In last week's 60RUM, Ph. Creative gave us some top tips for doing business online. Missed it? See below for his 60 second summary

Posted by Mark Russell

Inbound Marketing Executive at Ph.Creative

  • T: 0151 227 5549
Wed 25th, Mar

As part of the series of events run by the Liverpool Chamber of Commerce for Digi-March, we covered a range of tactics to help make the most of your time online and capture the interest of your target audience.

It’s becoming more and more difficult to capture your audience’s attention as the digital space becomes inundated with brands and businesses promoting their products and services across many of the social media channels. In this post we will summarise what we covered and provide some recommendations on how you can start to win online.

So… what is winning?

Winning is when you become the thought leader and the go-to-person in your industry and the best in your sector on a local, national, or even an international level. However, it takes hard work, a long time, and you need to follow some frameworks to make sure you keep on the right path and don’t lose sight of your defined end goal.

Where to start?

Customer Journey - Framework 1

This framework allows you to understand the journey you want your eventual customers to take. It follows a methodical process that starts with them being strangers and having no knowledge of your business, to becoming a customer who is delighted and willing to spread positive word-of-mouth recommendations to their networks.

Content Journey - Framework 2

This framework allows you to understand the content you need to create in order to take your “stranger” to a “delighted” customer. To be able to use this framework effectively you’ll have to have an understanding of who it is you’ll be targeting and what content they’ll be interested in reading (blogs) and viewing (visuals/videos).

To find out more about persona mapping workshops and how to find out your WHY, take a look the slides here http://www.slideshare.net/MarkRussell11/liverpool-chamber-of-commerce-presentation-200315-1

So… what is a persona?                 

A persona is semi-fictional character that you create based on your ideal target audience. You can have as many personas as you want, however to keep your marketing efforts streamlined and effective, it’s ideal to create a persona for each of your products. If you have many then choose your best selling products or the customers who generate the most profit.

Below is a picture of a persona workshop that we undertake when starting a digital strategy at Ph.Creative. This enables us to start to create a customer content journey (a combination of Framework 1 and 2).

Winning with influencers

After you've created your personas and understand their journey to becoming your customers, you’ve got to think about who will be influencing their decision making process. An easy way to categorise and organise your influencer marketing is by understanding them as follows:

Influential influencers: Big media publications and final decision makers

Collective influencers: Groups, institutes and communities

Brand influencers: Bloggers and journalists

Local influencers: Those working in similar businesses and in your industry

What about content?

Content marketing is all the rage in today’s noisy online world. We explained the importance of creating purposeful content and being able to match the content you create to the different parts of the frameworks which in turn creates a timeline you can implement. Below is an example of a timeline we created for a client, this shows the use of See, Think, Do, Delight types of activities over a period of time.

                                    Customer Content Journey - Example

Last but certainly not least… social media

The final part of the jigsaw is being able to make sure you use social media as a tool to listen to your audience, start conversations and ultimately sell. We explained some tools that you can use along the way to make sure your social media efforts are streamlined and maximise your time online.

Some of the networks we covered were:

Facebook Advertising: Perfect for promoting your content

Pinterest: Ideal for retail, fashion, education, and food businesses

LinkedIn Groups: Great to build authority in a certain niche

Twitter Lists: A tactic you can use for social listening

Final thoughts… be more like Charlie Sheen

Check out upcoming 60 Really Useful Minutes here

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Late payments threaten business growth, especially for SMEs.

Posted by Jenny Stewart

Chief Executive of Liverpool & Sefton Chambers of Commerce

Tue 24th, Mar

We all want to see less red tape, not more. And we’d prefer to see business disputes resolved by dialogue rather than litigation.

But all the talk in the world can’t protect small businesses from late payment and other forms of ill-treatment by big companies and public sector organisations.

Late payment is a cultural problem. It causes cash flow problems, imposes unnecessary interest charges on suppliers and it’s hard to see how to stop it.

In 2012, The British Chambers of Commerce commissioned a survey of more than 5,000 businesses. Of those, 94 per cent had been paid late and 24 per cent said that nearly half of all their invoices were settled later than had been agreed.

A third of respondents said their worst late payers were larger businesses with more than 50 employees.

Two-thirds said private sector firms were worse than public sector organisations and only a third said the opposite. The latter finding came as a surprise at the time, given that the government had given a commitment to settle undisputed invoices within 10 days.

Several big companies have recently imposed, or attempted to impose, lengthier payment terms. And this is not the only kind of abuse suppliers face: Tesco’s recent problems exposed the scale of the rebates it demands from suppliers; and Premier Foods has come in for criticism for levying millions of pounds in charges on companies that want to remain on its supplier list.

Although George Osborne didn’t mention it in his speech on Wednesday, the Budget contained a promise to extend the Prompt Payment Code, which is administered by the Institute of Credit Management on behalf of the business department.

Currently, the code has only 1,824 signatories and in February there was far from universal backing from its own supporters for plans to strengthen its terms by insisting on a 60-day maximum payment term with 30-day payment as the norm. A survey found that only 57 per cent of respondents believed the changes to be workable.

There are some glimmers of hope. Diageo recently abandoned plans to extend its payment terms for suppliers to 90 days for fear of being delisted as a signatory to the code.

And the Chancellor also promised last week that all central government departments will have to make quarterly reports about their payment records starting from next month.

Perhaps more information, and public naming and shaming of companies which ill-treat their suppliers, is the best hope for challenging the culture of late payment.

Have you experienced late payments? Contact the policy team at policy@liverpoolchamber.org.uk

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A much awaited overhaul of rail infrastructure has been announced. It's now up to us to articulate our message to Government and city leaders.

Posted by Paul Cherpeau

Chief Executive

Fri 20th, Mar

Today’s announcement from the DfT of a Northern Transport Strategy which proposes a radical overhaul of northern transport infrastructure is to be welcomed as a long-awaited step in the right direction albeit one that must not remain at conceptual stage.

It has long been our concern that Liverpool’s apparent exclusion from the proposed high speed rail map was a massive opportunity missed.

It is encouraging that these proposals now talk of a Northern Powerhouse that extends from Liverpool in the West to Hull and Newcastle in the East.

The Chancellor’s rhetoric during the budget was very much focussed on the Manchester and Leeds conurbations. Both cities have become the focus upon which the Northern Powerhouse is articulated by the coalition government; the Northern Transport Strategy outlined in today’s report suggests that Liverpool has the opportunity to become part of the solution.

Whilst investment in infrastructure may be more concentrated in improvements to the Leeds-Manchester road and rail network, we should not consider that a snub to Liverpool. The big bottleneck in our transpennine connection is in that area and if we as businesses want to get across the country by car or train, that is where the current link needs fixing.

fact that a high speed link between Liverpool and Manchester is explicitly highlighted as a potential development would go some way towards mitigating the wider connectivity of Liverpool to the wider UK rail network.

Our port city status should be critical to the UK’s strategy for the North and a faster and more robust connection to the Eastern ports would help increase the UK’s competitiveness in the maritime sector as well as boosting the inter-city business (and consumer) travel across the Pennines.

It is perhaps symbolic that today’s announcement was made by the Transport Secretary and business leaders in the North at the Liverpool 2 Container terminal. We’re finally back on the map.

Strategies are strategies are strategies. We’re very good at writing them, sometimes less good at implementing them.

If this is to be truly transformative for the North – and particularly for Liverpool – we must see these plans gain traction and not be allowed to gather dust.

Momentum is key to these schemes and sometimes difficult to maintain given their long-term timescale of delivery. As a city region we must now articulate our message, policy and voice with a mature, credible and overall positive dialogue with government and our fellow Northern cities.

 

Feed into the debate by joining our Transport Committee

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Darren Grimes outlines the key tax changes in Budget 2015

Posted by Darren Grimes

Tax Director

  • T: 0151 243 1200
Thu 19th, Mar

George Osborne presented his pre-election Budget speech today and there were largely no surprises.

There was expected to be a Conservative “giveaway” to charm the voters at the election, and despite the Chancellor emphasising that the benefits of increased growth, high employment and deficit reductions would not be squandered on tax cuts, he did announce increases to both the personal allowance and the higher rate threshold for income tax purposes. Over the next two years, the personal allowance will increase from £10,600 to £11,000 with in an increase in the higher rate threshold from £42,385 to £43,300. Therefore, not only will those on lower incomes benefit, but the “squeezed middle” will not miss out either.

For businesses, it was disappointing that the Chancellor didn’t announce any increase to the Annual Investment Allowance (currently due to fall to £25,000 from 1 January next year), however he did say that this would be covered in the Autumn Statement. More generally for companies, corporation tax rates will fall to 20% from 1 April 2015, which is one of the lowest rates amongst the top 10 world economies.

One of the more interesting announcements related to the “abolition of tax returns” from 2020. What this appears to mean in practice is that new “digital tax accounts” will be created for those currently completing self assessment returns. It is expected that businesses’ accounting systems and, more crucially, banking systems will be linked directly to HM Revenue and Customs online to provide “real-time” tax information, thus abolishing the need for tax returns. It will interesting to see how this works in practice, particularly for those with more complex tax affairs, not to mention the security concerns over linking accounting/banking records directly to HMRC.

There were also some specific announcements around tax anti-avoidance with new penalties being introduced for evaders and avoiders and their advisers. In total, anti-avoidance and evasion measures are expected to raise £3.1 billion.

Throw in reductions in tax for the oil industry, incentives for the creative industries and in increase in the bank levy – and you have the 2015 Budget. 

If you'd like help with your tax planning, contact DSG Accountants

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Minimum wage for apprenticeships increase may bridge the gap but must not deter employers

Posted by Paul Cherpeau

Chief Executive

Thu 19th, Mar

Yesterday's budget (or party political broadcast for the Conservative Party) confirmed the government’s announcement on Tuesday that not only would the national minimum wage be increasing, but the Apprenticeship minimum wage would also increase by a rate far above that recommended by the independent Pay Commission.

Despite the obvious clamour for votes, I don’t think there will be too many people upset about the announcement of an increase in the minimum wage although clearly the 3% rise must be just the start of a long term plan to ensure work pays for the citizens of our country.

The increase in the apprenticeship minimum wage is a classic double-edged sword.

Apprenticeships are becoming increasingly popular in the current climate of high university tuition fees, yet there remains an underlying stigmatism for many young people that an apprenticeship is the ‘diet coke’ of going to university, getting a degree and having a damn good time whilst there. The pay discrepancy for apprentices entering the workplace at 16 potentially perpetuates this stigmatism so the increase is to be applauded if (and it’s a big ‘if’) this stigma is further eroded.

Yet recruitment into any organisation at any level is arguably the single biggest risk to a business. Get the wrong person and a substantial investment in time, resource and reputation can be wasted. Committing to employing, training and developing a young person, particularly at 16 or 17 years of age, is a big commitment for a smaller business that is partially mitigated by incentives, such as the low starting wage. A greater focus on encouraging firms to invest in training and supporting young people as they begin their careers is how we will improve the skills of young people and prepare them for fulfilling and well-paid careers. The substantial increase in the apprentice minimum wage could act as a disincentive for employers considering taking on an apprentice for the first time.

That being said, it’s a positive step that the value of apprentices is being recognised. It is my hope that the change in the apprenticeship minimum wage from October will create a culture of quality over quantity, with those employers who are serious about providing a genuine opportunity for young people being rewarded over those who are looking simply for cheap labour. It may also create a culture of competitiveness for these quality apprenticeships, addressing issues of doing an apprenticeship ‘for the sake of it’ and ensuring that the financial reward makes it an attractive proposition. 

At the Chamber, we employ ten apprentices in the workplace and have implemented a wage progression plan that ensures our apprentices receive more than the basic minimum and will ultimately progress onto the living wage. We feel this is an important commitment that we are working towards that provides our apprentices with an end goal that we believe will motivate and inspire them to work hard, perform well and make a positive contribution to our organisation.

Let us hope that the new apprenticeship minimum wage can have a similarly positive effect.

Interested in taking on an apprenticeship? Contact the recruitment team at Liverpool Chamber Training

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Business rates are stifling business growth. The next Government should prioritise reform

Posted by Jenny Stewart

Chief Executive of Liverpool & Sefton Chambers of Commerce

Wed 18th, Mar

What’s the most powerful deterrent for people thinking about starting their own business? Lack of finance? Fear of failure? Well, I would argue that we should look no further than business rates.

They also deter investment and, because they are based on the value of the property a business occupies rather than its profits, they penalise companies that need larger premises and the bills bear no relation to ability to pay.

Business rates are a principal reason why our high streets have too many empty units. What makes things worse is that traditional retailers are often in competition with internet giants whose tax arrangements they can only envy.

While corporation tax is deferred until a business starts making profits, even the smallest enterprise with the least access to finance has to pay often crippling charges from day one.

We have supported the British Chambers of Commerce in its call for a freeze on business rates until the revaluation scheduled for 2017.

Chancellor George Osborne, who postponed the revaluation until then, announced that the Treasury would review business rates in his last autumn statement.

Labour leader Ed Miliband has made encouraging noises about the need to cut business rates for small firms but has proposed to couple this with a delay to cuts in corporation tax. This would help struggling businesses which may have no profits to pay tax on, but for most it would simply be giving with one hand and taking away with the other – something politicians are good at.

The problem with business rates is that the system is so badly broken and such a deterrent to enterprise that it needs to be completely reformed. Tinkering just won’t do.

The problem is that this tax is worth more than £25bn a year to the Exchequer and it works as a sort of cross-subsidy between different parts of the country, with the surplus from richer districts being remitted in grants to support local government spending in poorer ones.

Therefore, any reform of the system may need to be considered in tandem with devolution in England and, unfortunately, that can only delay the process.

Nevertheless, we hope that whoever forms the next government will realise that business rates are making businesses ill – and a remedy is needed quickly.

What's your reaction to Budget 2015? Let us know

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The potential for collaboration between Universities and SMEs has never been greater.

Posted by Stefan Melgaard

Graduate Recruitment at University of Liverpool

  • T: 0151 794 5112
Tue 17th, Mar

There are still a lot of misconceptions regarding the North West region, graduates and how Universities can support local businesses.  Let’s try and separate the facts from the fiction…

“The economy is rubbish and there aren’t any jobs out there”

The North West is the fastest growing region outside of London at the end of last year, and over half of North West companies are looking to grow their workforce over the next 12 months - specifically with graduates and young people.

 “Only big companies recruit graduates”

Quite the opposite! Over two thirds of UK graduate jobs are with SMEs which demonstrates how important small businesses are to the UK economy.

 “Graduates don’t want to stay here and work for a small company like mine”

Outside of London, the North West retains more graduates than any other region in the UK and 87% of graduates are more than willing to start their career within a SME.

There’s always a “but” though isn’t there?”

Okay, you’ve got me. There’s still the issue of 60% of SMEs finding it a challenge to recruit new employees straight from University.

“So what’s being done about it?”

The University of Liverpool’s Graduate to Merseyside service provides direct support, guidance and a platform for SMEs to promote their opportunities and recruit graduates from the local Universities and those returning home after studying elsewhere. In fact, they’ve placed over 600 graduates across Merseyside!

 “That’s great, but once they’re trained up they’ll just leave”

Not in our experience! Your investment in a graduate can have real long term benefits to your company. In no time at all, your ‘Graduate Trainee’ is your new ‘Marketing Manager’ or ‘Procurement Consultant’ and an integral part of your business.

“Great so what’s the future like?”

With around 400,000 SMEs across the North West, a growing economy and record numbers of students going to University and staying in the region, the potential for collaboration between Universities and SMEs has never been greater.

Take a look at the some of the successful SMEs that have recruited graduates through Graduate to Merseyside.

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People not in support of IFB 2016 are in danger of missing out

Posted by Andy Snell

Head of International Trade & Commercial Services

Mon 16th, Mar

The question above was often put to someone I know. She started her career in HR as a personnel officer at British Coal in the days when we had both of those things.

The question was posed by the colliery manager, usually in response to a well-argued case for this or that innovation which would improve morale among the workforce.

The problem, of course, was that it was usually impossible to say how many extra tonnes would be added to the mine’s productivity as a result. Business marketing events are a bit like that. You can’t be sure exactly what you’re going to get out of them, but you can be sure that not taking part will produce nothing at all.

So, I totally understand when people are asked about the International Festival for Business 2016 and respond with a question similar to the one at the top of the page. I just think they’re in danger of missing out.

We should grasp the opportunities created by bringing thousands of business people to Liverpool. Apart from anything else, it saves us the time and money of going out to find them.

It’s not just me saying this. Here’s how Ian Jones, Managing Director of Warrant Group, the global supply chain provider, describes his company’s participation in IFB 2014:

“Extremely beneficial, opening up dialogue with potential new customers.”

IFB 2016 will be concentrated into three weeks, shorter than last year’s inaugural event. We see that as a positive change and it also shows that the organisers have listened to criticism.

We anticipate making a very positive contribution to IFB 2016, alongside our partners Liverpool Vision and UK Trade & Investment.

The Chamber’s main event last year – The Power of the Chamber Global Network – which we staged in conjunction with the British Chambers of Commerce, was a truly international gathering, with representatives from more than 40 countries taking part, representative of British Chambers of  Commerce and the World Chambers Congress.

Exporting is a key part of our core business and we know that it helps companies to grow. And even if you don’t or can’t export, you will benefit from meeting businesses that do.  The ‘Meet your Global Network’ event will be back by popular demand, even bigger and better, and we will be repeating our ‘Get Fit for IFB’ programme of events too.

So mark June 13 to July 1, 2016 in your diaries and practice your elevator pitch. It will be worth it.

Full details of the event will be announced a year out at the World Chambers Congress in Turin on June 12 2015.

Download the IFB 2016 brochure to see how your business can get involved

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Digital Marketing is now an accessible tool for all but there must be a strategy

Posted by Felix Clarke

Tue 10th, Mar

As we emerge blinking from the recession, the world seems full of opportunities. Businesses are beginning to invest again. Consumers are feeling more confident and even the banks have stopped pretending we don’t exist.

It is also possible, really for the first time ever, for small business owners to market their products and services without spending any money. Social media and email marketing are both effective ways to attract potential customers to your website and apps such as Hootsuite and Mail Chimp are free to use and deliver professional results.

I recently delivered a Tech Tuesday seminar at the Liverpool Chamber in which I discussed some of the tools we use to grow our client’s businesses.

These included:

Marketing Grader from Hubspot which will provide you with a free assessment and plan to improve your online marketing.

www.marketing.grader.com

Adespresso which will help you manage Facebook advertising campaigns.

www.adespresso.com

Leadpages which are easy to create single page websites, called landing pages, which significantly improve conversion from online advertising.

www.leadpages.com

AgileCRM which will enable you to set up sophisticated email and text sequences to follow up new business leads.

www.agilecrm.com

LoyalBlocks which is an automated mobile loyalty program for retail and hospitality businesses.

www.loyalblocks.com

So how does a marketing consultancy expect to prosper in an environment when so much help is available online?

Firstly, even free marketing technology is actually relatively complex and small business owners really appreciate someone taking the time to guide them. A few pro tips can save hours of frustration.

Last year the Tech Tuesday seminars helped hundreds of business owners to take advantage of social media, email marketing and the mobile web.

Secondly, tools alone will not deliver effective results. A clear strategy is essential to put marketing in context and allow it to be measured and therefore improved.

Thirdly, once small business owners experience success with marketing they are able to develop an investment model enabling them to profit from automation and professional help.

We are launching a free webinar series to help small business owners successful plan their marketing, attract new leads, convert prospects and maximise lifetime customer value.

If you would like an invite please go to www.felixclarke.com/events.

Check out more events being held this 'Digi-March'

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Businesses play an important role in inspiring the next generation

Posted by Ian Jones

Managing Director of Warrant Group

  • T: 0151 955 0627
Mon 09th, Mar

Delivering the next generation of supply chain expertise

“Once you’ve got your foot in the door, so many career opportunities open up and it’s great hands-on experience.” Those are the words of first year International Freight and Logistics Apprentice, Jake Rushton, who joined us last October and has been learning all about customs procedures and hazardous cargo.

At Warrant Group we’re really proud to support young people starting their careers through the apprenticeship route – it mirrors my own beginnings as a YTS trainee back in 1986. Fast-forward 23 years and I became Managing Director and owner of Warrant Group, a role which continues to be rewarding and challenging.

Learning in the workplace is an excellent way to get a practical feel for a business, and in our sector, it gives individuals the opportunity to build up a detailed knowledge and understanding of the sector’s complex requirements.

At the moment, we have three apprentices working alongside our teams learning about international trade and logistics. One of our past apprentices has moved into a management role while another has relocated from operations to finance and is now studying for professional qualifications through the Association of Accounting Technicians.

As well as supporting apprentices, we’re also helping all members of staff make the most of professional development opportunities and fulfill their potential.

As a business Warrant Group has built up a reputation for delivering a ‘solutions based approach’ combining expertise and competitive pricing with a strong customer-focused approach. This ethos is an essential part of the business and it’s great to share this knowledge and passion.

With more than 55 members of staff at Warrant Group from a wide range of disciplines and backgrounds, we have some fantastic role models and work hard to create an environment where ideas and experiences can be exchanged. Many of our senior team are members of leading industry organisations with experience of working on complex, country-to-country supply chain combinations.

Sharing this expertise, providing support for professional development and ultimately inspiring the next generation to be the innovators of the future is a great way to reward individuals and support the community around us.

And, with the Government’s drive to encourage UK businesses to explore new markets overseas, there has never been a better time to begin an apprenticeship in logistics and supply chain management.

Ian Jones is the Managing Director of Warrant Group which is one of the largest privately owned supply chain management companies in the UK.

Could you hire the next Ian Jones? Speak to the Chamber about recruiting an apprentice today

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