Archive for the ‘Market/Marketing Research’ Category

Employing young women

With recruitment issues way at the back of many companies’ minds in the current economy, this may seem like weird timing to raise the issue of the potential ‘risk’ involved in employing young women:

Will she decide to go off and have babies?
If she’s already a mother, what happens when one of her children is sick?

Some years ago I needed to recruit people (admittedly on a temporary basis) for a telephone marketing research project. It was my first in that role for the company and I decided to opt for 10 part timers rather than 5 full timers (there were good reasons for this – contact me direct to know more) and I was going to be a ‘model’ employer ;-): The best 5 males and the best 5 females would be taken on, trained and have a two-week trial period.

It was a tough one that entailed a) identifying and b) conducting a 45-minute telephone interview with plant directors/managers in specific industries across 3 European countries. The first stage was with English speaking participants though the team had the language capabilities to cover all 3 countries for the roll out.

As it turned out, none of the males ‘made the grade’ whereas all 5 females (including an artistic ‘resting’ film director and a down-to-earth mum of three who had never worked in an office before) were retained and went full time on the project, were introduced to the client and really ‘got into’ their part in the aims of the research. They bonded well as a team with the ‘mum’ naturally herding and taking on additional responsibilities, and each went on to work on further projects as and when their skills were required and they were available.

That didn’t mean that I never took on some smashing blokes to work on later projects, rather that my focus should have been on the best 10, regardless of gender, in the first place.

The point to this?

People will move on; their priorities will change, as will their circumstances. Employers can’t predict when and why. We can only willingly take the opportunity to work with the best as and when it presents itself to us, for as long as it lasts.

I want to give credit to a post I saw earlier today that started off this particular stream of thought: Is it too risky to employ young women? and suggest a mosey over there would be worthwhile – you’ll see input from different and interesting angles and viewpoints…

Enjoy!

Next up: I think it’s time to look at You Plc (unless something extremely topical alters my tack… ;-))


Make your website work for you!

Reading an article this morning that said: “Many small business owners do not have the complete range of skills required and are forced to learn as they go along.”

Well there’s a surprise ;-)! It went on to say:

“A recent survey we carried out at Made Simple Group clearly showed that marketing, and specifically improving visibility to generate new business, were key concerns for many.

In the face of this, it is indeed a surprising, if not extraordinary, statistic that fewer than half of all such businesses have a web presence.

Furthermore, of those small entities which are online, it is estimated that a large proportion are failing to promote their businesses properly.”

Making the most of your website presence is one area where the Davids of the business world can successfully compete against the Goliaths, so why shouldn’t you? It’s far less down to how much money you throw at it than how wisely you invest whatever budget you have. Your ‘budget’ is going to be a mixture of your time and maybe some money to be most effective:

  • What do you want your website to say about you to whom?
  • What do you want it to do?
  • How will the people you want to visit know it’s even there?

Regular visitors will know we don’t as a rule promote business services here. Yet today we’re making an exception, mainly because this particular one gives so much away upfront and proves that the team behind it really knows its stuff.

There’s a lot to read up on and try for yourselves at nikkipilkington.com, so you may want to bookmark it and come back to it several times…


When did you last ask for a referral?

Who do you think will be more predisposed towards you: Someone who doesn’t “know you from Adam” or somebody who has been referred to you by a person they respect?

Especially in times of economic uncertainty people will be careful who they spend their money with. So if you think it’s non-u to ask for a referral, isn’t it about time you got over it?

Another thing is that a customer who refers a potential client to you once could and would refer many more if sufficiently motivated to do so.

American research has shown that the average person has an immediate scope of influence over at least 50 similar people. That’s potentially 50 new clients from each existing satisfied customer. Yet the average satisfied customer only tells three people of his or her good experience.

So the moral of the story is:

Ask for referrals and reward them appropriately.


You’ve dived into business… How’s the water?

Maybe you’ve found that the water’s muddy and cold. If you’re struggling to be seen as more than a commodity – the market’s less buoyant and people are buying on price – now’s the time to look at doing one of 2 things and they’re not that different:

If you’re not a commodity you need to recognise your unique value from your customer‘s viewpoint and maximise it.

If you are a commodity, what is there a demand for that people aren’t currently buying from you but would in sufficient numbers if they knew you stocked it? Or what added value in terms of service could you bring to the equation that your customers would really appreciate?

Think:

  • IT Specialist service versus Computer World
  • Local Stationer versus Viking Direct
  • Travel Agent versus the Internet
  • Corner shop versus supermarket

Being a lovely, genuine person and good at what you do isn’t necessarily enough to bring the business rolling in with no effort on your part, especially when times are tough.

So now think David rather than Goliath (we all know who won that battle):

  • Why you’re in business
  • What your products and services help your customers achieve
  • How you’re different from the best of the rest

These are all equally as important to you as to corporates and you don’t need consultants or big budgets to help you – you may need to think a bit differently but remember you know your business better than anyone else.

And who better to help yoiu out than your current best customers?

Time invested in getting this whole area right is worth its weight in gold! Make sure you’ve got the basics right – quickly – and build on solid foundations.


Are 12 of you ready to up your game?

As you can see by the side bar, we’ve been concentrating on helping people who are finding themselves out of a job get the best possible perspective on how to handle their predicament and get themselves back earning.

So apologies to the thousands of you who visit this site and read our blogs if you feel we’ve been neglecting you over the last couple of months!

We really appreciate all of you yet are currently looking to work directly with 12 special people. Are you one of those 12?

Many people who come to us want things in their business and their lives to be better. They’re genuine and they mean it but often not enough to put the effort into making it happen: That’s mind, body and soul.

How many times do you think, just before sleep takes over: “Wow! Today was awesome!”?

So try this equation:

Self esteem = Reality
__________
Expectation

If your reality isn’t what you want it to be, just a little way off, or nowhere near, do you say: “I deserve more than this and so do the people I care about” and up your game? Or do you lower your expectations?

We’re looking for 12 people who are determined to up their game – are you one of them?

If you believe you are, give us a call on +44 (0)20 7209 1284 business hours GMT


Avoid Business Growing Pains

We all know people who’ve lost or nearly lost their business.

We hear how they’ve been “stitched up” by rogues or, at the very least, let down by incompetents whom they’ve charged with responsibility for sales, marketing, financial, legal or IT issues and it’s all gone horribly wrong.

So how did they allow this to happen? Well, in hindsight they’ve obviously made the wrong choice(s). Brilliant. We know that in hindsight we all have 20:20 vision. So how do we get the 20:20 before we get to the potential disaster?

The two obvious ways are:

  • You buy in the expertise you need from somebody proven to actually be able to do the job well (outsourced or employed)
  • You learn how to do it yourself from a reputable source

Yet there are two potential flaws in this (somewhat flippant) answer.

The first assumes that you know at the very least what questions to ask and what answers to expect in order to ascertain whether an individual claiming expertise in any of the essential areas is actually any good at what he/ she does and whether you would be getting value for money in the service you’re paying for.

The second presumes you know where to go, whom to go to, have the time and can make the commitment to learn how to perform these functions to the best of your ability and to the credit and success of your company.

Once again good old common sense has an often sadly ignored role in this. What about a middle ground where you could pool teaching and learning skills, gradually building mutual trust and without anybody spending huge amounts of money :)?

Networking groups abound yet they seem to be set up with the prime reason (if not sole purpose) to introduce and refer business rather than trading skills and services.

You may have tried networking and love or hate your experiences of it. It doesn’t really matter for our purposes here because, regardless, you will know at least some people whom you trust and who can either help you directly or put you in contact with someone who can.

  • Start inviting people who are each as good in their field as you are in yours to come and talk to each other
  • Ask how willing they are to help each other
  • Find out what additional help they in turn need and build a group that ultimately can fulfil all, or at least most of your collective business skills needs

It’s a good idea to agree a unit value for each function – an hourly, daily or part-day rate is usually favourite. Then barter time where possible either to perform the function for each other or use that time (where practical) to teach/ show how to do it. I prefer the latter for reasons I’ll go into further down the line.

Introduce members gradually and monitor the value of their contributions. Some may turn out to be mainly “takers”: They’ll pay for the services on offer that they need rather than really enter into the spirit of the group. And that may be perfectly acceptable until somebody else comes along and wants to join who does what they do but wants to give, too. You just have to decide as you go along what’s in the best interests of the group.

Try it out and let me know how you get on :).


Control Costs, Win And Keep Customers

More than 40% of small firms want more support to survive the recession, according to research by Lloyds TSB Commercial.

  • Two thirds of firms put advice on controlling cost top of the agenda
  • 60% want advice on attracting customers
  • 44% want help on how to keep them

So we had a quick look around the guides on website and watched the customer video.
And it’s the Lloyds TSB customer (business owner) input that’s really down to earth:

  • Keep your name out there
  • Bring the customers in
  • Look at your sales figures weekly not monthly or quarterly
  • Keep in close contact with everyone to avoid nasty surprises: Bank Manager, Accountant, Suppliers, Customers
  • Provide value for money: Maintain quality and standards
  • Don’t be too inward looking
  • Keep a keen eye on budgeting, planning and cash flow
  • Tighten credit management – it’s often not necessarily bad debt but too slow payers
  • When you get your customers look after them: Understand their problems

We’ve picked up on the final point we’ve listed from the video and the fact that many small firms want help on how to keep customers.

Lloyds TSB has a Guide on Market Research. They’re right to have it up there yet we believe they’re wrong not to put it into perspective as, in our experience, small firms tend to see this is as questionable expenditure in good times, let alone in a recession.

Focus groups need an experienced facilitator and should probably be outsourced to a company that knows its stuff – once you’ve decided on what the purpose is and that focus groups are the best way to achieve it.

On the other hand, telephone market research is something many small businesses can do themselves with a little thought and preparation. And the good news is, if you provide good products or services, you should find that your customers are happy to help you.


+44 (0)20 7209 1284

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"I was very impressed by Linda's determination to help and the constructive, but persistent, manner in which she identified issues and then tried to resolve them. After recent progress I was again reaching a stage where I seemed to be spinning my wheels, and she has given me fresh impetus to start moving forward again."

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