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Marketing Through A Recession: Top Five Tips April 22, 2009

Posted by liverpoolchamber in Top Tips.
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jospragg-logo Marketing is often the first area that businesses look to cut back on in a recession.

Although this may free up cash in the short term, in the long term it can prove to be a costly strategy. When times are tough, businesses need marketing more than ever. Freelance marketer, Jo Spragg, gives us her top five tips for marketing in a recession:

1.    Be customer focused. Marketing isn’t just about acquiring new customers, it’s also about taking care of your existing customers. Demonstrate your value to current customers at every opportunity.

2.    Stay ahead of the competition. Be aware of who your competitors are, what they offer and what makes you different. Once you’ve established a differentiator, communicate it clearly to the marketplace.

3.    Instead of cutting your marketing budget, be smarter with your spend. For example, if you have to use external suppliers, freelancers are more cost effective than large agencies.

4.    Every point of contact with your business represents a marketing opportunity. Think about how you pitch yourself at Chamber networking events, how you answer the phone, how user friendly your website is and make sure you’re creating the right impression at all times.

5.    Measure your marketing efforts. It’s only by tracking your activities that you’ll see what’s working and what’s not.

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Seven Steps To Sales Success April 8, 2009

Posted by liverpoolchamber in Top Tips.
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snowboardOur good friends at Paver Smith have put together this handy guide to help you win new and repeat business…

Seven Steps to Sales Success by Richard Lynch, Account Director at Paver Smith

– win new business…fast!

So you’re looking to generate some quick sales? Well there are loads of things you can do, but here are seven of my favourites.

1. Contact your existing customers – today!

How would you feel if the next call you took was a big order from an existing customer? Pretty good eh? Now imagine if they were about to place an order, but not with you! Now how do you feel?

Before you do anything else today, pick up the phone or send an email to your best customers. Ask how they are what they’re up to. Thank them for the business they’ve placed with you. Ask them if they need any more help and find out if they’ve got anything coming up soon you can quote on. Invite them out for lunch, whatever. Remember, your best customers think you’re great. They’ve bought from you in the past. They love your service, prices and the way you look after them. Don’t let a competitor steal them from you. Contact your customers today….you may be pleasantly surprised.

2. Remind yourself why you’re special

You’re in business because you’re good at what you do. Remind yourself why you’re so special and how you help your customers. Now remind your customers how they benefit from your services.

People buy from you for this reason alone so make ALL your marketing communications stress exactly why you’re good and how much your customers benefit by using you.

3. Get more referrals

Let’s face it most of your business probably comes by way of word-of-mouth. According to some experts, an estimated 98% of businesses rely on referrals for new business and yet only 3% have a strategy for generating new referrals! If you don’t have a referral strategy for you business, get one.

4. Join a networking club

One great way to generate a steady source of referrals is to join a proactive networking club in your area. My own favourite is the Business Network International (BNI). The BNI is a ‘hard’ networking organisation which works very well if you ‘stick to the rules’.

If you prefer a less formal approach, join your local Chamber of Commerce or visit events run by your industry’s local association. Great business deals start with conversations. If you’re not out there talking, you’ll certainly miss out.

5. Create irresistible offers

One sure fire way to get interested prospects to buy from you is to offer an irresistible special offer.

Basically, you want to give people an extra reason for experiencing your product or service. If you offer a price discount or special offer, make sure it’s time restricted and genuinely attractive, then watch your sales grow.

6. Guarantee – Risk Free Trial

If you offer an excellent service and you’ve a list of happy customers, why wouldn’t you offer a guarantee? There are loads of different strategies to use: 45 Day Free Trial, Money Back Guarantee, Free Introductory Offer. The guarantee is a fantastic way to build confidence and trust with your potential customers. Take the risk out of the purchase and watch your sales rocket!

7. Tidy up your image

And finally take a good look in the mirror. Do you look the part? Do your marketing materials measure up? What about your office, shop, show room or company vehicles? Do they send out the right message? A poor business image will cost you dearly and drive sales into the hands of your competitors. If you think your image is letting you down, change it.

Help Reduce The Carbon Footprint And Cut Business Costs March 31, 2009

Posted by liverpoolchamber in Chamber HR, Environment, Top Tips.
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Green_leaf_detail We all have a duty to help in reducing carbon emissions as well as encouraging good work place practices that reduce waste and extravagance. The HR function should help lead the way by pro-actively encouraging the business and the workforce to adopt some simple measures to make reductions.

Here are some simple ways in which the business and the environment can benefit.

a.      Switch it off – Switch off unnecessary lighting – with the lighter days do we need that light or is it just for effect? Where lights are not needed for productive work or for health and safety reasons then make sure they are turned off. This will reduce costs and reduce the heat generated in an office

b.      Reducing monitor waste – Is that computer turned off? Don’t just let your laptop hibernate or your work station tick over, turn it off. At night when you leave the office do you check to make sure that both the hard drive and the monitor are switched off? The number of monitors that hum along on stand by eating up power all night is colossal. Turn it off!

c.      Turn it off last thing – Have an employee designated to check the building last thing to make sure that equipment that does not have to be switched on or on stand by is turned off. Make sure that the lights are turned down and heating is kept to a minimum.

d.      Temperature control – Ensure that all radiators have individual thermostats that actually work. This will enable the heat in a room to be adjusted for ambient temperature to suite the individuals working in that room. Make sure that they some sort of default maximum setting so that heating costs are reduced.

e.      Is that journey necessary? – Think before making a business journey, could it be done in a better way. Is it necessary at this time or can it be combined with another journey? Can video/telephone conferencing be used instead?

f.       Do you have to use a vehicle?- If the destination is close can you walk, could you cycle – is that practical? By allowing more time to go to close locations many may be in walking range. The benefit then is at least two fold – healthy exercise and cost reduction.

g.      Is that printed copy needed? – Why do we seem to have to print every thing that is sent when an electronic copy and back up would almost certainly suffice? The amount of paper that is wasted is considerable and with paper and print costs climbing thing before you print.

h.      Was that photocopy required?- How many of us take an extra copy just in case and what is the cost to business as well as to the environment? Try to think electronically. If a copy is needed for a meeting can it be sent electronically first and perhaps just one copy available at the meeting. Attendees could share information copies to reduce the number needed.

i.        Is that printer necessary?- a good way to help reduce printing costs is to cut the number of network printers and stop buying individual desk printers. Undertake an audit of the staff who really need a printer, they should be only the ones who have to print confidential information and even then only those who need to do it on a regular substantial basis. Think electronically and reduce costs.

j.        Stop web surfing- Many business costs are compounded by individual staff surfing the web for their own purposes at work. There is a considerable cost in lost time but many of these web searches result in reams of paper being used for helpful hints and advertising and holiday searches. Be firm, be fair but put an end to it. It’s costing the business money in many ways and HR must act positively to discourage this waste. Let the staff web surf from designated PCs only and make sure that they are not linked to a printer! The internet is for business use and so only needs to be accessible to a few people who need it to maintain the client service at acceptable levels.

These are just a few of the hints and tips that are available all across the business network. HR needs to help business cut costs and maintain margins as the credit crunch hardens. Think ‘is something really necessary, is there a better cheaper more environmentally sound way of doing something or providing some information?’ Prepare a policy and send it electronically to your staff. Explain the sense of reducing print costs both in hard and soft ware.

It is the role of HR to act in the best interests of the business look for savings, consider reductions and recommend positive steps.

For more information and assistance visit the ChamberHR website www.chamberhr.co.uk

Alan Hunt – Qdos Consulting Limited providers of ChamberHR

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Tax Efficiencies In A Downturn March 17, 2009

Posted by liverpoolchamber in Top Tips.
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PDC_logo Chamber member, accountants PDC Online have put together this handy list of tips for keeping on top of your tax:

In these Tough times it is wise to conserve as much of your hard earned cash as possible.

Check your tax code

Most people will have recently received their tax code. It is a good idea to review your tax code to ensure that you are paying the correct amount of tax. An incorrect tax code could mean that you are paying too much or too little tax.

Avoid Penalties

One of the key ways, is to look after loose ends, like tax bills and you need to ensure that you register or pay on time. Also in April 2009, mistakes on returns will be assessed to penalty using a completely new system which focuses on the behaviour of the taxpayer which led to the inaccuracy. The new rules will penalise incorrect returns which result in an underpayment of tax (or a potential underpayment in some cases) according to the seriousness of the behaviour which produced the understatement.

Business Support Service

Since 24 November 2008 HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) introduced a new, dedicated Business Support Service designed to meet the needs of businesses affected by the current economic conditions.

If you’re worried about being able to meet tax, National Insurance or other payments owed to HMRC, or you anticipate that payments coming due will cause you problems, you can get in touch with them to discuss payment options to help you deal with temporary cashflow difficulties.

You can call the HMRC Business Payment Support Line on 0845 302 1435. The helpline is open seven days a week.

HMRC staff will review your circumstances and discuss temporary options tailored to your business needs, such as arranging for you to make payments over a longer period. They will not charge additional late payment surcharges on payments included in the arrangement, although interest will continue to be payable on those taxes where it applies.

Tax Planning and Monitoring

Ultimately, tax planning is the best way to ensure tax efficiency. This involves assessing your income and expenses and developing strategies that legitimately minimise the amount of tax you owe.  You also need to decide how you’re going to meet any tax obligations if they arise.  Tax planning is more complex for the self-employed and those with income from rental properties.  The key thing is ensuring that you claim all allowable expenses in arriving at your profit. 

You are advised to speak to a qualified accountant to ensure that you are claiming the maximum deductions.

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Darth Vader’s Management Tips January 9, 2009

Posted by liverpoolchamber in Friday Fun, Top Tips.
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choke

We all know and love that darkest of Dark Lords of the Sith, Darth ‘Anakin’ Vader. But just how did he get to where he is today, and how does he manage his many minions?

Well, we found this great set of tips from the man in black himself over on the Lifehack website. So if you’ve got a rebellion to crush, you could do worse than follow the big fella’s advice…

Operating a truly effective organization can be daunting. It requires skill, dedication, a willingness and ability to rebound from failure, bloodlust, and a notable absence of mercy. Mastery of the Dark Side of the Force is also useful. You’re probably asking “how did the empire become The Galactic Empire?”

This article gives you a few of my favorite management secrets, some of which I have passed on to my brother, Chad, who manages the Day Shift at Empire Market. In the spirit of Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Successful People, here are what we might call “Nine Habits of Highly Sith-cessful People.”

  1. Use Fear. Yoda once said that “fear is the path to the Dark Side.” He couldn’t have been more right; however, his conclusions were wildly off base. Fear can be a great motivator, both for you and for those around you. Fear can help you overcome moral ambiguities by clouding them with the need for action, now.  Also, fear is the way to motivate people.  You may find their lack of faith disturbing, so you may need to demonstrate your superiority. If someone disagrees with you, Force-choke them until they see things your way.
  2. Don’t Tolerate Dissent. Destroy it. Make sure everyone knows that your word is the last word. Demand unwavering faith in your abilities from your inferiors, and if they display a disturbing lack of faith, choke them.
  3. Punish Incompetence. Many of your subordinates will be as clumsy as they are stupid. If someone has failed you for the last time, Force-choke them to death and promote someone who knows what they are doing. Keep Force-choking people until someone finally learns his or her lesson.
  4. Deal Exclusively On Your Terms. Periodically, you will have to make deals. Alter them at your discretion, and don’t worry about any consequences. I recently had to do this with a mining entrepreneur in the Cloud City of Bespin, who expected to be treated with equanimity. Needless to say, I got what I wanted.
  5. Use Loyalty Judiciously. Only submit to a stronger hand, and then try to destroy it once you are powerful enough. Stop at nothing to get to the top.
  6. Always Look for Talent. Periodically, you will come across a real gem like my wayward son, Luke. Realize that they can be your key to double-crossing your superiors. If they don’t play along, kill them.
  7. Know that Power is what matters. Your ability to assert yourself in a difficult situation depends on your power. If you have power, you can have anything you want. Stop at nothing to get it.
  8. Get Out There and Lead. While Grand Moff Tarkin was prematurely celebrating victory over the Rebel Alliance, I was out there shooting at X-wings. Which one of us survived the Death Star attack? That’s right, me.
  9. Finally, always remember that an elaborate, far-reaching plan, which relies on people reacting exactly how you plan for them to react, is always better than a simple plan. Nothing illustrates your genius quite like a meticulous, detailed, super-plan which will go horribly awry if people don’t react exactly the way you think they will.  Just know who to blame when things don’t go the way you expect them to.

Those are a few brief pointers that I have used to make my climb, from defeated Jedi pulling his mangled corpse out of a volcano to Dark Lord of the Sith overseeing the construction of the ultimate power in the universe. With the right effort, you can, too.

Post originally found here.

Ten Reasons To Join Liverpool Chamber November 27, 2008

Posted by liverpoolchamber in Liverpool, Top Tips.
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tenSo we’re going through a  hard time economically. What can you do to protect yourself, your business and your employees?

Well, one thing you could do is give your business the support, opprtunities and voice of the oldest and most respected business forum in Liverpool.

That’s us, by the way – Liverpool Chamber of Commerce. More and more companies join us every week. Here’s just some of the reasons why:

    1. An immediate increase in profile – our main website gets over 30,000 unique visits a month, many of them checking out our members’ directory. Your details will be listed here and show up high on all the major search engines. You can even sponsor an event or our weekly e-newsletter, sent to  nearly 6000 businesses each week.
    2. Access to over 90 events each year where you can showcase your business, network and make new contacts.
    3. Free legal advice
    4. Free HR support
    5. Help and advice from us in all manner of business skills. Want to trade internationally? Get new skills? We can provide it all.
    6. Win that tender and get new contracts through Tender Alert
    7. A voice that’s listened to – Liverpool Chamber represents your interests locally and nationally. We have the ear of business leaders, politicians and opinion formers. Through us, your opinion really will matter.
    8. Hold your next conference in our state-of-the-art facilities
    9. Get the benefits of our 150 years of business support
    10. Protect your business assets and properties with Business Crime Direct

      Sounds pretty good, eh? Well that’s because it is. And it can all be yours from as little as £140 a year.

      Visit our membership pages to find out more, or just go for it and join us now online.

      Beat The Credit Crunch Pt VI – Become A Productive Leader October 30, 2008

      Posted by liverpoolchamber in Top Tips.
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      In the penultimate part of our series on how to beat the credit crunch, we look at how you can change the way you work to become a more effective leader. The series is put together by our good friends Freedom Coaching, who are more than happy to hear from you if you’d like more info.

      Step 6

      Become an effective and productive leader. Here are some suggestions to help you manage your time more effectively and become more productive.

      1. Switch off your Outlook visual and audio email alert.

      2. Read and deal with emails once or twice a day

      3. If you can, set up your out of office assistant with a message that says:

      “Thanks for your e-mail, I will read and deal with emails after 5pm, if your message is urgent please call me on

      xxx xxx xxxx. Thanks”.
      (more…)

      Learn To Do Anything With Monkeysee October 28, 2008

      Posted by liverpoolchamber in Media, Top Tips, World Wide Web.
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      Need to learn some new skills? Want to get advice from the experts? Want it for free?

      Of course you do. That’s where the video tutorial website Monkeysee comes in. On it you can watch videos from experts in a range of disciplines. They give you the low-down on topics like public speaking, negotiating salaries, managing budgets and writing that killer CV.

      But there’s also a whole lot more. How to care for a pet snake, for instance. Or how to survive a zombie attack (shoot them in the head, basically). Or how to make macaroni cheese. You name it, it’s probably on there.

      All the vids are short and easy to follow and can be watched in your browser.

      Become a right know-it-all here.

      Beating The Credit Crunch Ep V – Give Them What They Want October 23, 2008

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      Here’s part five of our series of tips on how to beat the credit crunch. Put together by our good friends Freedom Coaching, this week we look at making sure you’re giving your customers what they want.

      Step 5

      Develop new products and services to meet the new needs of your customers. Set up meetings with your existing and trusted customers and find out what they want.

      Deliver what they want and they will buy.

      Do the same during sales appointments, ask for feedback from your sales team and respond, carry out prototype modelling to make sure the product and service will work.

      You don’t need fancy marketing materials to do this, just create your elevator pitch and sell. If you receive orders you have a new product, if you don’t, try the next idea.
      Keep it simple and effective.

      The next stage of the process is to find your first customer. Sales are everything. No sales = no business.

      (more…)

      Beat The Credit Crunch Part III – Cash October 9, 2008

      Posted by liverpoolchamber in Top Tips.
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      Continuing our series of tips from Freedom Coaching on how to protect your business from these economic hard times, this week we look at the all-important cash.

      Step 3

      Focus on cash

      If you want to stop worrying about your business prepare a weekly cash flow forecast. It works.

      Spend an hour every week and update it.

      Many of our clients feel that they cannot predict future sales because it’s not “real”. But a prediction or estimation is better than no plan at all. When we set sales figures, they represent a target, and we have something to aim for and measure. A key thing to remember is that we see better results when we can measure them.

      If you don’t already have one, we can provide you with a simple step by step weekly cash flow template. You can see our contact details here.

      Seven Recession-Proof Hints & Tips

      If you are already in business there are some simple strategies you can use to make your business more recession-proof:

      1. Cash is King
      – liquidate some assets and get rid of dead of stock. Start keeping some money aside in case the economy does indeed get worse. Invest in defensive stocks that have been known to hold their value in a recession.

      2. Good Records – keep your business records up to date so that you always know how you are faring. The more robust your records are the easier it will be to move faster in the case of a down turn.

      3. Speak to Your Lenders – this is the right time to keep communication lines open with the banks. The credit crunch is hitting them hard so it might also be a good idea to open talks with another lender just in case your bank pulls the plug.

      4. Examine your Loans – in a recession interest rates tend to fall as the government tries harder to stimulate the economy. This is the ideal time to collate all your loans and possibly switch to longer payment terms and / or fixed rate loans.

      5. Negotiate Harder with your Suppliers – ask for longer payment terms and demand quicker delivery times so that you do not need to have so much money tied up in stock.

      6. Improve your Credit Control – cash flow is king in a recession so meet all your customers especially the ones that tend to pay late. Send regular reminders and statements followed by a phone call the minute an invoice is overdue.

      7. Insure your Debt – in a recession more of your customers are likely to fail.

      Next week, we’ll look at marketing.

      Bob Evans, Freedom Coaching