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GROWTH STRATEGIES

From tiny acorns…

We have spoken recently about growing your business internationally and the options which are currently available to assist with this process. Something which we didn’t focus on was general growth and the strategies that must be in place in order to achieve the growth you desire for your business and which it deserves. Business is something which is always in flux, always changing and always on the movie so it is vital to ensure that your business is consistently moving with the times and growing as much as possible along the way. The most fool proof way to ensure that your business grows and progresses it to plan ahead and to have a growth strategy in place.

A growth strategy is essential and will inform all areas of your business from acting as the cornerstone of your marketing plan to your day to day business activities your growth strategy will be a guiding roadmap that will inform all aspects of your business. Your growth strategy should include information about the current market, your current and prospective customers, the products or services you offer and your overall goals for where you would like to see the business grow to. The growth strategy is an essential business tool as it ensures that things are not left solely to chance, which is a dangerous status to be in in business. If you are not sure where to start with a growth strategy here are some handy starting points.

The first thing to consider when contemplating a growth strategy for your business is market research. It is essential to know your product and service and know the market you currently serve. The next step for many is often referred to as cross-selling, and involves either selling more of your existing products to existing customers, or selling what can be referred to as ‘add-ons’ to your current products or services. This is one of the easiest and most popular strategies to put in place as it does not involve developing something new. Rather, this strategy involves building upon what is already in place. The difficulty with this strategy lies in informing all existing customers that you offer these additional products or services and generating interest in this way.

The alternative to this strategy involves essentially pigeon-holing yourself and your customers, which might seem counterproductive but has seen benefits in the past. Studies show that customers tend to stick with suppliers they understand and trust for each individual product or service and are more likely to continue on with suppliers who give a specific service. The other side of this involves choosing a specific section of the market to focus on, which whilst restrictive can pay off when done well.

The final method to consider for your growth strategy will be to ascertain what new markets you would like to enter. Occasionally, opportunities may arise for you to sell your existing products to a new market and this should be considered within a growth strategy if viable for your business.

In this modern age there are many means of distribution of products and ideas so it is essential to factor distribution and marketing into your growth plan. With this ideas as your starting point, you should hopefully be well on your way to growing your business.

Should you require any further assistance or business advice please don’t hesitate to contact us here at DCA Accountants.

 

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DCA PARTNERSDECLAN DOLAN & EAMONN GARVEY

WHAT’S A FACEBOOK WHEN IT’S AT HOME?

With small and medium enterprises (SMEs) making up a generous portion of all Irish businesses currently, we have spoken at length about the many and varied issues which face these companies. There are a great many difficulties to be faced in setting up and ensuring the continued thriving of a small business, and often it can seem like there are very limited helpful tools at your disposal. Today, we are going to focus on the positives considering how integral SMEs are to the Irish economy, now is a good time to take into consideration how these companies can utilise available tools to ensure the success of your small or medium business from the outset.

 

One of the greatest tools at any company’s marketing disposal at present are those largely free channels which allow a company to get their message to a wider audience known as social media. As we have discussed previously, social media and website marketing can be a key tool for companies of all sizes, with video marketing seeing a massive surge in popularity across social media in recent years. Social media can be a tricky tool to get a handle on at first, but could well be the key to getting more customer traffic into your business.

 

So what happens if you happen to not be the most internet or media savvy small business owner? Finally, there might be assistance on the horizon for you to empower you to harness the power of this medium. Recently, smaller Irish companies have been encouraged to contact their local Enterprise Office to gain assistance in building or improving an online presence for their company.

 

An initiative through your local Enterprise Office can help you unlock the online potential of your business by offering training and the ability to apply for a grant of up to €2,500 to build or update your website. If this seems like an ideal solution to your company’s tech worries, the only condition is that your small business must have fewer than 10 employees. If this is the case, we would advise contacting your local Enterprise Office to find out what your options are and watch your business grow as a result. As it has been estimated that approximately 90% of Irish consumers will research a product or service online before proceeding to make a purchase, it is now almost essential to have an online presence for your business.

 

Minister for Communications Denis Naughten has advised that even companies that already have an online presence should avail of this training to build on their existing presence.

“I would encourage any small business employing 10 people or less to avail of the training to make sure they are using Facebook and Google properly and to be able to receive payments online.”

 

Indeed, in this digital age we would encourage all clients to ensure that their online presence is functional and up-to-date. Should you require any assistance or guidance on any financial or business matters, please do not hesitate to call us here at DCA Accountants.

 

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DCA PARTNERSDECLAN DOLAN & EAMONN GARVEY

CREATING AN EFFECTIVE WEBSITE FOR YOUR COMPANY

In this digital dominated age, a website is a necessity for fledgling and well established businesses alike. A website may be the first port of call for customers or investors searching for the services and products you offer. Regardless of any other marketing methods you may put in place, a website is of great importance in order to get the message of your business out there and give potential clients the information they need. Think of your website as being an extended, digital version of your business card. A way of introducing yourself and your company to the wider world.

As well as the existence of your website, the quality of your website and the ease with which it can be navigated could make or break a transaction with a potential customer. How can you ensure that your website is both visible and accessible to those who will need it? We have compiled a few handy tips for you to consider:

Choose Format.

This is one of the most important initial decisions you will make regarding your website. This will decide how your content is updated and managed. If you intend on doing regular updates yourself, a content management system such as that used by WordPress or Joomla would be the best choice. With a Content Management System you simply input blocks of text and photos as necessary using a set template. Alternatively, if you have hired a web developer or have experience with code yourself, you can build your website from the ground up. Of course this option comes with its challenges and may make regular updates more challenging.

Generate Content

Next to your website’s general layout and design, your content and copy will be the key to generating website traffic. Content is what will attract and keep visitors on your website so it is important to keep content varied and interesting and avoid having massive blocks of text apart from the blog section. It has been suggested that visitors decide whether to stay on your website or go elsewhere within 4 seconds so this is good to bear in mind when generating content. You have a limited amount of time to impress your visitors, and it would be advisable to have some copy already on hand so that as soon as your website is up and running there are a few options for your new visitors to choose from.

Social Media

Social media is one of the biggest ways of generating a following these days so as well as setting up a website it is a good idea to set up relevant social media channels for your business such as Twitter and Facebook. Linking these social media channels to the blog aspect keeps your followers updated and generates some extra traffic to your website. These are also excellent tools for getting your company message out in a quick and informal format.

Maintain Content

Finally, the most important thing to remember when creating your own business website is that it must be consistently in flux. Your content must change and be updated on a regular basis as this is what will keep prospective clients returning to your website.

MARKETING TIPS FOR SMES

Setting up a new business can be a stressful and trying time. With everything that comes with the organisation and funding of a new company, marketing can often be something that is overlooked. Given that a start-up company must make itself known in order to generate income, marketing can be seen as being arguably one of the most important things to consider. Marketing, and in particular digital marketing is somewhat of an enigma for the smaller company. As such, in order to lift the veil we have compiled a list of marketing tips to assist you in creating and sustaining a viable marketing plan for your business.

1. Social Media.

The marketing of all businesses can benefit in massive ways through the use of social media. There are so many avenues of social media to choose from and each one brings something different to the table. Whilst LinkedIn is ideal for attracting workers and generating employment interest, Facebook and Twitter are more immediate avenues of communicating with prospective customers. Whilst you can make use of each of these, it is important not to flood feeds and it has been suggested that the ideal posting schedule for Facebook is 1-2 per day whilst Twitter is more open with 6-8 posts per day being the norm.

2. Search Engine Optimisation (SEO).

Search Engine Optimisation is one of the lesser known and used marketing tools at your disposal. Whilst your website design may be perfect, it remains useless if it is never seen. Your website’s performance is reliant on traffic and SEO may be the ideal way to generate traffic. Search Engine Optimisation allows you to choose where your website appears in searches in order to ensure that you are visible in the online world.

3. Content is King.

You may now have figured out and utilised the search engines at your disposal, but is your website holding the interest of its visitors? It is vital to ensure that your content immediately grabs the attention of its readers. It has been reported that the modern day site user spends around 4 seconds on a webpage before deciding whether they will continue, so you must utilise text and video to grab and hold the attention of your customer.

4. Make a name for yourself.

What’s in a name? The answer might well be your businesses future. The name of your business will become its identity so it is important to ensure that it is something you can market efficiently without running into problems.

Hopefully not to be confused with blah, blah, blah. Blogging is one of the easiest and most immediate ways of connecting efficiently with your customers. Creating and managing content that will interest your clients may be the difference between keeping and losing customers.

GETTING ATTENTION

n a competitive marketplace, getting the right type of media exposure for your small business is a great help – and doesn’t need to cost the earth.

 

For the past few years, a key aspect of business development has been building and maintaining a strong social media presence. While this is vital, it’s important not to overlook the value of ‘old school’ media coverage.  It can increase awareness of your services, your brand, and can also establish you as one of the forerunners in your field.

 

Customers reading messages relayed via your social media and website can be sceptical, and even doubt if posts by customers are genuine. Getting coverage by a reputable media source imbues your brand with their credibility, and for relatively unknown companies that credibility can be crucial.

 

Mainstream Media

Local radio stations and newspapers are an obvious first port of call, especially if you will be pulling consumers directly from the locality. But just because you’re a small business doesn’t mean the media outlets that you approach have to be. Journalists like to use a range of sources, and if you have a unique perspective you have the potential to really add colour to their coverage.

 

Crucially, journalists will get excited by a unique ‘hook’ that links your business to a particular current event. If you run a mediation service, for example, offering some insight to coincide with the release of statistics or a high profile break-up. If you run a sports injury clinic, and a high-profile person has been afflicted by an injury, advice about how to prevent and rehabilitate that injury will interest broadcasters and newspapers.

 

Expert Articles

If you are an expert in a niche field, it may be that media outlets would be interested in an expert article in its own right. Research suitable publications, and contact editors with your article proposal, industry credentials, and any writing experience that you may have.

 

Bloggers

The term ‘media’ has been redefined somewhat over the past few years, and is important to think broadly in terms of your media approach. If you can’t get coverage from national or local mainstream media – or if your service isn’t a good fit for it – it may be worth approaching influential bloggers in your industry with a unique story or an expert article. The benefit to this is that you may be more likely to hit potential customers through this method. Also  as the article isn’t for general consumption, you can go into a level of detail that may have gone over the heads of readers unfamiliar with your industry.

 

Rejection

There can be many reasons why a media outlet choose not to profile your company, or commission an article from you. It often takes a few pitches before you come up with an angle or an article that interests an editor, so don’t get disheartened. Being gracious and thanking them for their consideration regardless makes a good impression, and makes them more likely to contact you in the future. Also, consider courting informal feedback from editors about what kind of angles and articles they’d be interested in. Getting media attention can a long process, but stick at it, and you’ll make some inroads soon enough.

 

Eamonn Garvey

Partner

DCA Accountants and Business Advisors

Do you have a question for DCA’s experts? Contact us or connect with us on Twitter

LIFT-OFF

When is it right to go public with your new business, and what groundwork do you need to lay?

 

Sticking your head above the parapet – whether it’s going for a promotion, or expressing an unpopular opinion – is an unnerving process. This is no less true for going public with a new or recently-formed business.

 

When you have something to sell, of course, you need to start selling it. However, many entrepreneurs make the mistake of going off half-cocked, when there are unresolved questions about their product or service, or when they’re not equipped to take on a surge in demand. This can create a bad first impression that it’s all too difficult to recover from. So what are the key steps that you need to have completed before you start clamouring for attention from your market?

 

A Defined Offering

Most obviously, you need to know what you’re selling, and know it in-depth. This isn’t just about your 30-second pitch, although that’s essential: you will need to be able to field any reasonable question from a potential customer. These questions range from how your product or service works (think carefully about how much you want to give away here) and whether it adds value to every business or household (or what individuals and entities can most benefit from it), to how long it will take to deliver a return on investment – and what the comeback is if it doesn’t. Your answers will need to be convincing, and it’s worth putting effort into them – remember, sceptics aren’t automatically time-wasters. Any sales staff that you engage for this product or service need also need to have this in-depth knowledge.

 

If it is possible to introduce your product or service to a select group of trustworthy potential clients, then do so as when you feel you’re ready. They will likely have questions that you haven’t even considered, and may flag up issues with your offering that had gone unnoticed up to this point. Tapping their feedback – making it clear that they’re getting their views canvassed as part of the development process – is a valuable exercise.

 

A Test Case

This can, of course, be taken to the next level by letting a business or consumer actually try the product or service for free – or at a steep discount. If you do this, liaise closely with this ‘test case’ customer during the implementation process, and continue to gather feedback after it is introduced.

 

Actually seeing your product or service in action will give you valuable information, both positive and negative. The negatives can inform the work that you do to improve your offering. The positives can be incorporated into marketing materials – few things attract a potential customer more than a concrete example of how a product or service has worked elsewhere.

 

The Capacity Question

When you have exhaustively defined your offering, and ideally have a positive ‘test case’ in progress, it’s time to make sure that you can actually deliver your product or service quickly. This can entail taking the plunge and either making hires or buying stock – and doing so is often the most nerve-wracking part of starting up. If it’s possible to have this capacity on stand-by, then that’s a great advantage. However, if it isn’t, don’t look to cut corners: you need to be able to resource any contracts that you win from day one, so make any financial commitments that you need to meet your projected sales – and ideally have some capacity in reserve.

 

After going through this process, of course, you face the tricky task of getting the market’s attention. But without a solid foundation of a defined offering and capacity to deliver, your best marketing efforts will be derailed.

 

Do you have a question for DCA’s experts? Contact us or connect with us on Twitter.

DCA Q&A: IS THIS A GOOD DEAL?

Q: I have a small restaurant business in a Dublin suburb. While business is generally healthy, there have been slack periods, and I’ve been researching ways to drive traffic during this time. In the course of this, I’ve had discussions with one of those ‘daily deals’ operators. What they’re proposing sounds great – a special offer that entices repeat customers – but I’ve never been involved in this kind of third-party promotion before. Is there any reason I should be wary.

 

A: You’re being smart – not just by looking for ways to drive traffic, but also in doing your homework when something sounds too good to be true. In this case, while ‘daily deals’ sites have their usefulness, there are a few pitfalls for companies that use them in the wrong way.

 

In the case of restaurants, some establishments have been convinced into offering phenomenal loss-leaders. The get a nice cheque after the deal is sold to a lot of customers, but they’re left paying for it when – over the course of several months – the deal buyers turn up to use their vouchers, sometimes taking up reservations that premium customers might have filled. More than one restaurant has gotten into financial difficulty with this situation.

 

For this reason, smart restaurant owners will take certain measures to ensure that a deal doesn’t run them out of business. Assigning a ‘quota’ – in other words, limiting the number of people that can avail of the deal in any one night – might seem like a good idea at first. However, people using a daily deal won’t want to be treated like second-class customers – that certainly won’t encourage repeat business! It’s far smarter to limit the offer to nights that you know are quiet.

 

As for the offer itself, don’t be tempted to make a loss on your meal just to drive people through the door. Do, however, try to present something unique to your establishment: many of these customers will almost exclusively use restaurants doing special offers, so you’ll have to offer something special to get them coming back. Also, try to encourage a bit of upselling – maybe don’t include wine, coffee, or a desert that will particularly tempt customers to spend more.

 

Using these sites isn’t rocket science, but they can cause problems for the naive. Just be practical, and don’t get talked into offering an unsustainable deal.

 

Do you have a question for DCA’s experts? Contact us or connect with us on Twitter.