EVENT: Business Start Up Show
LOCATION: Earl’s Court 2
DATE: November 17-18 2011
PHOTOS: Facebook / Flickr
The 26th Business Startup Show took place at Earls Court 2 in mid-November. inspiresme.co.uk was there on the first day of the two-day event, which is specifically designed for entrepreneurs and businesses in the early stages of their life cycles.
As well as a fully packed schedule of seminars and talks, including appearances by popular Dragon’s Den star James Caan and former The Apprentice star Susan Ma, there were a number of exhibitors offering a range of business services, from marketing and web design to continuity insurance.
For those in the process of starting a business, or thinking about doing so, the event provided insight into a wide range of areas, a distinct advantage considering how many sides there are to running your own business.
The size of the event also meant that many of the exhibitors were running special show promotions, another advantage to attendees.
Seven secrets to a great business start-up - Sarah Cresswell
SECRET 1: Identify what you want
- Identify what you want to achieve and what really matters to you. Work from here.
- "If you know where you want to get to, it’s so much easier to get there.”
- It might feel like an impossible dream, but it's definitely possible.
- To get to the place you want to be, you need: courage, a map, blueprint and vision
SECRET 2: Get a plan
- Do something you love and make a blueprint
- Find out what’s worked for other people
- Take advice from people, but be careful who you take advice from
- Conduct research, and a lot of it
SECRET 3: Make decisions
- It’s not luck that makes other people achieve success in business - it's taking action
- Doing nothing is ALSO a decision; make decisions and reap the benefits
SECRET 4: Don’t struggle with the juggle
- Create a network of like-minded people - these are often not your friends. Save your friends for leisure and talk to your business network about business stuff
- Planning what to do and how to start can consume every waking thought, so take steps to relax
- Remember that starting a business involves a lot of trial and error
- Going it alone is costly in terms of money and time, but rewarding
SECRET 5: Step back, invest in you
- As they are say – “you are worth it”
- Rewards are immense – because it isn’t just about you, there's so much more to running a business
- Make time – invest in future and your family
SECRET 6: Systems
- Starting from scratch is lonely and time-consuming, particularly when you don't have any processes in place
- Systems make it easier to deliver the core business and help people work together well
- This becomes more important as you take on more employees and the business becomes more complex
SECRET 7: Stay focussed
- Always keep secret one in mind
- Say yes to the things that take you forward to achieving that goal
Crisis management: business uncertainty - Albane Quesnot
All businesses must ask themselves two main questions:
- "Does everything go according to plan?"
- "If it doesn't, what are you going to do about it?"
Crisis management does not concern business risks, such as suppliers going cold - these are things that should be covered in the business plan. It is about everyday/life events that you can't influence, for example the London riots or mobile network outage.
Step 1: Understand the risks
Crises happen to everyone, SMEs are especially vulnerable because they do not have crisis management teams or large levels of liquidity.
For example, risk is big if you operate from a single set of premises – flooding or fire can cause big problems.
SME owners need a “mind-shift” – need to go beyond analysing normal business risks to life crises.
Step 2: Prepare for the unexpected
- Review your insurance policies
- Make a will - without power of attorney, your next of kin can't run your business during the rebate period
- Write a business continuity plan
- Use insurance policy as a checklist of crises – it’s a great way to cover all the bases
Step 3: Be watchful
- General awareness of what's happening in the world
- Read the papers
- Are you thinking about what's happening in the near-future? e.g. be prepared for winter - if your boiler packs up, and the temperature drops below a certain threshold, employees must legally be sent home
Step 4: Basic keys to overcome the crisis
- Data – can you secure/recover your data and will it be usable when you do?
- Communication – can you communication the crisis and the way you’ll handle it to all stakeholders?
- Support – you need support from the right people because you won’t be thinking in the right frame of mind after a crisis
A downturn - a good time to start a business? - Clive Lewis
Top 10 tips for web success - Clifford McDowell
You've got a website, now all you need are visitors!
Internet can be a lonely place, can’t it? Think again – including mobile devices, there are over 2 billion users
But there are over 200 million websites, making it a very competitive place. To get your website noticed, you have to have a good presence in search engines
What are search engines and how do they work?
Search engines are websites that allow internet users to find what they’re looking for.
They work like a spreadsheet – spiders, which are software programs, crawl the web and gather information on your site, which is entered into this spreadsheet. It takes around six to eight weeks for a spider to crawl a new site.
Digital spiders want to be fed information – and this is your job.
Top tips for web design
- Think about your audience before you start – don’t design for yourself
- Start website with head not heart – use competitors sites for inspiration and ideas – plan your site first
- Keep your website name simple or Google won’t like it and therefore Google won’t find you
- Design it right – 10 percent of UK are colour blind. Design things clearly for displaying information. Don’t use animations. Each visitor spends an average of 3 seconds looking at site before they make a decision to leave
- Don’t write reams and reams – KISS (keep it simple stupid) – people browse websites, they don’t read them
- Don’t plagiarise – very good software at tracking down plagiarised images and text – you WILL get caught and this will damage your reputation and potentially cost you money
- Put contact details on site – or people will think “what are you hiding from me?” No content details = 70 percent of people won’t make a purchase
- Keep your website up to date – search engines score you on how often you update your content – spiders want to see it updated a lot
- Get on Google - http://www.google.com/addurl – says ‘I’ve published this site, come and see me!” – and add metatags, get page on facebook/twitter and interlink all your online presences
- Avoid cowboys - check portfolios, pay deposit and rest on competion, check if maintenance fees are payable
Seven secrets to avoid the flash, fluff & the fakers
- Marketing is not a regulated industry
- Marketing people have become the ‘dodgy sales people’
Definition of marketing:
Anything that affects the way the outside world perceives your company
- Social media
- Be “the only”, be unique: E.g. Dominos came in to a very competitive market, however promised that their pizzas would be delivered in under 30mins. That was their USP.
- Understand misconceptions: Overcome the prejudice and make people trust you. Think about the misconceptions; make an elevator pitch overcome them. (e.g. people tend to shy away if they think you are just a sales person, make them understand that there is more to you than that.)
- Take your branding seriously: it’s more than a logo, branding is a promise to your clients. It tells them that they will have continually great experiences with you. Brand must be consistent (e.g.: Virgin airlines stewardesses, they are given a branding policy book to ensure they all look and behave in the exact same way.). Don’t cheapen your brand for the short term game.
- Build brand with PR not advertising: Advertising is what you say about yourself (KD believes this is the biggest waste of money) while PR is what others say about you (e.g.: Bodyshop, Starbucks – you never see them advertising, but they are very successful and respected in their industries). Make yourself interesting so people want to talk about you
- Don’t be afraid of social media: The average person has 200 contacts. Bad news spreads fast (when a good thing happens you tell 3 people, when a bad thing happens you tell 9). Use social media to your advantage, if someone slates you on twitter and you are not on there to defend yourself/apologise, your reputation could be ruined.
- Perfect your elevator pitch: use it everywhere and keep it consistent. If your listener can't leave the 'elevator' and sell your business, you need to improve your pitch. All staff should have the same pitch for branding purposes.
- Make sure your website works: 94 percent don’t work. Your website is the cheapest salesman you can buy, so make the most of it.
How to make your new business thrive - David Lester
- What does it mean to you? Pursuing a dream? Making a fortune?
- Write it down and read it often
Ensure your business can deliver ‘success’
- Don't assume it can –check!
- Are there enough likely customers?
- How can you reach them?
- How will competition react to you?
Why hasn’t it been done before?
- Not a negative question – it matters!
- You need to have a good answer for this question
- Barriers may be substantial
- Be confident that you can overcome them
Give your customers what they want
- Get inside their heads, predict what they want
Be better or different
- There is always competition even if it is indirect
- If you have direct competitors, you need to be MUCH better. It is easier to be different
- Perception and presentation matter most
Understand the numbers
- Never ok to delegate this
- Understand what makes a profit in your business
- Profit & loss, cash flow and balance sheet
- Knowing where you stand and where you are going
Marathon not a sprint
- Overnight success is a myth
- Longer, harder road than you expect
- Unless you know you can get to the end, don’t bother
- Expect to need more time and money
Mean, lean & nimble
- Keep costs variable - use freelance, ask and negotiate - there's always another way
- Minimise cash spend - start small because if you run out of cash it's game over
Review & adjust
- No business gets its plan right
- Trust your instincts
- Small things matter
- Trust real results over research
- “Keep the main thing the main thing”
- Increasingly the “winner takes it all”, second place is far behind
- Ask customers about your business and your competitors – play dumb (ask as many questions as you can) and be polite
- Ask suppliers about your business and competitors
- DON'T - expect high sales, run out of cash, or expect too much early on
More than just social networking... - Jonathan Oslar & Faraaz Noor
The importance of brand
Despite the growth of sites such as Facebook and Twitter, online marketing is about more than just
Yet many firms have placed considerable emphasis on social networking strategy, to the detriment of other areas, particularly brand.
Businesses must remember that:
- A strong brand is vital to success
- Don't run before you can walk
Brand is NOT just product - it's the "tactical sum of everything a company does."
- deliver message clearly
- motivate customer
- confirm credibility
- concrete customer loyalty
Brand is a promise:
- Operational effectiveness
Basics of web design
Design of your website is important and contributes heavily to your overall online presence and therefore marketing success. At the very least you should consider these factors:
- Logo design
- Colour palette
Standing out from the crowd is important:
- User-friendliness - contact information clearly displayed, ease of navigation
- Following best practice - clear description of who you are and what you do
- Simple, sensible domain - all real words, or all made up words. Relevant. Avoid dashes and numbers.
- Clear navigation - include clear calls-to-action to aid the user journey
- Well-written text - short paragraphs, highlight important information for ease of reading
- Testimonials - helps build trust and also helps people confirm your product is right for them
You must ensure you differentiate yourself from competitors and that your website tells visitors what you are about. Developing a value proposition can help - this solidifies the key propositions of your site and your brand.
When you develop a value proposition, you must include:
- What you provide
- Answer the visitor response, "So what?"
- Answer "How much?"
- Provide proof of your claims
These should all be able to be answered on the back of a napkin - VPs are short and punchy. If they are murky or complex you will turn your customers off.
Basics of online marketing
Strategy defines objectives and decides how you'll satisfy customers in your chosen markets.
- Scope of business
- Marketing mix
- Marketing objectives
- Target segments and positioning
To bolster your search engine ranks, these steps are key:
- Know the basics of search engine optimisation
- Update your website regularly with fresh, quality content
- Use a secure hosting platform
DON'T BE AFRAID TO BE DIFFERENT - be innovative and THEN you'll get noticed
BE COST EFFECTIVE - use techniques with high returns such as email marketing