Time to spring clean your business

Paint

It’s Easter week. With the long weekend, many children off school, and people taking holiday, customers can often be a bit quieter. So it’s a good time to do some strategic planning, financial planning and marketing for your business. Here are some ideas to inspire you:

Measure how much time you spend working ‘on the business’ compared with the time you spend working ‘in the business’. As a small-business owner, it is tempting to get bogged down in the everyday detail, but it is wise to take time to step back and look at the bigger picture.

Are you spending roughly equal amounts of time on:

  • Marketing activities to fill your pipeline and win new clients?
  • Admin activities – all the jobs that need to be done to keep your business ticking over?
  • Actually doing the work you need to do to make money?

Are you easily distracted by social media? Use an app to measure how much time you are spending – you may be surprised. Decide whether you can outsource some or all of this activity.

Things are changing fast ever, so we recommend you update your business plan at least every quarter. Are you on track to achieving your goals for the short-term and long-term? What, if anything, do you need to change? Do your goals need to be revisited in the first place?

Map out your workflow so you can spot the bottlenecks and resolve them. What can you automate or delegate to save valuable time? For example, if you hate dealing with bookkeeping, accounting, payroll and invoicing, these tasks are better done by a professional. Can you move your software into the cloud? Or introduce apps that will improve your systems and processes?

Customers

Customer retention is cheaper than customer acquisition, and engaging with your customers is the only way to know what’s working and what’s not. Ask for customer feedback, and make any changes that may be necessary to keep them delighted. Also investigate why customers leave your business – this can provide even more valuable insight.

Identify any non-profitable clients or time-wasters, and consider whether it is time to let them go so you are free to take on more worthwhile customers.

Check the customer journey (as if you are a mystery shopper) to make sure the experience they receive is seamless. Also check your competitors’ websites to see what they are doing.

Colleagues

Similarly, review your staff roles and responsibilities. Do you have the right people with the right skills doing the right things, or do you need to make some changes?

Spend time with your people. Nothing is better than a face-to-face interaction to build relationships, understand  their motivations and issues, and unleash their potential and productivity.

It’s dangerous to stay still, so brainstorm new ideas with colleagues at all levels in the organisation. You never know where the next inspiring product or service concept will come from – it may well be from an employee who is closer to the customer than you are.

Good housekeeping

Read your own website and social media output to double-check that the content is up to date and conveying your core message clearly. Is the URL https? If yes, Google will boost your site up the rankings. Is it mobile-friendly? If not, it needs to be, because Google will no longer show the link in the results when searched on a mobile device.

Empty your email inbox, and resolve to check messages only once each day. Filter any junk mail to a spam folder, and unsubscribe from newsletters that you no longer read. This simple tip will make you far more productive.

It’s said that a tidy desk is a sign of a tidy mind, so file your paperwork, clean your workspace, and refresh your décor.

Money money money

Review your expenses. Talk to your regular suppliers to negotiate a better deal in return for your loyalty. Look at any ongoing subscription charges to see whether there are any you should cancel. Check that your business insurances are up to date.

Order your personalised cash report from Akoni, and move your cash into accounts that generate more interest.

Look after yourself

And finally, some suggestions to help keep you happy and healthy:

  • Review whether your personal goals are still in line with your business goals
  • Remember to take time off so you return to the business with a fresh mind
  • Celebrate successes with your team

Akoni helps businesses make the most of their cash. Follow us on Twitter @akonihub or connect with us here.

7 things SMEs need to know about the new tax year

Coins

A new tax year starts on 6 April 2017, and various changes take effect on that date which you need to know about.

1. Ensure your employees have the correct tax code

The personal allowance increases to £11,500, and the higher rate income tax threshold increases to £45,000. This means your employees will take home more of their monthly salary than they did in the previous tax year.

2. Ensure you are paying the correct hourly wage

The National Living Wage rises to £7.50, in line with the pledge made by Philip Hammond in the autumn statement.

3. Consider changing to cash basis accounting

The entry threshold for cash basis accounting increases from £83,000 to £150,000. If you are a trading business with straightforward tax affairs, this is a simplified way to calculate your taxable profits (it’s optional).

4. Pay less corporation tax

Corporation tax reduces from 20% to 19% in 2017, and to 17% in 2020, meaning the UK will have the lowest corporation tax rate in the G20.

5. Note changes to business rates

As we have mentioned before, business rates increase – but £435 million relief has been made available to help ease the transition:

  • £300 million discretionary relief is available from local authorities to help businesses most affected by the revaluation
  • Pubs with a rateable value up to £100,000 can claim £1,000 discount for one year
  • No small business will pay more than £600 more in business rates this year than they did last year

6. Prepare for Making Tax Digital (MTD)

The VAT threshold rises from £83,000-£85,000.

Businesses with a turnover below the VAT threshold were going to have to submit tax information online by April 2018 – this has now been deferred for one year.

This means SMEs have more time to plan and prepare. It also gives software providers more time to update their products to cope with recording and submitting digital tax reports.

7. Welcome funding to improve digital and physical infrastructure

In the spring budget, the Chancellor announced:

  • £200 million for local broadband networks
  • £90 million to improve transport in the North of England
  • £23 million to address pinch-points on roads in the Midlands
  • £16 million for 5G mobile technology

This investment should help improve road networks and broadband connections across the country, and help boost productivity for SMEs.

Summary

In the current climate including planning for Brexit, we encourage all businesses to review opportunities, potential government support and cost-saving initiatives.

Akoni helps businesses make the most of their cash. Follow us on Twitter @akonihub or connect with us here.

How Brexit will impact SMEs

trigger

Theresa May triggered Article 50 on 29 March, starting the two-year process of the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union.

We’ve entered into an age of uncertainty – but SMEs can’t put growth plans on hold and adopt a ‘wait and see’ approach. Business continues as usual. Stock markets and inflation are holding steady, and Treasury predictions for growth remain the same as before the referendum.

Threats

SmallBusiness.co.uk says: “Small businesses are the lifeblood of the UK economy. Falling GDP will have a large impact on small businesses in terms of the overall activity of businesses and consumers buying their products or services…Small businesses are also more susceptible to shocks since they generally have a lower field of operation.”

  • Buying goods and services from other countries is now more costly. A weak pound is bad for the UK since we buy more from overseas than we sell
  • If prices rise faster than wages, consumers will start to spend less
  • Tariff-free trade with EU countries accounts for 44% of UK exports, so the cost of doing business with these clients has increased

The right of EU nationals to live and work in the UK is unclear, which may drive recruitment of UK workers and increased labour costs.

The Adviser Lounge warns: “If the cost of hiring skilled labour increases, the financial cost of Brexit to small business could prove too much to bear.”

Opportunities

Brexit undoubtedly brings threats, but it also presents opportunities.

Felicia Meyerowtiz-Singh, CEO and co-founder of Akoni says: ” Brexit and uncertainty also provide opportunities for revenue and business growth for UK business.”

  • Exporters are already benefiting from the fall in the value of the pound against the dollar and euro
  • The UK tourism industry should benefit, with an increase in staycations and visitors from overseas
  • Some employers anticipate potential relaxation of EU employment laws

So what can you do?

The world is changing faster than ever, with a combination of the digital revolution and economic uncertainty.

Here are some tips  from the Akoni team.

  • It’s easier for small organisations to remain flexible and adaptable. Demonstrate agile leadership and become comfortable with uncertainty and change. Don’t worry about what you can’t control, but plan for relevant risks that you can mitigate.
  • Streamline your systems and processes, such as the internal flow of information.
  • Identify the skill sets and attitudes you need, and train your people accordingly.
  • Maintain focus on customer satisfaction, monitoring social sentiment and improving your value proposition and customer journey.
  • Make use of new technology such as the cloud. Monitor data for trends and use it as a guide to threats and opportunities. Turn data into visuals that can be easily analysed and transformed into  good decisions and useful outcomes.
  • With a grasp of core financials, the CFO plays a key role of oversight, guiding the business in the right direction both short-term and long-term.

And finally, here are some ideas from other sources:

HSBC suggests: “We will need to improve in an area in which we have consistently under-performed: supplying the world’s fastest-growing economies in Asia and Latin America.”

SmallBusiness.co.uk says: “Small business should be looking to do everything they can now to protect themselves from future shocks… Diversifying out of, or into different markets might make sense…and now is the time to open dialogue with suppliers about pricing.”

Real Business advises: “By developing employees, you’ll have a more confident, motivated and proactive workforce who feel more positive about the future, and who are better placed to handle whatever comes along…Review your operation and pinpoint there there may be the opportunity to work with other similar-sized businesses who are experts in their field…Be as transparent as possible and involve staff in updates about the business where appropriate. This will foster strength and build trust amongst the team, which will be invaluable if the business hits any bumps further down the road.”

Change is here to stay. Whatever happens, Akoni will be here to help and advise.

Akoni helps businesses make the most of their cash. Follow us on Twitter @akonihub or connect with us here.

The last-ever Spring Budget: The business impact

Spring

On 8 March, Chancellor Philip Hammond delivered his final spring budget. From 2017, the budget will be moving to the autumn, with a spring statement instead. The intention is to allow more time for changes to be made before the next tax year.

Key points

Here are some of the key points that were announced:

  • Growth in the UK economy picked up through 2016, and the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) forecasts that the UK economy will grow by 2% in 2017, at a slightly slower rate in 2018, and then up to 2% in 2021
  • Britain’s debt stands at nearly £1.7 trillion – around £62,000 for every household in the country. In 2009-10 the UK borrowed £1 in every £5 spent. This year it is set to be £1 in every £15. Borrowing is forecast to reduce by nearly three quarters by 2016-17.
  • Employment has reached a record high of 31.8 million people

How the Budget affects SMEs

Here are some of the ways that SMEs and start-ups will be affected by the recent announcements:

  • There is a cut in dividend allowance for company shareholders
  • If you are an unincorporated business with an annual turnover below the VAT registration threshold, Making Tax Digital will become mandatory in April 2019 – after that, you will have to use digital software to keep your tax records and update HMRC every quarter
  • Self-employed people will have to pay increased National Insurance Contributions to bring them closer into line with employed people. From 2018, Class 2 NICs will be abolished. Class 4 NICs will rise to 10% in April 2018 and to 11% in April 2019.
    Update 15 March: The government has announced a U-turn on self-employed VAT, as explained in this BBC report.
  • Small businesses with minimal expenses (less than £2,000 a year) will now have to pay 16.5% under the Flat Rate VAT scheme

Rising business rates

We’ve written about rising business rates before, but here are some of the ways the Chancellor is sweetening the pill:

  • Business rates are increasing for certain sectors, especially the digital economy – but no small business that is coming out of small business rates relief will pay more than £600 more in business rates this year compared with 2016-17
  • Local authorities have been granted £300 million of discretionary relief they can use to help businesses most affected by the revaluation
  • From April 2017, pubs with a rateable value up to £100,000 will be able to claim a discount for of £1,000 on their business rates for one year

Consumer protection

Your business may be fined if you mislead or mistreat consumers. For example, if you charge consumers unexpectedly when a subscription is renewed or a free trial ends, or if your terms and conditions are too long, complicated or jargon-filled.

Investment in innovation

The Chancellor confirmed the government’s support of innovation, highlighting the Research and Development (R&D) tax credit scheme. They aim to improve awareness of the scheme among SMEs, and make administrative changes to increase the certainty and simplicity around claims.

£500 million is to be invested in technical education for 16 to 19-year-olds, with new T-levels being introduced from autumn 2019 covering 15 different subjects including construction, digital and agriculture. Students doing high-level technical courses at National Colleges and Institutes of Technology will be able to access maintenance loans from the government.

£270 million has been allocated to the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, to support research and innovation in:

  • Artificial intelligence and robotics that will work in extreme environments
  • Better batteries for electric vehicles that will help improve our air quality
  • Medicine manufacturing technologies to speed up patient access to drugs

£210 million will create new fellowships and programmes to attract top global talent to conduct research in areas such as bioscience and biotechnology, quantum technologies, and satellite and space technology.

£200 million is going towards local projects to build fast and reliable full-fibre broadband networks.

£90 million will provide 1,000 new PhD places, including in science, technology, engineering and maths.

£16 million is being invested into a national 5G Innovation Network to trial new 5G technology.

EIS tax relief

It has previously been indicated that the government will be reviewing existing tax reliefs aimed at encouraging investment and entrepreneurship (such as the EIS) to ensure that they are “effective, well targeted, and provide value for money”, however, Philip Hammond didn’t mention any change to Enterprise Investment Schemes at this stage.

We can only wait and see…

Akoni helps businesses make the most of their cash. Follow us on Twitter @akonihub or connect with us here.

How Wednesday’s budget could affect SMEs

Houses of Parliament

The final Spring Budget is on 8 March. From next year the Budget is moving to Autumn, with a Spring Statement. This change gives time for tax changes to be made in advance of the tax year, and provides businesses with more time to plan, if necessary.

Forecasts are showing sharp growth with borrowing lower than anticipated, and a £45 billion tax windfall for the Treasury in the next five years. January’s tax receipts are at the highest level since 1999, but Chancellor Philip Hammond is quoted as saying: “There is no pot of money under my desk.”

In this article, we’ve compiled some of the main predictions that will impact you and your business, and look forward to hearing what is announced on Wednesday.

Business rates

According to reports, some firms face increases of up to 400% in the April business rates hike.

The Chancellor has recently indicated that he is “alive” to the impact this have on some High Street shops, and “open” about finding ways to help.

Business rates are a property tax that doesn’t apply in the digital economy, and the Government is trying to ensure that online retailers such as Amazon don’t benefit to the detriment of traditional High Street retailers.

We expect he will announce some immediate measures that will mitigate the worst effects on SMEs (such as transitional relief), with more fundamental reforms to come in the future. No additional help is expected for supermarkets and corporations.

Misleading contracts

Companies that mislead or rip off consumers are to be targeted, because Ministers want to force firms to use plain English and make key terms more obvious. If not, they face a fine.

The Citizens’ Advice service estimates that 2 million consumers per year have problems cancelling subscriptions, and research shows that 42% of people are paying for at least one subscription they don’t use, such as gym membership.

Consumer watchdog Which? found that 90% of people ticked to agree with online T&Cs in the past year but only 16% always read them. For one thing, T&Cs are often very long, for example, contracts for mobile phones can run up to 40,000 words. They also contain acronyms and legal or financial jargon that mean people don’t fully understand what they are signing.

Plans will be therefore be unveiled to fine companies that tie people into long contracts or unexpected fees in their terms and conditions.

There may also be a crackdown on rolling subscriptions that renew automatically after a free trial, with new rules to ensure consumers are offered the chance to cancel the agreement.

Science and innovation boost

The Chancellor is expected to announce a £500 million boost from the National Productivity Investment Fund, to support science and technology.

Around £270 million will be made available for pioneering projects such as:

  • Technology that operates in extreme and hazardous environments
  • Cutting-edge artificial intelligence
  • Robots for off-shore and nuclear energy, space and mining
  • Batteries for the next generation of electric cars
  • Accelerating patient access to new drugs, by developing speedy new ways to manufacture medicine

£200 million will go towards new fellowships for researchers in areas aligned to the government’s industrial strategy.

A further £90 million will fund 1,000 PhD research projects in STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), with extra cash for investment in 5G communications.

Brexit

British businesses are calling for economic stability during the Brexit negotiations. The Confederation of British Industry says that uncertainty dampens investment and higher inflation erodes the growth in consumer spending.

Carolyn Fairbairn, Director-General of the CBI, said: “By supporting businesses to invest, the government can promote growth at a critical time.”

Rain Newton-Smith, CBI chief economist, said: “Prioritising stability will inject further confidence in the economy now, and help boost the country’s productivity and prosperity for the future.”

Anything is possible after Article 50 is triggered at the end of March. Bigger measures are likely to be reserved until the Autumn Budget, so the Chancellor can see how the economy reacts. Meanwhile, we know he is aiming to keep a pot of money as a safety net, to ensure the country negotiates Brexit with stability.

As always, Akoni will keep you posted.

Akoni helps businesses make the most of their cash. Follow us on Twitter @akonihub or connect with us here.

Heard about Small Business Saturday?

Apples

Small Business Saturday has been taking place on the first Saturday in December since 2013. The campaign provides free training workshops, celebrates small business successes, and encourages consumers to support small businesses in their community by ‘shopping local’. Although it focuses on one day, the aim is to change mindsets so people choose small businesses all year round.

This year’s figures are not yet announced, but on Small Business Saturday in 2015, customers spent £623m with small businesses – an increase of 24% on the previous year. #SmallBizSatUK trended at number one all day, with over 100,000 tweets sent, reaching over 25 million people. And over 75% of local council supported the campaign, for example, by providing free parking.

100 small businesses were highlighted in the 100 days running up to this year’s event on 3 December. They attended receptions at Downing Street and The Treasury Drum with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and benefited from exposure on social media and in the local press.

One of the featured businesses in 2016 was Haven’t Stopped Dancing Yet! – a pop-up disco for people who love soul, funk and disco music from the 70s and 80s. Founded in 2010, they have performed in South East London and Birmingham, with vinyl DJs, dance line-ups, retro sweets and fancy dress prizes. Ad agency, JWT, called them a “trailblazer” for targeting the under-served 50-something market.

Spice Kitchen in Walsall is a mother-and-son team producing home-ground spices and spice mixes sold online via Etsy and Not On The High Street. They were also finalists in the Guardian Small Business Showcase competition, won a Great Taste Award in 2015 for their garam masala, and received the BBC Producers’ Bursary Award 2015 for up-and-coming food producers. The owners say customers love the products, and the fact that they are a family-run business.

Marvel Plumbing was one of the first businesses to be highlighted in 2016, and organised a fun event on Small Business Saturday to bring other businesses together and expose them to the local community. The company has grown from one man-and-van in 2012 to eight vans and four full-time office staff. They have also been asked to write and deliver part of the gas course for Southgate and Barnet College, so training future gas engineers to meet their high standards.

Small Business Saturday is a non-commercial initiative headed by Director Michelle Ovens MBE. It covers all types of small business, and is free to join. The campaign is supported by high-profile sponsors including American Express, Federation of Small Business, and Vistaprint.

This year, they have even launched a free cookbook containing recipes inspired by small businesses.

Find out more at smallbusinesssaturdayuk.com

Akoni helps businesses make the most of their cash. Follow us on Twitter @akonihub or connect with us here.

10 Quick tips on Juggling Parenting and Business

All of us with families have the constant struggle of balancing our work and family life.   Even when we are passionate about and consumed by our work, it is something we continuously think about and consider how to maximise, to focus on the important aspects of both.   Here at Akoni we have the same dilemma and thought we would note a few  helpful tips in navigating this lifestyle.

1. Family and Business can work – don’t give up on your dream

Focus on the positives – think about how your career or your business is benefiting your family.  As long as you prioritise what you need to achieve and mange your time and to get the balance right, you will feel more confident with yourself and your decisions.  A happy mom or dad means a happy family.

2. Prevent Chaotic Mornings and Evenings

You don’t need to be in your office every morning before sunrise, in fact most entrepreneurs say having morning breakfast with the family helps the children to feel happy.  If they aren’t happy then you may feel frustrated and this will have a knock-on effect throughout your day.

3. Perfection is not expected

Particularly for women, the perfect house you had before children doesn’t need to still be perfect, rather keep on top of you household chores with some of the tips below and allow yourself time to be with your children, the condition of your house can take priority once your children have gone to college and when you will have time to appreciate it more! For all us, don’t worry about perfect time keeping take 5 mins on the way into work to stop and get yourself a latte or a juice, or just walking to work instead of driving or taking public transport can give you a chance to recharge.

4. Consider Hiring help

Hiring help in the home is a great alternative to bringing balance back into the work-life scale we all battle on a daily basis.
A survey recently found that one in three British Households now employs someone to help with chores, spending £26 billion a year on help in the home. Not everyone can afford full-time help – even a bi-monthly cleaner will help you feel a little more in control. You can also devise a system for tackling housework to help you handle this seemingly never ending task. Get your children to pitch in – small children as young as 3 can help with household chores. Share tasks with your partner – you have both had a long day, share the workload at home.

5. Spend Quality time with your children

Making time for your family and children is crucial and allows you to nurture your family dynamic. Create activities that regular fit into your schedule and avoid talking about work or checking emails and messages during these times. Ask older children for their activity suggestions and try to meet their needs. In the end it doesn’t really matter what you do as long as you are enjoying time together.

6. Designate a “no work zone” in your home

Depending on the layout of your home – find a no work zone.  The lounge is usually a good place to relax with a glass of wine or cup of tea after a long day, put your feet up and chat to your partner, play with your children, or watch a movie together.  If you have a strict no work zone within your living room, it will stop the need to bring your laptop or phone with you leading to you not completely relaxing or engaging with your partner or children.

7. Create time boundaries

Be disciplined and set time limits to check emails and make phone calls, things you can do whilst your children are sleeping. Try to avoid multi-tasking, especially when spending time with your children.  A good rapport with co-workers is great and beneficial, however you can have this without numerous email exchanges, extended lunches and casual internet surfing. Focus on your tasks at work and use breaks and lunchtimes for chats with co-workers, thus enabling you to have more time with your family once you are at home.

8. Don’t overlook the benefits of childcare

There is no way you will be able to do your job properly if you are worried about your child’s wellbeing whilst you are at work. Find childcare that both you and your child will be happy with.  Obtain recommendations from friends and families or online forums, write a list of important criteria and schedule time to meet carers or visit nurseries.

9. Be fully engaged

Your priorities and time management rely on you to be fully engaged. If you look at your email whilst you are having breakfast with your children, this will create a half-heartedness engagement with both your children and your work.  Ideally aim for your complete presence in all situations. Rather use the time you have specifically set aside to check emails, speak to colleagues and spend time with your children, helping you to be more focused and more productive.

10. Know when to unplug and how to relax

Limit your screen time to first thing in the morning or intervals during the day which you have decided are the best for your daily tasks. Again rather have time allocated to checking emails and working so that you know you can be 100% focused on these tasks and know that after that is done you allow your self to action anything that requires immediate attention. Do the activities which relax you – sports, running, having a long bath, spending quality time with your partner. If you don’t unplug, you will find your daily tasks will then overlap important family time and you will not be fully engaged in either.

It is important that we all feel we are spending the most possible time with our family. We hope the above pointers helps you to balance out your business and family over this festive season. Enjoy the seasonal break!   If you have any time off,  focus on presence and if you don’t, remember that your children and partner will appreciate any time you are able to give them.  Aim  to fully recharge during quieter moments, reflecting on moments of priority and importance, in order to start afresh in the new year. 

Akoni helps businesses make the most of their cash. Follow us on Twitter @akonihub or connect with us here.

 

Email Marketing Basics for your Business

One could not have failed to have noticed that the festive season is upon us once more, bringing with it the annual year end frenzied product push. Our team at Akoni thought it particularly relevant to highlight ways in which your business can optimise your email marketing to maximise sales from existing subscribers or prospective client bases.

Email marketing is the most powerful tool of a marketer – it is easy to measure ROI and is a tool that enables business to reach the customer directly. It is often mistakenly assumed in marketing that a measurement of deliverability is simply the proportion of emails that were ‘accepted’. If an email does not bounce back or is not rejected, it does not necessarily mean that it has been delivered.

Delivery rate is a calculation of mail sent minus the volume that bounced. However, this is quite misleading as it doesn’t take into account the emails that are simply filtered into spam files or are ignored. Overall, deliverability is making sure you are doing what you can to put yourself in the best position to be actually seen by your subscribers, says Tom Corbett of Experian.

70 per cent of mail sent globally being considered spam by Internet Service Providers (ISPs), which have developed settings which the customer can adjust to suit their unique inbox preferences. These filters massively reduce the volume coming to an inbox. However, the interpretation of spam differs according to personal preference. As a result, what is becoming increasingly important is personalisation in email communication – making your email wanted is the key to a successful email campaign.

Know Your Client

Up to date research into customer behaviour and market analysis will show you where and how you should target your audiences effectively. This will help hone your campaign and make sure it appeals to the right group. This is the most important step in any marketing campaign by far, as everything starts here.

Make Customers Feel Special

Creating a feeling of belonging to an exclusive club or a select group is an extremely effective marketing tool. People are naturally competitive, and want to be made to feel special, the chosen ones – more superior. By making sure that your clients are given VIP passes, or exclusive prices or a top-class service reserved for a few, you are immediately tapping into a very powerful psychological tool by stroking their ego’s, catching their attention and creating a bond.

A Clear, Simple Message – Repeated

Know what your company does, what they stand for and why the customer needs your product. Get your branding right. Keeping to the basic core with simple, direct messages.Repeating the lines that are part of your branding core, that won’t change and are easily associated with your brand will create a sense of familiarity and a sense of trust for your customers. They will think of your brand when they hear similar words, or catch phrases. Own your taglines.

marketing-color-colors-wheel
Always focus on the customer. Personalised campaigns are becoming more and more essential.

Well Presented

Employ a designer or use the templates provided in tools available. Design is essential as we are all far more likely to read visuals than words. Make sure that you tap into this, as getting simple elements like the colour tone wrong can have expensive consequences. Watch spelling and grammar.

Regular Emails

Keeping in touch with customers on a regular basis is important. It reinforces the notion that your company is reliable and trustworthy. Keep postings or mail drops to the same time on the same day. Be aware that too many emails a week can lead to engagement fatigue – making your company an enemy as opposed to friend.

Strong Call to Action

It’s all very well having a clear email selling you something, but people need instructions. The Call to Action is the moment a potential target takes the bait – the conversion of effort to profit. Tell people what you want them to do, very short, sharp and clear, containing a verb – three words maximum. “BUY NOW” or “ENTER HERE”

Sense of Urgency

The sense that this offer is only available for a short period of time certainly makes it more valuable. Some emails have an actual clock feature that counts down the time till the offer expires. It puts incredible pressure on the customer, which is effective.

Choosing the Right Business Tools

There are many examples of excellent products out there which offer top class  email marketing software (MailChimp,  ConstantContact, Campaignmaster) through to all-in-one CRM and Sales package tools such as Hubspot, Salesforce and Pipedrive . It’s imperative to find a solution that fits your brand’s unique needs and requirements. When you are starting out, here are some key items to take note of and factor in before settling on a CRM system:

  • Does it offer support? What are the hours that support is offered in?
  • Is there training offered as part of the package? If not, how much extra will this cost?
  • Does it integrate easily with your current systems?
  • Find out how pricing scales, the longer you use it, and the more features you engage – especially regarding database size. Are there add-on features available or do you have to upgrade for more features or additional contacts? Are there hidden fees? Limits of messages sent a month? Charges to add users?
  • Find out if the software is designed for use by both sales and marketing. How it will better align sales and marketing teams? Ask for examples of how each team can use it. Get your marketing and sales teams to sample different tools before deciding on one.
  • Does the platform manage full customer life cycles, or only leads and prospects? You want to be able to engage and nurture contacts throughout the entire life cycle. After all, the best customer you can get is the one you already have.
  • Ask about email deliverability, specifically the vendor’s inbox and deliverability rate.
  • Is data available to track and assess progress?
  • Ensure the software offers mobile optimised landing pages and forms, as well as responsive email templates. Do you have additional mobile technology needs? It is essential that the software can meet your mobile requirements.

There is no replacement for personal engagement with clients. People want to see that they are valued and can trust your service if they engage it. That is what marketing comes down to – convincing the your client base that your product is better than the next. Try and humanise your email communication as much as possible – making your email wanted is the key to a successful mail programme.

Akoni helps businesses make the most of their cash. Follow us on Twitter @akonihub or connect with us here.

 

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Brexit, the US Election and British Business

After a seemingly endless trail to these fraught US elections – which have featured more turbulence, twists and turns than a series of Game of Thrones – businessman Donald Trump has become the 45th President of the United States. Indeed, 2016 will go down in history as one of the most volatile financial years ever. With the uncertainty of Brexit dangling over their heads like the Sword of Damocles, hundreds of Britain-based SME’s are now facing the impact of “Trumponomics” on top of Brexit uncertainties.

As expected, the dollar immediately plummeted after Trump’s victory, and may be unstable for a while. The US economy may take time to settle before changes start to kick in. The main European markets ultimately ended the day up – as such the expected meltdown did not occur. Experts are saying that radical change is unlikely to happen immediately – which is good news for stock markets. How the US economy reacts over the next few years will be interesting to watch, however.

Trump’s victory speech certainly soothed some fraught nerves, and towards the end of the day many markets were calmer. The President Elect spoke of healing and uniting the nation, he offered his thanks to Hillary Clinton for her service and hard work over the years, and talked about global relations.

While a Trump presidency is likely to add to global economic uncertainty, analysts believe the impact on the UK economy will – at least in the short term – be limited. Capital Economics has left its forecasts for UK growth unchanged 1.5pc in 2017 and 2.5pc in 2018 following the US election result. Outside the EU, the USA is the UK’s biggest export market, with a fifth of UK goods and services sent to the world’s biggest economy, equivalent to 6pc of UK gross domestic product (GDP). But Jonathan Loynes, an economist at Capital Economics, argues that there are several reasons why a Trump presidency would not be as painful for the UK, as it might be for other European countries. He sights factors such as the plunge in the value of the pound following Brexit – ultimately helping the UK to regain it’s competitiveness; a weaker dollar against low yielding currencies could help the pound to “find a floor”, easing concerns about runaway inflation. He also added that the political consequences for the UK, due to our good relationship with the US, plus the bonus that the UK has already had its “revolution” against the establishment, as positive factors. Brexit inspired the Trump vote, while mainstream politicians in the euro-zone – especially France, Italy and Germany – will be looking on with considerable unease while populist parties take encouragement from the events that have unfolded in the US and teh UK.

Britain’s main stock index, the FTSE 100, recovered from it’s early-morning slump, gaining 0,7 percent, while Germany’s DAX was up 0.5 percent and France’s CAC-40 gained 0.5 percent. This pattern has echoed the reaction to the Brexit vote – only it happened much faster: complacency, surprise and panic followed by swift recovery. Maybe Trump will prove to be less controversial than he has promised? Let’s hope so.

Practically speaking, there is a bit of breathing space before all these policy changes would come into being. In a Brexit scenario, the process of leaving the EU will take two years before it is phased in. The US president is sworn into office in January 2017, after which policies that President Trump has mentioned in his campaign will need to be passed by the Senate – and his revolutionary policies may or may not be approved by the extremely conservative administration in place.

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Extraordinary times call for caution and sensible business practice.

In terms of practical advice for businesses, it is crucial that they use this period to renegotiate, reassess and re-strategise to manage all foreign exchange risks. Many companies buying US dollars have already shortened the length of their forward contracts significantly, dropping these from an average of 90 working days per contract to less than 70 days, in anticipation of financial upheaval. Some 75 per cent of the earnings of the UK’s largest 100 companies come from overseas with many reporting their results in dollars. If we are faced with a situation where the pound becomes weaker, the knock-on effect may be felt down entire supply chains.

It is also on businesses to make sure that these supply chains are performing super-efficiently and cost effectively. It is a good idea to try and renegotiate future deals with one’s current suppliers, or in some cases, seek new suppliers who can offer the best possible deals.

It seems that UK business owners are relentlessly carrying on with business as usual. Given the difficult economic conditions in the recent past and the unpredictability of the future, business owners here have come to believe that with a combination of new technology available (i.e. access to effective ways to market their products online and many business tools) together with their own hard work, an innovative approach and good business management, there is every chance  of succeeding in this economic climate. After all, small businesses are essential to the economy of the UK, and the government knows it. Trump is all about business, hence the world is all about business as never before.

One part of Britain that will have their eye firmly on developments in the USA is Wales. For 70 years the US has been Wales’s top investor, accounting for 40% of the foreign money invested in it, and therefore the ramifications of the Trump administration’s economic policy are of massive interest there. Around 275 US companies are employing 48,000 people operating in the region – a significant chunk of the economy. Welsh exports to the USA are around £2.7bn while imports from the US to Wales are valued at £0.6bn.

Theresa May’s diplomatic message to the President Elect was that Britain and the USA have had an enduring and special relationship based on the values of freedom, democracy and enterprise in the past. The USA has been a close ally of the UK, with British foreign policy being closely coordinated with the US.  This special alliance has been strengthened by close cooperation through the World Wars, the Korean conflict, the Persian Gulf War, in Operation Iraqi Freedom, and in Afghanistan, and through trade agreements such as NATO. The two countries are in constant contact on foreign policy issues and global problems.

After Trump’s election result was confirmed, the UK government has made it clear that it is open to beginning a new trade relationship with the US. Keeping an eye on the business ball but adopting an optimistic outlook, wouldn’t it be excellent if trade relations with the US were favourably negotiated for Britain – offering new and favourable markets as an alternative, or an addition, to existing European markets after Brexit kicks in?

As long as businesses are prepared for the inevitable ups and downs ahead by having various risk mitigation plans, including buffers and insurance strategies for padding, there is a great chance that the effects of these upheavals can be minimised – even optimised.

Akoni helps businesses make the most of their cash. Follow us on Twitter @akonihub or connect with us here.

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Onwards and Upwards: StrongJones renames itself Akoni

There are many advantages to being involved in the very first stages of a startup: the buzz of pitching to potential investors; the pressure to innovate and invent new and improved product on a regular basis; the kick of meeting new recruits to the Dream pretty much every time you see each other. You form a formidable posse knowing that each of you has a common belief in the vision of your startup’s success.

Ours is a startup company in the earliest phase of development. The idea behind the business is feasible – we’ve proved that with our model works well: we’ve identified our target market, and it looks promisingly large enough to sustain a business – in fact the more research we do, the better it looks. No doubt changes will be made and pretty much every aspect of the company will be revised and reviewed many times until perfected, but the point is, the ball is in motion, and it’s direction is being determined by our little team. 

As part of the development process, we’ve been trying out names for our startup. We’ve all been looking at the market reactions to the original name, StrongJones, and we’ve been engaging in much “new name” banter. This has lead to much team hilarity, as you can imagine – but it has also lead to much thought about our brand essence, and where we are heading.

As a consequence, it has been unanimously decided that StrongJones no longer suits us, we have moved on. Our target market is More in so many ways. We need a name that is more inclusive – more accessible and more current, after all our target market is professional, money-savvy, forward thinking and innovative.

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OLD LOGO AND NAME: StrongJones is being replaced with the more up-to-date name, “Akoni”

 Out with the old, and in with the new

We have decided on “Akoni” as our new business name (in case you were wondering, Akoni is pronounced: [ 3 syll. a-ko-ni, ak-oni ] ahKOW-Niy- †). Akoni is often used in the Hawaii as a name derived from the longer version Akonani – however its language of origin is Latin, it being a variant form of the English male name Anthony. Akonani, Akoni and Anthony all mean (more or less) the same thing: “inestimable or priceless”.

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NEW LOGO AND NEW NAME: Akoni means “Invaluable”

Akoni has been born out of a real need to help SME owners to find a better way to maximise the cash savings they have worked so hard to accumulate. The driven and experienced team is headed up by Felicia Meyerowitz Singh, no stranger to the finance world. Felicia, chief tech genius, Panos Stavvos, and experienced banking industry advisor, Yann Gindre, met whilst studying at London Business School, and have managed to set up an experienced and skilled team, bringing in Duncan Goldie-Morrison as the chairman. One could hardly wish for a better grouping of capable business brains whose combined extensive experience covers global and UK banking, insurance, financial accounting and systems and technology, data analysis and especially SME businesses.

So – watch out for the next steps in our Akoni evolution. This is a startup now – but just you wait. Akoni will make an enormous difference to SME businesses across the UK – and further afield – in the near future. In the meantime, the team behind the new name will keep those innovative ideas coming, because they’re passionate about making Akoni a success.

Akoni helps businesses make the most of their cash. Follow us on Twitter @akonihub or connect with us here.

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