30th January, 2017 No Comments
You’re probably thinking PR is just for big companies with tens of thousands of pounds to spend getting the right spin in the newspapers and not for small businesses. However, to move your business forward you need to bring in more sales, and by increasing awareness of your business and brand you drive sales. Therefore, for small businesses where every penny counts, you need cost-effective PR.
This is exactly what those big companies spend their big budgets doing; and it’s also exactly what a small business should be very focussed on too.
People talk of cash flow shortages as being the main reason for failure, and certainly businesses that can’t manage their cash flow are treading a thin line. The real reason most businesses fail to reach their full potential though is that their potential customers don’t know they are there, and those all-important sales in the business plan simply fail to materialise.
That’s where PR comes in.
When many small businesses are challenged on what their marketing and PR plan is, too frequently you get blank looks. If you are lucky you will be given a copy of their latest newsletter to existing customers. There is rarely a coherent strategy to make the most of social media, traditional media, and advertising campaigns, none of which need to be expensive or complicated, but all of which are absolutely critical in promoting the business brand.
The way to look at it is that advertising is a way of the business buying some space to tell the world how good it is, which is fine, but it can be expensive, and in today’s cynical world too few people believe or trust the marketing spin.
Social media is smarter and more effective, as it is usually free, and whilst the initial input is from the business, when others ‘share’, any comments gain credibility. But it can be damaging when the trending turns against the business rather than for it.
Traditional media on the other hand is much more controlled, and has the benefit of an independent third party making the comment or recommendation in their article, as well of course as it being free.
So, you might like to consider using an inexpensive, but helpful, PR platform, such as JournoLink, to manage a small business PR strategy and engage with journalists and bloggers. It need not be a luxury available only to big companies. It should be an affordable and critical piece of the success jigsaw.
Submitted by Ben Caine, Client Manager, JournoLink
4th January, 2017 No Comments
Raising finance can be a difficult task. Entrepreneurs and experienced businessmen alike are talking about ‘the banks not lending’. This is also a common headline used in the press when writing about the economy and recession. When faced with such a statement, you often have to ask “So where have you looked? What lenders have you approached? Who else?”
Access to credit is vital for businesses to expand, develop new products and, ultimately, contribute to economic growth. Business West’s Quarterly Economic Survey – part of the British Chambers of Commerce national survey, which is a highly respected snapshot of economic conditions for business – asks ‘What barriers to growth have you experienced?’ and, consistently, one of the top answers is always access to finance.
Yes, lending has reduced since before the recession, but could this statistic potentially be somewhat due to a lack of knowledge of the different sources available? 71% of small business owners, in an AXA survey, said they had not heard of crowd funding and 54% were unaware of the existence of peer-to-peer lending.
In these uncertain political times, alternative sources of funding can offer a huge boost to small businesses and are an increasingly viable option for growth. Some people may say traditional methods of raising finance, such as banks, aren’t what they used to be, even though banks were never meant to be the ‘be all and end all’ when it comes to investment. It is important for business owners to understand the wealth of other opportunities out there, some which come with greater control. For example, Self Directed Pension Schemes are under used and arguably under rated for the purposes of assisting business growth. Pension-led funding is a type of commercial finance which offers an alternative to traditional business funding, such as bank loans or overdrafts, and involves using business owners’ accrued pension funds to invest in their own companies. Pension-led funding doesn’t require personal guarantees and enables you to use Intellectual Property (IP) as a legitimate asset class, which broadens the opportunity further. More than 1,300 businesses in the UK have successfully used this type of funding.
Other options including equity crowdfunding have become much more popular in the last few years, but it can be much tougher to pitch successfully online than clients anticipate – seeking advice beforehand is highly recommended. Angel investor funding can also offer mentoring support alongside investment, but valuations can be tight in some sectors and the process can be time consuming, so it’s definitely worth speaking to an expert to look at all the options available, then weighing up the pros and cons.
There are also other forms of finance such as grants. Grants are pots of funding for a specific purpose and are usually match funded. To find out if there are any grants to suit your purpose and to check eligibility criteria, visit the Gov Support Finder.
What businesses need to understand is that there are other ways to access funding and different solutions can be found. But, it’s important to ask, why should someone lend to you or your business? The answer is they shouldn’t, unless you can prove to them that you are worth investing in.
Written by Tara Gillam, Head of Enterprise at Business West delivering business support in the South West.