Archive for the ‘Small Business’ Category

In praise of Seth Godin

Tuesday, October 21st, 2008

seth godin's blog
Commonsense marketing advice that isn’t the usual dry didactic crap. Taking everyday examples to tackle everyday problems in a personal and often wry manner. Encouraging readers to look at problems anew by challenging orthodoxies and warning against relying on old assumptions. It can only be marketing, business and general guru Seth Godin.

Two of his recent posts have caught my eye and they’re really relevant to any business looking ahead to the bad times fearfully.

Do you have 16 boxes? is a really useful reminder that concentrating on the negative aspects of your business and the negatives in the wider economy doesn’t really help that much. Are you concentrating on the positives and, in particular, the strengths of you and your business?

Too small to fail extols the virtues of not just being small but acting and thinking small.

The only real mystery for me is why Seth hasn’t really made a big splash over this side of the Atlantic. He’s a virtual unknown. Come and see us soon, Seth!

Small Business 2.0: Social Marketing Links

Tuesday, October 21st, 2008

Further to my post about Small Business 2.0 and my talk, I thought some of these links might be useful ‘Further Reading’.

New York Times: Blogging for small businesses
How you can use Stumbleupon – elance
How Digg can help you market your business – elance.com
Techcrunch: 9 ways to build your social network
MyCustomer.com: What does Web 2.0 mean for your small business?
Problogger article on commenting on Blogs

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Small Business 2.0: Social Marketing

Monday, October 20th, 2008

I presented at Small Business 2.0 on my chosen specialist subject of ‘Getting closer to your customers’. It was all about using Web 2.0 services, social networking and online communities to talk with existing and potential customers. The audio should hopefully be available soon.

Here’s a precis and a list of the services I mentioned:

– Social networks and online communities are huge and possible sources of traffic.
– You need to follow that traffic and see if you can get some for yourself.
– Getting involved is a good way of generating SEO links too.
– It’s vital to join the conversation: authenticity and genuine participation is key.
– Start with building profiles that require little maintenance (such as LinkedIN)
– Then join relevant communities.
– Comment on relevant blogs. Keep track using Google Reader
– Measure, measure, measure. Using Google analytics
– If it works, do more. If not ditch it.
– There is a huge difference between Networking and Not Working.

Sites I mentioned:

BT Tradespace
DiggFacebook
Flickr
Last.fm
LinkedIN
Moneysavingexpert
MySpace
Qype
Squidoo

Twitter
Xing
YouTube

And that great video:

Small Business 2.0: eBay

Sunday, October 19th, 2008

Small Business 2.0 on Saturday was well attended by eBay sellers and sessions focusing on ecommerce (such as James Scott from Channel Advisor and Matthew Henderson from Amazon ) drew big crowds.
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Regarding eBay, two things stand out for me:

1) 1 in 5 visits to Post Offices are eBay-related. This reminded me of my long-held theory that Royal Mail makes more from eBay than eBay Inc. do. Any evidence would be most welcome!
2) eBay UK announced that DVD listings would be required to offer free P&P.

Of course, ‘free P&P’ means no such thing. The costs of carriage are simply rolled into the selling price. As a buyer, I’m seriously in favour of this policy change: I have paid over the odds for DVD postage more often than I care to remember. I appreciate that packing materials cost money and it’s legitimate to charge some handling costs, but I suspect for many DVD sellers P&P was a serious profit centre and that’s not on.

Equally, I should have sought out cheaper P&P but doing that was so time consuming and cumbersome that it hardly seemed the effort. Such is the value and convenience of Amazon Prime, I’ve been heading to the river for my ‘Dick van Dykes’. As a seller, I am concerned that this change is going to take a helluva lot of effort to accommodate. Amending hundreds, if not thousands, of listings is very time-consuming.

But as an observer of eBay, this change is absolutely fascinating. It is a startlingly interventionist move and I have struggled, and failed, to think of an example of eBay dictating seller practices quite so boldly. It’s also another change made in favour of improving the buying experience and the message is clear and should be taken on board by sellers in every category: eBay is saying ‘buyers prefer seeing one price, the price they pay.” DVDs may be the first category to require free P&P but I wager it won’t be the last.

Small Business 2.0: SEO

Wednesday, October 15th, 2008

SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) was definitely one of the most compelling topics for attendees at Small Business 2.0 last Saturday. Will Wynne of online purveyors of fine blooms and stems, ArenaFlowers.com, kicked off the day by explaining the basics. But for my money his comment that all the SEO in the world is time, money and effort wasted if you can’t convert visitors into customers when they land was one of the most valuable insights of the day. Will is a great advocate of SEO: he has essentially built his massively successful company on SEO. He has posted his slides from the talk on the Arena Flowers blog.

Arena Flowers

The day closed with a panel discussion with various SEO bods from: SLI Systems, Pure Online Genius, Netseek and Inventa Tech.

They were asked, among other things, what the most useful SEO tools out there were and I thought I’d share them:

Google Webmaster Tools: There’s a whole suite of exciting stuff here. Including…

Google Analytics: A free tool from Google that allows you to understand the traffic, sources and activiy of users who use your website.

Google Keyword tool: For inspiration when it comes to generating keyword rich text, try this free tool.

SEOmoz: For the latest buzz and speculation about SEO, SEOmoz is the only place to go.

Small Business 2.0: a few thoughts.

Sunday, October 12th, 2008

Wow. I’ve had a busy few days pulling together the last few bits and bobs for Small Business 2.0 which was held yesterday in London. I had really great (if knackering) day chairing one of the streams, meeting loads of people who run small businesses, exhibitors and old friends. About 400 hundred small business folks took the time on a sunny Saturday to learn more about the web could do for them.

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Some highlights for me (and bear in mind I only saw half of the sessions):

– Will Wynne from Arena Flowers talking about SEO (search engine optimisation). Will has effectively built his business on SEO and really laid out the basics.

– Tony Neate from Get Safe Online is a really powerful speaker. And, despite his protestations to the contrary, he sacred me witless: I’ve taken quite a lot of his safety advice onboard already.

– Catching up with Ivan Croxford from BT Tradespace in his inimitable ‘Have you read my blog?’ tshirt. If you haven’t read his blog, it’s here: The Fumoir.

– Meeting Alex Bellinger of SmallBizPod (I missed his session and he was apparently brilliant) and Emma Jones from enterprisenation.com. Emma’s already blogged her impressions of the day.

– Having a few nourishing ales with the old eBay Uni crowd: you know who you are!

Over the next week or so I’ll be posting some of my takeaways from the day and we’ll also be publishing the presentations and audio recordings on the official website.

Introducing Small Business 2.0

Friday, September 12th, 2008

Ever since working at eBay, and then BT Tradespace, I’ve been passionate about what the web can do for small business. And with the credit crunch and a recession predicted to be just around the corner, my enthusiasm has only increased. Ecommerce is forecast to grow every year until 2012. The importance of search marketing, especially local search, is continuing to grow too. The net should be an attractive proposition for any small business but now the net is a channel through which every small business can find growth, profit and prosper in the ‘bad times’.

Small Business 2.0

That’s why I’m so thrilled to be working on Small Business 2.0: a London conference and expo focussing on SMEs who want to unleash the power of the web for marketing, selling or streamlining operations. You can find the Small Business 2.0 website here.

There will be a variety of speakers including representatives from eBay, PayPal, Microsoft, Royal Mail, BT Tradespace, Easily.co.uk, Get Safe Online and Channel Advisor. On top of that, around 30 other firms will be available in the expo room for help and advice, as well as showcasing their products and services.

I’m looking forward to an informative and fun day. And a little bird tells me that there a handful of free tickets available (usually £49). On the registration page simply enter this code ‘sb0000tcp’ to grab a freebie. First come, first served.

From ChannelAdvisor Catalyst: UK eCommerce Landscape

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2008

ChannelAdvisor’s Catalyst event in London this week was a great opportunity to examine the trends and developments in ecommerce in Britain and abroad. Lots of exciting presentations and people were present. And I have a (papery) notebook full of scribbles to blog in the next week or so. Keep ’em peeled.

David J Smith of the IMRG provided a some interesting facts and figures about the state of UK ecommerce, here are some of the highlights. They provide a good snapshot of where we are and where we’re going. In short: all good news. “Ecommerce will buck retail trends,” he said, “and continue to grow. When the going gets tough, consumers go online.”

– IMRG Index shows that, between April 2000 and end of 2007 British ecommerce has grown 5213%. The total UK spend in 2007 was £46.6bn.

– 15p in the consumer pound is spent online. Despite economic worries, Q108 saw the biggest total spend online of any quarter since inception: £13bn (or £213 per head of population).

Demographics

-The gender breakdown of British online shoppers is (give or take less than 1%): 50/50 Male/Female.

– 21% of online spending comes from women 18-34. 50% of women over 25 buy clothing online.

– The fast growing group of online shoppers are the Over 55s. Over 55s will soon surpass the 35-44 year olds soon as the biggest group of online shoppers.

User Generated Content

UGC, such as customer reviews of goods and services, is becoming increasingly important.

– 71% of online shoppers read customer reviews.

– 70% find them useful

– 78% consider them the most credible form of advertising

– 97% of consumers are willing to trust customer reviews.

Random stats that might amuse…

– On Christmas day 2007, 4m British shoppers spent £84m.

– Marks and Spencer’s online sales enjoyed 78% YoY growth in 2007.

– In December 2007, 24 million parcels were not successfully delivered first time.

Dropshipping for eBay Sellers

Monday, October 8th, 2007

Recently I’ve received several emails from readers of my book Make Serious Money on eBay UK. It’s always nice to hear from readers and it gives me a good idea of what I might need to improve in future editions.

One thing I don’t really cover is how eBay sellers can make the best of a dropshipping company to facilitate their sales. So it’s hardly surprising that I’ve had a few contacts asking my views.

So what do I mean by dropshipping? It’s where you outsource the storage and despatch of your items to a third-party leaving you to concentrate on administering your business. Lots of sellers do use dropshipping services successfully but in general I have two views on the subject (seeing as I have been asked!) and I’m not really a fan.

Firstly, I do sometimes wonder if these services offer ‘value for money”. I’m pretty certain that an enterprising seller can organise themselves in such a way that they’re cheaper and more efficient than a dropshipper and those savings go straight to the bottom line.

Secondly, it’s your reputation on the line. Your hard-earned Feedback could be at risk from poor service if you are let down. That’s why it’s essential to choose your service carefully and make sure you have watertight SLAs and make sure they live up to your high standards.

Mashable List of eBay Buying and Selling Services

Saturday, August 4th, 2007

Mashable published a list of services for eBay buyers and sellers this week. The list not only provides a useful guide to what’s out there but serves as a sobering reminder of how big the eBay ecosystem has become.

eBay and PayPal Safety Resources

Sunday, July 22nd, 2007

eBay and PayPal have published some new resources to reinforce their safety initiatives.

Check out PayPal’s rather good phishing quiz here.

You can see and hear from eBay UK’s Head of Trust and Safety in a video in the Safety Centre.

The only way you can minimise the risks of trading online is to make sure you are informed, so it’s always worth taking a few minutes to stay up to date.

eBay University’s in London on Saturday

Sunday, June 3rd, 2007

eBay University‘s in London on Saturday. I’ll be there and it would be lovely to see you too. :O)

If you want to learn about using eBay as a new seller or if you’re already selling and want to ramp up your sales, it’ll be useful.

Find the full programme here and book a place here.

Why I Love and Hate The Apprentice

Wednesday, May 30th, 2007

Tonight, another amusing episode of The Apprentice has been required viewing at Chez Wilson.

I hate The Apprentice because of what it says about business and the myths it promulgates about what it means to be successful: all Gordon Gecko rather than Meg Whitman, Anita Roddick, Richard Branson etc. Any business that based it’s approach on The Apprentice would be rightfully failing by the end of the first week.

Here are my five pet peeves:

– Good business isn’t, and can’t be, run with such a focus on personality and internal politics.
– Whatever happened to a bit of sober, intelligent analysis and reflection?
– Business skill and acumen is rarely proven in a day. Sometimes it takes a year or more to judge a decision as successful.
– In Apprentice world, pigheadedness is confused with knowledge. Bullying equals leadership.
– Sir Alan is an attention seeking loon (thank goodness he has his brilliant chums).

But it’s great telly and it’s on at the same time as Big Brother. Nuff said. I’ll be tuning in next week and no mistake.

Arena Flowers now has a blog!

Monday, May 28th, 2007

Arena Flowers, the blooming enterprise that my friend Will presides over, has just started a blog. It’s called flowers… uncut.

He’s already put up some engaging posts about the business and I hope he continues to keep us updated: it’s a fun read. Will is candid in his reasoning for starting a blog for the business: “Aside from being an opportunity for us to communicate more clearly with our customers, this blog is also just a bit of fun!” Sounds good to me.