Category : Small business
SEIS support covers over 100% of your startup investment risk
Until recently I hadn't understood how generous the Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme is for investors in early-stage companies. Investors can put up to £100k in qualifying companies, as long as they don't control more than 30% of the SEIS company. There are three overlapping benefits which mean you can recoup over 100% of your investment in tax offset if the companies goes bust, and get a 5x boost to the value of your initial investment if all goes well. It sounds too good to be true, so use your allowance while it is still open! Let's assume that you are an additional rate (45%) tax payer, and want to invest £10,000 of capital gains into an SEIS company. What happens if that company eventually goes bust? A. Reinvestment relief Firstly you get a 50% reduction in the capital gains tax bill from gain reinvested. If you realised a gain of at least £10k over and above the capital gains tax allowance from selling shares or property, then you can reclaim the tax on the amount you reinvest in the SEIS company. At the 2014/2015 higher rate of 28% that is: + £2,800 B. Income tax relief Next you can write 50% of your £10k investment off against your income tax bill from this year or last - even if you didn't directly use that income to invest in the SEIS company. +£5,000 C. Loss relief If the company goes bust, then you can write a further 45% (your marginal tax rate) in the year you claim against your income tax bill. 45% times the £5,000 of investment the tax payer didn't originally fund. +£2,250 So of that £10k you have already recouped £2,800 + £5,000 + £2,250 = £10,050 from HMRC. Leaving you with a small gain to cover the inconvenience. But look on the bright side! What if the company sells for double the value in a few years' time? This time you still get benefits A & B, but also keep the proceeds free of capital gains tax. So you put in £10k, but take £7,800 back off your tax bill, leaving you with £2,200 net exposure. When you sell the shares for £20k, you have multiplied your capital at risk 9 times An investment in an equivalent non-SEIS company would have yielded £20k, less capital gains tax of £2,800 = £17,200 (1.7x your investment) So you get more than five times the net gain from the SEIS investment.
3 steps to great email customer support
As a consumer brand, is there a better way of getting customers to refer you business than offering excellent customer support? My inbox this afternoon showed two polar opposites of handling support by email and illustrated what great support looks like. I can sum up the differences: Ditch the "you're in a queue" email Really listen to the customer Offer further advice Ditch the "you're in a queue" email My depressing email exchange with Swiss Airlines starts when I tried to complain about the £4.50 credit card charge. I would normally never pay it, but their debit card payment route was broken, so to book the flight I had no choice. Dear customer, thank you for your message. We will get back to you as soon as possible. The response time may vary depending on the amount of research required. Please do not reply to this E-Mail. Use for your feedback our page: www.swiss.com/contacts We thank you for your understanding. Yours sincerely, Swiss International Air Lines Ltd. Let's unpack the sheer hostility of this: "thank you for your message" = we care so little we couldn't be bothered to add a capital letter "as soon as possible" = nor do we have enough staff to answer today "Please do not reply to this E-Mail" = we can't even be bothered to install a smart ticketing system Really it would be better not to send me an auto-response at all - just get back to me when a human is ready. Let's compare that with an email I get from TransferWise, which was my good experience of the day. At first glance, this looks like an automated response, but then I realise it's signed by a real person - and they actually want me to reply to the email. TransferWise are having to deal with genuinely onerous FCA anti-money laundering rules - and offering a helpful way to get around it. Really listen to the customer The Swiss conversation goes downhill from there. OK, I'm a bit smart Alec about the transaction fee - but it's a well known scam. On 24 Feb 2016, at 05:51, email@example.com wrote: Dear Mr. Upton, Thank you for writing to us with regards to your query and we apologizes for the inconvenience caused. We would like to inform you that GBP4.50 is the fee charged directly from the bank/bank fee. Therefore, we cannot grant a refund with regards to the above mentioned fees. We trust the above information will be of assistance and are available to assist you with any further questions at any time. Thank you for choosing SWISS and we wish you a pleasant day further. Kind regards, Miriama Consultant Customer Travel Services / R1S ----- From: Edward Upton [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org] Dear Miriama, That is absolutely untrue. MasterCard charges you 0.3% for the transaction, which in this case is 51p https://www.mastercard.us/en-us/about-mastercard/what-we-do/interchange.html So please can you refund me GBP 4? regards, Edward Upton ----- From: email@example.com Dear Mr. Upton, Thank you for writing to us. We have reviewed your request regarding your reservation. Please note that in regards to your request we will not be able ot refund the OPC. Please note this (GBP4.50) is a charge placed by the credit card company and it applies as per the point of commencement of your ticket. We hope this information is useful. Please do let us know if you need additional information. Thank you for choosing SWISS. Kind Regards, Alexander Consultant Customer Travel Services / R1S This feels like someone has cut and pasted from a standard response list. It's robotic. And given that the original issue was actually about their website being broken, there is a total lack of empathy for the issue - just some 'apologizes' (sic). Offer further advice Often companies have to say no to refunds and extra requests, but at least be gracious. And sometimes the company can offer you something that benefits both parties: a guide to how to avoid needing to email in the future. Here is the exemplary reply from Transferwise Hi Edward, I hope you’re doing well! Thank you for getting back to us, and confirming that we can change the name on the payment ###### to your personal. I shall quickly pass this on to my colleagues, who are able to make the change and proceed with the transfer. As soon as the payment is sent out from our end, we shall send you a confirmation e-mail, like always. All you need to do is check your inbox every now and then.:) Just in case, I will explain how you can choose to use both your personal and business profiles on TransferWise. Once you log in to your TransferWise account, on the upper right corner you should see a logo (like a man in a circle). When you click on the logo, you should see: Use as Edward Upton Use as Littledata Consulting Ltd Therefore, if you want to set up a personal payment, and you’re planning to send money from your personal bank account, please make sure that “Use as Edward Upton” is ticked. And if you’re planning to make a business payment and send money from your business bank account, please make sure to choose the second option. If anything was left unclear or you would need help with something else, please don’t hesitate to get back to us. We are always happy if we can help! I hope you have a lovely day, Eliisa, TransferWise Support Which company do you think I'll recommend in the future? Comment below!
How to create a strategic marketing plan
You know marketing is essential but have you specified what makes you different and unique, your objectives and how you are going to achieve them? Recently I went to a workshop, organised by Innovate UK and Enterprise Europe Network, to do just that: learn about achieving business goals by using strategic marketing. Strategic marketing is essentially a structured plan that helps you achieve competitive advantage or other business goals through a set of defined activities that are most appropriate for your aims. We were taken through a number of exercises that helped us define how we position ourselves and what we are trying to accomplish, whilst aligning the marketing efforts and tactics with overall business goals. It was especially useful to bounce my ideas off others so if you’re going through similar exercises, I recommend you do the same. It really helps to sense-check your thoughts and how you describe your business with someone outside your company. Below I'll go through my top takeaways and methods that I found most useful when devising a strategic marketing plan. Define the purpose/mission of your business Think about what you are trying to achieve as a business – is it clear or does it need further refining? Why are your services and products needed or wanted, and who are your customers? If you have a clear purpose or a definition of what you’re trying to achieve, it will help you plan your marketing activities and inform other business activities. Having an easy to understand idea of your purpose also helps guide your resources and avoid spreading them too thinly, which is especially valuable if you’re a small business where resources are limited. Define your value proposition A value proposition is what you promise to deliver to your customers through your services or products. Here you need to think what makes you unique, better or different from your competitors. If you struggle to offer a reason why your offering is more valuable than your competitors, then you may get stuck competing on price only. I found the Geoffrey Moore’s model particularly useful for defining the value proposition. It goes like this: The ____________ (product name) Is a ____________ (product category) for ____________ (users/customer segment) who ____________ (statement of desire/problem) that ____________ (compelling reason to use) unlike ____________ (the next best alternative) allows ____________ (the main difference). And here’s an example we were given: The iPod is a portable music player for music lovers who want to listen to their music anywhere, anytime unlike portable cd players or MP3s with less storage the iPod allows easy access to all your music Define your marketing goals We used SMART method to define 3-5 marketing goals for the next 12 months. Being specific about the number of goals you’re trying to achieve within a year helps to focus on specific outcomes you’re trying to achieve. It also helps to measure your success after 12 months or another timeframe you set for yourself. Specific - clearly defined and specific goal rather than a generic and vague one, eg increase signups Measurable - quantifiable goal, eg how much or how many Achievable – realistic to complete within a set timeframe, eg a few months Relevant to you and your customers - choose what matters or matches needs Time-bound - that you have the time, money & resources to achieve your goals within a specific timeframe Define your segmentation, targeting and positioning Segmentation is an activity where you divide the broad market into specific customer segments by their common characteristics, and devise your tactics around targeting each segment. A few ways you could segment your customers are demographics, geography, psychographics, lifestyle, behaviour, etc. Once you have a clear idea of different customer groups, you will be better placed to pick the most attractive or suitable segment to target. When selecting your target segment, see if there are segments that are the easiest, cheapest or quickest to reach, whilst being realistic about your capabilities and resources to target those segments. Positioning your business gives you a distinct image of your benefit(s) to the target audience that you are going to communicate. If you have a number of segments you can target, then define your positioning for each segment. Same applies to the Geoffrey Moore’s value proposition model – write it out for each customer segment. Define your marketing tactics Once you have a clear idea of the customer segment(s) you’re targeting, why they would use your services or products, and what you’re going to communicate to them, you can pick specific marketing tactics that are going to help you do that. Some examples of tactics are producing ebooks, using online ads like PPC, sharing data findings via blog, and organising webinars. If you need inspiration or ideas, there are plenty of resources online when you search for marketing tactics, marketing strategies, growth tactics and similar. Define your marketing KPIs Decide on a set of metrics that you are going to use to measure the success of your marketing efforts. By having the right KPIs, you can evaluate if you’re on track towards your goals, and adjust your activities if necessary. To give you a few examples of what you could measure: Cost per lead or enquiry Average order value Landing page conversion rate Customer lifetime value Impressions / clicks / visits I hope this has helped you to start thinking about defining your business and marketing activities more strategically and in line with the over-all goals. There are lots of great templates online that you can use to assist with outlining your plan - for example, check out Smart Insights resources bank that has lots of useful PDFs for marketing planning and more. If you'd like to discuss further, comment below!
5 common Google Analytics setup problems
Can you rely on the data you are seeing in Google Analytics? If you use it daily in your business you should really give some time to auditing how the data is captured, and what glitches could be lurking unseen. The notifications feature in Google Analytics now alerts you to some common setup problems, but there are more simple ones you could check today. Here are 5 aspects of your Google Analytics account to check now. Are you running the latest Universal Analytics tracking code? Is your overall bounce rate below 10%? Are you getting referrals from your own website? Are you getting ‘referrals’ from your payment gateway? Have you got the correct website default URL set in GA? Are you getting full referring URL in reports? 1. Are you running the latest Universal Analytics tracking code? You may have clicked upgrade in the Google Analytics admin console, but have your developers successfully transferred over to the new tracker code? Use our handy tool to test for universal analytics (make sure you copy your URL as it appears in the browser bar). 2. Is your overall bounce rate below 10%? The 'bounce rate' is defined as sessions of only one page. It’s highly unlikely to be in single digits unless you have a very unique source of engaged traffic. However, it is possible that the tracking code is firing twice on a single page. This double counting would mean Google Analytics sees every single page view as two pages – i.e. not a bounce This is more common on template-driven sites like Wordpress or Joomla, where you may have one tracking script loaded by a plugin – and another pasted onto the main template page. You can check if you have multiple pageviews firing by using the Google Tag Assistant plugin for Chrome. 3. Are you getting referrals from your own website? A self-referral is traffic coming from your own domain – so if you are www.acme.com, then a self-referrals would be appearing as ‘acme.com’. Have a look at the (recently moved) referrals list and see if that is happening for you. This is usually caused by having pages on your website which are missing the GA tracking code, or have it misconfigured. You can see exactly which pages are causing the problem by clicking on your domain name in the list and seeing the referring path. If you are on universal analytics (please use our tool to check) you can exclude these referrals in one step with the Referral Exclusion list. For a fuller explanation, see the self-referral guide provided by Google. 4. Are you getting ‘referrals’ from your payment gateway? Similar to point 3: if you have a 3rd party payment service where customers enter their payment details, after they redirect to your site – if you are on Universal analytics – they will show up as a new visit… but originating from ‘paypal.com’ or ‘worldpay.com’. You need to add any payment gateway or similar 3rd party services to that referral exclusion list. Just add the domain name - so PayPal would be 'paypal.com' 5. Have you got the correct website default URL set in GA? When Google Analytics was first set up for your website you may have set a different domain name than what you now use. Or maybe you have switched to run your site on https:// rather than http://. So you need to change the default URL as set up in the admin page. For this go to Admin > Property > Property Settings. Once that is setup correctly, the ‘All Pages’ report becomes a lot more useful – because you can click through to view the actual page using the open link icon. Advanced: Are you getting full referring URL in reports? If you run your website across different subdomains (e.g. blog.littledata.co.uk and www.littledata.co.uk) then it can be difficult to tell which subdomain the page was on. The solution to this is to add the hostname to the URL using a custom filter. See the guide on how to view full page URLs in reports. What other setup issues are you experiencing? Let us know in the comments or by tweeting @LittledataUK.
7 best business and tech conferences in 2015
Every year is jam-packed with conferences, forums and festivals, and I have spent enough time sifting through numerous event programmes for this year. There are plenty of opportunities to learn about new trends and techniques, discuss the future and network with peers, but which major events are worth your time (and money)? Here's my pick of must-attend business, digital and tech conferences in 2015. This list covers events in London only, taking place between March and May. MARCH London Enterprise Festival When: 8-19 March Where: Camden Foundry Twitter: @LEF2015 Hashtag: #LEF2015 The London Enterprise Festival brings together business leaders to share their experiences and stories on this year’s theme, starting and growing a business. Perfect for any company owner, director or manager wondering how to identify trends in their industry and grow in the current business climate. LEF covers various industries over 9 days. From gaming and fashion to education and wellbeing, there is a discussion or workshop for everyone. By having each day very focused on its theme, you have a much better opportunity to connect with the right people and take part in relevant sessions. Bonus points for a feel good factor. The organisers are committed to reinvesting the profits to providing free digital courses to unemployed and subsidising workshops and events that make better entrepreneurs and more powerful networks. Internet of Things Summit When: 12-13 March Where: etc.venues St Paul’s Twitter: @teamrework Hashtag: #IOT2015 The Internet of Things is aimed at technologists, entrepreneurs, innovators, industry leaders and managers. Recommended for futurists and those interested in breakthrough technology and cutting-edge science that will shape our future. It sounds very ominous, but with 200 leading innovators you will explore trends that promise to positively impact our lives and society. Experience two days of revolutionary discoveries, leading research and new technologies with university researchers, Paul Clarke (Ocado) and Jeremy Green (Machina Research). You can get a taste for what to expect at a casual IoT meetup event that's taking place on 28 February in London. Pipeline Conference When: 19 March Where: etc.venues Victoria Twitter: @PipelineConf Hashtag: #PipelineConf If you are looking for something smaller and more intimate, then have a look at a one-day Pipeline Conference. The conference has a more informal feel to it with talks and sessions focused on continuos delivery. The keynote speaker is Linda Rising, an international Agile thought leader, who will discuss the myths and patterns of organisational change. Other speakers will be selected anonymously and announced on or around 23 February. Bonus points for their fantastic commitment to 50/50 gender diversity and donating the profit to after school coding clubs. APRIL Chief Digital Officer Forum When: 9-10 April Where: Park Plaza Victoria Twitter: @IEGroup Hashtag: #DigiLeaders The Chief Digital Officer Forum has an impressive speaker line up that consists of senior digital professionals from global brands. Organised by the Innovation Enterprise, this summit is aimed at anyone with background in digital, analytics, ecommerce, social media and innovation. There are plenty of opportunities to take part in interactive workshops, network with attendees and discuss the future of digital. Join hundreds of other digital leaders at CDOF to hear from experts like Will Burns (L’Occitane en Provence), David Martin (Coca Cola Enterprises), James Keady (Samsung) and others. MAY BriForum London When: 19-20 May Where: etc.venues St. Paul’s Twitter: @BriForum Hashtag: #BriForum BriForum London is a highly technical conference dedicated to the best practices of end user computing, cloud, desktop virtualisation, security and application management. Keynote speaker is Brian Madden, one of the brains behind this event, but we are yet to hear about other speakers and exact topics covered. Nevertheless, BriForum promises to deliver informative two days with high profile speakers and attendees. Digital Shoreditch When: 11-24 May Where: Shoreditch Twitter: @DigiShoreditch Hashtag: #ds15 Digital Shoreditch is the trendiest event on this list. It's a vibrant festival that attracts creative, tech and entrepreneurial people, makers and doers, and others in between. Digital Shoreditch is on for two weeks and with hands-on sessions, cosmic parties and amazing speakers it promises to be one of the biggest digital community events. The full programme is yet to be announced but seeing that Mark Earls (HERD), Rory Sutherland (Ogilvy & Mather UK) and Jeremy Waite (Salesforce) are on the speaker line up, I have no doubts there will be other inspiring people joining them. Bonus points for their visionary look and feel, and Twitter profile photo. UX London 2015 When: 20-22 May Where: Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance Twitter: @UXLondon Hashtag: #uxlondon Organised by design consultancy Clearleft, UX London 2015 brings together inspiring UX speakers and practical workshops. The conference is focused on a different theme each day and is aimed at product, web and user experience designers. On day 1 explore the secrets of product design with leading experts, such as Des Traynor (Intercom), Julie Zhuo (Facebook) and Jeff Patton (independent consultant, Agile coach and author). On day 2 improve your understanding of human behaviour and user experience by hearing from Cecilia Weckstrom (LEGO) and taking part in Sketch workshop with Meng To. Day 3 is platforms day. Learn about the latest design trends for mobile, desktop and smart TV, and join workshops and talks on responsiveness, wearable tech and designing for different screen sizes. What other conferences and events have you marked in your diary? Leave a comment below or send a tweet @LittledataUK.
Under the hood of Littledata
Littledata tool gives you insight into your customers' behaviour online. We look through hundreds of Google Analytics metrics and trends to give you summarised reports, alerts on significant changes, customised tips and benchmarks against competitor sites. This guide explains how we generate your reports and provide actionable analytics. 1. You authorise our app to access your Google Analytics data As a Google Analytics user you will already be sending data to Google every time someone interacts with your website or app. Google Analytics provides an API where our app can query this underlying data and provide summary reports in our own style. But you are only granting us READ access, so there is no possibility that any data or settings in your Google Analytics will change. 2. You pick which view to report on Once you've authorised the access, you pick which Google Analytics view you want to get the reports on. Some people will have multiple views (previously called ‘profiles’) set up for a particular website. They might have subtly different data – for example, one excludes traffic from company offices – so pick the most appropriate one for management reports. We will then ask for your email so we know where to send future alerts to. 3. Every day we look for significant changes and trending pages There are over 100 Google Analytics reports and our clever algorithms scan through all of them to find the most interesting changes to highlight. For all but the largest businesses, day-by-day comparisons are the most appropriate way of spotting changing behaviour on your website. Every morning (around 4am local time) our app fetches your traffic data from the previous day – broken down into relevant segments, like mobile traffic from organic search – and compares it against a pattern from the previous week. This isn’t just signalling whether a metric has changed – web traffic is unpredictable and changes every day (scientists call this ‘noise’). We are looking for how likely that yesterday’s value was out of line with the recent pattern. We express this as signal bars in the app: one bar means there is a 90% chance this result is significant (not chance), two bars means a 99% chance and three bars means 99.9% certain (less than a 1 in 1000 chance it is a fluke). Separately, we look for which individual pages are trending – based on the same probabilistic approach. Mostly this is change in overall views of the page, but sometimes in entrances or bounce rate. If you are not seeing screenshots for particular pages there are a few reasons why: The website URL you entered in Google Analytics may be out of date Your tracking code may run across a number of URLs – e.g. company.com and blog.company.com – and you don’t specify which in Google Analytics The page may be inaccessible to our app – typically because a person needs to login to see it 4. We look for common setup issues The tracking code that you (or your developers) copy and pasted from Google Analytics into your website is only the very basic setup. Tracking custom events and fixing issues like cross-domain tracking and spam referrals can give you more accurate data – and more useful reports from us. Littledata offers setup and consultancy to improve your data collection, or to do further manual audit. This is especially relevant if you are upgrading to Universal Analytics or planning a major site redesign. 5. We email the most significant changes to you Every day - but only if you have significant changes - we generate a summary email, with the highest priority reports you should look at. You can click through on any of these to see a mobile-friendly summary. An example change might be that 'Bounce rate from natural search traffic is down by 8% yesterday'. If you usually get a consistent bounce rate for natural / organic search traffic, and one day that changes, then it should be interesting to investigate why. If you want your colleagues to stay on top of these changes you can add them to the distribution list, or change the frequency of the emails in My Subscriptions. 6. Every Sunday we look for changes over the previous week Every week we look for longer-term trends – which are only visible when comparing the last week with the previous week. You should get more alerts on a Sunday. If you have a site with under 10,000 visits a month, you are likely to see more changes week-by-week than day-by-day. To check the setup of your reports, login to Littledata tool. For any further questions, please feel free to leave a comment below, contact us via phone or email, or send us a tweet @LittledataUK.
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