It has limited inventory management.

If you need to extend the core functionality, there are many third-party integrations but these can sometimes be complicated to set up. Also, they (normally) add to the monthly cost to the point that the ongoing cost of the add-ons can outstrip the cost of Xero itself – certainly something to keep an eye on.

Probably the biggest question I had in switching from Sage is that Xero does not have the facility to back up your data. On the face of it, this seems crazy. However, if you think about it,  the risk of data corruption or loss is greatest for Xero itself. You can be sure they are fully focused on protecting and securing our data. Nevertheless, I have found a service that, for a modest cost, backs up my raw data from Xero. I can download this as CSV files so, if the worst happened, I still have access to the core data. In seven years we haven’t even come close to needing the backup.

Summary

There are other cloud accounting systems but I am pleased with Xero and heartily recommend it.

Xero might not have the data-crunching power of a high-end corporate accounts system but nor does it have the steep learning curve or cost. It works for us.

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The Importance of Choosing the Right Web Host https://www.bsamarketing.com/do-you-care-about-your-web-hosting/ https://www.bsamarketing.com/do-you-care-about-your-web-hosting/#respond Mon, 14 Mar 2022 00:00:00 +0000 https://bsa.bsats5.co.uk/2017/05/14/do-you-care-about-your-web-hosting/ Alongside our latest podcast, where we talk about the importance of things like email hosting and domains, I thought it would be worth devoting a post to the subject of websites, and more specifically, web hosting Web hosts are not created equal Hosting a website is technical, and ensuring it stays available 24/7 requires some […]

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Alongside our latest podcast, where we talk about the importance of things like email hosting and domains, I thought it would be worth devoting a post to the subject of websites, and more specifically, web hosting

Web hosts are not created equal

Hosting a website is technical, and ensuring it stays available 24/7 requires some scary technical stuff. The job of a web host is to ensure that you don’t have to worry about any of it. In reality, the way that hosting companies manage this complexity defines the service they offer. To generalise, hosts fall into one of 3 categories:

  1. Cheap & Cheerful shared hosting – Under this model, the company manages the complexity by removing flexibility, and reduces cost by creating a one size fits all offering, hosting many (often hundreds) of unrelated sites on a single “host”. This type of hosting tends to be cheap (Typically £5-£10 per month), and offered limited flexibility & support will be basic. In the Real World – If your requirements are fairly basic, and the site is non-mission critical, then this is a sensible option. Especially if supplied through an added value reseller like BSA Marketing. The cost may be slightly higher, but the support will (or should) be much better.
  2. Managed Shared Hosting – In this scenario, an added value reseller will buy dedicated hosting from a specialist hosting supplier. Whilst still shared hosting, other sites will be fewer in number and all under the direct control of your provider. This means that the performance tends to be better as hardware resources are stretched less thinly, and managed more actively. In the Real World – If you are running a more complex site (e-commerce for example), or have requirements that would stretch the capabilities of a “one size fits all” host this is the way to go. Here, the Job of your host is to remove complexity and to translate your business requirements into a technical solution. Working with the specialists to deliver your requirements. Other benefits are that sites will tend to be actively monitored. This ensures that issues are sorted quickly without the need for you to notify your host of the problem.
  3. Dedicated Server Hosting – Here you have dedicated hardware (either a physical box or a virtual machine on a cloud platform). For SMEs this tends to be the ultimate solution, giving full technical control over your hosting platform. In the Real World – In terms of the levels of service, there is little difference between this and Managed Shared Hosting. The key difference is flexibility and the ability to handle more exotic technical environments. Because you have 100% control over the server it can be set up to meet your exact requirements. The other scenario where this type of hosting makes sense is if you have a requirement for hosting multiple sites, as they tend to be charged based on resources used rather than on a per domain basis.

So why should I care about all this

As I said at the beginning of this post:

hosting a website is technical

Choosing the right hosting scenario, and the right host can ensure that this technicality is managed appropriately without paying over the odds. Normally these issues arise when hosting is not up to the task you are asking it to do, either technically, or from a customer service/support perspective. To illustrate this point I would like to present two hypothetical cases:

Case 1 – Technical issues

In this case, the site in question has outgrown the hosting environment & the hosting company are not in a position to scale the requirements to meet the demand. The site which started life a simple e-commerce site with a few products grew in terms of both the number of products and the traffic, to a point where the hosting can not cope and the site falls over! Had this person considered their hosting more carefully, they could have seen this coming and managed the move to a more robust platform. In reality, the first they know of the issue was when the site fell over. The hosting company was then unable to fix the issue. The key issues here are having a host who will:

  1. Work with you and your business to plan for the future
  2. Be flexible enough to offer the hosting scenario that is currently most appropriate
Customer Service Issues

However good website hosting is not just about managing the technical environment. It is also about working with you to make sure that the site delivers from a business perspective, ensuring that it is kept up to date & relevant. Whilst this work is often done by you, it’s important that the hosting company is able to give the level of support required to facilitate it. In this case, this support isn’t forthcoming, severely impacting the value of the site from a business perspective. Lack of support and assistance from a host can prevent you from fully utilising the site as a marketing tool. Ultimately this will significantly reduce its value The key issues here are having a host who will:

  1. Work with you to manage your site effectively on an ongoing basis
  2. Be responsive when things get too technical. Thus allowing you to do what you want with the site without having to know all the technical stuff

What happens when it all goes when it all goes wrong

However good your hosting is, There will be times when things will go wrong, In these scenarios, it is about fixing things and getting sites running normally as quickly as possible. The key to this is backups. Usually, when things go wrong they can be quickly fixed. In some circumstances however they can’t. In those cases the route to a speedy recovery of the site is to restore from a backup. Most hosts offer backup as an option, but few (especially at the cheaper end) offer it as standard. In our view having good backups of your site is critical.

So – Do You Care About Your Web Hosting?

If you are involved in marketing your business via the web, then the answer should most definitely be “Yes”. Has this has got you thinking about the subject of hosting? If so, the first thing to do is to talk to your hosting company. If they can’t offer satisfactory solution, then we would be delighted to talk to you about how you can take control of your website and its hosting.

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WordPress – The right tool for your website https://www.bsamarketing.com/wordpress-the-right-tool-for-your-website/ https://www.bsamarketing.com/wordpress-the-right-tool-for-your-website/#respond Thu, 03 Mar 2022 14:13:19 +0000 https://www.bsamarketing.com/?p=15677 I would always describe myself as a business-marketer first and a tech-geek second. I think this is the right priority. As a result, technology should be the means to the end, not the end itself; so, to effectively use technology, you should be clear about your business reasons and objectives. This said, these days a […]

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I would always describe myself as a business-marketer first and a tech-geek second. I think this is the right priority. As a result, technology should be the means to the end, not the end itself; so, to effectively use technology, you should be clear about your business reasons and objectives.

This said, these days a website is central to the marketing of virtually all businesses, so having good website tools effectively integrate the technology with your business requirements is a must.

Too often, a website is seen as a technical rather than a business issue and, as a result, the business website gets sidelined as the domain of the techies. Business owners only really take an interest when something in the business (normally the marketing!) is weak and they need a solution. Often this interest comes too late, or at least too late to avoid pain.

Many years ago, I recognised that marketing and technology must work in harmony with the focus on the business. I am a marketer who understands tech. Consequently, I didn’t want to bury myself in coding. I needed practical tools that allow me to deliver and use a website to support a business and help achieve the business goals.  Furthermore, most of our work is based on long-term relationships. We don’t just build websites, we support them, evolve them and help make sure they deliver for our client’s businesses. Therefore, we need practical tools that work effectively in the real world.

After extensive investigation and trials, I selected WordPress as my website development platform of choice.

Sitting here now, some 10 years and many websites later, I don’t regret this choice and I still believe that WordPress, coupled with its unbeatable range of plugins and add-ons, is still the best solution for most SME business websites. Perhaps this is why it is (by some margin) the most popular website platform on earth!

Why is WordPress the right tool for your website?

These are my reasons…

1. WordPress is easy to implement

As any piece of technology develops,  it gets easier to use. WordPress is easy to install – indeed many ISPs include it as standard in their hosting packages. If you have your content and images prepared before you start, you can have a simple, but effective, website up and running in as little as an hour.

2. WordPress is flexible

Whether you are looking for a simple ‘brochure website’ or a fully integrated ‘secure web portal’ for your customers, WordPress delivers. Even better, you can start simple and then grow and evolve your website as your business needs change. Even if you want a completely new design for your site, you don’t need to start from scratch. Content and layout are kept separate so you can overlay a new site layout onto your existing words and pictures.

3. WordPress delivers unbeatable functionality

There comes a time with most of our clients when they come to me and ask “…can we just…?” with ideas of additional functionality they would like to add to their website. The COVID pandemic had a real impact here as people with ‘face to face’ businesses suddenly faced losing everything if they didn’t take their business online.

Without exception, we were able to help make this happen – cost-effectively and often within a few days. Without the underlying functionality of WordPress, this would not have been possible.

4. WordPress allows effective collaboration

We often get enquiries referred to us because clients are struggling with their existing web hosts. Normally this is about difficulty getting hold of them or any small update to a site costing more money.

WordPress allows us to develop a more collaborative approach. We make it easy for you to do as much (or as little!) updating and site maintenance in-house as you wish. We are then there to support you. You collaborate with the specialists when you want to – and only when you want to.

This collaborative approach lets you to keep your site up to speed with your business easily and cost-effectively.

5. WordPress is cost-effective and sustainable

Allowing website tasks to be done more quickly and easily means these tasks can be done at a lower cost.

WordPress has a huge user and developer base. If you are looking for website functionality to solve a business problem, normally someone has already developed a WordPress solution. We have seen this and helped our clients benefit time and time again.

The huge developer base has another benefit. You aren’t locked in to your web support provider, be it BSA or anyone else. If you aren’t receiving the service you expect, there is always someone else who can do a better job to help you.

We are proud of our WordPress capability and also the many containing, long-term relationships we have with our clients.  WordPress continues to prove itself as the right tool for the website job.

Maybe we could help WordPress work for you too. Get in touch for a chat.

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The right tools for the job… https://www.bsamarketing.com/having-the-right-tool-for-the-job-doesnt-half-maker-life-easier/ https://www.bsamarketing.com/having-the-right-tool-for-the-job-doesnt-half-maker-life-easier/#respond Wed, 16 Feb 2022 17:00:58 +0000 https://www.bsamarketing.com/?p=14867 If you haven’t got the right tools it makes marketing a LOT harder – if not impossible. I learnt my lesson many years ago. I was struggling for too long with a particular job when it dawned on me: There must be a better way to do this! Trying to market your business without the […]

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If you haven’t got the right tools it makes marketing a LOT harder – if not impossible.

I learnt my lesson many years ago. I was struggling for too long with a particular job when it dawned on me:

There must be a better way to do this!

Trying to market your business without the correct tools is hard work. There is also the risk of losing focus on your marketing and business goals. Your objective shifts to trying to make the most of what you have.

Is it better to use what you have or make sure you have the right tool?

OK, sometimes you have no choice. you have to accept you must work with your existing resources. Even so, it’s important that you don’t forget what it is you are aiming for.  It is still about taking your business forward.

In business and marketing, in particular, things change rapidly. There are new opportunities to make your marketing easier, cheaper and more effective. One of the main areas where things are developing is online. Many digital marketing tools and techniques, previously the domain of costly specialists are now accessible to all. But there is a challenge…do you stick with the old ways where you accept it may cost more but you know the job will get done (and will continue to be more expensive when you want to do it again in future)? Alternatively, or do you explore the new opportunities which may allow you to do things more quickly and more cost-effectively? You may either do more in-house or the better tools enable an external supplier to deliver more quickly and at a lower cost? There is a cost/risk in the learning curve of adopting new tools and approaches but perhaps this should be seen as an investment rather than a cost? Taking the step to adopt better tools in your business can pay dividends in efficiency and reduce cost long into the future.

The Tools are out there

In todays world, there are many and varied tools that make the job of running and marketing a business much easier. These include those assisting with the traditional marketing jobs like websites, promotion, email etc. But over and above these as other systems like accounting and telecoms become more open and connected, these too can make life easier, and play a roll in marketing your business and connecting with your customers.

You may have the right tool but do you have the knowledge and experience to use it effectively?

Its all well and good having access to the right tools, but I touched on this in the last section, one of the biggest costs in marketing can be the fee charged by marketing professionals. As online marketing tools become easier and quicker to use, marketing professionals can see the risk of reducing fee income and so resist the shift to using better tools. At the same time, while these better tools may be easier and quicker to use, you may not want to go the whole step of doing everything in-house. Sometimes, calling in an experienced professional is the most cost-effective approach – so long as you can find the expert who will work with the better tools and charge correspondingly less!

I have raised the idea several times before and it is central to my business ethos; customers and suppliers should work together in a framework of mutual confidence and trust where everyone is focussed on delivering the best outcome where everyone benefits. These relationships can be challenging to build but they are immensely valuable to everyone.

At BSA we are always keen to adopt the best new tools. Whether we are using these in-house, for our own needs or creating better opportunities for our clients. This has been our philosophy for over 20 years and it continues to pay dividends to everyone involved.

Over the next couple of months, we plan to look as some of these Business & Marketing tools, examining how they can ad value to your business, and how we use them in partnership with our clients to deliver real world benefits.

Get in touch if you’d like to know more.

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Promise & Delivery – Getting the balance right https://www.bsamarketing.com/getting-the-balance-right/ https://www.bsamarketing.com/getting-the-balance-right/#respond Thu, 03 Feb 2022 15:05:11 +0000 https://www.bsamarketing.com/?p=15656 Running a business can be challenging. Getting the right balance is really valuable. In the early days, it is normally about encouraging prospects to do business with you and securing orders and revenue but this is only half the story. To build a successful business, you need your customers to come back for more and […]

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Running a business can be challenging. Getting the right balance is really valuable.

In the early days, it is normally about encouraging prospects to do business with you and securing orders and revenue but this is only half the story. To build a successful business, you need your customers to come back for more and recommend you to others. They will only do this if you deliver on the promises you make to secure the order in the first place. You need to get the balance right.

In our latest Marketing Matters podcast, we talk about 2 recent experiences we have had with suppliers where the service delivery did not match up to the promise. Sure, they got our initial order but there won’t be any more – and that is no good for their business.

But there is another consideration. Good service takes resources. If you commit too much to delivering on your promises, either you become uncompetitive or your margin disappears – neither is good for you or your business.

So how do you avoid these problems? Here are 5 tips that can help you…

1. Getting the balance right

It may sound obvious but if you say you will do something as part of your business offer, make sure you do it! It’s not just the big things, either. As I talked about in the podcast, I placed an order online where the supplier said I would receive a tracking number as soon as they dispatched my order, normally within 2 days. My order was delivered a week later (a bit longer than they had said) but I never received my tracking number so by the time the order arrived I was getting a bit concerned. The offer of a tracking number didn’t really play a part in my decision to order but the fact that they said I would get one, and then not give it to me, negatively influenced my opinion of the business for any possible future orders.

2. Don’t over-promise

Continuing with the theme of promises; it is easy to fall into the trap of overpromising and underdelivering. You might feel that a big promise might tip the balance to help secure your order from a new customer but if you don’t deliver on that promise, the ‘bad-taste’ you leave with your customer might make them look elsewhere next time.

3. There must be a better way of doing this…

Just as it is dangerous to overpromise and underdeliver, the reverse can be equally risky. A customer may love your fantastic service but if making them super-happy demands too much time and effort and so eats into your margins, your business may not survive long enough to reap the benefits of your happy customers. You need to do things effectively.

You will decide on what you need to do to get the promise:delivery balance right. When you have pinned down the key elements of your service delivery, the things you feel you must do, then try to do them as efficiently as possible. There have been many times when I have been in the middle of doing something important for a customer but I couldn’t get away from the niggling feeling that the service I was delivering was taking too long or costing me too much. The thought popped into my head…

  "There must be a better way of doing this...?"

…and often there was! It can be valuable to give yourself time to think about what you are doing and consider other ways of achieving the same result. There may be a better tool or technology that can help you, or perhaps getting some outside help from a specialist is the best option. Don’t forget that sometimes paying (an appropriate amount!) for better tools or support can be a really valuable investment.

4. Think of your customer

At the end of the day, it is your customers’ satisfaction that matters most. If you can deliver real value and benefit to your customers using an approach that is profitable for you, this is getting the balance right, you have the basis of a good business. If not, sooner or later you will struggle.

Don’t just think of your business from your point of view. Put yourself in your customers’ shoes and objectively take yourself through their experience. Be honest. Would you be happy?

5. Encourage Feedback

As well as putting yourself in their shoes, don’t be afraid of asking your customers what they think. The mere fact that you ask shows a level of service commitment. Positive feedback is a powerful marketing tool. If the feedback is negative, the sooner you know, the sooner you can do something about it!

Encouraging comments are good but don’t push your customers too hard. Relentlessly asking for reviews and feedback can get annoying – as we have all experienced at one time or another.

In Summary

A good business is a balanced business. If you can deliver your products and services in a way that meets the expectations of your customers and delivers real value and benefit to them while, at the same time, ensuring your business processes work smoothly, efficiently and cost-effectively for you and your team, you have the basis for a strong, sustainable business that can help you achieve your own goals.

If you would like to talk further about how we might work together, do get in touch.

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