Tag Archives: websites

Where do Small Businesses get their Sales Leads?

We took a look at the Success in Challenging Times: Key Lessons for UK SMEs report from the University of Surrey a couple of days ago. We have already written a blog post on its findings about how start-ups and small businesses finance themselves. But the research covers some other interesting areas including the networks that small businesses in the UK use to generate leads and grow their profile.

It is easy to spend a lot of money very quickly on advertising and marketing without getting much of a return. For many businesses the key to success is getting their products and services in front of the right people at the right time. While there are lots of excellent marketing books out there it is also useful to know what real small businesses think are the best ways to promote their businesses. The University of Surrey research asked people to grade different types of networking activity on a scale from ‘Not Important at All’ to ‘Extremely Important’. Taking the figures from the important side of this scale we can see that small businesses consider a wide range of networking activities to have some importance. By far the most important networking activity was found to be earning direct referrals to their business through personal contacts. This supports what most marketing research says in that face to face referrals are the best form of advertising any business could have. The fact that SEO shows up as the second most important factor shows the continuing importance websites as a marketing tool for small businesses.

Networking for small businesses

The rest of the networking activities that small businesses found to be important were a mix of online and offline activities. Chambers of Commerce meetings and Business Mentors were both seen as important (although the researchers point out that a large proportion of their survey sample were Chambers of Commerce members, perhaps distorting the figures). It is interesting that different online social networks varied in importance with Linkedin being seen as important by 44% of small businesses but Facebook seen as important by only 24% of small businesses.

However when we look at the networking activities that small businesses felt were ‘Extremely Important’ we can see that the ratings for all of the social networks drop below 10%. In fact the only networking activities that are really seen as being Extremely Important are direct personal referrals and website marketing through Search Engine Optimization. The University of Surrey research also found that creating websites is one of the most common things for small businesses to outsource.

Networking Activities for small Business

So if you are starting or trying to build a small business then getting a website built is going to be important. However the most important thing that you can do to promote your business is encourage your network to make direct referrals to your business.

How to Register a Domain Name

Securing your company’s domain name is now nearly as important as securing your company name. Your domain name will be your company’s name online. It will be your website address & form half of your email address. It will feature alongside your company name on your business cards, signs and other communications. When choosing company names it is therefore worth thinking about what domain names are available. Equally when choosing a company name it is now worth thinking about how it will do in the search engines.

Registering a domain is simple. You can use a domain name search like the one on our website to find ones that are available. When registering domain names it is worth going through an official registrar rather than a reseller as there is one less layer of people to deal with if things go wrong (and one less layer of people looking for a cut of your money). Nominet are the UK domain authority and keep a list of registrars (we are there under our registrar tag COMPANYWAREHOUSE).

Once you find a domain you like it is a simple process of handing over some payment details and placing your order. Domains can typically be registered for between 1 and 10 years at a time. Once your domain is registered you need to link it to a website and to the servers that website is hosted on. This is done through the DNS system, the exact procedure for this varies from registrar to registrar but it is usually pretty simple.

But what about picking the actual name itself? What should you look for? Our basic checklist would include the following:

  • Make sure you own the .co.uk and .com variations of your company name (even if it is only to stop anyone else getting them)
  • Look at keyword domains. Research what people search for to buy your product or service. People are more likely to search for ‘garages Chelmsford’ than ‘Smith and Sons Garage’. Using keywords in your domain will help you to attract more visitors.
  • Keep your domain short. 15 characters is about the limit.
  • Avoid hyphens, they make your domain harder to remember and look spammy
  • Go for standard Top Level Domains such as .co.uk & .com these look more credible
  • Before buying any domain name do a normal web search for it and see what comes up. If there is another website with a very similar name avoid it.

Whatever name you pick you are likely to be stuck with it for a while. Changing the domain name on your website will reset the site as far as the search engines are concerned. Having said that, remember there is nothing to stop you from having multiple websites with different domain names catering for your business name, keywords and combinations of the two.

If you would like help picking a domain name for your business get in touch with our Business Consultants and they can talk you through the options.

What is copyright and why does your business need to know about it?

Copyright for business Copyright is one of the 4 main types of intellectual property recognised in the UK. It is an automatic right which covers ‘original’ creative works. These can include literary works, music, art, images and film. It gives people who have created these works the right to either stop other people from copying them or the right to licence the copying and distribution of the work. In other words it allows you to sell the rights to the work if you choose.

While copyright is most often associated with creative works such as music, literature and film it covers a whole range of other things which may be of more practical use to most businesses. Examples of things which can be covered by copyright include:

  • The layout and content of your company website
  • Your company’s written marketing materials
  • Any images or videos your company produces
  • Logos
  • Diagrams
  • Instruction manuals
  • Computer programmes
  • Blog articles

In some cases these are things you may simply want to stop other people from copying. In others, as with computer programmes or instruction manuals, it may be something your company wants to sell or licence.

Copyright applies automatically to ‘original’ work. You don’t need to register your work or claim the copyright but The Intellectual Property Office recommend that you use the © symbol and put a copyright date on your work. In part this is because copyright expires anywhere between 25 years after the work has been published and 70 years after the author’s death, Having a clear copyright date on your work establishes how long your protection has left to run.

As with many areas of Intellectual Property law there is a degree of vagueness about exactly what is covered. There are no hard and fast rules on what counts as ‘original’ and ultimately this is something which will be decided on a case by case basis by the courts. There is also no central record of copyright protected work so it is up to individuals to make sure that they are not infringing other people’s rights. This can also lead to disputes as to who produced the ‘original’ version of a piece of work.

Because of this slight vagueness over copyright it can be better to use trade marking for logos and company names. This is because there is a central register of trademarks and once your trade mark has been accepted it has very strong and definite legal protection. For areas not covered by trademarks it is reassuring to know that your automatic copyright is in place to stop people profiting from your business’s hard work. .

Company Profile – BeeARTisan

We are involved in creating thousands of companies and we try to keep in touch with as many of them as we can. We have decided to launch a new series of blog posts to highlight some of the more interesting and creative companies who use our services.

Opening our series of company profiles is BeeARTisan. BeeARTisan have already attracted an impressive amount of press coverage with their range of bespoke wedding gifts. They have been featured by a number of wedding websites, events and magazines including Conde Nast Brides. They have also built up a substantial social media following and now using the website we built for them as an eCommerce platform.

Nicholletta who founded BeeARTisan managed to fit answering some of our questions into her busy schedule.

BeeARTisan The Company Warehouse Customer Profile

The Company Warehouse: To start with could you tell us a little bit about yourself and your career background?

Nicholletta: I used to work as a litigation paralegal. Since I was entering my new, current, phase in life with my baby it was time for a change and to start working towards creating a business by turning to my more creative, hands on side.

The Company Warehouse: How did you get the idea for your business?

Nicholletta: My inspiration came from a beekeeping course that I did in High Wycombe.  Becoming a beekeeper as a hobby was fascinating and there was, and there is, still so much to learn from beekeeping. Aside from bee husbandry I have even to learned how to tackle woodworking skills that I never knew I had!

The Company Warehouse: How would you explain what your company does to a potential customer?

Nicholletta: BeeARTisan creates exclusive and bespoke keepsake wedding favors, discerning quality little gifts for the guests. We put pure honey into personalized containers. We have various ranges using materials like 9ct gold, glass, papyrus, brass and terracotta. Because all of the containers are personalized they can double up as guest place holders for wedding banquets or parties.

The Company Warehouse: What have been the biggest challenges and successes in your business so far?

Nicholletta: The biggest challenge without a doubt is finding the best way to showcase to future customers the high quality product BeeARTisan is committed to create.  I believe any new/small company starting out finds this the biggest hurdle to begin with, in simple terms to become known, to become established.  Once a business passes that initial hurdle the hard work does not stop. The business will want to keep proving its worth and for that it needs to focus on its competitive and creative edge. You feel successful when an order is coming in since it is the confirmation, that yes the business has a great product to offer that is in demand.

The Company Warehouse: What advice would you offer to other new business start-ups?

Nicholletta: Starting a new business is hard work, no doubt about that. Be prepared to work all hours of the day to get to where you want to get. Also be prepared to listen to feedback and fine tune your product till you get it right. Be prepared to take calculated risks on budgeting.

The Company Warehouse: Where can customers buy your products?

Nicholletta: BeeARTisan showcases its creations at top established Wedding Fairs in the UK, where orders can be placed.  The next Wedding Shows that are coming up are The National Wedding Show and the Asian Wedding Exhibition.  After that we will be featuring in the ‘Glow’ exhibition in the Bluewater shopping centre. Of course orders can also be placed by visiting BeeARTisan’s website which provides detailed product information and photographs.

Majority of Customers Shop Online. Majority of Businesses Do Not Sell Online

Online Shopping in UK Continues to GrowNot only is the UK population spending more time online they are spending money there as well.

According to research from comScore there are 37.6 million internet users in the UK. These users average 35.1 hours per month online. This places the UK third behind Canada and the USA in terms of online usage. Internet traffic in general is growing year on year with almost all sectors of the internet showing growth.

The UK is one of the biggest ecommerce markets in the worls. 71% of the UK population has bought online, up 4% since 2010. Online shopping in the UK in 2011 totaled over £50 billion, which is 12% of all retail spending. This is predicted to grow to £77 billion in 2012.

However, only 14.9% of all UK businesses sell their goods or services online. With SMEs the figures are even lower with just 14.3% of businesses selling online. The numbers are increasing fast though, with 228,000 UK retailers now trading online, up 30% on last year.

Some businesses clearly won’t be suited to trading online due to the nature of the products or services that they sell. But retailers who can sell online and aren’t are clearly missing out on a large customer base. The barriers to selling online are becoming ever weaker. If your business is not ready to invest in an ecommerce solution then simple payment options such as PayPal can be easily added to your site. Alternatively you can sell through one of the many online marketplaces such as eBay, Etsy or Amazon.

If you want to discuss which option would be best for your business you can speak to one of our Business Consultants on 0800 0828 727.

Get your Business Online: A basic guide to Websites, Social Media and SEO for small businesses.

Online Business Advice for Small CompaniesOur web design and website support team are busier than ever. Virtually every company we speak to wants some kind of online presence, whether that be a simple one page holding site, a full CMS solution or simply a domain name to use with their email.

Most people now recognise the importance of having an online presence for new businesses. 76% of people now use internet search engines as their primary source of information when researching products and businesses. 48% of consumers report combining social media with search engines when making buying decisions. If a new business has no online presence then it is going to struggle to attract customers.

For people who are new to running their own business and new to the online world the variety of products, options and services can be confusing, let alone some of the acronyms and jargon that are used to describe them. The aim of this post is to provide a simple guide for people who are just starting out.

1) A Website

If you want your business to show up in search engines like Google or Bing then you are going to need a website. A good all in one package will include website hosting and technical support so all you will have to do is come up with some text and pictures. When thinking about what website to buy one of the main considerations is how easy it is going to be for you to update. Many websites come with simple Content Management Systems (CMS) that are word like processors. Make sure you look at how this works and that it is easy. Also have a think about whether you want to sell products online now or whether you might want to in the future. Look for websites that have this as an option.

To allow people to find your website you will also need to buy a domain name, which is the address for your website. Try to pick one that includes the name of your business or describes what you do.

2) Website Content

Having a website is great but it needs to have good relevant content (words, pictures, videos). A whole industry has built up around search engine optimization (SEO) which is the art of making your website come first in the search engine results. The top place result in Google will typically get 36% of all clicks while the top 3 get nearly 60% between them. Getting your site to the top of the search engine results is therefore seen as critical to attracting customers. The one piece of advice that all SEO professionals give is that there is no substitute for great content. Having words, pictures and videos that are relevant and interesting is the best way to get people onto your site. When writing your content think about the words someone would type into a search engine like Google if they were trying to find a business like yours.  Make sure that you include these words in the titles of your pages and the rest of your text.

3) Links

One of the ways search engines work out how good a website is, is what other websites link to it. If you are a retailer make sure that suppliers and distributors have links to you from their site. If you are a member of a professional body or local business organisation get them to link as well. A story in the local newspaper about your new business can also be a great source of links. Try to keep the links from relevant websites though. Too many links from irrelevant websites will make your website look bad with the search engines.

4) Maps

If you are a shop, cafe or Bed & Breakfast or similar business where you want people to physically visit your premises then getting your business featured within internet mapping services can be a great way to attract customers. Services like the Bing Business Portal and Google Places allow you to add your business to their maps and include a link to your own website. Increasingly these maps will show up in normal internet searches as well as in specialist map searches. This is a great way to gain extra exposure.

5) Social Media

Social Media is the current hot topic amongst marketing people. The basic theory is that knowing one of your friends likes a business on Facebook, or has recommended them on Twitter, is more likely to convince someone to use that company than a traditional print or TV advert. As services like Twitter and Facebook are essentially free to use they are seen as a better use of a company’s time and money than expensive adverts in local newspapers or magazines. There are lots of books and websites dedicated to social media marketing but the best way to get to grips with it is pick a relatively simple service like Twitter and have a play around. Tell people about what your company does, post pictures of new products and share news stories or links that will be interesting to your customers.

Looking at these basic areas will get the online side of your business off to a good start. Once you have the foundations you can then get more involved in SEO and website analytics to track the impact of what you are doing.

At The Company Warehouse we offer a full range of website services including web design & hosting, CMS websites, domain name registration and SEO reports. If you need any help or advice on getting your business online then get in touch.

What is a CMS Website and Why Does Your New Company Need One?

CMS Websites for Small BusinessMost people accept that even the smallest business needs to have a company website. Research shows that 74% of people now use internet searches as their first port of call when looking for local businesses. The same research shows that 80% of people report researching products and services online before buying them from a local business. If your company does not have a good website then you are going to struggle to attract the majority of your potential customers.

There are many things to consider when setting up a website, including choosing domain names and web hosting, but first you need to decide what type of website you want.

Many small businesses get by with simple 5 or 10 page static websites, or 1 page holding sites. The key word here is static. In practical terms what this means is that you pay a web design company to build you a website which has a limited number of pages. You will give them some content (pictures and text) to upload and once you have agreed on a design they will put it all online for you. Normally this is done for a one off fee. For some businesses startups this can be a good option. The problem with static websites is that if you introduce some new products or services into your business, or need to change prices, or want to promote an offer or news story you cannot easily update your site. Typically you will need to go back to your web designers and pay them to change it for you. This could not only prove to be quite expensive if you are making regular changes, but also introduces delays as you will have to wait for the web designers to be available and then double check their work.

Because of the inflexible nature of static websites we are increasingly encouraging our customers to go for CMS websites. We still handle all of the technical aspects of designing and building the website, hosting it and putting it online but we then give customers control of the website content through the CMS.

CMS stands for Content Management System, in plain English what this means is that we give the customer the ability to add new pages and change the content (pictures and words) on the website themselves. Customers can do this through logging into a simple web page. The level of technical ability needed is the same required in writing an email or creating a Microsoft Word document.

Because customers can use the Content Management System (CMS) to edit their company website themselves it allows them to respond quickly to the needs of their business. So if you decide to offer a new service you can update your company website yourself and have it live on the internet in a couple of minutes. Similarly if you sell out of a key product on a Saturday afternoon you can update the website yourself to let you customers know that your new stock will be arriving on Monday morning.

Updating your website regularly will make it more appealling to customers (and search engines) and stop you from running into problems with out of date information.

If you want to get a good look at how CMS systems work then you can book a demonstration online and have one of our team talk you through it.

New Online Marketing Regulations From March 2011

online-marketingThe Advertising Standards Authority has recently announced that from the 1st of March 2011 its remit will be extended to cover online marketing as well as marketing in the offline world.

This means that your business website and external online market campaigns (using social media like Twitter, Facebook or Linkedin) will be subject to the regulation of the Committee of Advertising Practice Code.

This is to ensure that businesses remain legal, decent and honest in all their marketing campaigns and advertisements, no matter the medium used to get the message to the audience.

The central principle for all marketing communications is that they should be legal, decent, honest and truthful. All marketing communications should be prepared with a sense of responsibility to consumers and society and should reflect the spirit, not merely the letter, of the Code. (CAP Code (Section 1 – Compliance)

The CAP Code is detailed and covers a wide range of areas. You should check to see which areas of the code might affect your business as there are sections covering everything from alcohol to distance selling and motoring.

Avoiding Misleading Advertising

Perhaps the main thing to take away from the upcoming changes is the focus against misleading advertising. Section 3 of the CAP code covers misleading advertising in detail. Broken down into a number of subsections, it includes guidance on obvious exaggerations (“puffery”), exaggerating the performance of a product, making false claims, marketing things as “free” and even making comparisons with competitors.

The CAP provide guidance services to help you ensure that your business meets the code. So with a little help and advice you can be sure that your advertising is in line with the legal requirements and you won’t be getting any unwanted attention from the ASA.

Of course, even big well-known businesses are not impervious to claims and judgments against them. Coca-Cola recently had one of their adverts banned for claiming their vitamin water is “nutritious” despite containing around 23grams of sugar per 500ml bottle. They tried to argue that the vitamin content of the water was significant enough to warrant the claim, but their plea was dismissed. This goes to show how careful businesses need to be when marketing their products.

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