Posts from the ‘Business Growth’ Category
May 12th, 2017
Not every horse is a unicorn – but a strong, healthy, energetic horse is still an excellent animal. I think the endless quest for unicorns (who, let’s remember, are a mythical beast) does a disservice to all the businesses and start-ups and ideas out there that will never be a unicorn but have the makings of being bloody good horses. The focus on unicorns (“high growth companies”) is a greedy way of doing things. It says that the only things worth investing support, effort and money in are the things that are going to pay back big time to those investing. But what’s wrong with investing in ideas and businesses that have a solid idea, will create some jobs, will generate decent incomes for some people and will eventually provide a reasonable (but not astronomical) pay off?
It’s the difference between, “Look at me – I caught a unicorn!!” and “Yeah, nice unicorn – check out my stable full of rugged ponies”. In the long run, I think the ponies will be more useful.
Which is why I was pleased and pleasantly surprised to read this announcement from Ignite. Seems I’m not alone in thinking that we’d be wiser to look after our ponies.
April 25th, 2014
Co-working space is an important ingredient for a thriving Creative & Digital scene. Suitable spaces have been in short supply in Sheffield, but now I’m starting to see more being created.
I recently visited Studio 505 at The Workstation which is my idea of an almost perfect space. It’s a big, bright room with a mixture of desks, tables and sofas, great WiFi and the added bonus of Macs complete with a variety of useful software.
Studio 505 operates on a membership basis (£36 a month including VAT) and that gives you 24/7 access. You’ve got the Site Gallery cafe and the Showroom cafe on your doorsteps – although, granted, you have to carry your coffee back up to the 5th floor ;-)
I also heard recently about plans for a space on Unity Street, to be run by the same people who run the CADS centre in Shalesmoor. And I believe there’s a space run by G Media in their Bells Square office, although I think that is rent-a-desk rather than co-working.
I’m compiling a list of co-working spaces in Sheffield so please let me know if you run one or use one that you’d recommend.
March 3rd, 2014
Last week, I went along to the Internet Icons event at Electric Works. It featured Sheffield’s own Andy Mayer from Yoomee, followed up by a panel of digital entrepreneurs live streamed from the British Library in London.
Let’s start with Andy – he had four lovely tips for people starting up their own digital businesses:
- Make sure what you do is what you love. Would you do it without pay? It’s this passion that will keep you going through the hard times and Andy believes you can turn any passion into a business.
- You need to be transparent to succeed in the digital world. Share your plans and what makes you tick – this attracts like minded people. And beware of vanity metrics – what’s important is people who care.
- Give it lots of time. To break the rules you must first master them. Stick at what you’re doing for at least six years.
- Make space to be creative. Work doesn’t happen at work. You need to give your mind time to quiet down and be playful and give yourself room to make decisions.
Then it was time to listen to the panel, which was made up of Nick Robertson of ASOS, Kathryn Parsons of Decoded and Nick Jenkins from Moonpig.com.
All three were interesting and entertaining speakers. I won’t try and summarise their talks but here are a few key points that I took away:
From Nick Robertson:
- Keep it tight, be focused. And stay flexible.
- Be prepared to kiss a few frogs and don’t sell out too soon – grow it and build it instead.
- You are your business – you are the one who motivates people.
From Kathryn Parsons:
- If you’re not sure what your passion is, have a look at your bookshelf. And don’t get put off – it can be fun to do the impossible.
From Nick Jenkins:
- Make sure you understand the value of your customers versus the cost of customer acquisition.
- Watch what your competitors are doing – they can show you the way.
- Be decisive – hire good people and then let them get on with it.
- Look after your people – money shouldn’t be the reason for them to stay or go.
And finally, a theme that ran throughout the event was around marketing and what to do when you don’t have a large budget for executing marketing tactics. All three panelists talked about how their customers do their marketing for them – something which doesn’t just apply to online businesses.
It was also interesting to watch the tweeting during the event. Have a look at #BLicons – the stream captured lots of other highlights as well as questions from the audience in London and at live stream venues around the country.
March 13th, 2013
So, let me begin by saying I’m not advocating that we all “Tune in, turn on and drop out”*. It’s just that I’ve had a number of conversations recently that have all boiled down to the same basic principle:
If you want to make your marketing / communication successful, you need to get out of your own head and into the heads of your customers / audience.
Whether you’re trying to put together a basic flyer to take to an event, or thinking about how to structure a website, or planning a presentation, or wanting to develop new product or service offerings – the same principle applies.
Now, I’m the first to admit that this is often easier said than done. It’s natural for your perspective to be focused on your business when you’re working in it every day. But making the effort to change that perspective often provides powerful insight.
For example, you may discover that what you thought you were selling is actually not what your customers think they are buying from you (yes, really!). Or you may realise that the level of information you are providing is out of sync with the problems or needs that your customers have, so it doesn’t encourage them to buy. Or you may trigger a line of thinking that opens up a new market for your services. I could go on . . .
. . . but in the meantime, why not give it a try? And if you’d like some help, well, you know where I am.
PS – if you don’t get the “Tune in, turn on, drop out” reference, it’s me showing my age: it’s a phrase popularised by uber-hippy Timothy Leary back in the 60s. And I hasten to add that I wasn’t there!
October 29th, 2012
I spent an enjoyable couple of hours at the University of Huddersfield last week, presenting a session on Market Research to students involved in the University’s Enterprise programme. The brief was to give an introduction to why you need to do research and how to do it, in an hour (!). So, it was a bit of whirlwind tour, and I’m grateful to the students for sticking with me and putting a lot of thought and effort into the interactive parts of the workshop.
What I found interesting was the question that came up the most. It revolved around pricing and I think what people were trying to get to was “How do you work out what to charge?”, by way of “How do you find out what people are prepared to pay?”. We didn’t have time to get into the nuts and bolts of how you structure survey questions to uncover what people really think, but I wonder now if we should really have been having a discussion about value rather than price.
Perhaps one of the hardest things when you’re starting up in business is to work out what to charge. If you’ve got experience of your sector, then you have a starting point, but there is always the temptation to charge less because you’re a new business. That’s why I think it’s important to focus on the value you can deliver to your customers and resist the inclination to win business simply by being cheaper. It takes some bravery, but it pays off in the long run.
October 3rd, 2012
In my post ‘Why you should learn to love research’, I mentioned that you should ‘ask your customers’. I think this is a vital and often overlooked way of gaining real insight into a target market.
Somewhere in your customer base, there is a friend. Recognise that they are an expert source of market intelligence and don’t be afraid to ask for their feedback or for an ‘off-the-record’ chat. What is the market like for them right now? How are your competitors coping? What do we need to do more of to better support you?
Getting the real customer view will not only help you get rid of your assumptions but will also help bring that customer even closer. People love to be asked their opinion, especially if you then act on it – there in an element of enhancing brand loyalty naturally built in to this method.
So, next time you speak to your favourite customer, either face to face or on the phone, why not ask them what’s happening in their world? Test your hunch, make better decisions, improve your service, encourage two-way communication and build a better business. What’s not to like?
August 29th, 2012
Many (many) years ago, as I embarked on my career in communications, I was taught a magic formula: RACE. It’s a very simple mnemonic for planning any kind of campaign: Research, Analysis, Communication, Evaluation. I’m sure that there are many others like it, in marketing and other industries.
Note where it starts: Research. The boring bit, the hard work bit, the “don’t even know where to start with this” bit. But, also, the crucial bit.
For smaller businesses, finding the time and resources to do your market research can be a challenge in itself. But it’s still important to avoid the temptation to market on a hunch. Business owners are close to their business, close to their products and services. They have to be. So it’s easy to fall into the trap of “just knowing” what your customers are thinking, or what the opportunities are for your new product or service idea.
I’m afraid that when someone tells me “marketing doesn’t work” or “it’s a waste of money” or “it’s not right for my business”, I can usually be pretty sure that they haven’t done their research before splurging precious budget on a bunch of new brochures or a high volume email campaign.
The good news is, market research doesn’t have to be a chore and it doesn’t have to be expensive. There are plenty of interesting, creative ways to gather vital intelligence about the ecosystem your business is operating in. And, in my opinion, any information that you can pull together that helps you to test your hunch and make better decisions before you start your marketing activity is worth the time and effort.
Here’s a few TigerNash Top Tips on how to inject some enthusiasm into your market research:
- Draw pictures – thinking about your business in a visual way can give you a whole new perspective. Try mind-mapping the environment you operate in, or the problems that your customers have.
- Get online – the internet opens doors to places it was hard to go before. Have a good look at your competitors, especially the ones you think are really good. (And, believe me, every business has competitors – if you think you don’t, ask yourself “what else do my customers spend money on?”)
- Recognition – who’s winning awards in your field? How and what for?
- Stay fresh – involve everyone in the business (even if there’s only two of you). You never know where insight or a fresh approach to gathering information might come from.
- Ask your customers – after all, you want more people like them, right? (More on this in my next post.)
When putting this post together, we did some digging into the “Steve Jobs didn’t believe in market research” myth. It turns out that it’s not that he didn’t believe in market research, it’s that he just didn’t do it. Why? Because he didn’t need to. Apple’s team consists of the world’s best designers, developers, marketers and more, all with a passion for the product. The steps they follow to innovation ensure as near product perfection as possible. And you can be absolutely sure they know their market. For more on this, read this fascinating article by Alain Breillatt.
August 7th, 2012
Trade shows are very often set in stone in the marketing calendar and an established business is likely to attend without fail every year just to show competitors and attendees that they’re still alive and kicking. It’s easy to fall into the habit of attending and lose sight of whether you’re really getting business benefit from being there.
However, with budgets tighter than ever, trade shows need to demonstrate ROI. After all, it’s not just the cost of the exhibition space and your stand, it’s the time and effort as well.
Here’s a few TigerNash Top Tips for making the most of Trade Shows:
1. Events should not sit in isolation. They are part of your overall marketing strategy. If they’re not, why are you attending? Think how your event sits alongside other ongoing promotions, customer engagement activity and your brand values.
2. Preparation is key. Allow long lead times and use every form of marketing, including social networking, to create a buzz about your attendance to your target audiences. Don’t forget the journalists, the show press office and your press packs!
3. Know what you’re promoting. A stand that gives a clear message about a benefit that’s relevant to the visitors attending the event is going to attract more interest than something generic.
4. Size doesn’t matter; creativity does. Larger stands do not equate to more custom. Shrinking your stand size will free up budget to be spent on a fresh approach. Make any stand friendly and inviting; create talking points and avoid physical barriers.
5. Make the most of your time there. Set up some meetings, do some networking, maybe hold a fringe event aimed at the people you want to do business with. Don’t forget to explore opportunities to speak as well.
6. The personal touch. Make sure you have the right people staffing your stand and make sure they are well prepared and have the confidence to approach visitors.
7. Evaluate and follow up. Make event follow up part of your attendance plan; perhaps stay away an extra night or keep out of the office for a day and follow up contacts, prioritise leads and action tasks. Track and review the success of the show for the next 12 months.
Marketing Donut has some great advice, especially about wearing comfortable shoes! We’d recommend having bottles of water on hand too – all that talking is thirsty work.
May 28th, 2012
TigerNash Ltd officially starts trading on 1st July 2012. Meanwhile, here is our lovely website, over which we have sweated, agonised and learned to love WordPress.
We’d like to say “thank you” to a few people who helped us get this far:
- Dan Moat of Tahninial for answering our WordPress dummy questions.
- Camilla Umar of Cut Out and Keep for helping bring the TigerNash logo to life.
- All the cool dudes at The Theme Foundry, who created the theme we’ve used and who answered our questions as quickly as they could, given that they are thousands of miles away.
- And whoever created www.freenaturepictures.com and www.freewildlifepictures.com, for the tiger photos.
Lastly, the gorgeous tiger above is the work of Hannah Tomlinson, although she’d probably be embarrassed that I’ve used it because she drew it when she was a lot younger.