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Marketing

Recommended tools and services

Our marketing packages will help you find new customers and keep in contact with your existing customers

Marketing

Recommended tools and services

Our marketing packages will help you find new customers and keep in contact with your existing customers

Marketing

Recommended tools and services

Our marketing packages will help you find new customers and keep in contact with your existing customers

Marketing

Recommended tools and services

Our marketing packages will help you find new customers and keep in contact with your existing customers

Marketing

Recommended tools and services

Our marketing packages help you to find new customers and keep in contact with your existing customers

Marketing

Recommended tools and services

Our marketing packages help you to find new customers and keep in contact with your existing customers

Marketing

Recommended tools and services

Our marketing packages will help you find new customers and keep in contact with your existing customers

Marketing

Recommended tools and services

Our marketing packages will help you find new customers and keep in contact with your existing customers

Marketing

Recommended tools and services

Our marketing packages help you to find new customers and keep in contact with your existing customers

Marketing

Recommended tools and services

Our marketing packages help you to find new customers and keep in contact with your existing customers.  You could also use them to help you to run pilots of your new products and services

Marketing

Recommended tools and services

Our marketing packages will help you find new customers and keep in contact with your existing customers

Marketing

Recommended tools and services

Our marketing packages will help you find new customers and keep in contact with your existing customers

Marketing

  • Top Blogging Tips and Topics

    Ben Barden is a blogging expert and Head of Development for printed.com. Here he offers the types of topics that lend themselves well to a business blog that will keep customers informed and engaged.

    “Blogging allows you to publish your own articles with ease. Writing a blog for your business can also be a great opportunity to connect with customers, industry professionals, staff, or casual visitors.

    Running a decent blog requires time and dedication. The key to getting started is to think of some topics you could write about. Here are a few to get you thinking:

    • When/how/why did your business launch? You don’t have to write an essay on your 100 year history – just the highlights will do. Some readers will be curious about how your business came into existence, along with where it’s headed next. This is a good intro post.

    • What makes your business stand out? Why should people care what you do or what you have to say? If you haven’t thought of this before, it can be quite difficult to write – but once you’ve done it, you’ll have a clearer sense of purpose – and you’ll set expectations for customers.

    • Who works for your business? What are they like? For larger teams – this could evolve into a series of “Meet the team” style posts.

    • What are your products and services? Sticking to one product or service per post can give you a lot of topics.

    • Have you recently attended any events or conventions? This is your opportunity to share experiences at events in your industry, along with photos and perhaps your own review of the event. If you can find a suitable event that relates to your business, this is a great way to connect with people and also provide suitable fodder for a blog post or two.

    • Special promotions: Although you may not have any of these when you start blogging, you can include them as and when they occur. Don’t expect to come up with a long list of ideas in one sitting – it can take time to put together but will be worth the investment.

     



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  • Stories of email marketing success

    Simple Ways to Grow partner, NewZapp, was launched in 1998 and over the past decade has been helping small businesses connect and communicate with customers through e-newsletter campaigns.

    Whether your business is in Hotel and Tourism, retail, training or finance, you can browse a library Here   of how e-newsletters have worked for small business owners across the UK and how straightforward it is to set up and manage a NewZapp campaign.

    One of the profiled businesses is sunwear specialist, The Beach Factory. Director of the company, Anne Speak, says:

    “A NewZapp newsletter is a great way of advising regular customers of new products which have arrived in the warehouse. We recently sent a newsletter to customers who had bought a particular type of swimwear for their children last year offering them a sneak preview of the new collection. The click-through rate was really positive and customers made purchases which they might not have made until later in the season, taking advantage of the 10% discount offered in the newsletter.”

    "A timely NewZapp newsletter encourages them to make their purchases before they are on their way to the airport when it is too late!”

    Visit the NewZapp resource hub Here  to download how-to guides and instruction on how to design your newsletter so it generates maximum effect with existing and prospective customers.

    Find out more about Simple Ways to Grow partners Here

    Your_Partners Thanks to our publishing partners Enterprise Nation for this article.

    Follow NewZapp @newzapp

    Follow Enterprise Nation @e_nation

    Follow Simple Ways To grow @simpleways2grow



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  • 20 Email Marketing tips for better campaigns

    1. Plan ahead – make notes of the topics you want to cover this year, and work out if they need to correspond with any particular events or bank holidays. Set yourself deadlines for copy writing with reminders on your calendar.

     

    2. Design – make sure your design is up to date in terms of matching your branding, and offering relevant and current quick links. Use a reputable and well experienced email marketing company for your template design so it looks good in all readers and platforms.

     

    3. Welcome new subscribers – setup a welcome email to thank your new subscriber, tell them what/when they can expect from you, and offer links or articles they might find useful.

     

    4. Landing pages – create a landing page on your website specifically for each campaign if possible. Combined with Campaign Reporting and Google Analytics, you can then gain valuable information on how many views the page gets and the journey of the recipient from there on.

     

    5. Personalisation – if you are capturing certain information from your customers then make use of it!

     

    6. Keep building and promoting your list – using social media and your blog, keep mentioning where/how to subscribe to your updates.

     

    7. 3 second subject line – as email marketing legend goes, you have on average 3-5 seconds to catch someone’s attention with your subject line, so choose wisely!

     

    8. Be social – add Facebook, Twitter social share and Forward to a Friend buttons to your email campaigns, to encourage them to be shared and so that more people see your email.

     

    9. Test first – never say you do not have time to test. If you are busy then ask colleagues to help. Use NewZapp’s Spell Checker on your campaign before you send colleagues a test copy, and then ask them to proof read your content and try any links you’ve included.

     

    10. Animated images – as you can’t use Flash or videos in email, use animated gifs instead!

     

    11. Call to action – make sure your calls to action are clear; if necessary repeat the link further down the email to catch your subscriber’s attention.

     

    12. Segment your data - not just by interest but also previous customers vs leads, or even by targeting customers who have purchased a certain product and might be interested in your latest offer.

     

    13. Alt text – make sure all your images have Alt Text set on them. This text will display on screen if images are not displayed.

     

    14. Make it easy to subscribe – keep the form short and test this before you promote the link.

     

    15. Use the johnson box wisely - this is the area above your template where you can add copy such as an introduction to your company, a summary of your campaign contents, or an explanation of why they are receiving this email.

     

    16. Be consistent - this goes not just for content but for the date and time you usually send out campaigns so your subscribers know when to expect it.

     

    17. It doesn’t need to always be a newsletter – maybe send a campaign focused on one product or service that you provide, or the promotion of a special offer.

     

    18. Monitor your reports – using the Reporting tools, look at which links were most popular and which weren’t. Work on this in your next campaign.

     

    19. Re-engage your inactive subscribers - by sending them a campaign pointing out that they don’t appear to have opened your last email; use this information to your advantage and offer a discount if they make a purchase!

     

    20. Stuck for inspiration? Look at our blog post titled Great examples of Email Marketing Practice.

     

     

    Written by Mark Taylor of NewZapp - email marketing experts and a Simple Ways To Grow partner.

    For more information on NewZapp visit: www.newzapp.co.uk

    1. Plan ahead – make notes of the topics you want to cover this year, and work out if they need to correspond with any particular events or bank holidays. Set yourself deadlines for copy writing with reminders on your calendar.
    2. Design – make sure your design is up to date in terms of matching your branding, and offering relevant and current quick links. Use a reputable and well experienced email marketing company for your template design so it looks good in all readers and platforms.
    3. Welcome new subscribers – setup a welcome email to thank your new subscriber, tell them what/when they can expect from you, and offer links or articles they might find useful.
    4. Landing pages – create a landing page on your website specifically for each campaign if possible. Combined with Campaign Reporting and Google Analytics, you can then gain valuable information on how many views the page gets and the journey of the recipient from there on.
    5. Personalisation – if you are capturing certain information from your customers then make use of it!
    6. Keep building and promoting your list – using social media and your blog, keep mentioning where/how to subscribe to your updates.
    7. 3 second subject line – as email marketing legend goes, you have on average 3-5 seconds to catch someone’s attention with your subject line, so choose wisely!
    8. Be social – add Facebook, Twitter social share and Forward to a Friend buttons to your email campaigns, to encourage them to be shared and so that more people see your email.
    9. Test first – never say you do not have time to test. If you are busy then ask colleagues to help. Use NewZapp’s Spell Checker on your campaign before you send colleagues a test copy, and then ask them to proof read your content and try any links you’ve included.
    10. Animated images – as you can’t use Flash or videos in email, use animated gifs instead!
    11. Call to action – make sure your calls to action are clear; if necessary repeat the link further down the email to catch your subscriber’s attention.
    12. Segment your data - not just by interest but also previous customers vs leads, or even by targeting customers who have purchased a certain product and might be interested in your latest offer.
    13. Alt text – make sure all your images have Alt Text set on them. This text will display on screen if images are not displayed.
    14. Make it easy to subscribe – keep the form short and test this before you promote the link.
    15. Use the johnson box wisely - this is the area above your template where you can add copy such as an introduction to your company, a summary of your campaign contents, or an explanation of why they are receiving this email.
    16. Be consistent - this goes not just for content but for the date and time you usually send out campaigns so your subscribers know when to expect it.
    17. It doesn’t need to always be a newsletter – maybe send a campaign focused on one product or service that you provide, or the promotion of a special offer.
    18. Monitor your reports – using the Reporting tools, look at which links were most popular and which weren’t. Work on this in your next campaign.
    19. Re-engage your inactive subscribers - by sending them a campaign pointing out that they don’t appear to have opened your last email; use this information to your advantage and offer a discount if they make a purchase!
    20. Stuck for inspiration? Look at our blog post titled Great examples of Email Marketing Practice.
     
    Written by Mark Taylor of NewZapp - email marketing experts and a Simple Ways To Grow partner.


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  • The good, the bad, the ugly of personalisation

    In this article we examine what's good, bad and ugly when it comes to personalising your email marketing campaigns.

    Personalisation is far from new. We all use it in some form every day. We personalise our one-to-one communications as a matter of course. However, how many of us strive to personalise our mass communication? When was the last time you used what you know about your recipients to help personalise your message?

    Many believe personalisation to be "The ability to integrate personal details into a communication on mass."

    However, we'd suggest that personalisation is in fact "The ability to create a message that connects on a one-to-one basis, whether the message is sent on mass or individually"

    If you're personalising your mass communications, you'll need to consider the good, the bad and the ugly of personalisation:

    The good - that's relevant

    Good personalisation flows easily. It incorporates relevant information and helps tailor the message to the needs of the recipient. It can also integrate their name, location or business name. Great personalisation is natural and therefore blends nicely with the overall communication.

    The bad - how did they get these details?

    Bad personalisation leads the recipient to ask where you got the information from. Your communication shouldn't over use personal details or list data that isn't correct or relevant to the message. Don't dump everything you know about someone on the page, use what you know to tailor the message.

    The ugly - that doesn't even make sense

    Ugly personalisation doesn't make sense. Don't be tempted to write sentences like this...

    "John Smith, as a resident of England and a Marketing Manager at NewZapp, you'll be amazed how easy it is to order from our online shop."

    Did this sentence need location, job title and company name?

    Keep focused on using what you know to help tailor your message. Only explicitly integrate data that adds to the flow of the message.

    Overall the aim should be to create messages that engage and lead the recipient to take the desired action. If you want to achieve the best results you'll always need to test, test and test again. Finding out what works for your business can take time but it's always worth the effort.

     

    http://www.newzapp.co.uk/resource-hub/article-GoodBadAndUgly.html



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  • Boost your emails with topical content

    In order to achieve the best results, it's good practice to plan your email campaigns in advance.  However, one of the many advantages of email marketing is it enables you to quickly react to marketing opportunities when they occur and in particular, it allows you to take advantage of topical news and events to boost your marketing.

    If you'd like to give this a go, below are some key things you should consider:

    Relevance

    For marketing communications to be effective they need to be relevant to your target audience.  There's little point talking to your recipients about a topic that doesn't have any relevance to them.  For example if there was a change in employment law, a recruitment company could use it as the topic of an email campaign to send to employers, however this wouldn't make sense coming from a marketing firm to their customers.

    While the topic must be relevant, it doesn't necessarily need to be directly linked to your business.  As parts of the UK were brought to a standstill by heavy snowfall earlier in the year, we received an email from a well-known online retailer which demonstrated how you can use topical events to boost your email marketing.  While the body of the email focused on their normal newsletter content, an up to the minute subject line made it really topical: "Snowed in? Shop online for a stylish start to spring!"  

    While snow is not necessarily, or usually, related to spring fashion trends, the retailer reacted to the outside circumstances and utilised it within their email campaign to create a relevant, compelling call-to-action in their subject line.  This example also demonstrates that you don't need to theme the entire email around the topic, you can make a small section or even just the subject line topical.

    Timing

    When dealing with topical content, timing is key.  Your message is likely to be less effective if the content is perceived to be out-dated or yesterday's news. 

    Where possible you should try to prepare your content in advance.  For example, at Oscar time a DVD retailer could pre-plan an offer on former Oscar winning movies to coincide with the current awards.  However for unexpected and unforeseen events you should endeavour to react as quickly as possible while the topic is still relevant and current.

    Avoid the bandwagon

    There'll always be times when there's an influx of emails around the same topic, such as Christmas, Easter or Valentines Day.  If your recipients receive a lot of emails on the same topic the impact of your campaign may be diluted.  You need to ensure what you're communicating has added value for your recipients.  For example, the recruitment company emailing employers about changes in employment law could summarise in an easy format what it means for them, rather than just retelling the changes. 

    While topical content can aid your email marketing, the most important thing to remember is not to force-fit it into your email campaigns.  Ultimately your email campaign will only be effective if it's interesting and appealing to your recipients.

     

    http://www.newzapp.co.uk/resource-hub/article-TopicalContent.html



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  • Six of the best - a few tips to get you started...



    Let's make sure you emails look great every time with some best practice tips to get you started:

     

    1. If you're copying and pasting content, keep it clean!

    Whenever you copy and paste from an external source such as Microsoft Word or a website, you could be bringing additional coding into your email. Some email readers will refer to the code hidden behind your content instead of the text styles and colours that have already been pre-set for you on your NewZapp template. Outlook 2007/10 for example uses MS Word as it's html rendering engine.

    The effect this can have on your email in some readers, is that content looks very different to how it looked when you were composing it, and in worst cases, actually disjoints or "breaks" the whole layout.

    • Simply make sure you feed your email with good clean content 
      from there you can use the tools on the NewZapp tool bar to change text styles, colours and sizes.


    Here are a couple of ways in which to help you clean up the content that you want to paste:

    1. Use Notepad like a clipboard - Paste your copy into Notepad first and this will strip it back to basic text and of all coding. Then select all and copy again from the Notepad screen and paste straight into your email. You don't even need to save the Notepad file.
    2. Within your NewZapp account there is a Paste button on the tool bar and this has a pre-selected option "Clean MS Word formatting". NewZapp will then clean the content of unwanted code as it pastes it into your email. 

     

    2. Use descriptive links instead of full links or email addresses

    If you include full links or full email addresses as text within an email, you run the risk of being caught in a phishing filter.  This is because the filter may detect that the link is not going directly to the link destination, but via the NewZapp servers first in order to provide you with tracking data.

    • To avoid this try using a descriptive link instead 
      eg. Read more onlineVisit our websitecontact us

    Using a descriptive link can also help you create a much stronger call to action, generating higher click-through rates.  

    For example, "Read here why our customers made the decision to use NewZapp" is a more inspiring and concise link than "Read why our customers made the decision to use NewZapp at http://www.newzapp.co.uk/aboutus/whatcustomerssay.html

     

    3. Be polite

    No one likes being shouted at, so follow the basics of email etiquette and avoid SHOUTING YOUR SUBJECT LINE as a means to make your email get noticed (it won't) or SHOUTING ORDERS AT YOUR RECIPIENTS like CLICK HERE!!!! (they won't).

    For more tips on best practice with your content read our article Getting your emails into the inbox.

     

    4. Size your images correctly

    To make sure your email looks just how you want it, in as many email readers as possible, it's best to size your images to the exact size that you want them to appear in your email. Some email readers will ignore the fact that you have resized an image by clicking on a corner marker and reduced it, and choose to refer the original size instead - which could be quite embarrassing if you're using that 2000 x 1000 pixel image from your A4 brochure that the printers gave you!  

    If you're a NewZapp customer you can either use the Image Editor within your account or size your images before you upload them into your account.

    • You just need to know how many pixels wide you want your image to be
      and if you're a NewZapp customer, guidelines on the maximum image sizes you should be using will be found in your account.

    If you want to size your images before uploading to your account, you can use an image resizing tool such as Microsoft Office Picture Manager.  If you don't have any image editing software installed then there are free tools available online, such as getgimp.com 

     

    5. Use a genuine and monitored "From" email address

    Firstly... why would you not want to use a genuine "From" email address? If you've taken the trouble to invest time and money in email marketing, with presumably the purpose of engaging with your database and gaining new business, then anything they might want to tell you by clicking "reply" (good or bad!) should be important to you.  

    No... you are not going to be bombarded with bounced email server messages, NewZapp catches any for you.

    Yes... you are going to receive some "out of office" replies on this email address, but if you use this address for other correspondence then consider setting up a rule on your inbox so that replies from your email marketing land in a folder of their own for you to review separately. This is also a great way to gauge reponses from your email campaigns as it should help determine where the enquiry originated from.
     

    • Remember, email filters aren't as green as they are cabbage looking! 
      If you try using a non-existent "From" email address then your email is pretty certain to be rejected by the recipient's mail server. So resist the urge to use one that doesn't exist like theresnoone@home.domain it just won't work! 


    If you don't want a personal email address as the sender, consider setting up a "friendly" non-offensive email address, like updates@, enews@, newsletter@ etc. These should be more readily received by recipients and email filters than sales@ or info@ and look a whole lot more polite than donotreply@!

     

    6. Use a "From" name that your subscribers will recognise

    If your recipients don't know who the email is from, they're unlikely to open it. Within NewZapp, you can set the "From" name of your choice for every email you send. The question to ask is, do your subscribers know you personally? (e.g. John Smith) or do they know your company, brand or product? (eg. Smith Ltd). We'd advise that you use whichever would be most recognisable to your subscribers. 

    In NewZapp you can use up to 128 characters, so you can have it all (if you want to) i.e. "John Smith at Smith Ltd".

     

    http://www.newzapp.co.uk/resource-hub/article-FewTipsToGetStarted.html



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  • Refresh your email marketing

    Refresh your email marketing

    Summer is (sometimes) here, so it is a great time to refresh your email marketing strategy. In this blog post I am going to talk you through how to give your email marketing a good summer clean and how making a few changes can hopefully improve your open rates.

    1.       Refresh your content

    Do you know which links are working and which are not? Maybe it's time to remove some of the content in your newsletter that isn’t grabbing their attention and adding content that will. Clear calls to action which will make your subscribers want to click and find out more.

    2.       Clean up your list

    In my spare time I run a football club newsletter, last week I removed 120 subscribers from my list. Why? They had not opened or clicked any links in the past 5 months. Sure anyone can re-subscribe but I do not want to keep contacting these subscribers if they do not have the time to read the newsletter. This will also improve the stats, by removing these non openers this should increase the total percentage of opens you receive.

    3.       Review when you send

    If you are not happy with the open rates of your emails, review when the peak time and day opens and clicks occur. Maybe you would like to try changing the time or day that you send out to try to improve the activity on your newsletter.

    4.       Get more subscribers

    This should be on your to do list every month, gain more subscribers to your newsletter. Promote your previous newsletters using your Facebook and Twitter accounts to show everyone what they are opting –in for. Create offers or discount codes exclusively for your newsletter subscribers, this alone should encourage more subscribers.

    5.       Run a competition

    Run a competition for a month and giveaway a product or service you provide, or even something popular - like iTunes vouchers. I have seen companies on Twitter asking each entrant to subscribe to their newsletter and retweet the competition tweet; this will increase the overall reach and gain even more exposure.

    6.       Change the subject

    Do you have the same or similar subject for every campaign? Try changing this to entice your subscribers to open and read your email. Instead of using subjects like “Newsletter 16th June 2012” try using one of your stories your newsletter features to grab your subscriber’s attention and make them aware of your latest news.

    7.       Reposition your form

    How well is your signup form working? Do you know how many subscribers do you get per month or per week? If you form is at the bottom of your website maybe you should try moving it further up the page. Promote your newsletter using your social media accounts to alert your followers where they can sign up to your newsletter.

    8.       Redesign your template

    Have you had a recent website redesign and want to keep your branding the same or just want to modernise you template? Here at NewZapp we can create you a bespoke template to reflect your business branding.

    9.       Make them an offer they can't refuse

    Create a special offer or discount code exclusively for the subscribers of your newsletter. Not only will this make them feel special but you can also monitor how much the offer or code is redeemed, making it easy to calculate your return of investment.

    Written by Mark Taylor of NewZapp,email marketing experts and a Simple Ways to Grow partner,.

    For more information on NewZapp visit: www.newzapp.co.uk



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  • Don't be afraid to compete with big brands

     

    Don't be scared of competing with big brands
    All too often small businesses have a perception that they can't compete with big brands, when in fact, in the modern marketing age, there are many opportunities for small businesses to achieve market share and compete with even the largest global brands.
    In this brief article we'll give you a few quick and easy ways to compete with big brands. We'll also discuss why consumers often turn to who they know over buying from smaller businesses.
    Check out the competition
    The first thing you'll need to do is find out where your competitors (both large and small) are leaving the door wide open to competition. The key to success for big businesses is their ability to raise awareness of their products and services. In the past this resulted in traffic being driven directly to them. However, today this often results in hundreds and thousands of interested people searching for information related to big brand campaigns. These people often turn to the Internet to research the product or service they're interested in. So the first thing you'll need to do is ensure your business is visible to these researching consumers. You can do this via paid advertising or natural search engine optimisation. You should also look at affiliate marketing and price comparison websites for opportunities to reach these interested consumers.
    Next you'll need to ensure that your business is able to convert researchers into customers. People buy from businesses they know, like and trust.  
    Keep looking good
    One easy way of building trust is to look good. You need to look as good as your competitors or even better. Creating a website and marketing materials that look professional and are easy to understand could be the most important thing you'll ever do for your business. Ask yourself, have you ever bought from a company whose website and marketing materials look homemade? The chances are you haven't. If you have, it probably took you a long time to make that final purchasing decision. 
    Remember, people are looking to buy. The main reason they fail to make the purchasing decision (and here's where it gets a little technical...) is because the fear of making the decision is greater than the benefit of making the decision. In simple terms their fear outweighs their confidence in your ability to deliver what they want. For this reason it's vitally important you work towards eliminating any doubts they have about making the decision. This is why they turn to big brands. They feel more confident in their ability to deliver what they want. Customer testimonials and positive online PR are vital to building this trust. You should work hard to gain positive PR and present these messages to your potential customers at every opportunity.
    Stay front of mind
    The final area we'll look at is how big brands keep customers returning to them time and time again. They do this by simply staying in touch or as marketers like to call it "being front of mind". They have huge budgets for customer relationship management. You can do the same on a smaller scale. Your best opportunity for future sales are the people who have bought from you before. Interestingly, one of the main reasons for customers not returning is lack of contact. Your challenge is to keep your customers returning to your website, shop or offices regularly. You can do this by sending regular marketing messages. An email newsletter or email shot is one way to achieve this at a relatively low cost. 
    Whichever marketing media you choose, remember your communications must be relevant and engaging for the recipient. Consumers have a "what's in it for me" attitude. Your marketing communications should therefore address this directly by explicitly showing what is in it for them. This means the benefits for the consumer. Your communications should also continually build your brand and explain the reasons for choosing your business over the competition. 
    And finally
    There is one more thing to consider. This article simply touches on a few key points. You'll need to find what works for your business. The best way to do this is to understand your market and who you're competing with, and then work hard to find out how they find new business and retain their customers. 
    Look for the areas where budget isn't the key factor for success. Big brands may be the kings of print and TV advertising, but on the Internet and in many other areas your business can compete head-to-head with anyone. 
    Written by Mark Taylor of NewZapp,email marketing experts and a Simple Ways to Grow partner,.
    For more information on NewZapp visit: www.newzapp.co.uk

    Don't be scared of competing with big brands

    All too often small businesses have a perception that they can't compete with big brands, when in fact, in the modern marketing age, there are many opportunities for small businesses to achieve market share and compete with even the largest global brands.

    In this brief article we'll give you a few quick and easy ways to compete with big brands. We'll also discuss why consumers often turn to who they know over buying from smaller businesses.

    Check out the competition

    The first thing you'll need to do is find out where your competitors (both large and small) are leaving the door wide open to competition. The key to success for big businesses is their ability to raise awareness of their products and services. In the past this resulted in traffic being driven directly to them. However, today this often results in hundreds and thousands of interested people searching for information related to big brand campaigns. These people often turn to the Internet to research the product or service they're interested in. So the first thing you'll need to do is ensure your business is visible to these researching consumers. You can do this via paid advertising or natural search engine optimisation. You should also look at affiliate marketing and price comparison websites for opportunities to reach these interested consumers.

    Next you'll need to ensure that your business is able to convert researchers into customers. People buy from businesses they know, like and trust.  

    Keep looking good

    One easy way of building trust is to look good. You need to look as good as your competitors or even better. Creating a website and marketing materials that look professional and are easy to understand could be the most important thing you'll ever do for your business. Ask yourself, have you ever bought from a company whose website and marketing materials look homemade? The chances are you haven't. If you have, it probably took you a long time to make that final purchasing decision. 

    Remember, people are looking to buy. The main reason they fail to make the purchasing decision (and here's where it gets a little technical...) is because the fear of making the decision is greater than the benefit of making the decision. In simple terms their fear outweighs their confidence in your ability to deliver what they want. For this reason it's vitally important you work towards eliminating any doubts they have about making the decision. This is why they turn to big brands. They feel more confident in their ability to deliver what they want. Customer testimonials and positive online PR are vital to building this trust. You should work hard to gain positive PR and present these messages to your potential customers at every opportunity.

    Stay front of mind

    The final area we'll look at is how big brands keep customers returning to them time and time again. They do this by simply staying in touch or as marketers like to call it "being front of mind". They have huge budgets for customer relationship management. You can do the same on a smaller scale. Your best opportunity for future sales are the people who have bought from you before. Interestingly, one of the main reasons for customers not returning is lack of contact. Your challenge is to keep your customers returning to your website, shop or offices regularly. You can do this by sending regular marketing messages. An email newsletter or email shot is one way to achieve this at a relatively low cost. 

    Whichever marketing media you choose, remember your communications must be relevant and engaging for the recipient. Consumers have a "what's in it for me" attitude. Your marketing communications should therefore address this directly by explicitly showing what is in it for them. This means the benefits for the consumer. Your communications should also continually build your brand and explain the reasons for choosing your business over the competition. 

    And finally

    There is one more thing to consider. This article simply touches on a few key points. You'll need to find what works for your business. The best way to do this is to understand your market and who you're competing with, and then work hard to find out how they find new business and retain their customers. 

    Look for the areas where budget isn't the key factor for success. Big brands may be the kings of print and TV advertising, but on the Internet and in many other areas your business can compete head-to-head with anyone. 

    Written by Mark Taylor of NewZapp,email marketing experts and a Simple Ways to Grow partner,.

    For more information on NewZapp visit: www.newzapp.co.uk

     



    Close

  • Raise your revenue with email marketing

    Raise your revenue with email marketing

     

    Raise your revenue with email marketingIt’s easy to put email marketing into a box where it’s just doing one job for you, but there's so much more your emails can achieve.

    You probably treat your customers differently. The more they spend with you, the more likely they are to receive better service from you. Use your email marketing to continue those special relationships and to improve your low value customers.

    You probably treat prospects differently too. An offer or sales proposition you would use to convert leads to customers, may not be something you would offer an existing customer.

    Email marketing can be used for more than just acquisition or retention. There are more ways to utilise email marketing than you'd think.

    By segmenting your database and targeting your emails, you can improve your relationships with contacts and add to your bottom line.

    Retention email marketing

    This is a great way to keep your branding in front of your customers.

    Tell them about industry news, show them you know what’s going on and prove you have your finger on the pulse. Passing this information on to your customers will help keep them in the loop. This will help your customers see you as a useful resource and build longer lasting relationships.

    Show them your expertise in your industry by writing interesting and relevant articles. This will help build trust in your business. Trust is important as it helps make decision making easier and quicker. To make a purchase a customer must know, like and trust your business.

    Offer advice and support as part of the deal. Be as specific as you can. This will help make your emails valuable to your customer.

    This is a softer approach to generating more business than acquisition emails. You don’t want to be too aggressive and lose the customer altogether. We would recommend you use between three and five retention emails to one acquisition email.

    Acquisition email marketing

    Leads
    Use your emails to make a special impact on warm leads to convert them to sales. Where they have expressed a specific interest, send them an email relating to this area, explaining the benefits of buying from you and working with your business. Use your reporting to follow up those who opened or clicked your email.

     

    Customers
    Email is a great way of getting your other products and services in front of your customers. Offer those optional extras, up sell and cross sell your products and services. You can do this in stand alone acquisition emails or as part of a retention email, especially if your retention emails are long and in an editorial style. Integrating a sales message into a long editorial email can be highly effective. However, be careful not to dominate your retention email with a sales message.

    Events and news alerts
    Treat events you are attending and news alerts differently to the more structured campaigns above. This is your opportunity to blow your own trumpet, and let your subscribers know what you’re up to.

    If you have an article in the press, let them know and link to it. It’s proving your knowledge and expertise, it’s good PR and it will boost your brand.

    If you're attending an event, let everyone know where you’re going and invite them to meet you there. This offers an opportunity for your contacts to meet you in person, which could be your opportunity to improve your relationships and close sales.

    Transactional emails

    Say thank you. When someone spends money with you, send a thank you email. It start’s off the marketing conversation with your customer. You can include a marketing message on other related products and services, as well as information on what the subscriber can expect to receive from you in future.

    If you let them know you're sending regular emails, keep your promise. You'll be improving their experience of you, building trust, paving the way for future purchases and better relationships.

    Above all

    Be consistent with your messages and keep your promises. If you let your recipients down, you'll damage their confidence in you and your brand. Avoid getting stuck in an email marketing rut. Target your emails and you'll get a better response.

    Email marketing is a great tool in your marketing tool box. It's not be the latest technological fad, but it’s the superglue to hold the rest of your mix together.

     

    Written by Mark Taylor of NewZapp,email marketing experts and a Simple Ways to Grow partner,.

    For more information on NewZapp visit: www.newzapp.co.uk



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  • Reach for the stars, not for the benchmark

    Reach for the stars, not for the benchmark

     

    Benchmarks can help us make the right business decisions. However, far too often we say things like "we're above the industry average", when we should really be asking :

    • Did we return on our investment?
    • Have we achieved our campaign goals?
    • What can we improve?

    Benchmarks help us protect our investments and set realistic, achievable goals. The truth is, performance against benchmarks means very little if we fail to meet our internal target.

     With this in mind here are our top five tips to setting realistic email marketing targets.

    Break your target down into individual goals. Try to quantify your goals wherever possible. This way you can quickly see where you are achieving and where you are not.

    Break performance down into set areas. For example you may break your email marketing performance down into; delivery, read, click-through and conversion rates. This will help you review performance against your goals.

    Clearly identify the final action you want your readers to take? Should they reply to your email, fill in a form or buy a product? Once you know what you want them to do, calculate how many conversions you need to return on your investment.

    Set your target, and then review it against the required performance.  If your target is to achieve sales revenue of £1000 and to do this you need to sell 100 units, ask yourself:  

    How many people will I need to convert from email to final action?

    If your website converts at a rate of 1 in 10 you will need to convert a minimum of 1,000 people from email to website.

    Now ask yourself... Is this a realistic goal?

    Use past performance and benchmarks to help you decide if your target can be realistically achieved

    Never limit your target to achieving one specific goal.  If you're struggling to identify your goals, try to break your target down into its component parts.

    If your target is to achieve 100% growth in sales, then in order to achieve this your goals may be to

        1) Increase your conversion rate by 50%

        2) Raise the average order value by 100%

        3) Increase website visitors by 10%.



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  • How to create a slogan

     

    HOW TO CREATE AN EFFECTIVE MARKETING SLOGAN
    Action List
    1. Consider why you need a slogan. Think about what is most important for your firm. Do you want it to be original, memorable, to differentiate your brand or include a key benefit?
    2. Be truthful — for example, it's no good using your slogan to claim that you are “the biggest sports retailer in your local area”, if there is an equally popular sports shop down the road. Instead, focus on something that distinguishes you from your competitors.
    3. Look at other business’ slogans and decide what works and what doesn’t. For example, Reggae Reggae Sauce’s “Put some music in your food” is memorable and immediately conveys a strong image. However, Bacardi Spice’s “Distilled in Hell” has negative associations and although striking, arguably does not work as a marketing message. Check you don’t choose a slogan that is already trademarked, by using the Intellectual Property Office’s online database.
    4. Ask staff to brainstorm potential slogan ideas or consider running a competition to find the best one. What your firm means to them could be the same message you want to portray to customers.
    5. Make your slogan customer-focused. Ask your clients what they like about your firm. If there's a recurring theme, consider integrating it into your slogan.
    6. Keep it short. If you want your slogan to stick in people’s minds, try to keep it between five and seven words maximum. For example, BT’s “It’s good to talk” is simple but catchy.
    7. If you are struggling to come up with an idea, consider hiring a marketing consultant. Ask other business owners to recommend agencies they have found useful. A brand strategy session is likely to cost you around £400 with an independent consultant.
    8. Protect your slogan. Register it as a trade mark at the IPO website, to stop others from using the same one. It costs £200 to apply to register a trade mark, with a £30 discount if you apply online.
    9. Publicise your slogan on your business cards, on stationery, on your marketing materials, at exhibitions and at the bottom of emails. You might also want to include it on your signage. Make use of it as often as possible and ensure you live up to its promise.
    10. Review your slogan regularly. Like your offering, your slogan might need to be adapted according to the needs of your market. For example, in the current economic climate, affordability is likely to be an important characteristic.
    Cardinal rules
    Do: Ensure that your slogan reflects your USP Make sure your slogan stands out Protect your slogan with a trade mark
    Don’t Make exaggerated claims that you can’t justify Use an existing slogan Use negative wording
    With thanks to Fiona Humberstone, founder of Flourish Design & Marketing

     

    HOW TO CREATE AN EFFECTIVE MARKETING SLOGAN

    Action List

     

    1. Consider why you need a slogan. Think about what is most important for your firm. Do you want it to be original, memorable, to differentiate your brand or include a key benefit?
    2. Be truthful — for example, it's no good using your slogan to claim that you are “the biggest sports retailer in your local area”, if there is an equally popular sports shop down the road. Instead, focus on something that distinguishes you from your competitors.
    3. Look at other business’ slogans and decide what works and what doesn’t. For example, Reggae Reggae Sauce’s “Put some music in your food” is memorable and immediately conveys a strong image. However, Bacardi Spice’s “Distilled in Hell” has negative associations and although striking, arguably does not work as a marketing message. Check you don’t choose a slogan that is already trademarked, by using the Intellectual Property Office’s online database.
    4. Ask staff to brainstorm potential slogan ideas or consider running a competition to find the best one. What your firm means to them could be the same message you want to portray to customers.
    5. Make your slogan customer-focused. Ask your clients what they like about your firm. If there's a recurring theme, consider integrating it into your slogan.
    6. Keep it short. If you want your slogan to stick in people’s minds, try to keep it between five and seven words maximum. For example, BT’s “It’s good to talk” is simple but catchy.
    7. If you are struggling to come up with an idea, consider hiring a marketing consultant. Ask other business owners to recommend agencies they have found useful. A brand strategy session is likely to cost you around £400 with an independent consultant.
    8. Protect your slogan. Register it as a trade mark at the IPO website, to stop others from using the same one. It costs £200 to apply to register a trade mark, with a £30 discount if you apply online.
    9. Publicise your slogan on your business cards, on stationery, on your marketing materials, at exhibitions and at the bottom of emails. You might also want to include it on your signage. Make use of it as often as possible and ensure you live up to its promise.
    10. Review your slogan regularly. Like your offering, your slogan might need to be adapted according to the needs of your market. For example, in the current economic climate, affordability is likely to be an important characteristic.

    Cardinal rules

    Do:

    • Ensure that your slogan reflects your USP 
    • Make sure your slogan stands out 
    • Protect your slogan with a trade mark

    Don’t

    • Make exaggerated claims that you can’t justify 
    • Use an existing slogan 
    • Use negative wording

    With thanks to Fiona Humberstone, founder of Flourish Design & Marketing

     

     



    Close

  • Exploiting gaps in your market

     

    Exploiting gaps in your market
    Spotting a gap in the market is a key challenge for any business that wants to stay competitive. But proposing a new offer is one thing. Taking it successfully to market presents another challenge.
    The history of commerce is littered with products and services that seemed like great ideas, but for which there was actually no sustainable market. For example, Clive Sinclair's C5 electric tricycle famously failed to take off because it created a safety problem rather than solving a transport one.
    "I think all of us have launched some bad ideas," says John Fitzgerald, chief executive of BRAVE, the business-support agency. "It's very easy to rush on because it seems like a good idea. I've seen it in both delivering services and manufacturing products – for example, making something because you like making it, rather than asking your customers first."
    Research the market
    Launching a new product or service without proper planning could seriously undermine your credibility. If you are seen as a business that plunges into new schemes without thinking them through, customers will doubt your professionalism and drift away.
    "Every company wants to get to market quickly, but you must do your market research – even within your own organisation," Fitzgerald advises. "Don't get into a position where you're launching a product and your own people don't know about it, then say 'That's never going to work. You should have asked me.'
    "Try your idea within the company first, then talk to customers and trade bodies and work it up to get the best offer you can," he continues. "Ask 'Who is this product directed at?'. You need to understand what your potential customers want."
    Run a pilot
    "Don't oversell and under-deliver," warns Fitzgerald. "If you think you've got the offer right, think through what it means for your company. Can you be sure you can meet demand? Have you got enough warehouse and distribution capacity?"
    Running a low-key pilot will help you test demand and iron out problems. "Pick two or three customers who you know will give you very solid feedback and ask them to try it out," Fitzgerald suggests.
    "If there are things wrong with it, you'll find out early and you haven't got egg on your face," he stresses. "Listen to their comments, make changes and push it a bit more, then a bit more."
    "A lot of our buying decisions are based on the understanding that a product or service has been properly tested or is selling well in another market. If you can tell a potential customer, 'I can put you in touch with these people who are delighted with it', it puts you in a stronger position."
    Knowing when a product is not viable
    Knowing when to let go of something that is not working is as important as knowing when to push something that is.
    "It's very difficult for most entrepreneurs to give up, but you have to have that mindset," insists Mike Southon, author of The Beermat Entrepreneur. "If it's hard work selling something, there's something wrong – whether it's the wrong market or the wrong product or service. You should never struggle with getting people to understand your offer."
    BHP Information Solutions 2012
    Meta-data
    Category: Selling
    Keywords: product launch, market research, market pilot

    Exploiting gaps in your market

     

    Spotting a gap in the market is a key challenge for any business that wants to stay competitive. But proposing a new offer is one thing. Taking it successfully to market presents another challenge.

     

    The history of commerce is littered with products and services that seemed like great ideas, but for which there was actually no sustainable market. For example, Clive Sinclair's C5 electric tricycle famously failed to take off because it created a safety problem rather than solving a transport one.

     

    "I think all of us have launched some bad ideas," says John Fitzgerald, chief executive of BRAVE, the business-support agency. "It's very easy to rush on because it seems like a good idea. I've seen it in both delivering services and manufacturing products – for example, making something because you like making it, rather than asking your customers first."

     

    Research the market

     

    Launching a new product or service without proper planning could seriously undermine your credibility. If you are seen as a business that plunges into new schemes without thinking them through, customers will doubt your professionalism and drift away.

     

    "Every company wants to get to market quickly, but you must do your market research – even within your own organisation," Fitzgerald advises. "Don't get into a position where you're launching a product and your own people don't know about it, then say 'That's never going to work. You should have asked me.'

     

    "Try your idea within the company first, then talk to customers and trade bodies and work it up to get the best offer you can," he continues. "Ask 'Who is this product directed at?'. You need to understand what your potential customers want."

    Run a pilot

     

    "Don't oversell and under-deliver," warns Fitzgerald. "If you think you've got the offer right, think through what it means for your company. Can you be sure you can meet demand? Have you got enough warehouse and distribution capacity?"

     

    Running a low-key pilot will help you test demand and iron out problems. "Pick two or three customers who you know will give you very solid feedback and ask them to try it out," Fitzgerald suggests.

     

    "If there are things wrong with it, you'll find out early and you haven't got egg on your face," he stresses. "Listen to their comments, make changes and push it a bit more, then a bit more."

     

    "A lot of our buying decisions are based on the understanding that a product or service has been properly tested or is selling well in another market. If you can tell a potential customer, 'I can put you in touch with these people who are delighted with it', it puts you in a stronger position."

     

    Knowing when a product is not viable

     

    Knowing when to let go of something that is not working is as important as knowing when to push something that is.

     

    "It's very difficult for most entrepreneurs to give up, but you have to have that mindset," insists Mike Southon, author of The Beermat Entrepreneur. "If it's hard work selling something, there's something wrong – whether it's the wrong market or the wrong product or service. You should never struggle with getting people to understand your offer."

     

     



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  • Clean up your Email Database

    Is it time to clean up your email database? You have spent the last 12 months or so building up and promoting your database, but some subscribers may have now lost interest and have stopped opening or reading your emails.

    So in this blog post I am going to give ideas how you can clean up your email database and improve targeting your subscribers.

    Spelling mistakes

    Take time each week to view the recent subscribers and correct any obvious spelling mistakes, for example, seeing an email address like mark@gmaiil.com and correcting this to become a @gmail address. Other spelling mistakes in first or last names too should also be corrected in case you decide to personalise an email - it wouldn't make a good first impression if you got this wrong.

    Segment

    Split your data up, instead of have one big list containing everyone, break these down into smaller subfolders. Create a group for previous customers only; you can then exclude these from your next email campaign. With this group of subscribers who have never purchased you can send them a campaign showing a special offer or discount code to use.

    Quality counts not quantity

    I always advise that it is best to have subscribers on your list who know your business, or are previous customers. Don’t add people if they just send an enquiry form through, or if you pick up their business card at a trade show. By the time you email them they won’t have any idea who you are and might be annoyed that you are making unwelcome contact.

    What to do with non openers?

    An idea would be to add the non openers all to a new group, and maybe email them less frequently, say every month rather than every two weeks.

    You could even try changing the subject line or the format of the email completely. Some of these subscribers may have been on your list for years receiving the same email with the same content, so dust of those template cobwebs and spring clean your email template!

    When you send this email to your non openers, mention the fact that they haven’t read your email in a while and show them what they are missing out on;  give them the same information you promised when the signed up.

    What next?

    Ok, so you have fixed any spelling errors, segmented your lists and removed any non openers, now what? Focus on your next email campaigns, plan when you are going to send them out and if you will send different campaigns to each list.

     

    I recommend putting reminders in your calendar for when you plan to send out, have colleagues at hand to proof read and spell check as well as check the links are all correct prior to sending.

     

    Written by Mark Taylor of NewZapp - email marketing experts and a Simple Ways To Grow partner.

    For more information on NewZapp visit:  http://www.newzapp.co.uk



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  • Use Facebook and Twitter to beat the mid-month blues

    So it's the middle of the month and you are looking to get more activity on your website, the problem is you sent out your newsletter two weeks ago. What you need is some social media activity to fill this gap and interact with your followers, keeping them warm until your next newsletter hits their inbox.

    So here are some ways you can try to improve on this lack of activity by engaging with your followers.

    Ask your followers to subscribe

    You don't get if you don't ask. So post an update to your Facebook or Twitter account reminding your followers where to go to subscribe. It is also a good idea to show previous examples of your campaigns next to your signup form - just to show subscribers what they are signing up to and how this may interest them further.

    Interact with your fans

    Maybe recommend a product for a rainy Monday afternoon or simply just showing a new product that you have in stock. This can help grow activity on your posts and also grow awareness of your brand. Not only this but you can also use this as a great time to post “what did you think of product x?” asking feedback or reviews for other followers to see.

    Run a competition

    A great way to gain exposure is to run a competition; you can either give away a product or a service you provide. I have even seen examples in the past of companies giving away gift vouchers for high street stores. The competition will entail getting the followers to like or retweet your status to enter, this in turn will increase your overall reach of the competition with all the likes and retweets. Just make sure you have a page on your website with the rules of the competition, details of the prizes and when the competition will close.

    Offer a discount

    Create a discount code on your website and share this on your social network sites, giving something back to your fans and attempt to encourage new customers. You can promote this on your social network account and let followers know when this discount code ends.

    You could even create a welcome email that contains the discount code and this would encourage more people to subscribe to your newsletter.

    Plan ahead

    Think ahead to any public holidays that are coming up, maybe you'd like to create a campaign themed on Halloween or maybe try posting an update in the evening or over a weekend. This can be anything from announcing a new feature in your system to promoting a new blog post or how to guide.

    By using a free application like Tweetdeck or Hootsuite, you can manage your social media accounts all under one roof. This also allows you to create social media updates in advance so you do not have to run around during the week.

    If you use Google Analytics you can see where most of your traffic originates from and at what time, this can be something to work from in the future if a certain time is more popular than others.

    Share links to Blogs or Guides

    Share links on Facebook and Twitter to any recent blogs or guides you have written, maybe you can post earlier blog posts to give them some attention. As mentioned above, if you use a social media dashboard application manager you can schedule your updates for the week ahead!

    While on the subject of sharing useful blog posts I have added 5 useful articles below that can help you with your email marketing, enjoy!

     

    Written by Mark Taylor of NewZapp - email marketing experts and a Simple Ways To Grow partner.

    For more information on NewZapp visit: http://www.newzapp.co.uk



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  • Big Shots Small Shots Mail Shots

    THE WHATEVER SOLUTION 

     

    WHATEVER your business does. WHATEVER size of company you have. 

     

    WHATEVER your marketing challenges are. WHATEVER part of the country you are in. 

     

    DIRECT MAIL DELIVERS 

     

    because 

     

    1 WHATEVER your target market is, direct mail can help to reach them with minimum 

    wastage. There are many, many direct mail lists available to both buy and rent . . . and you 

    can choose just as easily between business to business and business to consumer. So 

    whether it’s 

     

    – Finance Directors in Yorkshire companies irrelevant of what type of business OR 

    – Directors of “green” supply businesses in North Yorkshire OR 

    – Young married couples on the Yorkshire coast OR 

    – Retirees in York 

    there’s a list to meet your need; if you don’t know who you want to talk to, take a tip from 

    your existing customers . . . find more of the same! Just starting up and haven’t got any 

    customers? Well, if you don’t know who you want to sell to, how on earth did you get past 

    the bank? 

     

    2 WHATEVER you want those recipients to do, the key is to be very, very clear. If you 

    want them to come to an event . . . a seminar, a shop opening, a trade show, a wine tasting 

    . . . then tell them up front. Imagine how you would couch the invitation if you were face to 

    face. You are unlikely to start the conversation: “my name is Joe Bloggs, and 9 years ago I 

    decided to open a shop in Northallerton specialising in Portuguese wines. So my wife and I 

    drove around Portugal for 6 months in a camper van, lining up suppliers and then came 

    back to Northallerton because it became obvious we would need the grandparents as baby 

    sitters! So we chose a shop, argued about the colour scheme . . . by the way do you prefer 

    white or cream . . . and eventually we opened. Once a year we hold a tasting event for the 

    new season’s wine; it’s next Thursday; would you like to come?” 

     

    You wouldn’t, would you? You’d say: “want to come to a wine tasting next Thursday?” 

     

    It’s just the same with Direct Mail. Decide, in advance, the purpose of your mailshot: 

     

     – place an order from your catalogue or website 

     

     – ask for more information, someone to call 

     

     – accept an invitation to attend an event 

     

    THEN, build your mailshot around that purpose, remembering that the letter is the single 

    most important element because it IS the replacement for you talking face to face. 

     

    “Dear Mr Smith 

     

     A Special “Wine from Portugal” Event 

     

    Would you like to come to our FREE wine tasting of this year’s Portuguese wine? It’s an 

    annual event we hold at our wine shop in Blossomgate, where for 9 years we have 

    specialised in Portuguese wines because we know that Northallerton residents like yourself 

    enjoy the rather different and eclectic ranges.” 

     

    3 WHATEVER you want to use to motivate must also be clear. Ask yourself: “WHY 

    should they respond?” Well actually you need a good, strong company message. What are 

    your unique points? Patented technology? Family business? Been going for years? Won 

    lots of awards? You’re trying to get them INTERESTED and TRUSTING. But, hey, we’re all 

    busy. There is nothing wrong with incentivising a response (ok,ok, bribing). But you do 

    need to think carefully about what incentive FITS with not only your business but also with 

    what you want them to do (the call to action). Common incentive techniques are 

     

     – free gift on enquiry or purchase; this works if they are coming to you, or you are 

     

     going to them . . . otherwise you’ve got post and packing costs 

     

     – entry into a free prize draw on enquiring (it’s unlawful to make an entry conditional 

     

     on a purchase) 

     

     – money off such as 10% off first order, or buy one, get one free. 

     

    Remember, if you get zilch response from your mailshot, that’s it. If you get an enquiry, a 

    contact, a prospect – because you have bribed them . . . then even if they don’t buy there 

    and then, you have contact details that you can go back to. 

     

    4 WHATEVER you want to earn from your first mailshot, may not be entirely in your 

    hands. Like all good clubs, mail has an entry price, whilst you get going. And because you 

    should always start off low key you won’t benefit from economies of scale . . . but you will 

    when you move into bigger volumes and / or higher frequency. There is no such thing as a 

    right or wrong level of response. Some businesses need 10%, some make a fortune on 

    0.01%! It’s not the response rate, it’s the Return on Investment that matters. How much 

    can you afford to pay for a new prospect or customer, remembering that looked after 

    properly they will be with you for years! 

     

    THE WHATEVER RULES OF THE GAME 

     

    1 The choice of list will have the most effect on your success. 

    2 Take small list quantities while you test, test and test again. 

    3 The single most important item in the envelope is the letter. 

    4 The letter is you telling them why they might be interested . . . it’s not about you! 

    5 The envelope should also contain some literature . . . up to the postage rate. 

    6 The bribe should be featured on a separate piece of paper. 

    7 The call to action should be very clear . . . we’re all busy! 

    8 An unconverted prospect is still a prospect. 

    9 Response rate is nothing: RoI is everything. 

    10 Royal Mail can help you with all of the above. 

     

    DIRECT MAIL DELIVERS 

     

    Judith Donovan CBE did her first mailshot whilst working for Ford Motor Company in 1975. 

    She did her second for the Yale Fork Lift Trucks in 1976. In 1977 she joined Grattan 

    Warehouses, the catalogue company, and in 1982 she started what became Britain’s 2nd 

    oldest independent Direct Mail agency with a turnover of more than £10 million and 50 

    staff. Before she sold to her Managers in 2000, she became Chair of the DMA, Editor in 

    Chief of Direct Mailing Strategies and author of DIY Direct Marketing. She has lectured on 

    direct mail in over 26 countries and has been awarded “Direct Marketer of the Year” and a 

    place on the DMA Roll of Honour. Currently she consults to Royal Mail and chairs a 

    Strategic Mailing Partnership for them . . . and she is also Chair of the Greater Ripon 

    Improvement Partnership. 

    THE WHATEVER SOLUTION 
     
    WHATEVER your business does. WHATEVER size of company you have. 
    WHATEVER your marketing challenges are. WHATEVER part of the country you are in. 
     
    DIRECT MAIL DELIVERS 
     
    because 
     
    1 WHATEVER your target market is, direct mail can help to reach them with minimum 
    wastage. There are many, many direct mail lists available to both buy and rent . . . and you 
    can choose just as easily between business to business and business to consumer. So 
    whether it’s 
     – Finance Directors in Yorkshire companies irrelevant of what type of business OR 
    – Directors of “green” supply businesses in North Yorkshire OR 
    – Young married couples on the Yorkshire coast OR 
    – Retirees in York 
    there’s a list to meet your need; if you don’t know who you want to talk to, take a tip from 
    your existing customers . . . find more of the same! Just starting up and haven’t got any 
    customers? Well, if you don’t know who you want to sell to, how on earth did you get past 
    the bank? 
     
    2 WHATEVER you want those recipients to do, the key is to be very, very clear. If you 
    want them to come to an event . . . a seminar, a shop opening, a trade show, a wine tasting 
    . . . then tell them up front. Imagine how you would couch the invitation if you were face to 
    face. You are unlikely to start the conversation: “my name is Joe Bloggs, and 9 years ago I 
    decided to open a shop in Northallerton specialising in Portuguese wines. So my wife and I 
    drove around Portugal for 6 months in a camper van, lining up suppliers and then came 
    back to Northallerton because it became obvious we would need the grandparents as baby 
    sitters! So we chose a shop, argued about the colour scheme . . . by the way do you prefer 
    white or cream . . . and eventually we opened. Once a year we hold a tasting event for the 
    new season’s wine; it’s next Thursday; would you like to come?” 
     
    You wouldn’t, would you? You’d say: “want to come to a wine tasting next Thursday?” 
    It’s just the same with Direct Mail. Decide, in advance, the purpose of your mailshot: 
     
     – place an order from your catalogue or website 
     – ask for more information, someone to call 
     – accept an invitation to attend an event 
     
    THEN, build your mailshot around that purpose, remembering that the letter is the single 
    most important element because it IS the replacement for you talking face to face. 
     
     
     
    “Dear Mr Smith 
     
     A Special “Wine from Portugal” Event 
     
    Would you like to come to our FREE wine tasting of this year’s Portuguese wine? It’s an 
    annual event we hold at our wine shop in Blossomgate, where for 9 years we have 
    specialised in Portuguese wines because we know that Northallerton residents like yourself 
    enjoy the rather different and eclectic ranges.” 
     
    3 WHATEVER you want to use to motivate must also be clear. Ask yourself: “WHY 
    should they respond?” Well actually you need a good, strong company message. What are 
    your unique points? Patented technology? Family business? Been going for years? Won 
    lots of awards? You’re trying to get them INTERESTED and TRUSTING. But, hey, we’re all 
    busy. There is nothing wrong with incentivising a response (ok,ok, bribing). But you do 
    need to think carefully about what incentive FITS with not only your business but also with 
    what you want them to do (the call to action). Common incentive techniques are 
     
     – free gift on enquiry or purchase; this works if they are coming to you, or you are 
     going to them . . . otherwise you’ve got post and packing costs 
     – entry into a free prize draw on enquiring (it’s unlawful to make an entry conditional 
     on a purchase) 
     – money off such as 10% off first order, or buy one, get one free. 
     
    Remember, if you get zilch response from your mailshot, that’s it. If you get an enquiry, a 
    contact, a prospect – because you have bribed them . . . then even if they don’t buy there 
    and then, you have contact details that you can go back to. 
     
    4 WHATEVER you want to earn from your first mailshot, may not be entirely in your 
    hands. Like all good clubs, mail has an entry price, whilst you get going. And because you 
    should always start off low key you won’t benefit from economies of scale . . . but you will 
    when you move into bigger volumes and / or higher frequency. There is no such thing as a 
    right or wrong level of response. Some businesses need 10%, some make a fortune on 
    0.01%! It’s not the response rate, it’s the Return on Investment that matters. How much 
    can you afford to pay for a new prospect or customer, remembering that looked after 
    properly they will be with you for years! 
     
    THE WHATEVER RULES OF THE GAME 
     
    1 The choice of list will have the most effect on your success. 
    2 Take small list quantities while you test, test and test again. 
    3 The single most important item in the envelope is the letter. 
    4 The letter is you telling them why they might be interested . . . it’s not about you! 
    5 The envelope should also contain some literature . . . up to the postage rate. 
    6 The bribe should be featured on a separate piece of paper. 
    7 The call to action should be very clear . . . we’re all busy! 
    8 An unconverted prospect is still a prospect. 
    9 Response rate is nothing: RoI is everything. 
    10 Royal Mail can help you with all of the above. 
     
     
     
    DIRECT MAIL DELIVERS 
     
    Judith Donovan CBE did her first mailshot whilst working for Ford Motor Company in 1975. 
    She did her second for the Yale Fork Lift Trucks in 1976. In 1977 she joined Grattan 
    Warehouses, the catalogue company, and in 1982 she started what became Britain’s 2nd 
    oldest independent Direct Mail agency with a turnover of more than £10 million and 50 
    staff. Before she sold to her Managers in 2000, she became Chair of the DMA, Editor in 
    Chief of Direct Mailing Strategies and author of DIY Direct Marketing. She has lectured on 
    direct mail in over 26 countries and has been awarded “Direct Marketer of the Year” and a 
    place on the DMA Roll of Honour. Currently she consults to Royal Mail and chairs a 
    Strategic Mailing Partnership for them . . . and she is also Chair of the Greater Ripon 
    Improvement Partnership. 

     



    Close

  • How to use direct mail

     

    HOW TO USE DIRECT MAIL
    Action List
    1. Decide what your objectives are: for example, making direct sales, maintaining customer relationships or generating new enquiries.
    2. Identify your target audience, typically similar to your existing customers.
    3. Establish your budget; consider how much each response will be worth to you, and the likely response rate.
    4. Plan the timing of the mailshot; avoid holiday periods, and ensure that mailings that are linked to a specific event arrive in good time.
    5. Build your own mailing list and keep it up to date; keep records of enquiries and existing customers, and ask existing contacts for new leads.
    6. Consider renting a mailing list; clearly specify your target audience, how many names you want and whether you intend to re-use the list. Ensure that the list has been cleaned to remove any names that have ‘opted-out’ of receiving mailings.
    7. Ensure that your use and storage of personal data complies with the Data Protection Act.
    8. Prepare a letter with a clear, attention-grabbing message selling the benefits of your offer; prepare any enclosures (eg brochures).
    9. Design the mailshot to be attractive; personalise letter and envelope where used as far as possible, and avoid the appearance of junk mail or spam.
    10. Encourage responses: make responding easy (eg with a pre-printed reply card if posting) and consider offering an incentive to reply promptly.
    11. Use test mailings to establish likely response rates, and to compare the effectiveness of different mailshots or mailing lists.
    12. Decide how you will handle the response and make any necessary preparations: for example, train employees how to deal with enquiries and ensure you have adequate stocks.
    13. Send out the mailing; consider using a specialist mailing house to handle large mailings.
    14. Analyse the response; record which contacts have been mailed and their response. Update your mailing list for any mail ‘returned to sender’ or e-mail bouncebacks.
    Cardinal Rules
    Do:
    be clear what your objectives are and who you are targeting use an up-to-date and accurate mailing list prepare an attractive, personalised mailing encourage responses
    Don’t:
    commit to a large mailshot without adequate testing overestimate likely response rates send a mailshot before ensuring that you can handle the response
    Contact:
    Direct Marketing Association, 020 7291 3300; www.dma.org.uk Royal Mail, 08457 950 950; www.royalmail.com Information Commissioner’s Office, 0303 123 1113; www.ico.gov.uk
    Copyright © BHP Information Solutions Ltd, 2011. All rights reserved

    HOW TO USE DIRECT MAIL

    Action List

    • Decide what your objectives are: for example, making direct sales, maintaining customer relationships or generating new enquiries
    • Identify your target audience, typically similar to your existing customers.
    • Establish your budget; consider how much each response will be worth to you, and the likely response rate.
    • Plan the timing of the mailshot; avoid holiday periods, and ensure that mailings that are linked to a specific event arrive in good time.
    • Build your own mailing list and keep it up to date; keep records of enquiries and existing customers, and ask existing contacts for new leads.
    • Consider renting a mailing list; clearly specify your target audience, how many names you want.  

    Ensure that your use and storage of personal data complies with the Data Protection Act.

    • Prepare a letter with a clear, attention-grabbing message selling the benefits of your offer.
    • Design the mailshot to be attractive
    • Encourage responses: make responding easy and consider offering an incentive to reply promptly.
    • Use test mailings to establish likely response rates, and to compare the effectiveness of different mailshots or mailing lists.
    • Decide how you will handle the response and make any necessary preparations: for example, train employees how to deal with enquiries and ensure you have adequate stocks.
    • Analyse the response; record which contacts have been mailed and their response. Update your mailing list for any mail ‘returned to sender’ or e-mail bouncebacks.

     

    Cardinal Rules

     

    Do:

     

    • be clear what your objectives are and who you are targeting 
    • use an up-to-date and accurate mailing list 
    • prepare an attractive, personalised mailing 
    • encourage responses

     

    Don’t:

     

    • commit to a large mailshot without adequate testing 
    • overestimate likely response rates 
    • send a mailshot before ensuring that you can handle the response

     

     

     



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  • Choose your leaflets and mailshot audience

    Making the most of your campaign

     

    When is comes to marketing campaigns, there are two basic ways to use mail:

    • address-only
    • personalised.

    Understanding address-only

    Address-only mail is often referred to as a door drop. It’s ideal for attracting customers to a local restaurant, shop or a branch of a larger chain with a special offer or discount. But it can also be used to raise brand awareness or announce a new product. You can target your audience by postcode, region or even by parliamentary constituency. You can also reach all the homes within a TV or radio region – making address-only mail an effective part of an integrated campaign. A door drop is:

    • cost effective
    • high impact
    • measurable

     

    Personalised mail

    It’s called personalised with good reason – your mail has a name on it. Often referred to as a mailshot, you can target by geography, but also according to income, gender, age, lifestyle and other preferences. Personalised mail helps your establish and build a relationship. It can generate one-off sales, but by managing your data effectively, you can also learn more about what your customer wants and what they may think of your business. With Audience Provision, we can help you improve your data by adding important information about your customers. Find out about Audience Provision. Or, we can help you build a list of customers who are likely to be interested in your products and services.

    With a good data and an accurate address list, you can achieve:

    • less waste
    • greater returns
    • increased ROI.

    The products you see here are just the tip of the iceberg, we offer a range of different tools that can help you find and retain customers.



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  • How to plan a direct mail campaign

    Step 1: Goals and objectives

     

    Every successful marketing campaign begins by looking inward. Study your business, make sure your brand reflects your organisation and resonates with your customers. Ask some deceptively simple questions:

    • Why Direct Marketing?
    • A new product or service?
    • Need more information about your customers?
    • Promoting one product or more?
    • Generating sales leads?

    Your goal is the overall intention of your campaign. Your objective is the outcome you want. For example, your goal could be to grow sales revenue by 10%. Your objective could be to increase phone enquiries by 15% over last year. Spend some time determining the benefits you offer customers. A USP (Unique Selling Proposition) is relevant, engaging and compelling. Make sure your product and the messages you send about it matter to your customers.
    Want your mailer to turn heads? Learn more about creative design.


    Step 2: Choose your audience

     

    Put yourself in the shoes of your customer. Where are they? What do they know about your business and your products? Are there any barriers you need to consider? What are their timescales? Segmentation is important and so is building a personal and individual picture of your customer. If it helps, give him or her a name and a list of attributes that encourage you to focus on what your customer wants and needs from your business. Good campaigns are always measureable. So, include a clear call to action whether it’s an invitation to visit a website, join a social media site, use an email address, call a number, insert a discount code or take another action.
    Need to add more potential customers to your address list? 


    Step 3: Decide on a strategy and employ tactics

     

    Your strategy is the roadmap to a good campaign. Tactics are the steps along the way. For example, your strategy is to raise sales of a new product by offering a discount to online shoppers. Your tactics could be to create two mailshots. The first will announce the product and excite interest by inviting people to find out more by ordering a new catalogue or visiting a website. The second could be a discount code.


    A good Direct Marketing Campaign delivers measureable results



    Close

  • The advantages of direct mail marketing

    Building stronger customer relationships – for less money

    Keeping customers loyal isn’t always easy. But letting them know more about your business and everything you have to offer can help. A mailshot can reach both new prospects and established customers with a message both will value and act on. And, a mailshot may cost less than you might imagine.

    A targeted test

    With a mailshot, you can target a specific group of customers. If you run a small test – say people who have used your building services to refurbish their kitchens – you’ll be able to learn if they need a new bathroom or conservatory. Using your own database of addresses for your test is inexpensive. And, good targeting means you reach people who are more likely to take an interest in what you do or sell.

    A measured response

    Your mailshot should include a call to action. That could a coupon, a code for an online shop, a phone number, or a Freepost™ card. If you include a Freepost™ reply card, your customers will be able to get an answer to you with a minimum of fuss.

    Whatever shape your response mechanism takes, you can use it to measure the response of your test campaign. With a clear understanding of your success rates you can decide on the next steps. That could mean targeting another group of customers, or working with our team to purchase address data. A limited test and an analysis of your response will help you understand and plan a full campaign. And, when it comes to a larger Mailshot, you’ll know exactly how to measure and manage your responses.

    Broader communications

    Mailshots are flexible. You can use it to send a personal message like a card to celebrate your customers’ birthday, or an invitation to a in-store event. You can use a Mailshot to introduce a new product or welcome back one that’s been tried and tested. An ad on the radio lasts just 30 seconds, but people will read and return to a letter, card or brochure they receive in the post. Mail lasts – and so does the impression it makes.

    Campaign costs

    A small test prepares you for a bigger campaign – and gives you a good picture of what to expect. With strong targeting, testing and a effective response mechanism, you wont waste any of your marketing budget



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Online Marketing

Recommended tools and services

Our self build standard web site is featured in this article, but why not  buy our design service combination

Find out more

Recommended tools and services

Our online options provide you with a self build standard website, including web hosting and a domain name. Many of the featurs referred to in the article are built in.  Why not also take advantage of our design service  

Find out more

Recommended tools and services

Our online options provide you with a self build standard website, including web hosting and a domain name. Many of the featurs referred to in the article are built in.  Why not also take advantage of our design service  

Find out more

Recommended tools and services

Our self build standard web site is available, but why not  buy our design service combination

Find out more

Recommended tools and services

Our online options provide you with a self build standard website, including web hosting and a domain name. Featurs referred to in the article are built in to our website offer.  Why not also take advantage of our design service  

Find out more

Recommended tools and services

 

Our self build standard web site is featured in this article, but why not  buy our design service combination

Find out more

Recommended tools and services

Our self build standard web site is featured in this article, but why not  buy our design service combination

Find out more

Recommended tools and services

Our marketing packages will help you find new customers and keep in contact with your existing customers

Marketing

Recommended tools and services

Our marketing packages will help you find new customers and keep in contact with your existing customers

Marketing

  • Search Engine optimisation

    What ePages 6 offers for SEO out-of-the-box

    We will show you how ePages is designed to work with search engines  

    Some of the methods used by search engines for indexing and rating are not publicly known and change with time. This article does not claim to be complete, but will help you to understand what SEO is and how ePages is configured to help you, however we can provide no guarantee of successs as much of that is down to what you do.  See our other article on "How to make SEO work for you"  

    Some Basic terminology 

    Alt attribute of the IMG tag

    The alt attribute is used in HTML documents to specify alternative text (alt text) that is to be rendered when the element to which it is applied cannot be rendered. It is also used by "screen reader" software so that a person who is listening to the content of a webpage (for instance, a person who is blind) can interact with this element. In HTML 4.01, the attribute is required for the image (img) and area tags. It is optional for the input tag.

    Keywords and tags

    HTML provides for sections (tags) in a web page which are not displayed in a browser but can be evaluated by a search engine. Some are ignored by search engines because they were often misused in the past. It is generally true that search terms should be spread over the entire page.

    HTML

    HyperText Markup Language (HTML) is the main markup language for creating web pages and other information that can be displayed in a web browser.

    Indexing

    This is a term used to describe search engines recognising and listing a web site or sometng within a web site

    Search Term

    This is a word or phrase which can be "seen" by a search engine and used in listing or indexing. e.g the term "Jackets" in the example below.  You as a buyer will use "search terms" to find what you need.  so if you are looking for a jacket you will use the word jacket in your search, however you may be looking for a specific type of jacket or maker either or both can be search terms.

    Session IDs

    Web sites often generate Session IDs, long chains of letters and numbers in the URL, (starting with "ID=" or "session=") and include a number of parameters (represented in the URL with question marks "?" followed by characters interspersed with ampersands "&"). These do not work well with search engines.

    Sitemap.XML

    ePages automatically creates a file called sitemap-xml. The http://www.sitemaps.org project is sponsored by Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft operators of the leading search engines on the internet.

    The TITLE tag

    The TITLE tag is a very important element for SEO. It is automatically filled with the product name followed by the shop name.

    The URL

    The URL is the address of a website or page within it and is used to navigate from one page or web site to another through the web.

    Understanding how these are used in the Internet and in ePages

    Sitemao.xml The existence of this structural overview on a website makes it easier for search engines to analyse the site and provides information about timeliness and the relative importance of specific pages, for example.

    The URL & Session Ids  ePages does not use session IDs in the URL

    Some areas of a web site do not need to be indexed in a search engine. At times, indexing could also be undesirable, examples being the shopping basket or the My Account area. ePages prevents indexing of these pages by using the rel="nofollow" link attribute.

    The URL has been made as short as possible to make it easier for a user to understand the results a search engine displays. In order to change the link, a special "Short URL" entry field is available for all products and categories. Here are a few examples:

    • Home page: http://<domain>
    • Category page: http://<domain>/Jackets
    • Product detail page: http://<domain>/Family-Tent-XYZ

    The position of the search term in the URL and whether it is included as a parameter are both unimportant. However, the URL is clearer if the search term is included (see above).

    Title tags

     The detail page of the family tent from our example content has the following:

    TITLE tag <title>Eureka El Capitan IV - Milestones</title>

    It starts with the possible search term. The company name comes afterwards. This also fulfils the requirement that every subpage has a unique TITLE tag so that a web site can be found using many different search terms.  You can make this most effective when you supplement the exiting content of the title tag to create an entire search phrase. 

    META tags

    Meta elements provide information about a given Web page, most often to help search engines categorize them correctly. They are inserted into the HTML document, but are often not directly visible to a user visiting the site.

    The application supports two META tags (these start with <meta> in HTML). These have varying relevance for search engines. The short description of the product is automatically written in the description attribute:

    <meta name="description" content="Dome tent for four persons" />  

    Search engines evaluate the DESCRIPTION tag. It is best to distribute the relevant search term several times in the text. When the search results are displayed, the description is printed highlighted and bold if it contains the search term.  At time of writing, almost all search engines (including Google) ignore the keywords META tag:

    <meta name="keywords" content="Camping" />

    Since this may not always be the case, it is possible to fill out the field Key words for search field below the product descriptions. Even if Google does not use this field at the moment, it is still important for the internal product search. For example, if your product  is a vacuum cleaner, you can enter Hoover as a keyword. The product will now be found by the ePages product search, although the word Hoover does not appear in the product name or in the description. The TITLE and the META tags are found at the top of the HTML document inside the head tag.

    H tags ( or heading tags)

    H tags are used for headings in HTML and are important for search engines. The application uses the levels H1 to H3. Examples:

    <h1>Eureka El Capitan IV</h1> <h3>Link to categories »

    Link to tents » Link to family tents » Eureka El Capitan IV </h3>

    The product name is automatically filled in in the H1 level. H2 contains that table with additional product attributes primary search terms can be entered here for search engines as well. H3 contains the navigation history, meaning the path of the product within the hierarchy.  Although the entries are displayed at the top of the page in the browser, they are in the middle of the body area of the HTML text.

    Alt tags

    In ePages the ALT attribute of the IMG tag  are used to provide more detailed descriptions of images. The product name is entered automatically here as well.

    ALT="Eureka El Capitan IV"  

    Search engines consider ALT attributes important if the graphic is found within a link. This is so in ePages  as pictures of categories and products are always links. Keywords in the ALT attribute of images are assigned by Google to the target linked page and not to the page on which the images are placed.

    Google PageRank

    Google PageRank does not affect the order of the search results. This is simply a general value (from 0 to 10) which reflects the  "importance" of the page. Primarily, the PageRank is affected by the number and quality of back-links (see External links).

     



    Close

  • How to make SEO work for your site

    Making SEO work for you

    We will explain what you can do to optimise your ePages web site for search engines and also how to improve ranking in the search engines.

    What you can do

    ePages as a software vendor cannot perform the entire search engine optimisation for your site and there are some important aspects which can only be set by the web site owner, the most important one being of course the content. In addition, you must also consider the speed at which the search engines add new pages and update old ones. If the domain is brand new, it may take a few weeks until it is indexed.

    External links

    Google takes into account that your shop is part of the internet and regards how your web site is linked to other web pages. If you do not have any incoming links, Google will not find or index your "island", even if you register the URL of your home page with Google manually!

    How to link  

    Back-links have the most important effect on your site's relevance for search engines. These are links to your web site from other webpages. These not only includes links to the home page of your web site but more importantly, links to subpages such as categories and products. Every link to your site's pages signals to the search engine that your web site contains a relevant offering and deserves a prominent place in the search results.  The link text plays an important role. If the search term is contained in the link  text, the search engine assumes that the target of the link your shop or web page contains content which is relevant to the search term. This means that an external web page should not link to your shop like this:

    <a href="http://<domain>/epages/ShopName>.sf/en_GB/?ObjectPath=Categories/Tents/FamilyTents">click here</a>

    But rather like this:

    <a href="http://domain>/epages/ShopName>.sf/en_GB/?ObjectPath=Categories/Tents/FamilyTents">Family tents</a>

    or better (using the short URL):

    <a href="http://<domain>/family_tents">Family tents</a>

    The link text is "Family tents" and forwards to the relevant category page in your web site when clicked. To pass links on, use the "Links to external" beneath the "Short URL" field. Embedding the link in a small text message or advert is even better. These increase the relevance. The text message should include relevant content and use the required search terms. This has the  advantage for the search engine that the search term and the message text are both contained in the link text and are close to each  other on the page. This proximity is considered in the ranking:

    Find equipment for camping holidays at Milestones. Our special offer for the month:

    <a href="http://domain>/epages/ShopName>.sf/en_GB/?ObjectPath=Categories/Tents/FamilyTents">Family tents</a>

    Good places for links of this sort are busy forums where the content is changing constantly to stay up-to-date. These are visited often by search engines. Blogs are also good for this. However, some blogs and forums do not allow posts to contain links or use rel="nofollow" to bar these. Portals which contain lists of links are less efficient.

    Cataloguing services such as DMOZ (http://www.dmoz.org) help when searching for link partners. An entry in the catalogue however does not improve rating more than  any other back-link. Additional such possibilities are:

    http://www.freeindex.co.uk,  http://www.applegate.co.ukhttp://www.yell.com or directories for specific sectors.

    When buying banners and text adverts, make sure that the link does not contain a "rel=nofollow" attribute (search engines are stopped here) and also that the link does not forward over an ad server or a link script. Take a look at the existing adverts of the provider (does the link in the advert point to the customer's page directly?) or, if in doubt, ask. The position of links on the page is also crucial. A link in the footer or at the bottom of a sidebar does not help as much as one higher in the content area. There should also not be lots of other links on the page since this would diminish the value of your own link. Convince the operator of the other page about the long-term nature of the offer the older the link, the better. Google assumes that "older" links are more honest.

    It is generally true that if you do not want to pay for all back-links and do not want to be excluded from forums because of adverts for your own web site, you must provide good reasons for voluntarily linking to your e-commerce site. Offer content other than your products or services such as information pages and specialist articles about general topics in your line of business or an archive of past newsletters. This increases the chance that other users will link to you from their pages. The search engine will then notice your increased popularity in the internet. Your creativity and sector know-how is required here. No one will simply link to your product pages without a reason. Other content-based incentives must exist to encourage this in order to receive links to informational pages. Then, at least the user will visit your site. You can find examples of how to get links like this under the term Link bait on the internet. And: search engines regard links which are created "naturally", better. 

    Of course, you should use the export of your products to various product portals (for example, Pangora, Shopping.com, Google Merchant Center) that you find in your web site administration under Marketing >> Product portals.

    Link source

    The source of the link accounts for 50% of the rating. It is important who links to your pages. (Don't buy 20 million links at eBay for £19.95. That does not help and actually hinders your site!) Important is the domain from which the back-link comes. Back-links to a British web site should come from a British domain (.uk Therefore, even if you own a .com domain, but the server is in Germany, it  will be harder in the American Google index if you do not have only American customers (you can then convert this assignment in the Google webmaster tools). Google works internally with the IP addresses assigned to the domains. The first three number blocks of the IP addresses must be different. Differences in the last number block (the D block) do not count: 123.456.789.xxx (You can find out the IP address of a domain by entering ping <domain> in the command prompt). Google rates multiple links that come from one domain the same as a single link. Therefore, you need as many links as possible from different domains. Links from .edu domains have an especially positive effect. Perhaps you can sponsor them and receive links in return. "If you link to me, I'll link to you" isn't really a worthwhile practice. One-way links are evaluated more positively than links in both directions. Use a "triangle of links"  instead: A to B, B to C and C to A.

    Look at the cache date for a page where you buy a link (view with cache:URL). If the date is older than a month, it is not very valuable. To increase the quality and number of links, you must plan in enough time. It would be frivolous to claim that immense progress can be achieved here within a few days.

    Press releases

    Even if you do not know the editor of a trade journal for your sector, press releases can get the attention of bloggers and journalists.In addition to fee-based online portals for press releases, there are also free portals, although these must fulfil the requirements above as well (for example, links have to have rel="nofollow" attributes) the press release should of course have a link to your pages. You can link to your home page, or, if it fits the text better, to one of your sub-pages. Online press portals have a relatively high page rank and are indexed often by the search engines because of their continual updates. But do not expect many visitors from press portals. Note that the same press release at multiple portals can be rated as duplicate content, which is negative. Perhaps you can change the release a little bit for each portal. Examples of online press portals (at some, registration is necessary) are:

    http://free-press-release.com

    - http://www.prlog.org

    http://www.1888pressrelease.com

    http://www.i-newswire.com

    http://www.freepressreleases.co.uk

    http://www.pr.com

    Link farms and other unfair methods

    Google has a number of strict rules for the owners of web pages including web site owners. Link farms, link purchases, hidden links (using CSS), and doorway pages are prohibited. Although an automatic method to recognise these does not exist, competitors often report unfair methods to Google using the spam report button. Often, links to pages which have been reported like this are not evaluated. In exceptional cases (for example explicit spam pages), web sites are downgraded or even removed from the index as a punishment. Be careful when dealing with dubious "page optimisers". You should not link to a link farm yourself, of course.  

    Before buying expensive back-links, make sure to find out as much as possible about them, for example in SEO forums. Examples of these are:

    http://www.seochat.com

    http://forums.digitalpoint.com

    Web pages which are predominantly linked to from pages with a high PageRank (>5) or demonstrate a sudden, unnatural increase in links (for example 2,000 links at once) are looked at suspiciously for "unfair methods" by the "eyes" of the search engines. In these cases, Google checks manually for possible legitimate reasons for this, such as an article on www.bbc.co.uk with a link to a previously relatively unknown page. However, if the suspicion is confirmed, the page is downgraded in the ranking as a punishment. A natural link network usually consists of a large number of pages with a low page rank and a small percentage of pages with a high page rank. If the back-links contain identical link texts, this can also arouse suspicion. This does not happen in a natural link network there are always variations.

    Check up on it!

    Check regularly to see which of your pages have been indexed by a search engine. Go to the search engine page and enter the following in the search field: site:<yourdomain> . The search results will contain all the pages in your shop (maximum 1,000) that are contained in the search engine's index. If you would like to confirm whether a specific page is in the index, you can do so using info: <URL>.

    You can also check to see which external domains link to your pages and how many of these the search engine is aware of. In  Google: link:<your domain> (however, Google deliberately only includes some back-links. In the Google Webmaster tools, you can get a more detailed overview.) 

    Various SEO tools which you can use to analyze your domain can be found at:

    http://www.seoquake.com

    http://tools.seobook.com/firefox/rank-checker/

    http://www.quirk.biz/searchstatus/

    - http://wordcountplus.mozdev.org/

    http://chrispederick.com/work/web-developer/

    https://addons.mozilla.org/de/firefox/addon/590

    Your own domain

    It is crucial for your web site to have its own domain <http://www.MyShop.co.uk>. The search engines are just one reason why you should do this. Ask your provider how your domain can be linked to your shop or web site. The link to a product could then look like this:

    http://www.demosite.co.uk/ProductXYZ

    A decisive factor for search machines when using multiple domains is the forwarding from your domain (http://www.demosite.co.uk) to the actual URL of the platform. This should be done technically with HTTP code 301 (moved permanently). In no case should Javascript, META refresh, frame, or splash pages be used for forwarding. These are not liked by search engines. Discuss the technical details with your provider. The forwarding of your domain http://demosite.co.uk to the actual home page cannot contain any changes (for example, http://demosite.co.uk/epages/demosite.sf). Search engines downgrade the link even if the WWW is missing.

    Web Site content

    Something which has a large effect and is under your control is the content of your web site. Search engines appreciate change and frequency of updates. Web sites which remain the same for 6 months will be ignored by the search engines. In particular, the home page and the pages linked from it should be updated regularly. Search engines reward this with more frequent visits and in-depth indexing.

    Page optimisation

    Individual pages (not the entire web page or web site) should be optimised for two or three search terms at the most. The search terms should constitute two to three percent of the entire text. Although there is no maximum value, a long list of search terms looks like spam. Check which keywords your competitors that are listed before you in Google use. 

    Product Number, Name, Descriptions, Attributes & Keywords

    Either the product number is used in the URL (see http://www.demosite.co.uk/epages/Demosite.sf/?ObjectPath=Products/ProductXYZ) or (better!) you can use the short URL. There is another entry field for every language that contains a suggestion based upon the product name. Note that when you change this suggestion, it cannot contain any spaces, underscores, or umlauts. (The short URL is only available if your Web site uses its own domain).

    Make sure that the URL does not become unnecessarily long through the short URL. The total length should not be longer than 100 characters, with a maximum of 200 characters. So, if you already have a very long domain name, you must rein yourself in with the short

    URL.

    Of course, the product name is very important as well. As mentioned above, the application automatically places the product name in the H1 tag, the TITLE tag, as well as in the ALT tag if there is an image of the product. Because Google indexes a maximum of 65 characters from the TITLE tag, you should not use too many words in product names. However, associating the product manufacturer with the product name is recommended (for example "Canon EOS 300D"). Pay attention to legal issues such as restricted trademarks, however, when using them.

    Two good solutions for the combination of key words and brand names are:

    • Primary key word secondary key word | brand name
    • Brand name | primary key word secondary key word

    It is optimal if the title tag does not only contain the product name, but instead a complete search phrase. A search phrase connects the product name with a "money term" such as "order", "buy", "cheap", etc. Customers often use these search phrases and do not search simply according to product names. If the product name is only entered for the search, in addition to shops, general informational pages are shown as well. This makes it difficult for the customer to find where to buy the item. Therefore, customers use money terms such as "Buy Canon Camera" or "Order Canon Camera". Then they are shown pages to purchase the product as well. One tip: finish the search phrase with an exclamation point or a question mark. 

    For example: "Buy Canon camera with free shipping!"

    Add to this the fact that the title tag is shown as a link in the search results, which means that it is the first thing that catches the user's eye. If the customer sees "Buy Canon EOS 300D cheap!" he is more likely to click than if only "Canon EOS 300D" is shown. The content for the title tag can be edited on the general product details page in the "Page title" field. The product and web site name are entered automatically. The product description will appear in your web site for the search engines at least twice.  Once will be a text on the category page which contains the product, and also on the product page itself in the META description tag. Search engines allow a maximum of 255 characters for this tag. However, fewer are definitely better. About 13 words has been shown to be the optimal number. However, do not only enter keywords here. This looks like spam and can discourage potential customers. Note that you have a Description field as well as a Long description field (the long description is shown as text on the product detail page). Both of these texts can and should be different, but both should be optimised for the correct search terms. Optimize your texts a maximum of 2-3 keywords per page. At the moment, Google users are looking for an average of 2.2 words per search. In particular, when using numbers, question marks and exclamation marks (e.g. cheap pencils) pencils - special characters (e.g. ticks or arrows) also help to attract attention here add them using the WYSIWYG Editor (Edit text). Don't copy the texts from your competition or your vendors. If this content is older than yours in Google, then Google will recognize the duplicate content and will not index it. Also small changes are not enough. 60% is enough to be marked by Google as duplicate content.

    Create original content.

    As mentioned above, the product attributes you assign to a product are displayed in an H2 tag. Use the ability to organise product attributes into product types (for example the "Pack size" attribute in the "Tent" product type in the demo content). Although the Keywords for search engines are not evaluated at the moment (see previous), you can still add alternative search terms here which you do not want to use in the description. You can use misspelled or variant versions of the product's name. For the example of an umbrella: Umbrella, umbrela, parasol, umbrala. Note that the search function in ePages  will also inspect these keywords to help your customer to find the product he or she is looking for.

    Remember that your customer may use the plural, alternative terms, or even misspell (for the example of a mobile phone "cellphone, cell phone, mobile fon"). You can also enter the search terms in a different order, for example: "mobile phone, phone mobile". Mark specific keywords bold in the page text. This will help search engines and customers to find them more easily.

    You can use the search statistics (in the Products menu) to analyse the search behaviour of your customers in the web site. There you can see which search terms were used and how many hits were generated. If search terms occur very often without results, you should

    revise your descriptions.  

    Another tip: Yahoo! Search, Google AdWords, and several fee-based services have keyword databases. There you can get an overview of how often specific keywords are used. Another good service is: http://www.keywordspy.com.

    Delete products?

    A URL which has been indexed by Google should never disappear! If this is a product that you can no longer deliver, label it as "Not available". To do so, set the attribute For sale on the General tab on the product detail page of the product in the Description section to no. This will remove the link Add to shopping basket. Because you will surely have alternative or next-generation products, note and link to that product in the product description.

    Do not forget the category entries

    The examples of the previous chapter apply to products, but the same is true for categories. Every category has an ID (Alias), a name, a description, and a long description. You can also provide keywords for categories. Always upload an image for each category. Not only does it look better, it also provides search engines with an additional ALT tag. Do not use abbreviations for category names. Avoid abbreviations such as "Heavy Mach. and Equip.". Use the full name instead ("Heavy Machinery and Equipment").

    Category depth

    You have surely thought about the structure of your pages. Make it easy for your users and the search engines by not using manysublevels. No search engine will go deeper than six levels. The higher in the hierarchy the indexed pages are, the better.

    Videos

    Product videos are becoming more and more common for marketing. In order for Google to "see" this video, you can create a site map for it. Place it in your Google webmaster area. Google video search will then find your product videos under the key words provided. Repeat this with other portals such as AOL, MSN, and Yahoo.

    Include information pages

    Remember that a shop should include more than categories and products. Inform your customers by using a blog (it would be best if the boss blogs himself) and use freelydesignable pages and content pages to inform your customers about news in your sector, attract interest with product usage information, and provide handbooks, past newsletters, and press releases as well. A "frequently asked questions" (FAQ) section  should contain useful tips about your services and shop usage. For everything on your site: Update regularly, at least three times a week! And remember: Even PDF, Word, and PowerPoint documents are recognised and indexed by Google and other search engines. So use the function which allows you to upload file attachments for your products. Note, however, that Google often ranks PDF documents higher. Since you would like your product pages at the front, not every PDF must appear in the index.

    The copyright trick

    A copyright notice is usually displayed at the foot of the web page. The system includes defined page elements which you can place in the footer. You can add a search term for the entire shop as the contents of a navigation element next to the copyright notice. The search engine will always see this at the foot of the page. For example:

    Copyright Demo Site Ltd We have everything you need.

    To create additional internal links, you can also link the copyright notice to the shop home page or to a prominent content page

    Internal linking

    Google increases the ranking if internal linking is used. Internal linking increases the keyword density and web pages further away from the home page are detected more reliably and visited more often. You can link between pages in numerous ways. Normally, a product should always be assigned to at least one category. You can create products without categories, but an "island" like this is not good. Use cross-selling and also link from the blog or forum you are operating from the shop. Each page should be linked to internally at least eight times. If a product needs to be assigned to multiple categories, everything will be listed below the product on the product detail page. This happens automatically.

    Navigation history

    When a user navigates through your pages, the current path is always displayed at the top of the page (for example: Categories » Tents » Family tents » Eureka El Capitan IV). The higher levels are links for quick navigation. That also helps the search engines. The navigation history is created automatically and coded in the HTML text in an H3 tag.

    Cross-selling

    The application offers multiple possibilities for cross-selling (using links to similar,  higher-value, or accessory products). You can also use automatic cross-selling ("Customers which bought this product also bought..."). The search engines use these links as well to analyze contextual connections and contexts. You can and should also link to other categories. To do so, use the description or the long description of the category or the Link element. For example, there are two ways to link from the Tents category to the Equipment category. In the category Tents, generate an element of the type Link and select the page to be linked.

    Logo

    Usually a logo is displayed in the header.  The name of your  website is also used as the Alt tag (see page 3) for this.

    You should create the logo with a link to the shop home page. The application automatically links the logo to the home page. If you would like this to be another page, you can change this is the Quick design area. Move the mouse over the logo and click on the pencil icon.

    Social networks

    Under Marketing >>Social Web, you will find a range of social networks such as Facebook and Twitter. Enable these functions if you wish your business to be active on these networks.

    Note that the content and subjects you publish on the social networks should be connected to your web site.  For further information, seehttp://blog.epages.com/en/2011/10/11/seo-for-yourfacebook-fapage/.

    Facebook shop

    Apart from a simple link to Facebook, you can also advertise certain products directly on Facebook. This function is described here in detail:

    http://blog.epages.com/en/2011/06/08/fishing-in-the-social-network-how-you-can-sellon-facebook-using-epages/.

    Google Places

    Create a free-of-charge industry entry for your company on Google Places. This makes you visible and linked on search result pages with maps/street plans as well. The procedure is described under Marketing >> search engine optimisation (SEO) >>Google Places.

    Loading speed

    Google now pays attention to the loading time of pages and uses it as part of the ranking. So make sure you use the cache feature (Settings >> General settings >> Page cache). More information about this is available in the online help as well as at http://www.epages.com/en/blog/index.php/2008/05/09/increase-online-shopperformance/#more-64.

    In ePages a general overview is provided by the SEO cockpit under Marketing >> search engine optimisation (SEO). At the top right of the data sheet view in administration, each individual page has SEO tab or in the preview using the same function in the Actions area.

    Summary

    Search engine optimisation is a very complex and confusing topic. You can find many books and articles about it in book stores or on the internet. Therefore, only a few basic principles of SEO as well as more specific things you can apply to ePages web sites have been included above. Nothing is better than a detailed analysis. SEO is a continuous process. Web site operators must do their part to optimise their site for search engines. ePages will of course continue to apply our experience and that of experts and partners to provide you

    with constantly-improving SEO techniques. We are grateful for any tips, suggestions, or experiences you would like to share. Please send them to (pm@epages.com). 

    More information

    .



    Close

  • Understanding the value of on-site trust and blogger outreach

    Kevin Dixie is the founder and MD of Fuelmywebsite.  Fuelmywebsite.com helps small businesses connect with bloggers through their blogger community of over 60,000 bloggers. A product or service is guaranteed to be reviewed by bloggers, tweeted and shared and found in search.  There is an exclusive 50% off code at the end of this article.

     

    Understanding the value of on-site trust

     

    Users of the internet are now able to make quick decisions on whether they have landed on a website that is legit and trustworthy, for example, make a purchase or fill in an information request form.

     

    Making a new visitor feel comfortable enough to buy from a website is the main objective of building on-site trust.  If a new visitor to a website can not find a reason to trust it, they will go elsewhere and spend a little extra money on the same product or service with a company they know or can find in search.  

     

    By now, most businesses will have understood the need to claim their voices on Twitter and Facebook. This is all good and grand but it sits in a very closed environment.  People do not search on Facebook or Twitter before buying a product, they search first on Google, Yahoo or Bing.

     

    Consumers are increasingly checking search engines in order to get extra background on businesses before making a buying decision.  This is especially true for e-commerce websites and lesser known brands.  Potential new customers want the reassurance that the site is trustworthy, that other customers have bought from it and, most importantly, that the product will arrive.

     

     

    Different ways to build on-site trust

     

    Web Design

     

    The single and biggest turn-off when landing on a new website is bad design.  Bad web design can really turn people off in a second without even giving the site's content or offer a chance.

     

    We Are Human

     

    People like associating themselves and do business with other people, not with faceless companies. There are a number of ways of doing this, ie Show the companies team, Facebook widgets and Twitter status feeds. 

     

    Media Coverage

     

    If a business has ever had any coverage in a local newspaper or National press, showing the logo's and linking to the coverage (where possible) on the homepage is a must.  The association between unknown brand with well known publications shows they trusted the companies business enough to share with their readers.

     

    Blogger Outreach

     

    Having bloggers talk about a company not only enables initial coverage to their readers, it also helps the search engines position the reviews alongside the companies website, new customers can even leave a comment on the blog review and actually ask for that recommendation, why, how or what. 

     

    Importantly, by having these customer reviews and real testimonials linked from a homepage, the new visitor will be able to make that quick decision required with trusting the unknown brand.  This will help with converting visitors to customers.

     

    Social Proof

     

    Social proof happens when actual clients and customers talk about a product or service. 

     

    Testimonials

     

    Testimonials must be visually present and easy to navigate to.  Trusting a testimonial is really important.  Simply having a page with a list of comments saying things like  “I love this chair!” -  Terry from London is not enough to build instant trust.  A customer must   be able to verify that the testimony is real.  For example, after each campaign, Fuelmywebsite provide a fully working testimonial widget, clicking on the links takes the visitor to the blog review.

     

    Product Reviews

     

    Product reviews work because they are a word-of-mouth engine and people know they are written by real users.  For every company online, reviews are a must.  According to YouGov, 75% of purchases (made on and offline) are made after looking at reviews.

     

    Reviews that are relevant can single handedly drive trust and help users feel comfortable enough to take action on their site.

     

     

    A US based company called People Claim recently ran some research, here are some of the key points:

    • 75% of reviews posted on websites are positive
    • 71% agree that product reviews make them comfortable about buying a product
    • 41% say they read 4 to 7 reviews before feeling comfortable about a purchase decision
    • 63% are more likely to buy from a website with reviews and ratings
    • Customer reviews increase product conversion by 74%

     

     

    Bad Reviews or Comments

     

    Anybody can have a bad review online, what matters is how a company handles it.  We offer advice on the odd occasion this has happened.  If dealt with properly, it is actually as good if not, better than a super positive review.  It lets others see how committed a company is to providing great customer service.

     

     

    Special Offer for Simple Ways To Grow

     

    The first ten companies responding to this article will get to try out a fuelmywebsite campaign at 50% off.  That's just £150 instead of £295.  Use order code RMTRIAL in the order form to gain the discount.

     

     

     

     

    Time-scales for a small business taking out a campaign.

     

    Day 1 – We are giving brief by the customer via online capture form, told what product or service they want reviewed, what target market and a tweet sized piece of information to add to the outreach newsletter.

     

    Day 4 -  We let the customer know how many are interested in reviewing and send them the top five respondents based on page rank, content and suitability (with a five review campaign).

     

    Day 5 – Customer sends the product to the blogger (or books the appointment).

     

    Day 14 – We start forwarding the posted blog reviews to the company, advising them to leave a comment under the post and get them to re-tweet it on Twitter.

     

    End of Month 1 – Normally all reviews are complete, we send the customer the testimonial widget code for embedding on the customers website.  And if the business has a high street presence we send them an NFC sticker to enable them to drive offline traffic to their Facebook page.

     

    Any questions drop Kevin an email on kevin@fuelmywebsite.com



    Close

  • Combine Social Media with other marketing

     

    Combine social media with other forms of marketing
    Many small businesses are blogging, tweeting and posting updates on social media websites. At first glance, it can look fun and easy. However, social media marketing is a powerful tool and it is vital to approach it strategically. Rachel Miller explains how to bring your online and offline marketing together.
    Small firms that are using social media to market themselves online need to set objectives, plan their approach and make sure it dovetails with their overall marketing strategy.
    Like any new marketing initiative, getting results can take time and your strategy may need tweaking. You may find that you are spending a lot more time online than you first anticipated - and neglecting other tasks as a result. Perhaps you are taking an ad hoc approach and failing to co-ordinate all of your marketing messages.
    Match the message to the medium
    The golden rule when it comes to social media marketing is not to overtly sell goods or services. So, the way you communicate on Facebook, Twitter or Ecademy, for instance, will be very different from the way you would approach a sales letter or flyer.
    However, it is vital that you don’t go completely off-message. All your marketing communication should highlight your USPs, strengthen your brand and be aimed at your target market. With social networking, for example, you can position yourself as an expert or talk about relevant issues that you are passionate about.
    How social media can fit into your overall strategy
    Have a look at your existing marketing activities. Each of them does a specific job, reaching your target audience in different ways. Social media marketing can work with your traditional marketing to enhance it.
    Advertising: You can’t necessarily use social networking to sell, but you can talk about issues related to your products and services that will subtly help your sales effort. PR: Submit your press releases to online PR services. In your social media engagement, position yourself as an expert. Your website: Include web links in your social media marketing to boost traffic to your website and improve your search engine ranking. Use keywords in your blogs, posts and tweets to help potential customers discover you online. Market research: Use online social media to gather feedback about your products and services. New prospects: Find new prospects and develop relationships with customers. Customer service: Use social media marketing to give customers more - alert them to new developments, explain issues, answer questions and provide support.
    Your social media strategy
    Given the growth of online social media networking, it is likely that more and more customers are coming to your via new routes — a forum, your blog, Facebook or Twitter. It is vital to be responsive and to convert this interest into sales.
    Like any marketing, you will need to take a strategic and professional approach to your online social networking:
    Set objectives and targets Integrate your online networking with your overall marketing strategy Allow enough time and set a budget Be flexible about how and when you use social media Take a personality-driven approach but don’t damage your reputation Social media networking is a two-way conversation. Don’t shut down criticism. Learn how to respond and try to turn negatives into positives And don’t forget the golden rule — no sales pitches.
    You will also need to monitor everything you do, which is possible using tools provided by the social media platforms themselves, or by other software developers. This will enable you to measure the return on your investment in time (and money), find out what works and what does not, and fine-tune your approach to a new form of marketing which is still evolving at a spectacular rate.
    BHP Information Solutions 2012
    Meta-data
    Category: Marketing
    Keywords: social media strategy, social networking, marketing strategy, online marketing

    Combine social media with other forms of marketing

     

    Many small businesses are blogging, tweeting and posting updates on social media websites. At first glance, it can look fun and easy. However, social media marketing is a powerful tool and it is vital to approach it strategically. Rachel Miller explains how to bring your online and offline marketing together.

    Small firms that are using social media to market themselves online need to set objectives, plan their approach and make sure it dovetails with their overall marketing strategy.

    Like any new marketing initiative, getting results can take time and your strategy may need tweaking. You may find that you are spending a lot more time online than you first anticipated - and neglecting other tasks as a result. Perhaps you are taking an ad hoc approach and failing to co-ordinate all of your marketing messages.

    Match the message to the medium

     

    The golden rule when it comes to social media marketing is not to overtly sell goods or services. So, the way you communicate on Facebook, Twitter or Ecademy, for instance, will be very different from the way you would approach a sales letter or flyer.

     

    However, it is vital that you don’t go completely off-message. All your marketing communication should highlight your USPs, strengthen your brand and be aimed at your target market. With social networking, for example, you can position yourself as an expert or talk about relevant issues that you are passionate about.

     

    How social media can fit into your overall strategy

     

    Have a look at your existing marketing activities. Each of them does a specific job, reaching your target audience in different ways. Social media marketing can work with your traditional marketing to enhance it.

     

    Advertising: You can’t necessarily use social networking to sell, but you can talk about issues related to your products and services that will subtly help your sales effort. PR: Submit your press releases to online PR services. In your social media engagement, position yourself as an expert. Your website: Include web links in your social media marketing to boost traffic to your website and improve your search engine ranking. Use keywords in your blogs, posts and tweets to help potential customers discover you online. Market research: Use online social media to gather feedback about your products and services. New prospects: Find new prospects and develop relationships with customers. Customer service: Use social media marketing to give customers more - alert them to new developments, explain issues, answer questions and provide support.

     

    Your social media strategy

     

    Given the growth of online social media networking, it is likely that more and more customers are coming to your via new routes — a forum, your blog, Facebook or Twitter. It is vital to be responsive and to convert this interest into sales.

     

    Like any marketing, you will need to take a strategic and professional approach to your online social networking:

     

    Set objectives and targets Integrate your online networking with your overall marketing strategy Allow enough time and set a budget Be flexible about how and when you use social media Take a personality-driven approach but don’t damage your reputation Social media networking is a two-way conversation. Don’t shut down criticism. Learn how to respond and try to turn negatives into positives And don’t forget the golden rule — no sales pitches.

     

    You will also need to monitor everything you do, which is possible using tools provided by the social media platforms themselves, or by other software developers. This will enable you to measure the return on your investment in time (and money), find out what works and what does not, and fine-tune your approach to a new form of marketing which is still evolving at a spectacular rate.

     



    Close

  • Getting to the top of local searches

     

    Reach the top of local search rankings
    Getting the most from your website isn’t just about topping the Google rankings nationally ― for many small firms it’s about getting to the top of local search rankings. If you don’t localise your search engine optimisation (SEO), you risk missing out on customers on your doorstep. We ask the experts how to go local
    While some UK small firms on the web sell to customers all over the world, they are the exception. Most small businesses — especially those offering a service — don’t sell to customers beyond their own area, town or city. Clearly, many customers also prefer to buy from a local business because it’s convenient or they see it as less risky. So are you missing out on sales as you’re thinking too big with your SEO?
    “Taking a more targeted approach, by localising your SEO, could give you the sales uplift you’ve been looking for,” stresses John Straw, founder and vice president of business development at SEO software provider Linkdex.
    “Get it right and your website stands a better chance of being visited by the people most likely to buy from you ― those living nearby.”
    Straw says more small businesses are cottoning on to the benefits of localising SEO and refining their approach to search engine marketing. “I was talking to my local chimney sweep recently and he was telling me how he got to the number one local search ranking on Google. As a result, he’s dropped all other forms of marketing.”
    Separate national and local SEO
    But how does local search engine optimisation differ from national? There’s a marked distinction, Straw emphasises.
    “National SEO is all about ensuring your site is technically optimised, contains content that is tailored to your audience and includes links from other websites, while local SEO centres on generating local leads using tools such as Google Places and encouraging user reviews on local sites. These can include local groups, blogs and news sites.”
    So how can small, budget-conscious businesses get it right? “It’s about reviews, reviews and reviews,” stresses Straw. “Then get some more reviews, but make sure they’re good ones.
    “I’d also recommend making sure your business address is clearly displayed on your ‘contact us’ page ― preferably with an embedded map. A smart trick is to list your premises’ latitude and longitude on the contact us page ― it helps Google clarify addresses. You can get the coordinates from Google Maps.
    “I’d also advise getting links in local online business directories,” adds Straw. “The good news is localising your SEO can normally be done in-house at minimal cost.”
    Five local SEO tips
    Encourage reviews and create links on highly relevant local sites ― such as local groups, blogs, news sites, complementary local firms and hyper-local directories.
    Submit a free business profile directly to local listings via Google Places, Yahoo! Local and Bing Local, so when potential customers search maps and listings for local information, they will find your contact details. Your local search ranking will depend on how close your firm is to the area specified and how close your business is to the person searching. To get a strong local search ranking you will need to build citations and get reviews. Carry out onsite optimisation including adding your address on each page as well as your local phone number, rather than an 0800 number. Consider creating dedicated pages for specific regions. Include a Google map of your location on your site.
    BHP Information Solutions 2012
    Meta-data
    Category: Marketing
    Keywords: local search rankings, local SEO

    Reach the top of local search rankings

    Getting the most from your website isn’t just about topping the Google rankings nationally ― for many small firms it’s about getting to the top of local search rankings. If you don’t localise your search engine optimisation (SEO), you risk missing out on customers on your doorstep. We ask the experts how to go local

    While some UK small firms on the web sell to customers all over the world, they are the exception. Most small businesses — especially those offering a service — don’t sell to customers beyond their own area, town or city. Clearly, many customers also prefer to buy from a local business because it’s convenient or they see it as less risky. So are you missing out on sales as you’re thinking too big with your SEO?

    “Taking a more targeted approach, by localising your SEO, could give you the sales uplift you’ve been looking for,” stresses John Straw, founder and vice president of business development at SEO software provider Linkdex.

    “Get it right and your website stands a better chance of being visited by the people most likely to buy from you ― those living nearby.”

    Straw says more small businesses are cottoning on to the benefits of localising SEO and refining their approach to search engine marketing. “I was talking to my local chimney sweep recently and he was telling me how he got to the number one local search ranking on Google. As a result, he’s dropped all other forms of marketing.”

    Separate national and local SEO

    But how does local search engine optimisation differ from national? There’s a marked distinction, Straw emphasises.

    “National SEO is all about ensuring your site is technically optimised, contains content that is tailored to your audience and includes links from other websites, while local SEO centres on generating local leads using tools such as Google Places and encouraging user reviews on local sites. These can include local groups, blogs and news sites.”

    So how can small, budget-conscious businesses get it right? “It’s about reviews, reviews and reviews,” stresses Straw. “Then get some more reviews, but make sure they’re good ones.

    “I’d also recommend making sure your business address is clearly displayed on your ‘contact us’ page ― preferably with an embedded map. A smart trick is to list your premises’ latitude and longitude on the contact us page ― it helps Google clarify addresses. You can get the coordinates from Google Maps.

    “I’d also advise getting links in local online business directories,” adds Straw. “The good news is localising your SEO can normally be done in-house at minimal cost.”

    Five local SEO tips

     

    • Encourage reviews and create links on highly relevant local sites ― such as local groups, blogs, news sites, complementary local firms and hyper-local directories.
    • Submit a free business profile directly to local listings via Google Places, Yahoo! Local and Bing Local, so when potential customers search maps and listings for local information, they will find your contact details. 
    • Your local search ranking will depend on how close your firm is to the area specified and how close your business is to the person searching. To get a strong local search ranking you will need to build citations and get reviews. 
    • Carry out onsite optimisation including adding your address on each page as well as your local phone number, rather than an 0800 number. 
    • Consider creating dedicated pages for specific regions. Include a Google map of your location on your site.

     

     

     



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  • The 3 Rs of email marketing

    In this article, email marketing experts and Simple Ways To Grow partners NewZapp, take a quick look at the 3 Rs of email marketing: reading, reports and return-on-investment.

    Reading

    The average email marketing campaign receives an open rate of 20% - 40% and can generate response rates that are up to twenty times higher than direct mail. If you want to maximise your read rates you need to find out what works best and who it works for.

    Use this knowledge to decide the structure of your message and time for delivery. Remember email marketing allows you to be time critical, take advantage of this. Some people read their emails every hour, others do an early morning inbox clear out and then revisit them at lunch time.

    Consider when you want your message to be read and the time it's most likely to catch your readers’ attention. Does your email have a weekend feel or will it need the reader to have their business hat firmly on? Most inboxes are busiest in the morning. Some email marketers send during the day to avoid this inbox clutter.

    Make sure you have a clear idea of what you want to achieve before sending your email. Well planned campaigns will return much higher read rates.

    Reports

    If you're using an email marketing provider you'll already have all of this at your fingertips. If you're not you'll need to create reports that help you answer these key questions:

    • How many emails were delivered?
    • Who read, when and how many times?
    • Who clicked, when and how many times?

    Answering these questions will help you qualify sales leads, tailor future offers, improve your email copy and better understand your market. All of this will help you grow your business and improve your communication with your target audience. 

    Return-on-investment (ROI)


    It's important to calculate the return you make on each email campaign. Email marketing is widely considered to return excellent ROI due to its low cost, high readership levels and ease of response. If last week's Sudoku has left you numbered out, try using an email ROI calculator like this one from bplans.co.uk.

     

    Written by Mark Taylor of NewZapp, email marketing experts and a Simple Ways to Grow partner.

    For more information on NewZapp visit: www.newzapp.co.uk



    Close

  • Email marketing checklist

    As it's so important to check your email before clicking to send it to your contacts, we suggest you create an email checklist, which you can refer to before sending your campaigns.

    To help you get this started we've identified a number of questions you should answer before sending your campaign and make a checklist for you to follow.

    The email

    Have you copied and pasted content from a Microsoft programme or a web page?  Cutting and pasting from a programme like Word will bring Microsoft code into your email design. This code is not standard HTML so can result in your email layout and design looking a lot different that you intended in email readers, possibly clashing or breaking your own branding as well.

    The risk is similar when pasting content that's been copied from a web page, as code that works on a web page won't necessarily to be recognised by email readers.

     Tip: Paste into Notepad first before pasting into your email systems. Doing this will avoid unnecessary formatting problems. If  using NewZapp, choose the "Paste from Word" option so that the unnecessary code is stripped.

    Have you seen the email in your inbox yet?

    Always send yourself a copy of the email before you send the full campaign. This will allow you to see it in your inbox and understand how it will look to your subscribers. Does it look as you intended and will your email stand out from the crowd?

    Is the email too advertorial or editorial focused?

     It's important you consider the style of email you have created.

    How much of your email shows in a preview pane?

    You'll need to check how your email appears in the preview pane or a web based email reader, as well as how it looks once you've open it. Is your most important message or call to action visible when the email is previewed and/or before scrolling is needed? This is often referred to as being "above the fold".

    Have you checked your spelling?

    It's so easy to make a spelling mistake. We suggest you use spell checker and ask a proof group or colleague to double check your spelling.

    Have you checked the content for filtering issues?

     To give your email the best chance of being delivered try to avoid including any words or formatting that might cause you to get caught in a spam filter.  A few things to avoid include: excessive capitalisation and punctuation; over use of words like free, guaranteed, offer and investment; large and bright Red fonts.  If using NewZapp, use the built in spam checker to help you avoid these traps.

     

     Have you included a call to action?

    You can create an email that looks amazing and send it to your super clean in-house email database but it won't guarantee a response. One of the most important parts of your email is the call to action. This is a click-through link or message that motivates your recipient to act. We suggest that sales emails include a call to action at the top. middle and bottom of the design.

    Can the email be shorter or more concise?

     It's easy to slip into the habit of writing too much. The best copy is short and to the point. Could you have written less but still covered your main points? Don't forget some of your subscribers will skim read your email. It's important they can find the information they are interested in quickly and easily.

    Have you checked all of the links and contact details?

    Make sure you and your proof group check all of the links on your email and your contact details. Click through to the landing pages to check that everything is going to the right places and that those files or web pages are downloading correctly. You should also check email addresses, telephone numbers and postal addresses if applicable. 

    Have you given all the images Alt tags?

    You should ensure that you have given all of your images an alt tag (a short descriptive message that accompanies/explains an image). Although it varies just how clearly some email readers display them, in those that do you will be giving your recipients additional information and encouragement to click to display images.

    The subject line and from details

    Have you checked the spelling?   Your subject line is one of the most important parts of your email campaign. Making a mistake in your subject line can seriously impact on success. Always check and double check your subject line. This is another reason why setting up a proof group is a good idea.

    Will recipients recognise the From name and email address?

    Recognition is vitally important to the success of your campaign. Think about what your recipients will know and trust. Is it an individual in your business or is it your business name?

    Is the From address a live email address that works?

    You must make sure your From email address is a live account. If it's not a live account you can experience issues with delivery and cause frustration for your recipients if they click to reply to your email.

    Does someone open this inbox to answer replies?

    You'll need to ensure somebody is ready to check for replies and respond to any requests.



    Close

  • Watch your aim!

    It's very tempting to just send a generic email to your entire database. This won't produce the best conversion rates, and may eventually turn your subscribers into non responders.

    If you segment your database and target your emails, you'll be able to write about what your subscribers are interested in. This will get a much better response rate, as your recipients are more likely to be interested in your communication. This will increase your open and click-through rates and therefore the overall success of your email campaigns.

    Here are a few areas for you to try some segmentation and targeting:

    Open history

    See who opened which emails in the past and target them with similar information.

    If you are using an email service provider such as NewZapp you will be able to track who is opening your emails. Look at who has opened which email campaigns in the past. If you've done a specific email on a certain area or product, see which subscribers opened this email, then tailor future emails to them along similar lines.

    Monitor who opens the email and continue to send them information they're interested in.

    Click history

    See who clicked in specific areas of your email and target them too.

    If you can track your email campaigns, look at your subscriber history to see which links they've clicked on in the past. Make the most of this knowledge and send these subscribers information on this area.

    However, don’t try to make it too exclusive. Include links to other relevant areas and you'll be able to monitor what else they're interested in.

    Don't fall into the trap of constantly sending the same information again and again. The emphasis is on "related topics". For example if you are a holiday company and a recipient clicked through on a link regarding a holiday in Paris, you can send them further information on other popular French cities. You could also send them information on the Euro tunnel, the cross channel ferry and flight options, so they can compare prices to their preferred destination. To take this even further, once they have booked their holiday you could also send information on car hire, local places to eat, entertainment in the area and so on. Follow your recipients' behaviour and then follow up with a related topic.

    When to send?

    Now you've got your targeted email ready to go, when do you send it?

    Business to Business (B2B) can differ greatly to Business to Consumer (B2C). Industry standards suggest that the best day for B2B is Tuesdays, Wednesday and Thursdays at around 10.30am and 2.30pm.

    B2C industry standards suggest that Friday afternoons, weekends, and the lunchtime hours (12-2pm) are a good time to receive emails. Recent studies have found that B2C email behaviour is shifting to the working week. For example many recipients may read their private email during working hours.

    You should test this to your unique database. Really think about your recipients and your industry to see if these studies are correct for your database. Also consider when you would like your message to be read and when it's most likely to have a high impact and produce the results you are looking for.

    To do this, try an A/B spilt test. This is where you spilt your database evenly down the middle. Send your campaign to section A as you would normally, and send again to section B at a more considered time and date. Then review your reports to see if there was a difference. Either way you'll have found some information that will be useful for future campaigns.

    This method of A/B split testing is useful for testing other aspects of your emails, such as: Subject line, call to action (location and phrase), images vs text only, offer type and different landing pages.  In fact you can test any element of your campaign!

    For related information on non responders please see this article on making the most of your data.

    Written by Mark Taylor of NewZapp - email marketing experts and a Simple Ways To Grow partner.

    For more information on NewZapp visit:  http://www.newzapp.co.uk



    Close

  • Create an Email Marketing Plan

    ..

    By creating an email marketing plan you can set your targets on what you expect to get out of your Email Marketing campaigns as well as what content the emails have.

    What do you want to do in the near future – do you wish to grow your list of subscribers and focus on seeing some new names on your list? Or is your plan to increase your current open and click through rates of your email campaigns?

    All of this information should be in your plan so you know where you are and where you aim to be in three, six or twelve month’s time.

    Targeting

    Who will read your email? Do you already have a list to target or do you need to create a landing page and create an advertising campaign to capture new leads?
    Obviously these are only questions you can answer once you create the plan – but by having the idea of who your emails will target you can better understand what advertising you can do to increase your subscribers. You could give away a free guide as an incentive to subscribe to your emails, the most popular at the moment being an Ebook or PDF guide that can help your customers.

    Frequency

    You’ll need to determine how frequently you send your campaigns out to your subscribers, and how the previous one will differ to the next. Do you just send out the first day of the month or do you already have specific dates of the month when you send your emails out?
    Personally I have found that sending once or twice a month is standard email practice as long as the content is fresh and interesting and not just repeated content.
    If your business has a weekly range of sale items then doing an email campaign every week would match your business - just make sure your subscribers are aware of the weekly frequency when they opt-in.

    Purpose of the Campaigns

    Define the purpose of each email and what you want to get out of your email marketing campaigns overall. Create your brief plan on what each email will contain and what top link or call to action you wish to focus on in each email, whether it is a product or service you provide.

    Now break these down into 12 emails (or how every many you plan to send in a year) and you can plan the basic details first and then once you go to create each email campaign you will have a starting point for the content you need to create.

    Goals

    Identify your goals before you run your next campaign. What do you want to get out of your email marketing – do you want to grow your list by 20% in the first 6 months? Or maybe you want to increase your open rates of your existing subscribers?

    Make note of these goals and review them every month to see how you are keeping up with these. The goal doesn’t have to be big, just make sure that you keep taking small steps to reach your end goal.

    For example; if your goal is to grow your list then make sure you keep promoting the link where people can subscribe on your website, via Social Media and other mediums, and monitor the growth of your list over a period of time.

    Calendar

    Create reminders in your calendar for when you should be starting to create your email campaign and another reminder for when you are due to send this out. This can help you plan ahead and give you more time to focus on the content of the email you wish to create.

    Don’t forget to include any important dates like public holidays in your calendar as these may affect the date you are send a regular communication. For example, if you usually send on the first Monday of every month, will your readers benefit from receiving it on a Tuesday when the Monday is a public holiday, or do you want to stick to your plan and just schedule the campaign to send while you are out of the office? The other thing to consider of course is that holidays are often  a great excuse to send an offer out to your subscribers; as they may have forgotten next Sunday is Mothers Day... (It’s not by the way!)

    Creating your campaign

    Whenever you create your email campaign make sure you never go in with a blank canvas. So before you create the email in NewZapp – create your content in Notepad and then paste this into the area of the email, you can then style and format the text, as well as insert any links and images.

    By doing this you won’t have to stop and think in the middle of creating your email as to what content you should add as you will already have this ready at hand.

     

     

    Written by Mark Taylor of NewZapp - email marketing experts and a Simple Ways To Grow partner.

    For more information on NewZapp visit:  http://www.newzapp.co.uk



    Close

Lead Generator

  • Why it Pays to Profile Your customers

    Establishing a customer profile can give you the information you need to generate business from new and existing punters. Tom Whitney finds out how to go about it

    Understanding your customers is the secret of successful selling. Existing customers are important sources of information. The more you know about them, the easier it can be to increase their spending. And you can also use the information you gather to help you find new customers.

    Create a customer profile

    The information you need to collect depends on your type of business. For example, if you sell to individual consumers, you will want to know their age, gender, location, spending habits and income. If you sell to other businesses, find out what sector they are in, how big they are, how much they spend and what other suppliers they use.

    "Find out as much as you can about existing customers," says Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) adviser Ray Jones. "Analyse your sales records, talk to your customers and, if you need more information, consider carrying out a survey.

    " Build up a database of information about your customers. Include as much feedback as possible about how highly they rate your products or services. Use your own records to add details of purchasing behaviour, such as products each customer buys, when and how. (Bear in mind that once you have created the database, you must comply with the Data Protection Act.)

    "Keep up-to-date records about who your customers are, what they are buying and how much effort you're spending on them in return for the profit this generates," advises Jones. "Accurate profiles allow you to focus your marketing resources where they are likely to be most effective.

    " Key benefits of profiling customers "

    The information you gather makes it easier to distinguish why customers buy from you," adds Jones. "The more information you have about your customers, the easier it is to spot opportunities to sell them new products.

    " Use your new database to group individual customer profiles into different "market segments". This will enable you to target each group with specific offers tailored to their needs.

    Targeting by segment also makes it easier to ensure that each customer gets the relevant marketing messages at the appropriate time. For example, you might be able to "up-sell", by explaining why a higher-priced product would better suit a particular group.

    You could also consider boosting sales by producing customised products or services for each group.

    "By analysing your records, you can identify important information about key customers," says Jones. "Look for those who make the largest orders or those accounts which are most profitable. In some businesses, just a few customers are responsible for almost all orders, while some of your largest-size customers might be among your least profitable.

    "Profiling existing customers also makes it easier to find new ones. You can look for similar prospects and sell to them in a similar way," he concludes.



    Close

  • The Importance of Networking

    Networking is important for small businesses. Face-to-face communication can help you forge productive relationships with key people. Over time, these contacts can become powerful advocates that actively support and promote your business.

    Networking is valuable for all types of businesses, from start-ups to established firms. Word-of-mouth recommendation is extremely powerful and business contacts can play a key role in spreading the word about your services.

    How to network effectively


    While some people find networking easier than others, it's something that everyone can do. With some preparation and practice, you can use networking effectively to enhance your business prospects.

    You can build a good rapport with people when you know about their challenges and aspirations and they know yours. In conversation, your goal is to build relationships based on trust, not do a sales pitch.

    When you talk about your business, try to be succinct and interesting. Convey your unique selling point (USP) and show how you solve problems for your customers. Have a good answer to the question, 'what do you do?'. Instead of saying you're an independent financial adviser, for instance, say you help people make their money go further.

    The aim of networking is to create goodwill by being helpful, likeable and knowledgeable. You never know how useful a contact is going to be. The more people you win over, the more likely your message will reach your target market.

    The advantages of networking


    Networking works on many levels. You can meet suppliers, advisers, investors or customers.

    If you build a good relationship with complementary businesses, they will become ambassadors for your business, passing customers your way. A carpet shop can recommend a fitter, for example, or an estate agent can suggest a good solicitor.

    Networking is a good way to turn your ideas into reality. A strong business relationship can open up opportunities. Talking about ideas with other people can make things happen.

    It's vital to keep in touch with your contacts. Arrange another meeting if you have an idea you want to develop further. You could send your new contact a useful article or weblink or invite them to relevant events. Another good approach is to introduce people you know that may be useful to each other.

    Where to network


    There are many local networking events aimed at particular sectors, from food to finance. Become an active participant in your sector or in the local community. Get involved with debates and discussions and attend relevant events.

     

    Your local Chamber of Commerce will be able to recommend events where you will be able to make new business contacts. You can also set up your own networking group by inviting the people you have met so they can network with each other.

    As well as face-to-face networking, you can also make new contacts online by contributing to relevant chat rooms or forums. Website forums such as ukbusinessforums.co.uk, for example, are popular with small businesses looking for advice and support.

    Look for online communities that are a good match for your business. If you are running an organic restaurant, for example, you could contribute to debates on locally-sourced food or the environment. In addition, you could raise your profile locally by joining online debates about issues that affect you, from planning to recycling.

    The golden rule is to be helpful and not to use the forum to overtly sell your services. Above all, networking is not about a quick sale, it's about building relationships in the long term.



    Close

  • Data Selection

    HOW TO SELECT DATA IN SIMPLE WAYS TO GROW  

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    Business Lists

    Business lists are made with the following criteria

     

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    Consumer Lists

     

    Consumer lists are made with the following criteria

    2nd_screen.JPG
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    Close

Money

Check list

  • Finalise your payroll records for the tax year
  • File your Emploer Annual Return
  • Have you over paid or underpaid?
  • Give P60 to employee
  • File expenses & benefits forms

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Check list

  • Have you reviewed your payroll?
  • Is your employee information accurate?
  • Avoid Mismatch

Recommended tools and services

Our accounting software and payroll system can help you to be compliant with HMRC's regulations.  Remember  RTI comes in in April this year Money

Find out more

Recommended tools and services

Our accounting software and payroll system can help you to be compliant with HMRC's regulations.  Remember  RTI comes in in April this year Money

Find out more

Recommended tools and services

Our accounting software and payroll system can help you to be compliant with HMRC's regulations.  Remember  RTI comes in in October this year Money

Find out more

Recommended tools and services

Our accounting software  can help you manage your finaces easily.   Money

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Recommended tools and services

Our accounting software can help you manage your finaces easily.   Money

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Recommended tools and services

Our accounting software can help you manage your finaces easily.   Money

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Recommended tools and services

Our accounting software can help you manage your finaces easily.   Money

Find out more

  • Preparing for Payroll Year End

    The introduction of RTI in April 2013 will bring important changes to the way employers submit PAYE information to HMRC, and effectively means the end of Payroll Year End as we know it. However, unless you're currently part of an RTI pilot scheme, there is still one more PAYE year end to go and existing rules and methods still apply.

    Here are five key PAYE year end tasks you will need to complete before and after the tax year ends on 5 April.
     Finalise your payroll records for the tax year
    You'll need to finalise the figures (ie total earnings, tax, NICs, statutory payments, etc) on each employee's payroll record. If you've maintained a P11 form or similar record, the figures contained will help you complete your Employer Annual Return. Jonathan Dowden, Sage Payroll Product Manager, explains: "The calculations are done automatically if you use Sage payroll software. You can finalise your payroll records after the last payday before 5 April."
     Complete and file your Employer Annual Return
    The Employer Annual Return consists of a P14 form for each employee and a P35 form, which summarises year-end payroll totals for all your employees. "HMRC must receive your Employer Annual Return by 19 May," explains Jonathan. "You can be charged a penalty if you’re late," he warns. "Most employers must file online. To do this, you must first have registered to use HMRC’s PAYE online service. That can take up to a week, and you could incur penalties if you file late, so if you’re a new employer and need to register – don't leave it too late". Sage Payroll makes submitting these returns to HMRC simple in only a couple of clicks.
    Find out whether you've over paid or underpaid
    Your Employer Annual Return will detail how much PAYE tax and Class 1 NICs were due to HMRC for the tax year. "This might be more or less than the amount you actually paid," says Jonathan. "If you've overpaid by up to £500, HMRC will let you know and automatically deduct this amount from the next year's payments. If it's more than £500, you can claim it back. If you've underpaid, you’ll need to pay the balance to HMRC - and may be charged interest if you're late."
     Give a P60 to your employees
    "You must provide all employees who still work for you on 5 April 2013 with a P60, which summarises their pay and deductions for the year, of course," Jonathan explains. "You must give your employees their P60s by 31 May, either in paper form or electronic, if they prefer that format. Our payroll software automatically creates a P60 for each employee, which can be printed or emailed to them."
     Complete and file expenses and benefits forms
    If you've provided expenses and benefits during the tax year to any employees, you must complete and file either a P9D form or P11D form. You must also file a P11D (b) form to declare Class 1A NICs payable on these. All forms must reach HMRC by 6 July. Jonathan adds: "If you send a cheque by post to pay Class 1A NICs due on taxable employee expenses and benefits, it must reach your HMRC accounts office by 19 July. If you use an approved electronic payment method, the money must be cleared in HMRC's bank account by 22 July, if you want to avoid interest," he concludes.
     
     
    How will RTI affect Payroll Year End?
    When RTI is fully introduced from 6 April 2013 you will no longer need to submit P35 and P14 forms, instead information about all PAYE payments will have to be submitted to HMRC online every time a payment is made as part of your payroll process, whether weekly or monthly, rather than at the end of the tax year.
    However, you'll still need to submit your End of Year Declarations (the same declarations from the existing P35), provide P60s to your employees, either by paper or electronically and P11D and P11D(b) forms for Taxable Benefits should still be submitted as normal.

     

    Preparing for Payroll Year End and beyond ...

    The introduction of RTI in April 2013 will bring important changes to the way employers submit PAYE information to HMRC, and effectively means the end of Payroll Year End as we know it. However, unless you're currently part of an RTI pilot scheme, there is still one more PAYE year end to go and existing rules and methods still apply.

    Here are five key PAYE year end tasks you will need to complete before and after the tax year ends on 5 April.

     

    •  Finalise your payroll records for the tax year

     

    You'll need to finalise the figures (ie total earnings, tax, NICs, statutory payments, etc) on each employee's payroll record. If you've maintained a P11 form or similar record, the figures contained will help you complete your Employer Annual Return. Jonathan Dowden, Sage Payroll Product Manager, explains: "The calculations are done automatically if you use Sage payroll software. You can finalise your payroll records after the last payday before 5 April."

     

    •  Complete and file your Employer Annual Return

     

    The Employer Annual Return consists of a P14 form for each employee and a P35 form, which summarises year-end payroll totals for all your employees. "HMRC must receive your Employer Annual Return by 19 May," explains Jonathan. "You can be charged a penalty if you’re late," he warns. "Most employers must file online. To do this, you must first have registered to use HMRC’s PAYE online service. That can take up to a week, and you could incur penalties if you file late, so if you’re a new employer and need to register – don't leave it too late". Sage Payroll makes submitting these returns to HMRC simple in only a couple of clicks.

     

    • Find out whether you've over paid or underpaid

     

    Your Employer Annual Return will detail how much PAYE tax and Class 1 NICs were due to HMRC for the tax year. "This might be more or less than the amount you actually paid," says Jonathan. "If you've overpaid by up to £500, HMRC will let you know and automatically deduct this amount from the next year's payments. If it's more than £500, you can claim it back. If you've underpaid, you’ll need to pay the balance to HMRC - and may be charged interest if you're late."

     

    •  Give a P60 to your employees

     

    "You must provide all employees who still work for you on 5 April 2013 with a P60, which summarises their pay and deductions for the year, of course," Jonathan explains. "You must give your employees their P60s by 31 May, either in paper form or electronic, if they prefer that format. Our payroll software automatically creates a P60 for each employee, which can be printed or emailed to them."

     

    •  Complete and file expenses and benefits forms

     

    If you've provided expenses and benefits during the tax year to any employees, you must complete and file either a P9D form or P11D form. You must also file a P11D (b) form to declare Class 1A NICs payable on these. All forms must reach HMRC by 6 July. Jonathan adds: "If you send a cheque by post to pay Class 1A NICs due on taxable employee expenses and benefits, it must reach your HMRC accounts office by 19 July. If you use an approved electronic payment method, the money must be cleared in HMRC's bank account by 22 July, if you want to avoid interest," he concludes.

     

    How will RTI affect Payroll Year End?

    When RTI is fully introduced from 6 April 2013 you will no longer need to submit P35 and P14 forms, instead information about all PAYE payments will have to be submitted to HMRC online every time a payment is made as part of your payroll process, whether weekly or monthly, rather than at the end of the tax year.

    However, you'll still need to submit your End of Year Declarations (the same declarations from the existing P35), provide P60s to your employees, either by paper or electronically and P11D and P11D(b) forms for Taxable Benefits should still be submitted as normal.



    Close

  • RTI advice

    RTI will change the way you report PAYE. With the introduction of RTI fast approaching, you need to understand how it will affect your business and start preparing for the new legislation now.

    Prepare your business for RTI
    By April 2013, all small businesses will be reporting PAYE in real time to HMRC.
    With so little time to go, it's really important you start preparing now.
    With a staggering 72% of employers unaware of the legislation changes*, many businesses will be unprepared for RTI - we're here to help make sure you're not one of them.
    *Source: PAYE at the Crossroads July 2012
    Now is the time to review your payroll processes
    No matter how you're currently processing your payroll, now is the time to review your processes and consider changing them. Switching to Sage could be the easier, more cost effective option. What's more, you'll have our award-winning support on hand for help & guidance with your software when you need it.
    Make sure your employee information is accurate and up to date
     
    Do Don't
     Enter the correct date of birth and ensure it's in the format DD/MM/YYYY Enter a default date of birth such as 01/01/1901 or make one up
     Enter employees' full forename and surnames Use 'known as' names, for example if an employee is known as Bob, you are still required to use his name in full - i.e. Robert
     Enter a double barrelled forename or surname in full Enter an initial in either the Forename or Surname boxes
     Only enter an employee's correct National Insurance number Make up an employee's National Insurance number
     Enter your Accounts Office Reference
     
     Enter your full Company Name and Address  
     Enter your correct Tax District and Reference Number  
    Avoid a mismatch: prepare your data
    To make sure you have the correct details for your employees, wherever possible, check the information you need against an official document such as:
    HMRC and/or Department for Work and Pensions documentation
    Passport documentation
    Birth certificate
    For more information about getting your employees' information correct in preparation for RTI, visit HMRC.
    Missing or incorrect data
    According to HMRC, over 80% of data quality problems are connected to employers holding incorrect or inadequate information on employees' details. Currently, HMRC has on its records:
    824 employees with the surname 'Unknown'
    507 employees called A.N Other
    160 surnames of 'Test' and 100 with 'do not use'
    128 staff entered Mr, Ms or Mrs 'Dummy'
    Over 3000 employees with an NI number of AB123456 or AA111111
    40 employees over the age of 200 years!

    RTI will change the way you report PAYE. With the introduction of RTI fast approaching, you need to understand how it will affect your business and start preparing for the new legislation now.

    Prepare your business for RTI By April 2013, all small businesses will be reporting PAYE in real time to HMRC.

    With so little time to go, it's really important you start preparing now.

    With a staggering 72% of employers unaware of the legislation changes*, many businesses will be unprepared for RTI - we're here to help make sure you're not one of them.

    *Source: PAYE at the Crossroads July 2012

     

    Now is the time to review your payroll processes

    No matter how you're currently processing your payroll, now is the time to review your processes and consider changing them. Switching to Sage could be the easier, more cost effective option. What's more, you'll have our award-winning support on hand for help & guidance with your software when you need it.

    Make sure your employee information is accurate and up to date

     

    Do

     Enter the correct date of birth and ensure it's in the format DD/MM/YYYY

     Enter employees' full forename and surnames  

     Enter a double barrelled forename or surname in full  

     Only enter an employee's correct National Insurance number  

     Enter your Accounts Office Reference

     Enter your full Company Name and Address  

     Enter your correct Tax District and Reference Number  

    Don't

    Enter a default date of birth such as 01/01/1901 or make one up

    Use 'known as' names, for example if an employee is known as Bob, you are still required to use his name in full - i.e. Robert

    Enter an initial in either the Forename or Surname boxes

    Make up an employee's National Insurance number

     

    Avoid a mismatch: prepare your data

    To make sure you have the correct details for your employees, wherever possible, check the information you need against an official document such as:

    HMRC and/or Department for Work and Pensions documentation

    Passport documentation

    Birth certificate

    For more information about getting your employees' information correct in preparation for RTI, visit HMRC.

     

    Missing or incorrect data

    According to HMRC, over 80% of data quality problems are connected to employers holding incorrect or inadequate information on employees' details. Currently, HMRC has on its records:

    824 employees with the surname 'Unknown'

    507 employees called A.N Other

    160 surnames of 'Test' and 100 with 'do not use'

    128 staff entered Mr, Ms or Mrs 'Dummy'

    Over 3000 employees with an NI number of AB123456 or AA111111

    40 employees over the age of 200 years!



    Close

  • Getting ready for RTI

    What is RTI?

    RTI stands for Real Time Information, and it’s the new way to report wages, salaries, PAYE and National Insurance to H.M. Revenue & Customs (HMRC). The big change is that, from 6th April, you will need to report this information to HMRC in real time.

    There are no changes to the amount of PAYE or National Insurance that you have to deduct from your payroll, nor to the dates by which you have to pay them over to HMRC. The only thing that is changing is the reporting process.

    When is RTI being introduced?

    You’ll need to start filing Real Time Informationfrom 6th April 2013.

    Why is RTI being introduced?

    RTI is being introduced because the Government needs up-to-date information about people’s pay in order to calculate the Universal Credit – the basic social security benefit – correctly. Universal Credit comes in later in 2013.

    GLOSSARY

    RTI - Real Time Information

    PAYE  - Pay As You Earn

    FPS - Full Payment Submission

    EPS - Employer Payment Summary

    HMRC - H.M. Revenue & Customs

    Does RTI apply to me?

    RTI applies to anyone who is registered for PAYE (or needs to be). This means:

    Yes, if you employ staff (see below for a few exceptions)

    Yes, if you do your work through a limited company (assuming you pay yourself a salary or reimburse expenses)

    No, if you are a sole trader or a partnership that does not employ staff.

    If you are a director of a limited company, remember that even if your company doesn’t pay you a salary, you still need to operate RTI if you receive any expense payments. Because you must report these expenses on form P11D each year, you need to have a PAYE scheme in place and thus fall under RTI.

    I only employ casual staff or staff without PAYE deductions. Does RTI still apply to me?

    Previously you could keep low-paid employees off the PAYE system, and only use PAYE for those that required it. Under RTI, if you have any staff for whom RTI applies, then you have to apply it for all staff.

    RTI doesn’t apply if all of your staff:

     

    •  do not receive expense payments.
    • do not receive benefits that are not paid in cash (for example, health insurance or company cars).
    •  are paid below the Lower Earnings Limit for National Insurance. This will be £109.00 a week for 2013/14, or £472.33 a month.
    •  do not need PAYE deducting. 

    You must deduct PAYE if you have a tax code for your employee, for example:

     

    •• if you are using a tax code when RTI comes in.

    •• if your employee gives you a P45.

    •• if your employee gives you a P46 with box C ticked in the bottom left-hand corner. Otherwise, RTI does still apply.

    Exceptions

    These exceptions might apply, for example, to casual staff, or students, or people who only do a couple of hours a week.

    Note for limited company directors:

    Don’t forget though, if you are the director of a limited company and your company needs to operate RTI for you, your

    company will also need to operate RTI for all your staff.

    What will I have to do if RTI applies to my business?

     

    • You will need to make a Full Payment Submission (FPS) every time you pay an employee, either at the time you pay or before. You need to do this online, using HMRC’s own submission tool, or a service like FreeAgent.
    • You will need to file an Employer Payment Summary (EPS) for any notifications to HMRC that are not specific to a particular employee but have to be taken into account.
    • You will not need to send the end-of-year forms P14 or P35 to HMRC after the tax year ended 2012/13.
    • You will not need to send P45’s or P46’s for leavers and starters to HMRC (this information is given on the FPS).  P45’s should still be given to leaving employees.

     

    Good News! Some things aren't changing

    There is no change to the way that you deduct PAYE and NI from your payroll or your requirement to pay it to HMRC each month.

    There is also no change to the system of coding notices, and you should still hand your employees a P60 form at the end of each tax year.

    A Full Payment Submission

    Employer details

    Reference numbers, including your HMRC Office number, PAYE Reference, and Employer Accounts Office reference.

    Employee details

    Details of the employee, including National Insurance number, date of birth, etc.

    Income Tax year

    The income tax year for this FPS, for example 2013/14.

    Employee pay details

    Details of the payment, including the pay date, frequency, and taxable pay.

    National Insurance contributions

    Details about the National Insurance contributions for this employee.

    An Employer Payment Summary

    Employer details

    Reference numbers, including your HMRC Office number, PAYE Reference, and Employer Accounts Office reference.

    Notifications to HMRC

    Use the EPS to notify HMRC about anything that is not specific to a particular employee but has to be taken into account when calculating

    the monthly PAYE liability. For example, you would use the EPS to notify HRMC:

     

    •  that you paid no salary to any employees for a particular month.
    •  of any deductions under the Construction Industry Scheme (CIS).
    •  of any recoveries of statutory sick pay or parental pay.

     

    How does RTI apply to me?

    I have a one-person limited company with no other employees

    As the director of a limited company, PAYE and RTI applies to you even if you are the company’s only employee.

    RTI will apply to salary payments that the company makes to you.

    RTI will not apply to:

     

    •  dividends
    • rents
    •  business expenses that aren’t taxable and are reported on a P11D form
    •  loans (unless they are an advance on your salary)
    •  any other payments to you 

     

    You will need to continue operating PAYE and NI as at present. All that RTI changes is the way that this is reported to HMRC. However, you will need to file a report to HMRC every time you make a salary payment, not just at the end of the year.

    I run a one-person limited company inside IR35 (the intermediaries rules)

    If you work through a limited company but are an employee of your clients in all but name, you fall under IR35 rules, which impacts how the company can pay you.

    If you fall under IR35 rules, there are two approaches that you can take:

    1. Your company can pay you a salary of at least 95% of the money coming in to the company, less expenses. If you do this the system operates in the same way as for any other one-person limited company.

    2. You can operate PAYE by calculating a ‘deemed payment’ each April 5th (or earlier if your assignment ceases), and paying PAYE on that. To calculate this payment, use the “deemed payment” calculator on HMRC’s Basic PAYE tool. If you do this you will only have one payment to report using RTI, and it must be reported on or before April 5th (or the earlier date). However it can be an estimate if you don’t have the final figure. You must tell HMRC that it is a deemed payment estimate, and send them any corrections by January 31st. We advise ringing HMRC on 08457 143143 to check that you are doing this the way that they want it. You can read more about IR35 at http://hmrc.gov.uk/ir35.

    I have employees as a sole trader, partnership, or director of a limited company

    Continue operating your payroll as now, deducting PAYE and paying it over to HMRC. The main change that RTI will make is that you will need to make a Full Payment Submission report every time you pay your employee(s), either on or before the date of payment.

    Starters and leavers are dealt with on the FPS. You will no longer need to send P45’s or P46’s to HMRC, although you should continue giving P45’s to departing employees. 

    How can I prepare for RTI?

     

    • Register your business with HMRC: if you have started a new business and haven’t already registered with HMRC for a Government Gateway ID, register today to make sure you have it in place. It can take up to seven business days for your Government Gateway ID to arrive. Register at https://online.hmrc.gov.uk/registration/newbusiness/introduction
    • Register for PAYE: If you haven’t already, ensure that you register as an employer with HMRC. http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/paye/intro/register.htm
    • Make sure that you have all the necessary details of your employees.

     

    You will not be able to file reports unless you have, for each employee, their:

     

    •  
      • first and last names
      •  date of birth
      •  gender
      •  address including postcode
      • National Insurance number (or passport number if not known)

     

    If you can’t get your employee’s National Insurance number in time for your first payment, you can include a National Insurance

    number verification request in a payroll submission.

    For more details, visit http://hmrc.gov.uk/payerti/employee-starting/verify-nino.htm

     

    • Get your software in place: You can use HMRC’s free software to file RTI returns, or another provider like FreeAgent who integrate

     

    with HMRC. See the following page for a breakdown of what features and choices you have with each filing option.

    DEADLINE:

    6th April

     

    Click here to download this guide as a PDF

     

    http://www.freeagent.com/l/guide-to-rti-download

     

     

    This article was prepared for FreeAgent

    About the author

    David Kirk is an independent Chartered Accountant and Chartered Tax Adviser who specialises in PAYE and National Insurance.

    David says: “I have been fortunate in having been asked to advise on RTI at an early stage, which has taught me how much less stressful it is to prepare in good time for changes like this. It looks complex, but is not as bad as it sounds. The key is to prepare in advance.”

    For further information

    hmrc.gov.uk/rti HMRC’s website section on RTI

    08457 143143 HMRC’s employer helpline for general PAYE enquiries.

    Open Monday to Friday 8.00 – 20.00,

    and on Saturday 8.00 – 16.00.

    08456 055999 HMRC’s on-line services helpdesk for help

    with HMRC software and on-line submissions.

    Open Monday to Friday 8.00 – 20.00,

    and on Saturday 8.00 – 16.00.

    0800 288 8691 FreeAgent information and support

    available Monday to Friday 9.00 – 17.00.

    You can also email us:

    support@freeagent.com

    Disclaimer



    Close

  • RTI Check List

    Introduction to RTI

    Background

    The Pay As You Earn (PAYE) system has changed very little since it was introduced in 1944. PAYE is the way that employees pay Income Tax and National Insurance Contributions (NIC). Employers deduct the payments from employees’ pay each week or month.

    PAYE, on the whole, is an effective system. However, it is prone to fraud and this makes it difficult for HMRC to identify errors or help either employers or employees to resolve problems quickly and efficiently, which is why RTI is being introduced.

    What is RTI?

    Real Time Information, or RTI, is a new system that HMRC is introducing to improve the operation of PAYE. PAYE information will be collected more regularly and more efficiently as employers submit their regular payroll submissions, rather than with their end-of-year tax return. HMRC will notify employers 4 to 6 weeks prior to when they must begin RTI submissions.

    Why is HMRC introducing RTI?

    HMRC is introducing RTI for a number of important reasons.

    • To enable a more efficient response to PAYE errors such as under or over payments.
    • To support the introduction of Universal Credits, which will streamline benefits into one payment.
    • To reduce fraud and ensure people receive the benefits they’re entitled to.
    • To provide the Department for Work and Pensions with up-to-date information about each claimant’s employment income more efficiently.
    • RTI means that employers will send data about PAYE, NIC and student loans every time they pay their employees.

    RTI will be introduced from April 2013 and will become mandatory for all employers from October 2013.

    Preparing for RTI

    RTI means that instead of sending information once a year to HMRC, you will send it every time you pay your employees. Information including PAYE details, NIC and student loans will be submitted electronically.

    Make sure your data is accurate

    RTI is fast-approaching. Now is the time to make sure the information you hold on your employees is accurate. Under RTI, the information you submit to HMRC every time you pay your employees is matched against records HMRC stores on its National Insurance and PAYE Service (NPS).

    It’s vital that you familiarise yourself with RTI now and makesure you understand its impacton your payroll processes.  Under RTI, employers submit information to HMRC every time they pay their employees. The information is matched against HMRC records stored

    on the National Insurance and PAYE Service (NPS).  If there’s a mismatch between your information and HMRC’s records, duplicate or inaccurate records may be created, resulting in incorrect tax calculations or HMRC compliance checks.

    The Dos and Don’ts of Employee Information

    Don’ts

    • Enter a default date of birth such as 01/01/1901 or make one up
    • Use ‘known as’ names, for example if an employee is known as Bob, you are still required to use his name in full – i.e. Robert
    • Enter an initial in either the Forename or Surname boxes
    • Make up an employee’s National Insurance number

    Dos

    • Enter the Accounts Office Reference
    • Enter the full Company Name and Address
    • Enter the correct Tax District and Reference Number
    • Enter the correct date of birth and ensure it’s in the format DD/MM/YYYY
    • Enter employees’ full forenames and surnames
    • Enter a double barrelled forename or surname in full
    • Only enter an employee’s correct National Insurance number

    Avoid a mismatch: prepare your data

    To make sure you have the correct details for your employees, wherever possible, check the information you need against an official document such as:

    • HMRC and/or Department for Work and Pensions documentation

    • Passport documentation

    • Birth certificate

    If the employee cannot locate their National Insurance number, they can download Form CA5403 from the HMRC website, or they can phone the Registration Helpline on 0845 915 7006.  If the employee has never been issued with a National Insurance number, they should phone Jobcentre Plus on 0845 600 0643.

    For more information about getting your employees’ information correct in preparation for RTI, please visit hmrc.gov.uk/rti/dip/get-payroll-right.htm

    Mi_si_g or incorerct data

    HMRC says that over 80% of data quality problems are connected to employers holding incorrect or inadequate information on employees’ names, birth dates or National Insurance numbers. Currently, HMRC has on its records:

    • 824 employees with the surname ‘Unknown’

    • 507 employees called A.N Other

    • 160 surnames of ‘Test’ and 100 with ‘do not use’

    • 128 staff entered Mr,Ms or Mrs ‘Dummy’

    • Over 3000 employees with an NI number of AB123456 or AA111111

    • 40 employees over the age of 200 years!

    RTI - The Big Four Submission Types

    Employer AlignmentSubmission (EAS)  What is It?

    EAS is a one-off submission that will be used by HMRC to match and align company and employee records against the data it holds. Only businesses that employ more than 250 employees must submit an EAS but small and medium sized employers can volunteer to submit EAS.

    What type of Information is Submitted?

    •  Company PAYE Reference
    •  Accounts Office Reference
    •  Tax Office number
    •  Employee name and address
    •  Employee NI number and tax code
    •  Employee payroll ID
    •  Employment start and end dates

    Full Payment Submission (FPS)  What is It?

    FPS is the main and most common submission type. It covers the employee payments and deductions made each time an employer pays an employee. HMRC will use this submission to calculate how much PAYE and NIC liability is due from your business each tax month. HMRC will know via your regular FPS submissions how much your PAYE and NIC liability is. 

    What type of Information is Submitted?

    • Starter and leaver information
    •  Employee initial, forename and surname
    •  Employee NI number, tax code and gender
    •  Employee address
    •  Employee payment information
    •  PAYE and National Insurance contributions

    Employer Payment Summary (EPS) What is it?

    The EPS is only submitted where you need to advise HMRC of any alteration to this liability (such as when reclaiming statutory payments) or where you’re advising of a nil payment.

    What type of Information is Submitted?

    • Whether no payment is due
    •  Statutory Payments Recovered
    •  NIC Compensation on Statutory Payments
    •  Advance funding obtained from HMRC for tax refunds and statutory payments
    •  CIS Deductions Suffered
    •  NIC Holiday

    National Insurance Verification Request (NVR) What is it?

    A National Insurance number is a vital piece of information, which uniquely identifies an employee. An NVR  submission allows employers to validate an employee’s National Insurance number or request one where a new or existing employee does not have one.

    What type of Information is Submitted?

    • Employee’s name
    • Employee’s date of birth and gender
    • Employee’s address

    When Do I Submit?  What should I do to prepare?

    • EAS. Will be your first submission.  You will submit when HMRC invite you to do so.  
      • Ensure that you’ve checked the accuracy of your employee data before submitting for every employee (including those who have left or haven’t been paid yet) from the start of the tax year.
    • FPS. You must make a Full Payment Submission every time you make a payment to an employee. The submission must be made on or before the date the employee is paid. If you process a mixture of weekly and monthly payrolls for your business, you must submit an FPS for each one.
      • If you’re a large employer employing more than 250 employees, you must make sure you have already submitted an Employer Alignment Submission.
      • If you’re a small employer and this is your first FPS submission, you must ensure that you’ve checked the accuracy of all your employee data before submitting.
    • EPS.  You should make this submission when or before the relevant monthly or quarterly liability payment is made to HMRC.
      • Firstly, you must identify whether you need to make this submission i.e. whether you need to inform HMRC of any adjustments to your monthly or quarterly PAYE and NIC liability. If you DO need to make the submission, be sure to make it on or before the date the monthly or quarterly liability payment is due.
    • NVR. You can make an NVR submission at any time you need to validate, confirm orrequest an employee’s National Insurance. HMRC will either confirm the National Insurance number is correct or advise that the number should not be used.
      • Ensure that the information the employee has provided, including their name, date of birth, gender and address, is accurate. Do not make up or enter an invalid National Insurance number.

    * It is important to note that the information listed is not comprehensive and may be subject to change. Up-to-date information can be found at www.hmrc.gov.uk/rti or sage.co.uk/rti

    Changes to Payroll Year End

    RTI will change the way Payroll Year End works. Although you will still be required to provide your employees with P60s and complete P11D and P11D(a) forms for taxable benefits and expenses, there will be some tasks you no longer need to complete:

    • P14 and P35 submissions

    • P38A returns for casual employees

    Are you an Accountant?

    If you’re an accountant you’ll know that your work is integral to ensuring your clients’ employee information is accurate. Inaccurate information could mean your clients’ employees don’t get paid on time. We recommend that you familiarise yourself with RTI and

    review the processes you use to help clients perform key tasks such as taking on new employees or updating existing employee

    information. It’s essential that you ensure your clients are providing you with accurate information and that you educate your clients on RTI and how to manage it. 

    We’ve received some great feedback on the seminars we’ve already run:

    "The seminar has given me confidence to engage in RTI."  "This has been a brilliant seminar."  "The product manager and business

    analyst were thorough and I feel confident for future submissions of FPS and EPS in April 2013."

    Want to learnmore? Visit sagerti.co.uk for details.

    Sage and HMRC: working together for RTI

    We’ve worked very closely with HMRC, investing significant resource in ensuring our Sage Payroll solutions are RTI-ready for the HMRC pilot, which began in April 2012. As a result, we’re pleased to say Sage Instant Payroll and Sage 50 Payroll have been officially recognised by HMRC as RTI-ready.

    The Chartered Institute of Payroll Professionals (CIPP) was just one of the high profile clients to take part in the pilot using Sage.

    "Sage has provided simple and easy to use payroll software for over 30 years, consistently meeting HMRC’s stringent payroll standard. We will ensure that all customers with a valid SageCover support contract will receive software updates that will make the transition to RTI straightforward and hassle free." Lindsay Melvin, Chief Executive of the CIPP

    "With help from Sage, our experience on the RTI pilot has gone very smoothly and it has given us the confidence and practice to report our PAYE data in real time going forward."

    We support all of HMRC’s ambitious efforts to introduce RTI as seamlessly as possible by April 2013.

    Expert advice and training

    To make sure you’re RTI-ready we’ve developed training and support to guide you through everything you need to know. Whether you use Sage Payroll software or just want to know more about RTI, you can choose from interactive online training or a range of local seminars and workshops with our RTI experts across the UK.

    Seminars, Workshops, Online Training

    Get ready… all systems go! Preparation is key to success.

    Make sure your business is prepared as RTI comes into force. See our check list  below and tick off each of these tasks as you complete them.

    • I have read the RTI guidance and understand whatinformation I’m expected to provide
    •  I have RTI-ready software from my provider
    •  I’ve checked my company details are correct, including:
      •  Name
      •  Tax District and PAYE Reference
      •  Accounts Office Reference
    •  I’ve checked my employee details are correct, including:
      •  Name
      •  Address
      •  Date of birth
      •  National Insurance number
      •  Gender
    •  I’ve entered the hours normally worked by my employees into my software
    •  I’ve added all new employees to my payroll,including casual and infrequent employees 
    •  I’ve processed all leavers in this tax year

    So, you’re ready to make your first RTI submission, but what exactly does the process involve? Use this

    checklist to stay on top of RTI.

    1. You’ve checked your company and employee data.

    2. HMRC confirm your migration date, giving you 4-6 weeks’ notice.

    3. You make sure your payroll software is RTI-ready.

    4. Migration day – Submit your Employer Alignment Submission (EAS).

    5. Add any new starters who’ve joined your business since your EAS. Process and update your payroll. Process leavers.

    6. Submit your Full Payment Submission (FPS).

    7. Month end – Check if an Employer Payment Submission (EPS) is required.

    8. Ongoing Full Payment Submissions and Employer Payment Submissions (if required).

    9. End of Year process.

    To see the Full White Paper click here



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  • 1Hour bookkeeping check list

    Improve your business in just one hour a week

    Do you struggle to stay on top of your business finances?

    Here is FreeAgent's guide to help you.

    We recon that if you dedicate just one hour a week to your busness finances, you won't just save time on the admin work, but will have a chance to work through all those bigger-picture financial questions.  Ready to Go?  here's our simple plan to make bookkeeping anxiety a thing of the past.

    1. Schedule one hour a week to devote to your business finances.

    2. Complete your weekly checklist

    3. Do a two-minute task every day

    1.  Pick your hour a week.

    The most important step is to create a routine for managing your books. For many businesses this can be as simple as dedicating an hour a week. Remember to block off this time in your diary and set reminders so you don’t forget.

    2.  Your weekly check list

    • Keep up to date with your invoices.   If invoicing is taking too much of your time, think about automating parts of the process. With FreeAgent you can set up recurring invoices, and even set unpaid invoices to chase themselves.
    • Manage your bills.  Keep a record of outstanding bills to suppliers so you’ll always know who you owe, how much you owe, and when to pay.
    • Reconcile your bank transactions.  Stay on top of your bank transactions so you have an up-to-date view of your cash flow. You can upload your bank statements to FreeAgent or set up an automated bank feed, then just “explain” each transaction.
    • Check that your projects are earning enough.  Where’s your time best spent? Record all of your costs and unbillable time against your projects to get the full view. In FreeAgent, use the project profitability area to spot your most valuable projects.
    • Learn one new thing about your business.  What secrets is your business hiding from you? Turn detective and consider things like reviewing your pricing, understanding seasonality in your business, and monitoring what your competitors are up to.

    3. Two-minute daily tasks

    • Record expenses as you go.   Do you have a receipt in your wallet right now, likely to be forgotten or lost? Take a quick snap of  that receipt on your phone - in FreeAgent you can upload it as an expense entry.
    • Track your time on the go.  Going into a client meeting? Track your time there and then, before you forget. FreeAgent’s mobile-friendly time tracker makes this easy. Remember to also track time you don’t charge a client for, so you can measure your project’s profitability.

    Dedicating time to your regular bookeeping every week puts you in a better position to tackle the big challenges for your business, like paying taxes and planning for growth.  FreeAgent helps you every step of the way, letting you forecast tax commitments, track your profit and cashflow, send professionally designed invoices and manage expenses. 

    http://freeagent-assets.s3.amazonaws.com/downloads/1hr-checklist.pdf



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  • Optimise your pricing

    Optimise your pricing
    Getting your prices right is essential. If they're too high, you'll put off potential customers. Aim too low, and you'll throw away potential profit and risk making customers believe your products or services are inferior to higher-priced competitor goods.
    Here we explain how to set an 'optimum' price, which allows you to maximise profit after your costs have been paid.
    Do your market research
    Having sound knowledge of your market – potential customers and competitors – is essential when setting prices.
    You need to know how much potential customers are prepared to pay for your products or services. If they already buy similar products from someone else, find out why and how much they spend.
    Also find out how much your competitors charge, but never simply match a price unless you know you can afford to. A competitor could have lower overheads than you. Conversely, if you're confident you're offering better quality or additional benefits, customers might willingly pay more.
    Calculate a breakeven figure
    When setting prices, you need to work out your costs. Begin with all 'variable' costs (eg materials, electricity, packaging, etc), which are linked to volume (ie the more you make or sell, the higher they are).
    'Fixed costs' – often called overheads (eg rent, business rates and wages) – stay the same, regardless of volume. Work out what proportion of these must be covered by the product or service you are pricing.
    Add your variable costs to your fixed costs and any research and development costs. Then you'll arrive at a 'breakeven' figure – the amount you need to recoup. Sometimes an overall breakeven figure is divided by volume to create a unit breakeven figure.
    Pricing methods
    Now it's time to think about profit. Two pricing methods are commonly used – cost-plus and value-based.
    The cost-plus approach involves adding 'mark-up' to breakeven. Usually expressed as a percentage of total cost, knowledge of your market or industry norms can help you decide how much margin to add. Mark-up can be higher when demand is stronger, if competition is scarce or when costs are low.
    Be aware of the limitations of cost-plus pricing. It assumes you'll sell every unit. If you don't, your overall profit margin will be lower.
    Value-based pricing requires sound knowledge of how much value customers attach to a product or service, which could be significantly higher than cost.
    Remember that, for services, value-based prices need to be structured. For example, if you are called out in the early hours, you should be able to charge customers more than for call outs during normal hours. You might also be able to charge more for weekend or holiday time call-outs.
    Consider VAT and other factors
    You might need to think how applying VAT will impact on your prices. Selling at odd values rather than whole pounds (eg £9.99 instead of £10) is a common ploy to make prices seem more attractive.
    As part of your overall pricing strategy, you might keep margins modest on some products to gain higher margins on sales of others. You might need to calculate a separate price for different territories or types of sale (eg online or trade sales).
    Changing your prices
    If your knowledge of your market leaves you feeling your calculated price is too high, to reduce it you must slim your costs. Protect your margins, wherever possible.
    Generally speaking, setting a high price is better than going too low. Then if you have to make changes, customers will accept a price reduction much more favourably than an increase.
    Remain agile and carry out regular price reviews. Your costs, customers and competitors can change quickly, which could well mean you need to alter your prices. Few prices remain fixed for long.
    BHP Information Solutions 2012
    Meta-data
    Category: Finance
    Keywords: pricing strategy, margin, cost-plus, variable costs

    Optimise your pricing

    Getting your prices right is essential. If they're too high, you'll put off potential customers. Aim too low, and you'll throw away potential profit and risk making customers believe your products or services are inferior to higher-priced competitor goods.

    Here we explain how to set an 'optimum' price, which allows you to maximise profit after your costs have been paid.

    Do your market research

    Having sound knowledge of your market – potential customers and competitors – is essential when setting prices.

    You need to know how much potential customers are prepared to pay for your products or services. If they already buy similar products from someone else, find out why and how much they spend.

    Also find out how much your competitors charge, but never simply match a price unless you know you can afford to. A competitor could have lower overheads than you. Conversely, if you're confident you're offering better quality or additional benefits, customers might willingly pay more.

    Calculate a breakeven figure

    When setting prices, you need to work out your costs. Begin with all 'variable' costs (eg materials, electricity, packaging, etc), which are linked to volume (ie the more you make or sell, the higher they are).

    'Fixed costs' – often called overheads (eg rent, business rates and wages) – stay the same, regardless of volume. Work out what proportion of these must be covered by the product or service you are pricing.

    Add your variable costs to your fixed costs and any research and development costs. Then you'll arrive at a 'breakeven' figure – the amount you need to recoup. Sometimes an overall breakeven figure is divided by volume to create a unit breakeven figure.

    Pricing methods

    Now it's time to think about profit. Two pricing methods are commonly used – cost-plus and value-based.

    The cost-plus

    The cost-plus approach involves adding 'mark-up' to breakeven. Usually expressed as a percentage of total cost, knowledge of your market or industry norms can help you decide how much margin to add. Mark-up can be higher when demand is stronger, if competition is scarce or when costs are low.

    Be aware of the limitations of cost-plus pricing. It assumes you'll sell every unit. If you don't, your overall profit margin will be lower.

    Value-based pricing

    ralue-based pricing requires sound knowledge of how much value customers attach to a product or service, which could be significantly higher than cost.

    Remember that, for services, value-based prices need to be structured. For example, if you are called out in the early hours, you should be able to charge customers more than for call outs during normal hours. You might also be able to charge more for weekend or holiday time call-outs.

    Consider VAT and other factors

    You might need to think how applying VAT will impact on your prices. Selling at odd values rather than whole pounds (eg £9.99 instead of £10) is a common ploy to make prices seem more attractive.

    As part of your overall pricing strategy, you might keep margins modest on some products to gain higher margins on sales of others. You might need to calculate a separate price for different territories or types of sale (eg online or trade sales).

    Changing your prices

    If your knowledge of your market leaves you feeling your calculated price is too high, to reduce it you must slim your costs. Protect your margins, wherever possible.

    Generally speaking, setting a high price is better than going too low. Then if you have to make changes, customers will accept a price reduction much more favourably than an increase.

    Remain agile and carry out regular price reviews. Your costs, customers and competitors can change quickly, which could well mean you need to alter your prices. Few prices remain fixed for long.

    BHP Information Solutions 2012

    Meta-data

    Category: Finance

    Keywords: pricing strategy, margin, cost-plus, variable costs



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  • Working from home? Make sure you claim for the business use of your home

     

    Our partner FreeAgent has lots of useful information about managing and claiming your expenses. Here Chief Accountant Emily talks you through claiming the costs of working from home.

    Are you one of the many self-employed people in the UK that carries out work from their own home? If the answer’s yes, then there’s good news for you: you’re entitled to include part of the running costs of your home in your accounts, which will save you some tax. Hurray! Now - how do you work out how much you can claim? 

    Two potential methods for calculating business use of home

    If your business is eligible to use the new simplified accounting method, then as from 6th April 2013 you have two options to work out how much to claim for business use of home.

    If your sales are under the VAT threshold, which at the moment is £79,000 a year, and you are a sole trader or in a partnership where all the partners are individuals rather than corporate bodies (so if you are in a partnership and one of the other partners is a limited company, that’s not you), you’re eligible to use the simplified accounting method, and one option this method allows is a flat rate calculation for business use of home.

    The flat rate method

    This simply asks you to look at how many hours a month you spend running your business at home, on average, and then include a fixed amount in your accounts for business use of home.

    The amount varies with the number of hours per month you work at home, as follows:

    25-50 hours: £10 per month

    51-100 hours: £18 per month

    101 hours or more: £26 per month

    Using this method will certainly be quicker than working out your actual costs, but the figure might not be as high and so you could save time but pay more tax.

    The second method, which is the method you’ll have to use if your business is not eligible to use the simplified accounting method and which is also the method that has to be used for accounts dated up to and including 5th April 2013, works like this. 

    Analysing the costs method

    If you want to claim part of the actual running costs of your home in your business accounts, then how much you can claim depends on the type of business you have and what work you actually do at home.

    For example, if you’re a freelance decorator you might spend an hour or two a week writing up your books at home, but spend the rest of your working life at your customers’ properties. But if you’re a self-employed PR consultant or web designer, you may well do the vast majority of your work at home and only occasionally visit clients.

    HMRC say that you need to apportion the running costs of your home on a “fair and reasonable” basis between the private element of that cost - the part that relates to you actually living there - and the business element. But how do you do this?

    One method is to work out how many rooms you have in your home, and identify how many of those rooms you use for business - and also calculate how much time you actually use these rooms for business.

    Just remember that it’s not a good idea to use any part of your home solely for business activities all the time and never use it for any private activities, because capital gains tax will then be due on the part you use just for business if, and when, you sell your home. Instead, try to make sure that your work space serves a dual purpose - for example, my own office at home is also my music room, and I could easily prove that to a visiting HM Revenue inspector because there’s a piano in there.

    So, say there are 10 rooms in my home. I only use one for business, and 90% of the use of that room is for business. So I would add up all the costs I can claim, and multiply that by 1/10 and then by 90%, to get my accounts figure for the business use of my home.

    But what running costs in my home can I actually include in my accounts?

    Costs you can claim

    Here are some of the costs you might incur to run a home, which you may then be able to claim part of in your business accounts: 

    Mortgage

    If you’re buying your home through a mortgage, you can claim a proportion of the interest only - not the capital repayment. 

    Rent

    You can’t charge your business rent when you’re self-employed, because legally you are the business. But if you’re renting your home from a landlord, then you can claim a proportion of the rent for your business.

    Council tax

    You can claim a proportion of your council tax cost. However, depending on how much you use your home for business, you may have to pay business rates rather than council tax. 

    Light and heat

    You can claim the business proportion of your gas and electricity costs for lighting and heating in the room(s) you use for business.

    Telephone and broadband

    Remember that what you can claim for your telephone and broadband is not apportioned on the basis of the number of rooms in your home, but on what your actual usage of the line is.

    You can claim the full cost of all your business use of the line, and a percentage of the line rental, based on how much you use it for business purposes and how much is for personal use. 

    Property repairs

    If a property repair relates solely to the part that’s used for business, you would include this cost in your accounts in full, subject to the business use of that room.

    So for example, if the ceiling in my office/music room was repaired and that cost £200, I wouldn’t need to divide that by 10 because the repair was only for that room – I would just multiply by 90%, and include £180 in my accounts.

    If the repair is to the whole house, for example a repair to the roof, you can include that in the same proportion as you would the rent or council tax – so in the example of my 10-room house, the repair cost x 1/10 x 90%.

    But if the repair is just for a part of the house that’s not used for business - such as replastering of a kitchen - then you can’t claim any part of that repair in your business accounts.

    Water

    If you use a lot of your home water supply for business - for example if you run a car valeting service - then you would need to apply to the water company for this to be separately charged, and you could claim the full cost.

    But if your water use for your work is only minor, you can’t claim any of the cost for your business.

     Claiming costs of working at home is not as simple as it initially sounds. If you’re in any doubt as to what you can claim, you should seek further advice from an accountant.

     

    For more information FreeAgent, visit: http://www.freeagent.com/



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  • Managing your expenses day-to-day

    Managing your expenses day-to-day

    Keeping on top of expenses can be a big hassle when you’re just trying to get on with your work, especially if it’s grown into a big pile of unprocessed paperwork!

    So in this guide, FreeAgent’s chief accountant Emily will walk you through the basics of recording, claiming, managing, and storing your business expenses.

    What are expenses?

    “Expenses” are business costs that you pay for yourself, which the business may later reimburse you for. Examples would be if you used a personal credit card to buy a train ticket to go and visit your client, or if you bought a stamp at the post office and paid with your own cash. The long name for expenses is “out-of-pocket expenses”.

    Record your expenses daily

    The best time to record an expense is as soon as you spend the money - whenever possible, take two minutes out of your day to record expenses on the go. For example, if you’re waiting on the train platform, use those two minutes of downtime to snap a photo of your train ticket on your mobile and upload it with your expense entry to an online accounting system like FreeAgent.

    Review your expenses weekly

    At FreeAgent, we believe that spending just one hour a week on your business’s bookkeeping gives you a real head start towards keeping your finances in good order. Try using our weekly checklist method to stay on top of any expenses that you haven’t already recorded, and to stay on top of how much is going in and out of your business.

    Consider storing your receipts online

    You may be surprised to know that you don’t have to keep that big folder of receipts - HMRC say that they are happy for business owners to store expense receipts electronically, so long as the electronic copy includes both the front and back of any receipts that have information on the back, such as terms and conditions. For digital storage options, consider using a service like Depositit.com.

    You can also upload your receipts to an online accounting system like FreeAgent and attach them to your accounting entries. This doesn’t just save you space, it also makes it easier to trace back the receipt to the entry in your accounts if you, your accountant, or HMRC has a query on that transaction.

    Keep expenses separate from other costs

    When you’re recording expenses, it’s really important to keep these separate from costs that were paid for through your business’s bank account. For example, if you pay for a train ticket on your business debit card rather than your personal credit card, remember that this cost would need to be recorded as paid by the business rather than by you. It’s not an out-of-pocket expense, because the business paid for it directly.

    This may sound like extra hassle that you don’t need, but it is important because if your records are ever inspected by HMRC, the first thing they will look for is whether what your accounts say is in the bank matches what actually is in the bank. If you’ve put costs in the wrong place, these figures won’t match.

    It’s also important because sometimes you have to report these figures differently for tax, for example if you are the director of a limited company and you have to report your expenses to HMRC on form P11D.

    Make sure your categories are consistent

    It’s harder to make informed business decisions if you don’t post your costs consistently into the same category in your accounts. For example, if you put your car park ticket charge into “travel” one month and “motor expenses” the next, it’s much harder to see whether your car parking costs are mounting up higher than you want them to be and if it’s time to switch to travelling by train, bus or bike.

    Try printing out a cheat sheet for any expenses that you might not remember where they go, and keep it handy when you’re processing expenses.

    Taking the time to set up a good system and then just dedicating just a few minutes a day can go a long way to making your expenses much easier to manage.

    FreeAgent is a Simple Ways To Grow partner and provides online accounting tools to help you better manage your business finances.

    Read more about how they are working with Simple Ways To Grow



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  • Invoicing basics - what to include in your invoice template

     

    FreeAgent, the  award-winning online bookkeeping and accounting system for small businesses and freelancers, outlines five handy tips to remember when setting up your invoice template.

    Branding 

    Your invoice is a document that you send out from your business, so make sure that it reflects your brand. Think logo, colours, fonts, and wording of the item descriptions and of your payment terms. For example, if the brand message you want to convey is “fun and quirky”, make sure your payment terms are not written in lawyers’ English.

    Legal information

    There is some information that you must legally include on your invoices. 

    If your business is a limited company or LLP, your invoices must show its Companies House registered number and address, and if you put the name of one director / member on your invoice, you must include the names of all the directors / members.

    If you’re registered for VAT you must include your VAT number on your invoices, and comply with HMRC’s rules about VAT invoices.

    For sole traders who are not registered for VAT, you’re not subject to legal requirements like these, but I would say it’s best practice to keep to the same rules as for VAT invoices, except of course that you would not charge VAT. This is to help make your invoices look most professional and avoid any queries from either HMRC or your customers. In particular, if you use sequential numbering for your invoices then HMRC can easily see that you have reported all your income.

    Price 

    It’s important to make sure “The Price is Right!”, because otherwise you could find yourself in the very embarrassing position of either having to ask your customers for more money, or give them some back.

    When you include your quote in your invoice, make sure you use your most recent pricing -

    and don’t forget any discounts or special offers that you might have promised to all your customers or to just this particular customer.

    Remember that if your business is VAT registered, HMRC say that you must include the price per unit on your invoices.

    Description

    Avoid queries from customers by making the description on the invoice of what you are selling them as clear as you can. If a customer has to phone up to query an invoice, they may see this as poor service on your part, and it may also mean they take longer to pay.

    Payment information

    Make it as easy as possible for customers to pay you. Include your bank account details on your invoices if you are taking payment from online banking or by BACS. If you send your invoices by email and use a service such as PayPal or GoCardless to collect payment from customers, include a link when you email the invoice, so that customers can pay with one click.

    Remember that it’s for you to decide how quickly you want to get paid. Set your payment terms and make sure your customers keep to them!

    Make sure that your invoices are clearly laid out with all the information a customer needs. Your aim is to make your customers’ lives as easy as possible, because that way they will come back and buy from you again. Remember, happy customers are more likely refer more people to you!

    FreeAgent is a Simple Ways To Grow partners.

    Click here to find out more about its online accounting tool.



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