Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Being Creative In Your Business

Recently, I participated in a discussion on one of my social networking sites that was really interesting. We were discussing creative marketing strategies. During this conversation, I became aware of a marketing strategy being used by a marketer that I found to be just plain silly. This marketer was sending out mail pieces - the kind you get in your mailbox - inviting people to become affiliates, or partners in his business, with $5.00 postage due. I wouldn't consider this to be a strategy, but apparently it worked for this marketer. Some people accepted the mail, paid the $5.00 postage due, just to find out what this person was trying to do. Others refused the mail, obviously not wanting to pay $5.00 postage.
This approach doesn't make sense.
Here this person was, asking people to start a relationship with him, a joint venture, and making them pay for the request. Not exactly a way to start a relationship with people you want to do business with. You want to make sure when you are starting a relationship especially a joint venture that you start the relationship out on the right foot. Asking someone to pay to get your mail piece for the joint venture is not moving in the right direction to get them to join your joint venture or affiliate program.
All business owners want to do things just a little different, a little off-the-wall, outrageous, and sometimes even a little controversial just to get attention, (and yes, we all do things just to get attention sometimes), but his strategy or tactic was just plain silly. It's just really bad etiquette to send someone a mail piece, requesting them to do business and expect them to pay for postage.
So, think about this, and other things you may be doing, or your staff may doing, in your business right now, that might not make much sense, that might be silly, or that might be sending the wrong message to people you want to do business with. Bad etiquette and other silly mistakes might be costing you business, money, relationships and sales - all the things that are so precious to us in business.
Take a look at your business and how you do things to see where you might be making silly mistakes and stop making them. When you plan ahead and you use strategy, you won't make silly mistakes because you will have thoroughly thought out what you are doing and why.
Diane Conklin is an internationally known author, entrepreneur, coach, consultant, event planner, speaker and copywriter. Diane is a direct response marketing expert who specializes in showing small business owners how to integrate their online and offline marketing strategies, media and methods, to get maximum results from their marketing dollars. As a marketing and business strategist, Diane shows entrepreneurs and small business owners how to outperform their competition by measuring their marketing, and strategically use multi-media campaigns to stand alone in their marketplace as the go-to provider for their products and services.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Health and Safety Failures in Catering Could Become More Expensive

UK Employers have a responsibility to protect their workers from accidents and injury while they are doing their jobs and equally employees must take care to carry out tasks in a safe manner.
The process of ensuring safe working practices and environments is regulated by the Health and Safety Executive and this is also the body that investigates any accidents that may have happened.
From October 1 2012 new legislation will be in force that will make it even more important to employers to ensure their Health and Safety practises are carried out, monitored and enforced as carefully as possible, because the cost of not doing so will fall on them.
The new rules permit the HSE to charge businesses for any investigation, reports and enforcement action it may carry out if an accident happens at a workplace. At a rate of £124 an hour this is something employers cannot afford to ignore.
An employer must ensure that equipment and the working environment is as safe as possible and to ensure that employees are given proper training in working safely, protective equipment and clothing if their job requires it.
Extraction systems are often part of the safety equipment that is needed in many working environments, for example where a process involves potentially hazardous fumes or duct being inhaled.
Canopy and extraction systems are generally a part of any large-scale catering kitchen and are normally placed directly over the cookers to help extract steam and the oils and particles dissolved in them to keep the kitchen environment as clean and dry as possible.
However, such systems are only as efficient as the maintenance and cleaning can make them and therefore a regular schedule of canopy and extract cleaning is an important part of the Health and Safety process.
Kitchen fires are a major hazard in the catering industry and frequently the seat of the fire is found on investigation to have been in the extract system. The reason for this is that ductwork is an ideal place for dust and debris to settle and also because oils of various types are part of the cooking process and therefore any air extracted through filters and into the system is likely to contain dissolved oil or grease.
Professional canopy and filter cleaning services can ensure that the filters do not become clogged and are replaced as often as needed, depending on the normal work pattern of the kitchen, how frequently meals are cooked and of what type of food.
Once the new HSE charges are in operation any investigation, particularly of fires, is likely to include requests to see evidence of a kitchen extract and canopy cleaning regime and an inability to provide such records is likely to add to the costs of dealing with any injury to employees or damage to the building or equipment.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Tips to Improve Online Sales Conversion

My website is giving me too many leads! Now you are probably thinking 'And this is a problem?". Not if you have a fully automated online business where customers can buy and fulfillment happens with little or no interaction. But what if you have a service business that requires phone calls or quotes to build relationships or close the sale?
This is the problem recently raised by a local business owner who updated and optimized his website. Within weeks, the number of calls and emails exploded - that's the good news. But they were not responding to them in a timely manner - that's the bad news. In the short-term, this hurts your sales conversion rate; in the long-term it may damage your reputation for dependability and responsiveness.
So how do you avoid this? First, remember that your business systems need to change as your business and revenue grows. If you expect growth from a new or improved strategy (and you should), keep this in mind - and prepare for it. In his case, the procedure for handling online leads worked when they trickled in, but didn't when they more than quadrupled.
Next, use technology, anticipate issues and simplify what you do. Here's a few things we did to demonstrate this point:
  • Avoid vague contact forms. You need their name, phone and email, but most website contact forms use a comment box to gather more information. They often leave you wondering what action the prospect wants you to take. Do they want you to call or simply email them information? Add a 'How can we help you' section and list the specific options.
  • Screen leads. Add one or two specific questions to your contact form to help you screen and prioritize. Make them simple and don't over-do it. Those that are truly seeking your service will typically take the time to answer them; tire kickers may not.
  • Make quotes efficient. If someone wants a quote, take them to a separate form and gather most (or all) of the relevant information. Having information before you call makes it more productive so you can spend time asking great, probing questions - the kind that actually help you convert prospects to customers down the road!
  • Make auto-responders count. Most websites have a default 'confirmation' message that goes out when people send a contact form email. Customize yours to begin educating customers - benefits you provide, why you are unique, expectations on return calls. Remember, this is the first direct communication from you - make it count.
  • Use templates. What are the top 5-7 requests, questions or issues you receive via your contact forms? Develop email responses that address them - and use them consistently. Whether you use an auto-responder software program or manually cut and paste, they will save you time and customers will receive consistent, concise information.
  • Publish FAQ's on your website. These provide a simple, easy way to answer common questions prospects have about your products or services - in a well thought-out way. They can help reduce non-essential emails or calls leaving you more time to focus on the important ones. Most businesses have some of these for customer service reps or receptionists to use. Clean them up and put them on your website.
Plus, here is a bonus when it comes to publishing frequently asked questions. It gives you the chance to include questions you WISH customers would ask - but often don't because they simply don't know they should. I'm sure you have a few in mind! Use them to reinforce your uniqueness, value and benefits. In a question and answer format, they sound less promotional! Take advantage of it.
If you are struggling to convert online leads - whether you get a lot or a little - take a look at the entire process. Is it efficient and effective? Does it save you time and money? Is it convenient and responsive for prospects? Then get to work and make some changes.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The Essential Elements for Setting Up Your Limited Company

People start companies for many reasons but you can save a great deal of time, trouble and money by understanding the basic issues before you start. There are five key roles in a company which I will explain below. In small companies, one person may perform more than one of these but you must realise that they are separate functions even if performed by the same person.
1. Owners
A company is owned by shareholders who share in the profit of the business by taking dividends in proportion to their shareholding. A new company with only one owner usually has only one share which has a nominal value of £1. That means that the shareholder is only liable for a maximum of £1 should the company fail. These days companies do not need to specify the maximum share capital when they are formed. New shares can be issued to new shareholders as necessary and different classes of shares can be created.
2. Managers
The directors run the company in the interests of the shareholders. They may also be shareholders themselves, but they need to understand clearly their role is to manage the business and they have a duty to work on behalf of the shareholders. A company therefore must have at least one director. Most company directors will be required to complete a Self Assessment Tax Return. You will need to declare whether a director has any other directorships when applying to form the company.
3. Employees
Staff may be employed to work in the company. To start with that is often one of the directors but eventually you may employ others. Once a company employs staff it will need to set up a payroll scheme. There is scope for tax planning when a shareholder is also an employee when there is a potential tax saving by taking dividends rather than salary. You should ask for professional advice to ensure directors receive a salary to at least the National Insurance threshold to maintain their National Insurance Contribution record and.
4. Administration
You can now (since the 2006 Companies Act was enacted) choose whether to have a Company Secretary. For a small company they do not need any particular qualifications. If you set up the company without a Company Secretary, then one of the directors will be responsible for the administration of the company and they will need to be organised as they are responsible for ensuring that the statutory company paperwork - accounts, corporation tax return and annual return are completed and filed on time. If you set up the company with a company secretary, then an accountant can perform this function for you for a small fee.
5. Accounts
You will need to keep accounting records carefully from the start of the business for two reasons; both to enable you to monitor the progress of the business as well as allow you to prepare the annual accounts. Many businesses wait until the year and to organise their records but my experience is that this is usually mistake. It would be much better to seek advice on how to keep your records at the start of the business so that you start as you need to go on.
Make sure you obtain professional advice when you start the company so that you clearly understand the issues before you start. Preparation is crucial and good advice is always worth listening to. Plenty of people start and run companies successfully so why shouldn't you?

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Industries Can Benefit From the Use of Wireless Control Systems

Technological changes are taking place at every moment. Wireless remote controls too are recent developments that are being used in various industries to maintain and control huge machines.
Benefits of Using Them
Through the use of wireless control systems, industrial devices are easily accessed from remote networks. This procedure eliminates physical presence and effort at the site. These systems offer wider coverage, flexibility, safety, increased productivity, cost saving and mobility.
Modern manufacturers are improving upon designs and producing unique wireless systems that can take on large loads of work at the same time without compromising on safety in the work field.
Industrial remote systems work in pretty much the same way as traditional remotes. When a button is pressed on the device, radio waves are sent to the device to be controlled. The receiver unit decodes the signal and carries out the command. It's amazing to know that these devices can be used to receive and send signals from huge distances; they are so powerful that they can even penetrate walls.
Sectors where they are being used
Wireless control systems are being used for different applications in different sectors such as tank truck loading, air craft refueling, industrial petroleum, bulk transport driver authorization, fueling control, leak detection, crane service trucks etc.
When they are certified by registered associations for safety, they can also be employed in explosive environment. This is the reason why they are being used in proportional hydraulic systems, industrial petroleum sectors, anhydrous ammonia or LPG bulk transports.
Popular Applications
Remote control systems are widely used in transport leak detection. A fully automatic leak detection system is able to inspect leaks from anhydrous ammonia or propane. The unit itself is low powered but can monitor different types of hose assemblies and piping during loading and unloading processes.
The emergency shutdown system is another popular use for remote system. This has been basically developed to avoid using manual emergency shutdown switches and hand wiring. Any number of radio transmitters can be installed within an area of 1000ft of a control system. There is no need to change any of the already safety equipment in place.
Commercial vehicles make use of driver authorization systems to prevent their unauthorized movement. This increases the safety and curtails the unauthorized use of vehicles. Controls can be used in conjunction with existing machines.
Wireless control systems are also used for aircraft refueling in industrial applications that require operator to machine contact. When fitted with a frequency hopping spread spectrum technology, interference free control of system is ensured.
If any of these above industries is your area of interest, you should definitely consider installing remote control systems. They are sure to increase the safety and productivity at the work site.