In the digital age, businesses are constantly seeking innovative ways to stay ahead of the curve. One such way is through strategic partnerships, particularly in the realm of marketing. But what exactly is a marketing partner?
In this blog, we will delve into the concept of a marketing partner, how it differs from a typical digital marketing agency, and how companies like CREATIVE in TiME are redefining the role of a marketing partner.
The Evolution of Marketing: From Agency to Partner
Traditionally, businesses have turned to digital marketing agencies for their sporadic marketing needs.
However, many businesses have felt let down by agencies that do not fully understand their unique needs and goals, and having ad hoc relationships with agencies brings little consistency and growth.
This is where a marketing partner comes in. A marketing partner is more than just a service provider; they are an integral part of your team. They work with you throughout the year, delivering on your digital marketing needs and ensuring your online presence grows.
This is especially the case for SMEs where the MD level leadership skills in marketing on offer from CREATIVE in TiME give you peace of mind in your strategic choice.
The Power of Auditing
Before diving into the world of digital marketing, it’s crucial to understand where you currently stand, how you are currently doing in your digital marketing.
At CREATIVE in TiME, we offer auditing services for your company’s digital marketing. This is not just an initial audit but an ongoing monthly review, providing clear status updates and recommended actions.
Regular auditing ensures that our client’s digital marketing strategies are always on point and delivering results. Auditing allows us to identify areas of improvement and opportunities for growth, setting the stage for a successful marketing strategy.
The Importance of Strategy and Planning
When you know your starting point, having a clear set of goals and a strategy around which to deliver them is crucial in marketing. Many businesses lose huge amounts of time and money by not having aligned sales and marketing efforts, so save time and ensure that all your marketing efforts are aligned with the business’s overall objectives.
At CREATIVE in TiME, we help our clients develop and implement effective digital marketing strategies that drive growth and success. We understand that a well-planned strategy is the foundation of any successful marketing effort.
The CREATIVE in TiME Difference: A Comprehensive Approach to Digital Marketing
At CREATIVE in TiME, we aim to deliver you business guidance and digital marketing that you simply won’t get from other companies. We don’t just provide digital marketing services; we offer comprehensive business management advice, strategy, and planning.
Business Planning and Strategy
We guide our clients in not only having a robust digital marketing strategy but also offering strategies and solutions in sales (B2B and B2C), digital transformation, client retention, account management, customer service, operational efficiency, business modelling, and commercial sales planning.
With CREATIVE in TiME, you have a marketing partner you can TRUST.
At CREATIVE in TiME, we understand that a successful marketing strategy is not just about creating compelling content and engaging social media posts. It’s about aligning your marketing efforts with your commercial objectives.
We provide guidance on commercial planning, helping you to identify your target market, understand your competitive landscape, and set realistic, measurable goals.
Customer / Audience Journey Planning
Understanding your customer’s journey is crucial to creating a marketing strategy that resonates with your audience.
We help you map out your customer’s journey, identifying key touchpoints and opportunities to engage and convert your audience.
Competitor Research & Analytics Audit
Knowing your competition is key to standing out in the market. We conduct thorough competitor research and analytics audits to understand your competitors’ strategies, strengths, and weaknesses.
Competitor information is invaluable in shaping your own marketing strategy and positioning your business for success.
Brand Strategy & Design
Your brand is more than just your logo; it’s the perception people have of your business. We work with you to develop a strong brand strategy and design that aligns with your business values, resonates with your target audience, and sets you apart from the competition.
Social Media Management
Social media is a powerful marketing tool. We manage your social media platforms, creating engaging content that boosts SEO and raises brand awareness. Our social media strategies are tailored to your business, ensuring that your social media presence aligns with your brand and business objectives.
Your website is often the first point of contact potential customers have with your business. We ensure your website is always up-to-date, user-friendly, and optimised for search engines. A well-managed website can significantly improve your online visibility and convert more visitors into customers.
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is a critical component of any digital marketing strategy. At CREATIVE in TiME, we carry out monthly SEO tasks, both technical and content-based, on-page and off-page, to improve your website’s visibility on search engines.
This ensures that your business is easily found by potential customers, driving more organic traffic to your website.
Email marketing remains one of the most effective ways to engage with your audience. We manage your email campaigns, creating personalised content that resonates with your audience and encourages them to take action.
Advertising & PPC
Pay-Per-Click (PPC) advertising can provide a significant boost to your online visibility and lead-generation efforts. We manage your PPC campaigns, optimising your ads to ensure you get the best return on your investment.
The Value of a Marketing Partner
Having a marketing partner like CREATIVE in TiME is particularly beneficial for businesses that may not have a deep understanding of marketing. With us, businesses can access director, manager, and executive-level resources for a cost that is equivalent to hiring 1-2 marketing executives.
This provides excellent value for money and allows businesses to leverage a range of digital marketing strategies and skills without having to invest in a large marketing team and provide them with direction.
In conclusion, a marketing partner is a game-changer in the world of digital marketing. They offer a comprehensive range of services and bring a depth of business experience that typical digital marketing agencies often lack.
In the digital age, a well-crafted digital marketing strategy is not just a luxury but a necessity. This is especially true for small to medium enterprises (SMEs) that may not have an established marketing function.
In this first part of our three-part series, we will delve into the initial steps of creating a digital marketing strategy, focusing on defining your goals, understanding your target audience, and conducting a digital marketing audit.
The first step in creating a digital marketing strategy is to define your goals. These are the guiding lights of your strategy, the endpoints you aim to reach through your digital marketing efforts. Your goals could range from increasing brand awareness and driving more traffic to your website to generating leads and boosting online sales.
Aligning Your Digital Marketing Goals with Business Objectives
It’s crucial that your digital marketing goals align with your overall business goals. Whether these are related to sales, product development, operations, HR, etc., your digital marketing strategy should serve as a tool to help you achieve these objectives. This alignment ensures that your marketing efforts are not just creating noise but are contributing to the growth and success of your business.
Step 2: Understand Your Target Audience
The Role of Audience Analysis in Digital Marketing
Knowing your target audience is a cornerstone of a successful digital marketing strategy. This involves understanding their demographics, preferences, online behaviour, and pain points. This information will help you create content and messages that resonate with your audience and meet their needs.
Creating Buyer Personas
One effective way to understand your target audience is by creating buyer personas. These are detailed profiles of your ideal customers, including their demographics, interests, challenges, and behaviours. Buyer personas can guide your marketing decisions and help you tailor your content and messaging to the needs and preferences of your audience.
Step 3: Conduct a Digital Marketing Audit
The Importance of a Digital Marketing Audit
Before you start planning your strategy, it’s important to conduct a digital marketing audit. This involves assessing your current digital marketing efforts and identifying what’s working and what’s not.
What to Include in Your Audit
Your digital marketing audit should cover all your digital marketing channels, including your website, social media accounts, email marketing campaigns, SEO efforts, and more. It should evaluate the performance of each channel, identify areas for improvement, and highlight opportunities for growth.
Using the Audit to Inform Your Strategy
The insights gained from your digital marketing audit will serve as a foundation for your digital marketing strategy. They will give you a clear picture of where you stand and where you need to go, helping you make informed decisions about your marketing efforts.
Step 4: Choose Your Digital Marketing Channels
Understanding Different Digital Marketing Channels
Digital marketing encompasses a variety of channels, each with its unique strengths and capabilities. These include Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), content marketing, social media marketing, email marketing, Pay-Per-Click (PPC) advertising, and more.
Selecting the Right Channels for Your Business
The choice of channels depends on your business goals, target audience, and resources. For instance, if your goal is to increase brand awareness among a younger demographic, social media marketing might be a good fit. On the other hand, if you’re looking to drive immediate traffic to your website, PPC advertising could be a more effective strategy.
Step 5: Create a Content Strategy
The Role of Content in Digital Marketing
Content is the fuel that drives digital marketing. It’s what attracts and engages your audience, builds trust and credibility, and ultimately converts prospects into customers.
Developing a Content Strategy
Your content strategy should outline what type of content you will create, how often you will publish it, and on which platforms. The content should be valuable and relevant to your audience, helping you build trust and engage with them.
There are various types of content you can create, including blog posts, videos, infographics, webinars, and more. The choice of content type depends on your audience’s preferences and the platforms you’re using. For instance, if you’re focusing on Instagram, visual content like photos and videos would be more effective.
Step 6: Implement Your Digital Marketing Strategy
Putting Your Plan into Action
Once you have your digital marketing strategy in place, it’s time to put it into action. This involves creating and distributing content, managing your social media accounts, optimising your website for SEO, running PPC campaigns, and more.
Coordinating Your Efforts
It’s important to ensure that all your digital marketing efforts are coordinated and aligned with your overall strategy. This means that your SEO efforts should support your content marketing, your social media posts should promote your content, and your email marketing should drive traffic to your website.
Step 7: Measure Your Digital Marketing Performance
The Importance of Analytics in Digital Marketing
One of the key advantages of digital marketing is that it’s highly measurable. Through analytics, you can track the performance of your digital marketing efforts, gain insights into your audience’s behaviour, and determine the return on investment (ROI) of your marketing activities.
Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)
To measure your performance, you need to define Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that align with your digital marketing goals. For instance, if your goal is to increase website traffic, your KPIs could include the number of visitors, page views, and bounce rate.
Step 8: Refine Your Digital Marketing Strategy
Using Data to Drive Decision-Making
The data you gather from your analytics should inform your decision-making process. By understanding what’s working and what’s not, you can make data-driven decisions to refine your digital marketing strategy.
Digital marketing is not a set-it-and-forget-it type of activity. It requires continuous monitoring, testing, and refining. By regularly reviewing your performance and making necessary adjustments, you can ensure that your digital marketing strategy remains effective and aligned with your business goals.
Creating a digital marketing strategy is a crucial step for any business looking to succeed in the digital age. It involves defining your goals, understanding your target audience, conducting a digital marketing audit, choosing your marketing channels, creating a content strategy, implementing your strategy, and measuring its performance.
With a marketing partner like CREATIVE in TiME, you can ensure that your digital marketing strategy aligns with your overall business goals and drives your business forward. Get in touch today.
I’ve been there, directing or managing a sales and marketing operation and needing marketing support to deliver. You don’t have dedicated marketing resources for what you need, or you do have marketing resources but there are aspects that you need more support with.
Then you get a warm referral from someone you know, you start talking needs and prices, and then you sign up with a marketing agency for support of some kind.
Maybe it’s putting articles out, or looking after your social media. Maybe it’s keeping your website updated with case studies. Or maybe it’s PR, or just maybe you go as far as wanting creative support and ideas.
Then, gradually, after several months, you find yourself wondering…
Is it all WORTH it?
You might find yourself feeling like marketing agencies are a waste of time if your experience is like many others! Feeling like you are either being pestered to provide all the content and ideas that you thought you were paying them for, or that you are chasing them to deliver what they said they were going to deliver!
You don’t have TIME to check up on these folks all the time to see if they are delivering what they promised. If you find you are being let down, you can find it is a bitter pill to swallow and it leaves you heavily biased against marketing agencies in the future!
What I Tell People Who Ask “Is a marketing agency worth it?”
Marketing is a widely misunderstood subject with a great many subcategories that are often even MORE misunderstood.
Marketing agencies are worth it if you find the right people to work with who understand your business AND have the skills to make a difference, PLUS have the time to do what they say.
If I tell people we focus on HELPING people with content marketing and organic SEO through blogs and web page updates, they mostly look at me as though I am talking in a foreign language.
When I tell people we are a marketing agency, they will often assume we make flyers and posters, or we do PR campaigns.
“If I have learnt anything through 20 years in Technology and Engineering companies, outsourcing is never easy.”
Whether that’s getting hundreds of engineers set up in a faraway country with an aim to save time and money on a multi-million-pound development (which is hit and miss), or trying to get people to understand you and your business so that they can market you, without you having to spoon-feed them constantly, it can be a thorny road.
I also know that employing people directly, trying to get as many competencies and skills in as few people as possible for the best price can be just as frustrating and challenging, not to mention how many people get comfy and a little lazy in their jobs past their probation period.
Determined to Be DIFFERENT…
So, having been down the road where so many companies find themselves, when my partner and I decided that we were going to launch a marketing agency and focus on helping people get found, I knew we were going to be DIFFERENT.
We were determined to be different.
With my background in industries like F1, Aerospace, H2 Fuel Cells, Rail, Electronics, IoT and Software through a career climbing from a project engineer to director overseeing sales & marketing operations, we knew what was MISSING from those I want to help.
How many marketing agencies have a chartered engineer and engineering fellow on hand to translate for you?
Add to that my partner, Andrea, who has 20 years of being a successful marketeer for her own business start-ups, running networking organisations, and has amazing communication skills which help her get over the line with businesses and allows her to easily translate technical terms in a simplistic way.
Let’s not forget about our marketing team who are highly motivated, always on top of the trends and full to the brim of innovative and inspiring ideas.
How many agencies have this kind of SUPPORT on hand?
Imagine a world where a techy oriented company can talk to a marketing agency, and for those marketing folks to GET what they do, really UNDERSTAND them, have TECHNICAL competence, and a passionate and motivated team focussed on getting you found?
Well, that’s what we’ve done with CREATIVE in TIME!
Working With Us
Does it sound too good to be true?
That’s because there aren’t many agencies like us. It works perfectly. Once you’ve explained your business and how you help your customers, we can delve into the technical depths of what you do. This ensures we can translate it into simple language for your customers to understand HOW you can help THEM, and WHY they would choose YOU!
I hate to say it but WHAT you do is of mostly no interest to your potential clients.
With over 20 years working around techy oriented companies, I always found myself being the bridge between the proper techies and the more financial and business’ type folks. I could understand both sides without being an expert in either.
I could explain the benefits of developing a bit of tech in a way a techie couldn’t, they will tell you all about what they need to do, I will tell you the benefits of what they need to do, and how much it will all cost.
So, we realised we would be the bridge for complex or techy companies that need marketing support, we have built a team of amazing marketing execs that get trained by us in what our customers do, how they help people and why they should work with them.
One Way We Are Different
There’s one more ingredient in our mix other than our techy know-how. Whilst we are extremely familiar with CORPORATE environments including CxO level folks, we are persuading those same types to allow a little more fun to be injected into their messaging and put a little less “corporate” out there.
People engage with FUN content, rather than the same old boring corporate messaging saying how amazing they are and how people should just buy their products over and over again.
So, if you want to engage with people in a fun (and not quite so corporate way), if you do techy things that are often hard to explain to people outside of your business, then you could do with some help from some honest, decent and hardworking marketing folks just like us! You’ll be glad you did!
Blogging is an amazing way to bring more traffic to your website, become an authority in your field and build a community.
What is Blogging?
Blogging is the act of posting content on a website. They are informal articles written for the main purpose of showing thought leadership and expertise on a certain topic.
Often, you will be reading a blog and won’t even know it!
That recipe you just read, blog.
List of fashion trends, blog.
Technology tips, blog.
If you’re searching for it then someone is blogging about it and vice versa, if you want to blog about something then the likelihood is that someone is searching for it.
If you want to know the ins and outs of how to start blogging in 2023 then keep reading!
Step 1: Choose your Blogging Host
To get people to start reading your blog, it needs to be online!
If you are starting from scratch, then you need to use a blog host to get your blog online.
In this guide, we will show you how to use BlueHost for all of your blogging needs. Let me tell you a few quick reasons:
They register your custom domain name for free
30-day money back guarantee
Free, automatic installation of WordPress blogging software (this sounds scary but don’t panic)
Step 2: Create Your Account
Once you visit their website, you need to select your plan. We would recommend that for a blogging beginner, you will only need the basic plan.
Next, you need to input your domain name. Yes, this may seem like the complicated part.
If you already have previously paid to register a domain and wish to use that to host your blog, then you can put it in the right box. If you have not, then input your chosen domain name into the left box and click “next”.
Now for the easy part, I’m sure most of us have bought something using the internet before, so fill out your billing details on the registration page now.
You will also need to choose your hosting package and extras, for a beginner blog, it is likely you are not going to need any extras as your account plan will have everything you need for your blog.
You are now ready to create your BlueHost account and password! Not to be that person but please choose a secure and unique password, I don’t want any birthdays or full names here!
Once you have your account set up, you will be shown an installation helper but since you are reading this you can just click on “skip this step” to follow along with us instead (or do both!).
The WordPress blogging platform will automatically install, and you can click on the “log into WordPress” button on the top right-hand corner to go to the administrator section of your blog.
Step 3: Customise your blog
This is where the fun really begins, here is your opportunity to customise the appearance of your blog!
How you want your blog to look is personal preference, there is no right or wrong answer for how your own blog should look.
One of the benefits of WordPress is its “themes” which can be accessed through the “appearance” tab. You should have some free WordPress themes already installed for use on your blog and unless you have a very specific design in mind, we would recommend using one of these.
Once you pick a theme, all you need to do is hover other the theme and click activate. It’s that easy!
If you don’t like any of these themes, just click “add new theme” to browse lots of other WordPress themes which you can install and activate.
Do you remember life before COVID? It probably feels like a long distant memory of more stable days and greater freedoms, when stories of ‘BirdFlu’, ‘SARS’, ‘Ebola’, ‘Hand, Foot & Mouth Disease’ and ‘Swine Flu’ would grace our Smart Phone and TV news screens as we went about our daily lives, never really impacting us here in Europe and the UK.
A chance to reflect for business owners?
Now, as we approach the end of the second year of COVID mania and media sensations regarding ‘Coronavirus’, ‘Lockdown Announcements’ and ‘Business Support’ through ‘Furlough Schemes’, is it time to reflect on how lockdown has changed our lives? Again and again, we ask how did lockdown affect small businesses? What should businesses do after lockdown? Will there be another lockdown announcement? What business support will be available?
How Lockdown affected Business Owners?
Businesses in the UK have not only faced repeated lockdowns forcing many to close, but we’re also seeing inflation running at its highest for many years, driving up the cost of materials and labour, and we really don’t know what is going to happen over the next 12 months regarding the coronavirus pandemic, economic health and spiralling debt levels.
Businesses are being told to help their staff work from home wherever they can, encourage people to get fully vaccinated, get booster vaccines, limit close contact with people, implement social distancing, let fresh air into your workplaces (which is a great idea as long as it isn’t too cold), and to wear a face-covering when possible.
To add pressure to all of this, business owners are facing increasing challenges regarding the emotional wellbeing and mental health of their workforce. SME leaders in particular tend to have the least support available to them to support staff who feel worried, feel anxious, have mental health concerns, or who are less able to cope with lockdown restrictions due to the nature and size of their business.
Business owners need to provide compassion to their employees for the loss of loved ones or family requiring hospitalisation, and for employees needing support for long covid symptoms, all the while not really having a yardstick of any kind to know how honest or loyal employees are really being.
From Furlough to Fear for Business Owners
Business owners initially cheered when the government announced the furlough scheme and provided debt funding to prop them up, and most business leaders assumed that things would be settling after a year or so at the most.
We are now soon to enter the third year of the COVID pandemic and the mounting concerns for SME owners are also centred around their rising debt levels, facing a higher risk of financial exposure than ever due to spiralling material costs and a shortage of labour available to bring home their potential revenue, knowing that further COVID restrictions could finish them off for good.
Acting the part for your employees
In addition to the financial pressures thanks to COVID and government regulations, as employers you are expected to turn up looking positive and strong for your employees.
Offering advice and understanding for their mental health, support for their anxiety and sympathy for their positive COVID test after positive test requiring them to self isolate.
Along with making sure you have hawk-like reactions for anyone displaying symptoms or showing symptoms, and ensuring your own mental health is in good shape, whilst wondering if coronavirus and national lockdowns will ever end.
COVID impacts businesses differently
One thing that has been absolutely clear as a result of the coronavirus pandemic is that the impact is certainly not the same for all companies. Not only do different sizes of businesses cope in different ways, but the services the business provides and the manner in which they provide them makes for a wide variation across the sector, in particular SMEs.
We were all used to seeing the growing dominance of Amazon pre-covid, and they were certainly in the right place for when it hit. Internet shopping became a must for many regardless of their inclination regarding shopping this way, and Amazon has been able to grow and dominate during this time.
The hospitality sector has found that if people are either not allowed or too frightened to eat and drink out then their businesses are not viable. But what about all of the businesses that don’t get much of a mention in the media?
The UK’s Business Makeup
Our nation is made up of a wide variety of companies from manufacturing, R&D, engineering, financial services, legal services, construction, tourism, technology and so many more. This provides a level of resilience for hard times, but how are we distributed in terms of sizes?
How many businesses are there in the UK?
According to the UK government report on ‘business statistics’ published in 2020, there are almost 6 million private companies in the UK, up from 3.5 million in 2000, however, the proportion that employs people has fallen from 32% in 2000 to 24% in 2020, representing a huge rise in self-employment.
How many self employed business owners are there?
Of the 6 million businesses, 4.5 million have no employees, meaning these are generally self-employed. Considering they make up 76% of business in the UK, they contribute 7% of turnover generated in the private sector.
How many UK businesses are less than 9 employees?
Approximately 1.4 million have 1-9 employees and extracting the data in the report we can approximate that they provide around 14% of the turnover generated and makeup 23% of UK businesses.
How many UK businesses have 10-49 employees?
There are around 200,000 businesses in the UK that employ 10-49 people, making 15% of the turnover generated by private companies, whilst representing 4% of the total number of businesses.
How many Medium & Large business?
There are 36,000 medium (50-249 employees) and 8,000 large employers (over 250) in the UK. They generate 16% and 48% of the turnover nationally, meaning in reality that 8,000 companies out of 6 million generate 48% of the turnover in the sector. The large sector employs 39% of people and medium employ 16%. The 8,000 large companies will involve many day to day names you recognise and you probably know several people that work for them.
So what does that mean for UK Business Support?
These numbers may be very interesting to you or even not very interesting at all, but what does it mean? Different businesses have different needs, and the people they serve are very different.
Is there a Coronavirus grant funding to support businesses in the UK?
The good news for many UK companies during lockdown was the launching or availability of multiple business support initiatives by the government. We’ve had the furlough scheme, Kickstarter scheme, business rates relief, VAT breaks, the recovery loan scheme, bounce back loans, ‘eat out to help out’ to name but a few.
The funding schemes provided through channels such as the British Business Bank, high street banks and their associated partners have helped a multitude of businesses stave off collapse due to the impact of COVID19.
Business Support of varying natures can be accessed through growth hubs like the Leicestershire Business Growth Hub, with business advisers available to listen to your challenges and signpost you to either available funding, support, resources and more. If you are wondering about more support, read on to the bottom of this article to find more resources.
Different Business owner approaches to lockdown measures
The nature of businesses and the opinions of their respective leaders have had a high impact on the measures taken during the national and local lockdowns of 2020-2021. We’ve seen a large scale moving of office workers to a work from home culture and the subsequent explosion in the use of video meetings and video networking events, many with some really positive outcomes. How you can operate also had some dependency on whether you were deemed as an ‘essential worker’ or ‘essential service’.
Many companies rely on their staff being co-located to have efficient operations, especially in fast-paced environments where different teams tend to shout across to each other throughout the day to carry out their jobs effectively. There is also the reality that a lot of low skilled roles have a tenuous but undeniable link to work integrity.
Managing people remotely compared to sitting in a room with a team is also very different and has forced large scale changes to the work approach.
Some business owners shut down their operations very quickly and often unnecessarily at the beginning of the pandemic, whilst others hung on too long before facing the reality. The furlough scheme was used very differently, with many businesses taking the opportunity to dodge furlough and move straight to redundancy knowing few questions will be asked.
Others used the furlough schemes even when they had the work and revenue for their staff and used the scheme as an opportunity to protect or even enhance their bottom line (EBIT or profit). How many times have you phoned an organisation and heard them using COVID as an excuse for providing you terrible customer service? Sometimes this was genuine, but it’s also been used to increase profits at the expense of customers.
Is working from home really the answer?
We’ve gone from having to think about your support bubble, social contact and social distancing to facing a reality for many in having very little human contact day to day causing a wide variety of mental wellbeing issues. How to reduce pressure on the NHS? We are told we have to work from home.
We also have to consider what age group people are in when we ask this question. It is a very different prospect for a healthy 25 year old to attend the workplace than for a 60 year with health complications. The medical reasons for people having a different approach are self-explanatory, but as an employer, it makes it a very difficult prospect to deal with.
Working from home comes with many potential benefits. People spend less time travelling to work and have more time in the day, people can get out and walk during the day in their local surroundings improving their physical health, there has been a widespread uptake in people getting pets and enjoying the outdoors.
People talk about work-life balance now in a way they would never have dared before, taking care of themselves, talking about their mental health. But it’s not all as rosy as people like to often make out.
How can working from home have a negative impact?
Training and developing staff can be more challenging remotely, and creating a team environment of people working together remotely can be really difficult. Ensuring staff get enough social contact during the day whilst also ensuring people are working when they are meant to be working (and not slacking off) are all issues faced by business owners.
The net result is that there really isn’t a single ‘one size fits all’ approach to this problem, and working from home on a temporary basis is in no way similar to making it a long term measure. Of course, no one talks about what facilities people have in their homes.
Some have the fortune to have a home office, garden room or nice environment, but for many they are sharing a small house with a number of other people and working from their bed all day (particularly young people), making for a very negative potential outcome on mental wellbeing for these groups, not to mention the physical health aspects of using a laptop sitting on a bed day in day out.
How can we move forwards with Business Support?
For many companies, the business support they need can be grouped into categories as outlined below, and taking action in each of these areas will make a real difference:
Revenue: Can I sell my products and services effectively?
Revenue for a business has become a challenge for many new reasons, from not having enough customers to having plenty of potential customers and no way to service their needs. This can be from staff shortages or a lack of material availability as we’ve seen in the construction industry.
Cash flow: Can I pay everyone’s wages whilst revenues fall?
For many businesses, the winter COVID makes people afraid to go out. There is no support from the government financially whilst they put measures in place effectively scaring people from going to the hairdressers, eating out with friends or having their Christmas party with their work. With more than half of businesses expected to not have a Christmas party for their staff this year, it is grim reading for many hospitality outlets that would otherwise be very busy.
Mental health and wellbeing
Keeping up with the demands of UK expectations on employers with respect to mental health, COVID support, understanding the need to self-isolate, getting your head around different restrictions from week to week is enough to deter many people from wanting to employ at all, and may be enough for many small business owners to give up altogether.
Many companies have moved forwards tremendously with digital transformation during the COVID pandemic, and a wide variety of funding has been made available to support these initiatives through local enterprise partnerships (LEPs) and growth hubs, but many companies simply have not done enough to cope with the shift towards being a digital online business.
Business owners are often very adverse to reaching out for help from other companies. If you really know what you are doing in a particular area it can be great to train and mentor staff internally, but so many business leaders hurt their company by refusing to seek help from outside agencies and consultants without having a deep knowledge of a particular area.
One example of this is in Digital Marketing, where owners seldom know how to develop their online business to improve the chances of being found, not realising that most website designers have little knowledge in this area, and thinking marketing is about creating leaflets and fliers.
Speaking to other like-minded business leaders and owners can be a really helpful way of staying positive, finding out different ways to solve your challenges, meet new people, get access to vital support that you were not aware even existed, understand the best way to implement workplace rules, get more information about other business support initiatives, to name a few.
But where are these? Some private companies have successfully created networking events, whilst there are many others that are paid and require a lot of commitment and input from their members, which many do not have the time or desire to be part of.
One of the biggest challenges for business owners is that they are simply not AWARE of the business support available to them either as a result of lockdown announcements, COVID and the pandemic.
If you speak to many SME owners they are so busy fighting day to day to win and deliver their offering to customers that they do not find the time to research the kind of funding and support on offer.
If you are a business owner or leader, reach out to your local growth hub and LEP (local enterprise partnership) to find what is available for you!
If you would like more information on these topics, feel free to reach out to the author, Fred Warner, who is a Business Champion at the Leicestershire Business Growth Hub or find more information on the Business Growth Hub website.
About the Author Fred Warner
Fred Warner is a Business Mentor, Adviser and Consultant to a wide variety of SMEs both small and large. Fred has a passion for helping small businesses grow, plan, create strategies, and deliver. In addition, Fred also runs a Digital Marketing Agency called CREATIVE in TiME Ltd with his partner. Fred has 20+ years in leadership, sales & marketing, technology & products, transformation & business change in industries from F1, Aerospace, Rail, Electronics, Software to Beauty & Leisure.