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September 2008

Sustainable tactics 2

Beginning this month I quoted David Ogivly (Sustainable Tactics) and called his advice a timeless truth.

Salenowon_2 MFI is in tetters
JJB in turmoil
Rosebys on the brink of collapse
Top Tiles and Kingfisher (B&Q) cut dividend and according to Citigroup this will happen too at companies where sales are down (only) 10% or less: Debenhams, Sport Direct International, Mothercare, WH Smith and others.

This morning I read a (timeless) truth again in the Saturday Times and I'll quote the conclusion of the writer:

"The boom times have left the retail sector with a vast array of competing stores and brands.
However, with so much new space coming to the market and the rapid growth of the Internet, something had to give at some point.

The credit crunch has exposed those retailers with poor offers and inefficient cost bases. As the tree shakes in the economic storm, the rotten apples are falling to the floor"
Steve Hawkes - Shakeout on the High Street

Rottenapple Well, it is autumn after all - so harvest time is upon us?

Working long hours: necessity or mentality?

My good friend Richard C, back from a well deserved holiday, published a new post on how many hours the average British business owner works and how overtime seems to be more the 'standard' than a one-off when absolutely needed.

Subjects like that always makes me wonder. Why has 'overtime' become the standard? It reminds me of the significant difference in working hours between 2 departments in the company I worked for back in The Netherlands.

Fietswerk Many, many years ago I worked in the Admin - IT department with around 6 colleagues. Our work day started at 8.30am, we had an hour for lunch and we finished work at 5pm. Later on we had to option to start at 9am with half an hour for lunch. But we all went home at 5pm.

Working overtime was rare, only around the end of the financial year (30 September, why this date is a completely different story). We were hardly ever behind with tasks, not even when we had meetings or had to work on special extra projects. Putting in extra hours was rare.

I was promoted to the Sales Department with as my main task to turn the increasing amount of computer data into financial, logistic and statistic reports for management and the directors. 6 colleagues again, same standard working hours but they almost never left work at 5pm.

Overwerk6 or 6.30 even 7pm was more the norm for all of my 'new' colleagues and when you did (dare to) leave at the standard time they almost made you feel guilty (and which got me into trouble with the Sales Director many times, but that again is another story).

Was their work load so heavy it could not be done between 8.30am - 5pm? No, not really.

I learned it was just that they were The Sales Department. And Sales People are very important people. I've always thought every department in the company was equally important but apparently I was wrong. Sales was the most important department of the company according to my colleagues and Sales Director.
And one way of showing this importance was making longer hours than other departments.

But did all those long hours make them more productive? No, not really.
When one or two had a day off or was on holiday the rest didn't make even longer hours to do all their own and their colleagues' tasks (although they did work harder when on 'double' tasks).
Overtime was just the standard, the norm. A mentality, not a necessity - not most of the time.

When I read reports like Richard mentions in his post "Hands up" I always want to know what exactly is measured:

  • the hours someone is away from home or
  • the hours productively worked?

I agree with Richard's conclusion: working long hours doesn't always produce the most productive hours. His advice on how to tackle this (read here) is spot on.

Book review: Content Rich by Jon Wuebben

Beginning last month I wrote a post on Meta Tags: writing for Google ranking or Prospects? Too many web-designers only focus on the first part, while most copy-writers focus on the last.

Contentrich It should be a perfect match, like a marriage or come to think of it like the title of my dynamic website (aka blog) number 7: 1 plus 1 makes 3.
Two weeks ago Jon Wuebben (Custom Copywriting) asked me if he could send me his book to show me that there are writers and marketers around who really know what it is all about. And who am I to miss out on an opportunity to learn some more? His book "Content Rich - Writing Your Way to Wealth on the Web" arrived duly and from page 1 on I was hooked!

Finally someone who marriages writing for SEO and writing for Prospects in a simple way. Not just simple, but very comprehensive and almost timeless (we all know the Web can change overnight, but even that is covered in one of his chapters: The Future of SEO Copywriting - the Future is Now).
The whole book is based on what I come to think of as the main principle in a successful web-presence: SEO Content should speak to Search Engines & People.

I especially liked chapter 12: SEO copywriting for small/medium sized businesses - filled with practical, hands-on tips and examples for this very large but mostly overlooked (even by themselves) sector. Any small business who thinks it is too small to 'conquer' a place on the first page of any search engine results should read this book and breath a sigh of relief: it's really simple! (if a small retailer in a niche market like us can do it, everyone can!)
And don't miss Jon's insight on 'local search': more and more qualified leads you didn't even knew you could have are using the search engines to find and visit/contact local companies - make sure they find you by following Jon's tips.

270 pages with practical, hands-on, simple but thorough "Rich Content". And because it marries simplicity with powerful content Jon receives my Kiss Award (but of course)


Are you leaving the back door open too?

Every day I check my webstatistics to see what's happening on my sites (blogs and business website). Thanks to Statcounter you can discover many 'habits' of your visitors, like where they came from, what key phrases they used to end up on your site, how long they stayed on your site and which pages they read etc.

One of the great features of Statcounter can be found in the 'visitors path' - it shows loads of details including the link to the search result page where my visitors came from. I like to check these to see how high (or low) our business site (or blogs) were listed.

Now, today I made a rather mind-boggling discovery. Some one had ended up on one of my 'Why Confirm' pages on the 1 plus 1 makes 3 dynamic website (aka blog) - the page where someone normally only ends up after paying for the program I offer on there (still a work in progress). It tells my buyer an email with download instructions is on its way to their inbox, nothing else.
This visitor had come from Alexa and had search for the following phrase:
"download thank you for your purchase"

Free After I clicked the link to the actual search results on Alexa I was truly amazed how many results on my visitor search brought him or her free material: most of these hits end up on the actual - not password protected - download page, where you are thanked for your purchase!
If I had wanted I could have gotten a tremendous amount of PDF's, software programs, recordings, training courses etc etc for FREE!

Amazingly how most E-commerce sites forget to close the back door! At least password protect your download page and email your buyer the link and password.
Funnily enough many of the 'FREE' downloads were about making money online ;-) - not in the way they do it, they are all 'leaking money' through their back door.

Have you closed your back door?

Using a blog platform to create a website

For the dynamic website (aka blog) number 7: 1 Plus 1 Makes 3 I've written down what I think are the 7 Key Reasons any business (small, medium or large) should use a blog-platform as website.

The report starts as follows:

"Blogs (short for weblog) are mostly know for their ability to 'produce' articles (also called blog posts). It is a misconception that blogs are only used by freelancers in the service business - mainly in the marketing or finance sector - geeks dissecting software packages, teens fantasizing about their 'heroes' in tv-series, movies or about boy-bands, social media pioneers about the latest social media communities.

Nothing could be further from the truth than this. Of course there are many of the above mentioned blogs around, but there is an increasing trend for small business to use a blog to increase 'brand-awareness', to give advice on various subjects and much more. Many multi-nationals use blogs to keep in contact with their clients/users all over the world. It's simple, straight-forward and effective. And not to mention: profitable.

Every business - small, medium or large - should consider creating a weblog. If done properly (and consistently) it has a tremendous positive effect on a business' turnover, nett profit and brand awareness."

You can either request the complete report over at my blog number 7 or fill in your details below and it will definitely land in your email inbox almost straight away.

Request the complete report with the
7 Key Reasons to use a blog-platform for you business website
a 5 page FREE report based on our own - positive - experiences.

Your email address is save with us, we hate spam as much as you do (we hope you do - hate it that is)

New online home-study program now available on the 1 plus 1 makes 3 blog-site: The Practical Typepad Guide 

Learn how to use a blog platform to set up a business website in very simple steps.

Postive business news from Charing

Two weeks ago I 'ranted' a bit about 'Village Marketing' - how one village shop owner blames his prospect clients for his down-fall (for not buying from him).
In the same article I mentioned one of our convenient shops 'going the extra mile' for their existing clients - even during a two week long refurbishing of their shop. Quality products and quality service go a very long way in retaining clients and attracting new clients (something our butcher doesn't seem to recognise unfortunately).

This morning, while getting some groceries for this evening's dinner, I was rather happy to see a proud notice in our 'top-shop' convenient store:

Runners up Kent's Community retailer of the year 2008

So, hurray for Wady & Brett in our lovely village in Charing for continues high service with a smile and their constantly increasing ranges of quality products.

Tax (code switch) doesn't have to be taxing

Today, 7 September 2008, 22 million basic rate tax payers in the UK have their Tax-code changed from 543 to 603. The change is due to an extra raise in personal allowance - a government decision to get back in the good books of many since the 10p debacle.

The change in code means payroll systems have to be adjusted too and recalculation of the PAYE (Pay As You Earn) to be deducted from the wages has to be applied. I know a good deal about bookkeeping but tackling the payroll for our two-man-woman-band is completely different matter IMHO.

Ableinternetpayroll In 2004 I found this excellent Internet Payroll system and haven't looked back since. Able Internet Payroll Ltd makes calculating PAYE, net-wages, NI etc a doodle. The system is user friendly, accredited by HMRC and has a 100% success score in E-filing (which we've done from the beginning and hence received the total amount of 'discount' from the 'tax-man' for voluntary E-filing, just for clicking some dedicated links in the Able Payroll software!).

And it is also very cost-effective: for 1 - 10 employees the annual costs are £ 50.00 (per company, not per employee).

Ending a tax year and starting a new one every year in April (for someone used to calendar financial and income tax years - Jan to Dec - really odd) in the Able Internet Payroll system is made rather simple, just follow the clear instructions on screen once you click the extra large button Able makes around that time (hard to overlook).

So I was kinda hoping that this extra tax-code change would be made easy too by them - making mistakes in PAYE to be paid to HMCR is not something I was looking forward too.

I shouldn't have worried. When I clicked on the User-Sign-In link I landed on a 'sub-page' which happily told me that I could Globally Update the Tax Code in the system. Able Internet Payroll had created a one-button system to do the work for me. And it really took only one click.


Of course there was an opt-out option too: not every employee of every business has the basic-rate tax code, so in some businesses the person responsible for the payroll will have to update their codes 'manually'.

But for us and with 22 million basic rate codes I think for many small businesses Able Internet Payroll made business life real easy again.

Makes you wonder why other service companies try to make life so difficult - I'm still waiting for 9 months worth of credit notes from one company for a PDQ device we returned with the rep the same day it arrived. They keep sending me an incorrect invoice every month and every month I send it back - the note I write on it shows an increased level of irritation. But that's a whole other story - a whole commedy in fact (that's a pun intended on the company's name:the Italian word for commedy is....?)

Sustainable Tactics?

Sale Now On - Must End Soon, but next week we have a brand new sale MFI
Furniture Village

"A steady diet of price-off promotions lowers the esteem in which the consumer holds the product; can anything which is always sold at discount be desirable?"

David Ogilvy - David Ogilvy on Advertising 1983

Old Masters - Timeless Truths!