Archive for the ‘Small Business’ Category

Search Engine Optimisation Resource

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2007

It’s all SEO at the moment and anyone who is selling from a website needs to be taking time to optimise their appearance in search engines.

There’s a load of guff out there but this is a useful, sober look at what matters and what doesn’t.

http://www.seomoz.org/article/search-ranking-factors

eBay University 2007: New Style, Old Friends.

Monday, April 23rd, 2007

I spent a very enjoyable day in Coventry (hard to believe no?) at the first of four eBay University events in 2007. eBay University is eBay’s official education programme where eBay staff, Powersellers and people like me spend a day with hundreds of eBayers talking and learning about eBay. It was one of the activities I loved most when I worked at eBay and it’s a real privilege, and hoot, to be able to keep on contributing.

If you’ve been before you’ll be surprised by the changes: there’s a bigger selection of classes to attend and you can choose the sessions you want to join. There are more exhibitors and for PowerSellers there’s a ‘lounge’ set up where they can gossip and also meet with some of the PowerSeller Account Managers. Channel Advisor also held a lively auction and throughout the day staff and members were ‘talking eBay’ sixteen to the dozen.

The highlight of my day was chatting with two ladies I’d met before at eBay Uni. Both had previously been eBay novices but over the months since we’d last met they’d started selling successfuly and were back to learn how they were going to going to take their sales to next level. They both had those essential eBay commodities by the bucketload: a willingness develop new skills mixed with a generous spoonful of optimism and lashings of good humour.

The next eBay Uni is in London on June 9th. Perhaps I’ll see you there?

Plug in to BT Tradespace

Monday, February 12th, 2007

A few people have asked me what I’ve been up to, so I thought I’d blog about it.

In the past few weeks I’ve been working with BT on their new project – BT Tradespace.

BT Tradespace is potentially very powerful new business network that firms all over the world can plug into and find new customers and connect with other businesses. It’s based on businesses making their own profiles and joining different communities. Think MySpace without the angst-ridden Emo kids. And as is normal on sites like this, building a page and profile is very straightforward.

It’s based around the philosophy that business is about conversations. You can talk to the world using a blog and podcasts as well as share pictures and information about the products and services you are selling. Buyers can contact you directly, request further details or click through to your website.

To give you a sense of what’s out there, here are some of the businesses that have already signed up.

BPC Systems

Cosy Paws

CY Music

Carl Hutchings

BT Tradespace only launched last week and it’s still in beta: so very much a work in progress. Right now it’s free to join so take a look. As it grows it will become a hub for buyers and businesses. And by aggregating content from all sorts of companies under one roof, it should hopefully start to get good traction in the search engines.

For more about BT Tradespace, click here.

In Praise of… Arena Flowers

Saturday, December 30th, 2006

I’m still trying to get a refund from SNCF for a ticket I bought but didn’t use in May. It was a right palava trying to transfer my broadband with BT (if you’ve ever heard the Marcus Brigstock sketch about the very same, it was just like that) and I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve decdided to switch banks (but never have) over some cock-up or other.

So when you get flawless, lovely, amazing, glowing service from a business, it’s worth shouting about. Step forward Arena Flowers.

It’s not a big name and quite new: it’s a business building it’s profile predominantly online. The flowers are honestly priced and my recipient was well pleased. But what I LOVE are the little touches.

* Checkout was easy to do with handy tips and help along the way. A phone number was provided throoughout in case I got stuck. Personally, I was delighted to pay with PayPal although all the big cards are taken.

* I got an email from a named PERSON thanking me for my order.

* I got an email from the SAME person telling me that they’d been delivered. Delivered, I might say within the M25 in less than 2 hours.

* I got a little text message too telling me that the flowers had been successfully delivered.

It was easy and as pleasurable as shopping ever can be and I haven’t stopped telling people about it. So, I’m telling you too: next time you need to send someone some blooms ditch the faceless corporations, use Arena Flowers.

Isle of Eriska Hotel and Spa Blog

Tuesday, December 12th, 2006

Enough tech blogs already. It’s interesting to see how small businesses are using emerging technolgies as marketing tools. Here’s an interesting blog I’ve found.

Beppo Buchanan-Smith owns and runs a luxury hotel on the Isle of Eriska in Scotland. It’s a high-class place that has all the charms you would expect: the big house, a good restaurant, beautiful scenery, walks, hunting and golf. It’s been a family business for more than 30 years, but Beppo has embraced the internet and has a good website and a fascinating blog.

You can find the blog here.

Beppo took the plunge on the advice of a friend who is an internet expert, to achieve two aims: to mark the hotel out from the competition and to improve the website’s search engine ranking. “I write 4 times a week,” says Beppo, “and it probably takes me 15 minutes to do each time but I try and plan the blogs and whenever something happens try and
catch it with the camera.”

But is it working? Beppo has no doubts: “the last set of figures showed the blog as being one of the top referrers to our site.”

He also uses the blog as “a conduit to the market” because it “gives a more human face to the business. A regular weather report is handy for guests with an imminent arrival and many just flick through it to see what we are up to. Guests often mention the blog when they phone or when they arrive.”

And Beppo has been surprised by how easy it’s been. “I am most definitely not a techie so the system had to be easy,” says Beppo. “We use Typepad (www.typepad.com) which is pretty easy to set up and I had some help to give it a slightly more corporate look.”

But it’s not a serious, fusty blog and actually not very corporate at all. In many ways the charm of Beppo’s blog is the way it brings the everyday life of the hotel and island to life. He will talk about resurfacing the tennis court; remind you of the romance of the wonderful island or the antics of the island’s animals (wild and domestic). It brings the hotel closer and whets your appetite for a relaxing weekend stay.

He’s going to keep on blogging and make it even more interactive. “Some guests even send me pictures for the blog and the next phase of the blog will be to have staff writing entries.”

Business Start Up Exhibition, London Olympia

Friday, November 17th, 2006

If you’re expecting shiny suits and ‘Get Rich Quick’ schemes, you won’t be disappointed by the Business Start Up exhibition and conference that’s on today and tomorrow at Olympia in London. The Erotica Show is also in town at Olympia this weekend so you really can mix business with pleasure.

The chances are that you won’t be drawn in to taking on a smoothie franchise or be taken in by the woman who will teach you how to be a property millionaire with little risk. When I visited this morning Gerald Ratner was delivering a speech which should have been called “Je Ne Regrette Rien: Destroying My Business was the Best Thing I ever Did” and it was standing room only, so maybe I was missing something. Others were lapping it up.

There are dozens of stalls from free websites, sorry, ‘online solutions’ right through to the Yellow Pages and Trevor Baylis (legendary champion of the wind-up radio). A lady on the Yellow Pages stand dismissed my suggestion that the nation’s favourite big yellow doorstop was bound to die by robustly informing me that the “print run is bigger than ever.” But are more people using it? “It’s impossible to measure.” She cheerily retorted and handed me a leaflet.

You won’t get out without a ream of leaflets, which will be forced on you whether you want them or not. And yes, there are the obligatory short-skirted dollybirds handing out the info. One sweetly asked me to take a leaflet because she had hourly targets to meet and it would help. Happy to oblige, we got chatting. She wasn’t long in Britain from down under, this was her first job over here and it was cash in hand, no questions asked. So much for business ethics.

It’s free to get in and if you can face the army of leafleteers thrusting brochures and flyers in your face there are some good reasons to attend. Business Link is there with an army of advisors so it’s a good opportunity to find out what they can offer you. HM Revenue and Customs are there too and dismiss the expectation that they’re curmudgeonly and snivelling: they actually have a lot of useful stuff and courses they’re offering free. I found them very helpful with the questions I had.

But for next year here’s a suggestion: a recycling bin on the way out.