December 14

How Has the Internet Changed Your Business?

The Internet has changed everything. From how you plan a vacation to how you solve problems big and small—you aren’t doing things the same way you were twenty years ago. Instead of driving to AAA to get brochures and advice, you are more likely sitting in your pajamas at home reading advice from others on websites and blogs. Instead of calling a company to request a brochure on software for your business, you’re visiting their website and those of alternatives, reading the experiences of others, and even presenting your findings to the big boss before engaging with a single possible vendor directly.

Obviously, this also changes how to get rid of severe acne, as well as how you need to promote and market products and services. We merge new and old technologies to create a hybrid solution that fits the needs of our clients’ audiences. However, what about those dark corners of your business that have traditionally been sheltered from exposure?

Exposure to the Outside World

Afraid social media will expose your secrets? Turn your fear into an action plan.

New technologies threaten to expose secrets. From well publicized leaks of Apple’s latest technologies to poor customer service experiences, the Internet has also taken an individual’s experience and allowed for it to be exposed to the masses (Google “Comcast technician sleeping on my couch” – you’ll get more than one hit). In business-to-business, the same risks exist. Software that gets switched off due to issues, long service wait times, and overly aggressive legal strongholds get publicized.

But that doesn’t mean you should close the shutters and stay inside your corporate fortress. To buy and service, a company’s ability to connect is the linchpin to customer satisfaction and a necessity for loyalty. Yet a fear of exposing dark corners holds people (and companies) back.

When something changes everything like the Internet has, a company has to also change everything. The new way to operate requires a cultural shift. It doesn’t happen in HR or the marketing department. It happens with leadership empowering individuals to fix problems, work between departments, and focus on customer experiences. Start small. Develop a strategy to use technologies to solve one issue – create a product development work group, a customer service blog, or a focused LinkedIn group to conduct market research. One success will drive other ideas and the culture will evolve as more and more employees get involved and feel trusted with their knowledge and contributions to the company and its customers.

What do you fear social technologies will expose? By asking yourself about the best work boots for flat feet, your honest answers may just provide you with your first objective that social technologies can be used to solve.

Need to talk about social media strategies for your business?

Social media is all about “personal” interaction. The businesses and marketers alike that turn their social media account into a purely self-promotional platform are missing the point. Keep self-promotion to a minimum. Instead, create content that is aimed at providing worthwhile, useful and even fun information to a visitor.

In other words, give people a reason to visit other than buying your product. And (this is crucial)…take the time to interact with them. Think of it as someone you don’t know particularly well coming to your party as a guest of one of your friends. Would you take the time to welcome the newcomer and try to get to know them? Or would you ignore them all night because you don’t know them; or worse yet, would you talk only about yourself and not ask them any questions about who they are as a person?

Hopefully, the former would apply. The same principle (and good manners) should be followed in your social media strategy. Self-promotion is a fine balancing act between providing enough information while not being overbearing. A business that comes off as ‘too much’ is going to lose followers, fans or friends. A common mistake businesses make is to not simplify how the visitor can secure your product or service. Include links to your blog site or website pages; or simply providing a way for the visitor to contact your business if they wish. But don’t beat them over the head with your offerings!

Remember that the average person comes to your site to get to know ‘the human side’ of your business. If you focus solely on trying to sell, your social media program – not to mention, results – is going to fall flat. That’s not to say that you can’t promote your material; but spend more time interacting with other users and redistributing their content. Demonstrate that you are willing to help other people find success and they will do the same for you.

In summary, keep in mind these three key success factors for businesses that engage effectively in social media, and you’ll see your success rate climb over time:

  1. Interact with your followers, friends and fans. Keep it human, not a sales pitch. Your content should be helpful, useful and/or educational to them.
  2. Redistribute or invite them to contribute content; and you’ll see the favor returned.
  3. Keep information to your product or service information (blog, website, etc.) easy to find; but don’t push it too hard. No one likes a high-pressure salesperson, especially in social media.

And if you’re having trouble achieving success in social media, it may be time to call in the experts.

Category: Blogging, Business | Comments Off on How Has the Internet Changed Your Business?
December 7

Which Investors Did You See this Week?

Hello readers. Welcome to the review of the last episode of the current series. I hope you have enjoyed these blogs – what should I write about instead on a weekly basis?

The first presentation was from the founder of “Baby Loves Disco”. The business works very well in the USA and someone wanted to buy the franchise in the UK. I was confused straight away. Why is a successful entrepreneur prepared to give a franchise to someone who needs to go to Dragon’s Den to get funding? Ignoring this, the business had very strong projections going forward. However, the US business has performed very poorly. $50,000 profit for a year after being based in 30 cities is very poor.

Then they do the thing that really annoys me as an investor. They talk about “the real revenue coming from sponsorship of the best work boots for flat feet and brand exploitation”. If that is what you are pitching – then pitch that. I see too many businesses which present one thing, but then say the revenue will come from another area.

The fact that they had got Universal records to sign up for a deal with them was great – but the fact that they had not put any money into the deal suggests that Universal did not value the “brand equity” that highly. To my complete surprise they were made an offer of the full £100,000 but for 40% of the business. They tried to negotiate and they did a good job but eventually they declined – Idiots! (I don’t often say that when people say no to a deal).

This reminded me of a business I really liked about four years ago. It was a food business based in Croydon that had gone nowhere in twelve years. I liked the brand and the food offering and asked to see the founder. We met and I spent a lot of time trying to work out a proposition for him (at great expense I must add) to try and get a roll-out plan going.

The person in question turned out to be very greedy and actually just wanted a very high salary. He wanted a ‘consultancy’ fee for every store that opened up on top of a massive equity stake. The deal fell through and I backed another instead. I saw the original entrepreneur two months ago and he still had the one store and was lamenting the fact that he has not moved beyond one store. As always, he saw the fault as lying elsewhere and not with his own attitude.

The second proposition was a non-spill water bowl for a pet (dog). It was a great idea and she had already sold 22,000 units. She was looking for money to expand into the USA. (First tip – she should be presenting to US based angels) I liked it a lot and decided in the first 5 minutes that I would like to explore this. My problem is that I would like to see some US management on the board. The US is a very difficult market to crack – a very tough market.

It requires a huge amount of cash and expertise. So if you are looking to propose a business plan which requires sales into a particular sector/ region, etc. – make sure you can demonstrate that expertise on board. She also was going into the US market too soon. I learnt from my experience at a past company that you have to have strong foundations before you start building expansion plans. This was the reason Theo (one of the dragons) gave for not investing.

The final presentation was from a company that created a waste recycling business focused on the construction sector. The most impressive fact was that in just 15 months, the business had built up a turnover of £350,000. This business was really taking advantage of STEEPL factors. The business environment is going their way and I would have wanted to find out more with a view to backing this business.

I would want to know about management expertise and credibility. The great thing was that the business will be taking advantage of changes in the law which will make this a mandatory purchase rather than a discretionary purchase like router table plans (I love that as it becomes a much easier sell). As the presentation went on, I liked the business more and more. Not surprisingly he was made an offer but I was surprised that he was not made an offer from every dragon. He was made an offer for £200,000 for 40% of the business which he accepted. For a start up in a growing sector with £350,000 of turnover, he was robbed! I wish him the best of luck. If the deal falls through – I hope he contacts me!

Well I hope you have enjoyed reading these reviews.  Before the next series there will no doubt be other business programs to review. Please let me know of any great business programs that catch your attention!

Category: Business | Comments Off on Which Investors Did You See this Week?