More businesses to benefit from £2000 Growth Voucher

£2000 Growth Voucher schemeIf you want to grow your business, and haven’t yet benefited from a £2000 Growth Voucher, now could be your chance – the Government has opened up the scheme to even more small businesses.

The aim of the Growth Voucher programme is to help small businesses access the strategic advice they need to help them grow.  If eligible, you’ll be granted a £2000 Growth Voucher that you can use against one of five support areas: Finance and Cashflow; Expanding your workforce; Leadership and management; Marketing and customer service (the heading under which The Business Greenhouse can provide businesses with support); and IT and web.  You have to match fund the investment, but you don’t have to use all of the £2000 granted.

 

So, how is the Growth Voucher easier to access now?

To make the scheme more accessible to small businesses, the government is introducing flexible payment options.  Now eligible businesses can pay their half of the voucher directly to the provider and no longer need to find 100% of the cash and claim it back.

What’s the benefit of seeking strategic advice for your business?

If the idea of £2000 to put towards growing your business is appealing, then you’ll probably be running through the pros and cons of actually applying for a Growth Voucher (at this stage, be aware that eligible businesses are randomly selected for a Growth Voucher so there is a possibility you might not be awarded even if you meet the criteria).  Enterprise Nation, the organisation helping to administer the Growth Voucher scheme, put this infographic together – it shows how businesses have benefited from advice they have sought:

Why seek strategic advice for your business?

If you need further convincing as for why you should consider applying for a Growth Voucher, Lord Young, the Primer Minister’s advisor on enterprise, urges:

“External, strategic advice is key to commercial success and has helped thousands of businesses to grow. I want to make it easier and more affordable for small businesses to access and the Growth Vouchers programme is doing exactly this. I have received fantastic feedback from small business owners who have taken up this great offer, using the online marketplace to select a strategic advisor to help them shape their business growth and improve performance.”

Moreover, the benefits are best exemplified by the results we get for our clients when working for them on a strategic level.  Many of our clients come to us because their heads are spinning with all the whos, whys, whens, wheres and hows of marketing their business.  Does any of this sound familiar?

  • You’ve tried every which marketing way you know with fewer results than expected.  An effective, targeted, strategy that will bring bigger returns on your investment is definitely needed.
  • Your marketing efforts brought in more customers for a while, but the results of your efforts have now plateaued.  You really want an evolving marketing strategy that helps you to utilise the marketing tools best suited to bringing in a steady stream of new customers for your business.
  • Marketing activities are taking up more time than you’ve got.  You need an efficient way of bringing all your marketing efforts together so you can manage your time better, and still be effective in bringing in new business and retaining your existing customer base.

If yes, you’re not alone.  This is what our clients say when they first come to us for strategic advice on how to best market their business – they’re so involved in the day to day running of their business, it is hard to step back and take a proper and grounded view on what marketing strategy would best meet their needs.  This is where independent strategic marketing advice benefits them and their business.

Martin Evans of Vero Drive was one such client and asked us to prepare a written marketing strategy.  Of our report, Martin said:

“Lynda did an extremely professional and thorough job in understanding my business and then putting good, practical advice in the report. I have some clear goals and methods to market my business in the coming months/years. I would unhesitatingly recommend her for any SME needing help in developing a marketing strategy.”

How can you find out if you’re eligible for a Growth Voucher?

If you’re tempted to apply to the Growth Voucher scheme you will, for starters, need to:

  • Be registered in England
  • Have less than 250 employees
  • Be actively selling goods and/or services
  • Have a turnover no greater than €50m or £45m
  • Own 75% or more of their business

You’ll then have to complete an online questionnaire and this will be followed up either with a further online assessment or a face-to-face discussion in order to help determine from which type of support your business would most benefit.  For more information and to find out if you’re eligible for a Growth Voucher go to: https://www.gov.uk/apply-growth-vouchers

What happens next?

If you’re awarded a Growth Voucher, you’ll be told under which of the five support areas you can seek advice.  You can use your Growth Voucher to purchase support from one of registered Growth Voucher advisers.  Each of the registered Growth Voucher advisers has to prove their worth against a rigorous assessment of the standards to which they work so you can be sure that you’ll get qualified and useful advice from them.

To find a Growth Voucher adviser for you, you’ll be directed to the Enterprise Nation’s Marketplace.  Here you’ll have the opportunity to review the Growth Voucher advisers registered to provide advice for your deemed support area.

If you don’t receive a Growth Voucher, hopefully the assessment will still have been useful in pinpointing what type of advice would best help your business to develop and you can still make use of the Marketplace to find someone who can help you.

The Business Greenhouse is a registered Growth Voucher adviser!

We’re very excited to have been given Growth Voucher adviser status.  With our experience and expertise, we’re well placed to provide advice under the Marketing heading and can help you market your business and help to attract and retain clients and customers.

It was indeed a thorough assessment we had to go through in order to ‘make it’ as a registered Growth Voucher adviser and we had to provide evidence that we:

1. Are full members of a trade body (we’re members of the Federation of Small Businesses, and also of the Institute of Enterprise and Entrepreneurship and studying member of the Institute of Leadership and Management)

2. Have three years experience of working with, or advising, small businesses (we’ve been supporting small businesses since 2004, while The Business Greenhouse came into being in 2011)

3. Have Professional Indemnity Insurance

If, as Martin discovered, some strategic marketing advice would help your business grow, and you’d like to know more about The Business Greenhouse as a Growth Voucher adviser check out our Growth Voucher adviser profile

If you win a Growth Voucher and are recommended to seek marketing support, and would like to find out how The Business Greenhouse can help, click on the ‘send an enquiry’ button on our Growth Voucher adviser profile, or, if you prefer, do get in touch with us directly.  We’d love to hear from you.

How to do social media

How to do social mediaOur 9 tips on ‘How to do social media’ were collated following an invitation from UKTI’s Worldwide Women Network to share our thoughts on how businesses can get the most out of social media.

With many members of this exclusive network for South West-based female entrepreneurs already using social media platforms in support of marketing their businesses, we took a very broad brushed approach and through our 9 ‘How to ‘do’ social media’ tips focused on:

1. The groundwork – the things you ‘must do’ in social media in order to make it work

2. What makes social media flourish – the magic ingredients needed to bring social media alive

3. Making sure that what you do, works for you.

Hopefully, there’s a good mix of real-life case studies and own-grown experience that viewers of our presentation can use to benefit their businesses. However, it is essentially a slide presentation so it doesn’t include copious amounts of information. Should it prompt any questions or a need for more info, please do get in touch. We’d be very happy to hear from you.

Find our ‘How to ‘do’ social media’ presentation here:

‘How to ‘do’ social media’ in a nutshell

For those that prefer a written outline of the presentation we gave, the bare bones are:

1. Have a strategy!

Obvious maybe, but as social media allows details to be shared instantaneously actually planning social media messages, and how you can maximise the positive impact on your business, can get overlooked. We’ve added a bonus 5 things that should really be considered when putting together a social media strategy that will work.

2. Choose platforms that will work for you

With so many social media platforms from which to choose, the right one(s) for your business will one on which your target customers or clients are present, but also one that you can make work.

3. Share stuff awesomely

The internet is an incredibly busy place so messages you put out have to stand out. Using a balanced mix of ‘wow-factor’ content, timing the distribution of your messages, and considering writing or sharing content for your ‘audience’s audience will help.

Regarding the timing issue, avoiding peak internet traffic times and posting messages when your audience is most likely to look at them are both logical. There’s a lot of research out there that suggests best times to post your messages, but check that it correlates to the country in which your target audience are based, and that it’s been written up recently – area and whether the data is current may affect your results. That said, trial and error might yield better results for your specific case.

4. Action!

i.e. actually doing something with your social media accounts. Social media accounts that have not been used recently make it look like the business is no longer operational, or that you just don’t care about the idea of interacting with people who might be interested in you and your business.

5. Link, link, link

Inform your customers or clients that you actively use social media and encourage them to engage with you on these platforms. This can be done by linking your chosen platform(s) from icons on your website to your social media accounts, using social media icons on display banners, email signatures and more. Don’t go too crazy and start linking social media accounts to other social media accounts, however. This comes across as lazy, but also audiences on each social media platform you use may appreciate or need different types of information to keep them interested in your business.

6. Tell people what you want them to do

Include call to actions that invite people to do something. Twitter conducted a survey recently about what works best for a selected number of their promoted account holders – we’ve included their top 4 tips in this section of the presentation.

7. Seize the moment

Great planning cannot be emphasised enough, but sometimes opportunities come along that just cannot be wasted. Take a look at these two case studies. They show two businesses that grasped a moment with both hands and turned them to their advantage.

8. Stories rock

If you can connect with your target audience on an emotional level, you’ve really cracked social media. Stories are a great way to do this and this case study demonstrates it perfectly. Have a look at Westjet’s Christmas Miracle 2013 video too for another example of connecting emotionally – as a result, it got over 35 million views.

9. It’s a choice

Controversially, maybe, we suggest that social media is a choice. If you can’t make it work for your business, but want to perhaps because it’s beneficial to your customers and your business, you can seek advice and support from those that can help. Plus consider that social media isn’t the only way of marketing to your customers and clients – other ways still work!

 

Thank you to Hilary Green, International Trade Adviser at UK Trade and Investment South West for inviting me to talk to the Bristol Worldwide Women Network. I thoroughly enjoyed the morning!

 

Have you got any top tips to add of your own? Please do leave a comment in the box below. We’d love to hear what’s worked for you.

 

TBG’s first Google Helpout goes live

The Business Greenhouse launches its first Google Helpout

The Business Greenhouse has been approved as one of the early deliverers the recently launched Google Helpouts.

Launched late last year, Google designed its Helpouts to deliver ‘real help from real people in real time’.  Recognising the marketing expertise she offers, Google invited The Business Greenhouse’s Director, Lynda Wookey, to become an early deliverer of their Google Helpouts.

‘Here at The Business Greenhouse we find many business owners are keen to chat about their marketing efforts – what’s working, what’s not and what they can do to win more customers or clients.  Google Helpouts seems to be a fun platform over which to have these type of conversations so I thought we’d try it out.  The Business Greenhouse’s ‘The Small Business Marketing Helpline‘ was born,’ said Lynda.

So what is a Google Helpout?

‘The Small Business Marketing Helpline’ Google Helpout offers business owners and managers the chance to book a 15 minute live discussion over video link.

[box] “Helpouts—a new way to get and give help over live video. Our goal is simple: help people help each other. We want to use the convenience and efficiency of the web to enable everyone, no matter where they are or what time it is, to easily connect with someone who can help.” – Google[/box]

‘Be reassured that we know what it’s like running your own business, so we won’t mind if you ‘turn up’ to the chat in jeans and a t-shirt.  It’s a great advantage of Google Helpouts that you don’t have to leave your desk in order to travel to a meeting,’ added Lynda.

 

What does ‘The Small Business Marketing Helpline’ offer?

The Business Greenhouses’ Google Helpout is particularly designed for business owners and managers who understand that great marketing is crucial for the success of their business, but who do not have in-house marketing expertise.

The Small Business Marketing Helpline

The Small Business Marketing Helpline could help you with:

  • Identifying marketing priorities for your business
  • Reviewing the marketing activity you’re doing now
  • Identifying ways to promote your business to your target audience
And answer questions such as:
  • How do you find profitable customers?
  • What do your clients want to know before they buy?
  • How can you avoid common marketing mistakes?

‘I’m anticipating an array of questions from ‘how do I decide what marketing activity to do?’, and ‘is social media the way forward for me?’, to ‘ how can I find profitable customers?’, but I know that isn’t an exhaustive list!’, said Lynda.

 

The first bookable sessions with The Small Business Marketing Helpline are available on Friday 2nd May.  The 15 minute slots are initially free of charge on a first come, first serve basis.  More slots will be made available once these sessions have been completed.  To book your free 15 minute chat click here.

Personality, people & possibilities: the 3 Ps of marketing success in 2014

Do you want your marketing activity to generate more revenue for your business this year?  Yes?  Then you may well be interested in following The Business Greenhouse’s top 3 tips for success in 2014.

One of the most popular requests The Business Greenhouse gets from our clients is to help them generate more sales, and thus more profit, for their business.  In most cases marketing plays a major role in realising this ambition.

However, while the tools chosen to deliver a company’s marketing messages effectively may vary depending on your objectives, customers and business, we’ve found some common themes in what is marketed that are proving to work really well.

The Business Greenhouse has dubbed these trends as the new 3 Ps of marketing.

‘Whoa there’, you might shout.  What are those well-thumbed marketing textbooks professing then with their 4 Ps, or even 7 Ps?

…pause to think about the popularity of social media, blogging and other content marketing tools as this is certainly prompting an evolution in how marketing is applied and practiced.  However, that’s a different blog for another day!

The upshot is not to discount these previously professed Ps – they’re still valid – but consider that the marketing landscape is shifting.  Our 3 Ps are one result of us reviewing where this landscape is now.

So let’s share our 3 Ps with you so that you can start to use them in your business and make them work for you as they are doing for The Business Greenhouse’s clients.

Marketing P #1. Personality

Be bold and make the decision to flaunt your company’s personality.

This isn’t about what your mission and values are, but your character.  Are you fun-loving and positive?  Reliable and precise?  Adventurous and helpful?  Of course there are a whole host of other available adjectives from which to choose.  You’ll likely find the ones that fit your business in the decisions you make and your actions.

The key is that despite all the technological advances, the slick automated systems, and the ease of buying over the internet, people still buy from people. They want that human connection that will help them to develop trust and confidence in a business – two necessary factors in any purchasing decision.

Think how you can convey your personality through your marketing messages, activity and materials, as well as in other factors such as how you deal with their clients face-to-face, over the phone or via email.

A bonus is that while competitors may offer identical products or services, and have a similar website, it’s hard for them to truly mimic personality.  And if your personality is winning you customers, that’s another feather in your cap.

Marketing P #2. People

Make your business about the people you serve.

Your customers now have a lot of control over the purchasing decisions they make.  The internet and social media has made it so much easier for them to research products and services they need.  It’s not difficult for them to compare your prices to those of your competitors while they have your product in front of them, Google similar services while they’re on the phone to you, request recommendations or read countless reviews, and so on.  So when they have access to so much information, how will you make sure they choose to buy from you?

The answer is that you must show that you understand your buyers and that you can provide the experience that your customer or client wants. 

Connecting with your customers is crucial in this respect.  Collate the information that you haveabout them and analyse it to find out who your target audience actually is, what they really need to achieve by dealing with your company and how they want to hear from you.   If you can use this information to produce and offer products and services that meet their needs, and demonstrate through your marketing activity that you can relate to your target audience, you’ll be well on your way to developing sincere and long-lasting relationships with profitable customers.

 

Marketing P #3.  Possibilities

Demonstrate the impact your product or service has on your customers.

More than giving them a chance to hold your product or understand the features of your service, this is about engaging with your audience on an emotional and experiential level.  Think of it in terms of storytelling, taking customers through the journey of your brand, or how your existing customers use your products or services.

The aim of this trend is to break out of background noise created by a significant amount of available information or content pushed out from your competitors and generally across the web and other media.  Focus on encouraging impassioned responses to the stories you tell.  Help your customers to visualise what it will mean to them to own your product or engage with your services.

John Lewis has this cracked.  Think of the John Lewis Christmas campaign.  The story of Bear and Hare seen in their TV ad (and by over 12 milion people on You Tube) so captivated customers that the retail king ran out of associated merchandise and people started auctioning their Bear and Hare products off on Ebay because they were so popular.  Compare this campaign to their competitors – Marks & Spencer’s and Debenhams for example.  Which department store Christmas message do you remember most clearly?  I’m willing to bet you’ll say ‘John Lewis’.

The story-telling approach may not be a quick win, it may take months or years to build your story and entice customers along with you, but the power stories have to alter behaviour is great.

 

May we assure you that it’s not because of this time of austerity that The Business Greenhouse is talking about 3 Ps instead of 7!  Available and emerging technology, the way it influences buyer behaviour and how we communicate with clients and customers means marketing practice is constantly evolving.

It certainly is an exciting time in which to market small businesses.  We hope that The Business Greenhouse’s tips will allow you to get out there and have some fun with marketing your business and boosting your sales.

 

Have any of these 3 Ps worked for you?  Or are there any exciting examples that are inspiring your own marketing activity? We’d love to hear from you in the comments.

 

– post first appeared at http://blog.brunelone.com/ on 3rd February 2014

Patent Box: the playground of big business?

When an IP specialist sent us some information about the government’s ‘Patent Box’ scheme, TBG decided to look at how it might benefit entrepreneur’s, and small and medium enterprises (SME’s).

Definition of patent for Patent Box blog post

Patent Box came to our attention last year. Then it seemed enormously complicated and the benefits out of reach to smaller enterprises less au fait with the tax system.

Indeed, when you go looking for information about Patent Box and who it might benefit, the view that it’s the playing ground of the big boys is echoed.  NewStatesman’s Tony McKenna suggests that Patent Box is yet another way that large corporations can achieve tax breaks. Jon Ungoed-Thomas followed suit with his Sunday Times article ‘Big firms exploit patents tax break‘.

However, if you are in the business of devising and creating technological innovations then the clarification received from Cerian Jones, our Patent Attorney friend at leading IP firm UDL shows that it could well be worth considering, especially if you are the vanguard of high-tech and high-growth.

What is Patent Box?

It’s another cut from Government, but this time a cut that will benefit those businesses that have to pay Corporation Tax. It allows companies to benefit from a reduced corporation tax rate of 10% on qualifying patents. The benefits are being phased in, with the scheme being rolled out from April last year (2013) over a period of five years so the full benefits will be felt starting from April 2017.

The overall idea of the Patent Box incentive is surely that British innovation is protected and and the value of it kept within the UK. The government hope that this scheme will encourage entrepreneurship, undoubtedly with the view that a greater number of home-grown, manufactured and sold products will help grow the economy.

This is contrary to the opinion that it was yet another tax avoidance scheme for bigger companies. And certainly small companies aren’t excluded – there is a small claims track for those who meet the eligibility criteria but who have qualifying profits of less than £1,000,000.

However, it is interesting to note that some analysts suggest that as the majority of patent applications currently come from a minority of firms, very few companies are likely to grow their revenue streams using Patent Box. Perhaps this has something to do with the perceived up front costs involved in applying for a patent and navigating the financial risks and opportunities involved?

Interestingly, while it has the potential to boost business profits and cashflow, sources such as the Institute for Fiscal Studies say that Patent Box will actually lead to a “substantial reduction in government revenues” – the June 2010 Budget predicted a revenue loss of £1.1billion a year. At best this seems, on a national economy level,  a case of going backwards to come forwards. It certainly prompts questions of how exactly the figures stack up for the country and when the return on this investment is anticipated, who the incentive is really aimed at (who does the government want to keep in, or attract to, the UK?).

Before cynicism takes over, let’s get back to entrepreneurs and SMEs and how you can benefit…

Are you eligible for Patent Box?

Essentially, you may be able to benefit from the Patent Box scheme if your company:

1. is liable to Corporation Tax: individuals, partnerships and Limited Liability Partnerships cannot partake

2. makes a profit in the UK from exploiting inventions that are patented

3. owns, or is the exclusive licensee of, one or more patents granted by the UK Patent Office

4. has undertaken significant development of patented technology in the UK

OR

5. of this doesn’t directly apply to your company, but your business is a member of a group in which another company has undertaken the above activity

What we found interesting

There are a few points that particularly caught our eye when reviewing Patent Box and how it might benefit SMEs:

– the incentive can be applied to existing, and well as new patents

– the Patent Box income can come from a product that includes a patented part, not just the patented product itself

– the 10% Corporation Tax rate can apply to worldwide profits, not only those products sold or distributed within the UK

Speak to a Patent Attorney

Whether you’re developing an invention, have patents pending, or already have products (patented or otherwise) in the marketplace, you may have dozens of questions about patents and whether Patent Box can benefit you.

If you do want more details, there’s some useful info from Cerian at UDL here: Patent Box: have you unwrapped your gift from the tax man yet?

If you’d like to explore your particular situation, it’s most probably a good idea to now seek out a good Patent Attorney and sit down for a chat with them. If you’re local to Bristol, why not come along to our ‘Marketing your technology company‘ workshop on 6th Feb 2014? We’re delighted that Cerian will be our guest speaker at this event and you can set the ball rolling on your Patent Box conversation with her in person.