The best business advice, opinion, news and expertise in Greater Manchester and further afield.

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Marketing Automation – Friend or Foe?

I have been reading a lot recently about marketing automation and the rise of the bot in social media, much I think fuelled by Facebook announcing the Messenger chat bot development kit at a recent tech conference. All this got me thinking about the place of using technology in marketing and brand development to automatically communicate with your contacts when they get in touch.

On one level, considering that marketing is all about developing an engagement with your target market, it scares me. But on another, when you consider its role in delivering timely customer service messages, I can see it has a role.

The Good
There are times, when people engaging with your brand simply want a quick answer to a simple question:
What are your opening hours?

Or a quick response to a request:
I want to sign up to your newsletter, please send me your e-book.

In these cases, automation is the obvious answer. It allows you to deliver immediate responses 24/7 improving the customer experience and, in most cases, these are circumstances where people expect an automated response and don't particularly need to speak to someone. Furthermore, having to wait for a human to respond to answer a simple and common question can be frustrating. Not good for the brand image.

In other words, the motivation for automating customer anf marketing communication should focus on the benefit to the customer. Good AI (Artificial "Intelligence") will definitely expand the scope and effectiveness of automation in these scenarios.

The Bad
Where marketing automation is used badly it is usually about cost saving.

A good example of this is email campaign automation, or abandoned shopping cart emails offering discounts after you put stuff in your shopping cart then never check out.

Whilst these can be effective, all too often they try to be too clever and attempt to second guess the reason the user did what they did, leading to inappropriate or ill thought out messages being delivered.

In the case of abandoned cart discounts, users quickly know to expect this and rather than checking out, abandon the cart and then wait for the follow-up email so they can get a discount!

The Ugly
But the marketing automation that scares me is that which uses AI to try to fool you into thinking you are talking to a person when you are not!. This approach says to me that:

"You are not important enough to me for me to put resource into actually talking to you,
but I want to make you think that you are"

Marketing is about engaging with your target market, and building a rapport that adds value to them as a customer, re-enforcing the value that you add as a brand. To do that well, you actually need to talk to your customers.

With the rise of the Social Media Bot, and the focus on metrics (Followers/Likes/social reach etc) I can see a situation where digital marketing becomes dominated by bots talking to each other, sending the metrics through the roof, but where are the the real conversations? They get lost in the noise!

Marketing Automation - It's all about the Stats
Stats should be used to drive marketing, and not the other way round.

This is a phrase I have used a few times recently, and it's when people forget this that they start to use automation in inappropriate ways.

Stats are usually about measuring engagement on a purely quantitative level focusing on the numbers of engagements rather than their quality. Whilst there is no doubt that marketing automation, and bots in particular, can drive the stats and make the numbers "bigger", in practice these engagements have little or no true marketing value.

Every business should be aware of its brand and building your brand is the best way to deliver success in the long term. To this end, it is better to put more effort into fewer, valuable engagements that truly add value to the people who matter (Those who are likely to use your services/buy your products).

Whilst this (focus on the real stuff' approach will inevitably mean that your Twitter/Instagram followers/Facebook likes/web traffic will grow more slowly, the real people who make up those statistics will be people who really add value to your business.

Whilst I am sure Mr Zuckerberg genuinely believes that the promotion of chat bots on his messenger network will add value to its users. Sadly I think they will simply be used by those "marketers" offering more marketing magic wands.

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

When do you know you’re ready to move your business from bedroom to boardroom?

These days many businesses begin as a home venture – overheads are low and it seems you have all you need when you can kit out your box room as an office very cheaply. However, there comes a time when a home office won’t cut it anymore and if your business is headed in the right direction, you’ll likely begin needing more space and less distractions! 

With that in mind, Dave Sunter, Business Development Manager at Stonebridge Offices, with flexible serviced offices in central Manchester, outlines considerations for moving from bedroom to a more professional space.

Interruptions and distractions
It may have been appealing to wander down the hall from your bedroom and sit at your desk when your business was in the very early stages, but often working at home can become rife with interruptions and distractions. Even business owners with the best intentions can be pulled away from important tasks by children or partners who demand their attention, especially if family members are at home between usual working hours. If you’re missing deadlines, important calls or neglecting clients as a result of interruptions, this will be affecting your bottom line – it’s time to find some space away from disturbances.

Ensure you have a digital presence
You’ll no doubt be aware of the importance of having a website for your business, but it’s also key to ensure you bolster this with an engaged presence across social media. Platforms like Twitter and LinkedIn can grow your brand and your following exponentially. Take steps to ensure you’re getting your services in front of the right audience and use it as a tool to network – you never know where your next client lead will come from and if you’re relocating to a new office in the city, you can update them digitally.

Communal energy
Don’t underestimate the value of working around other like-minded people. Often, business owners working from home can become isolated and lonely, which can manifest as a lack of motivation. An office environment gives you other people's energy to feed off, as well as being able to ask them for advice and support. If you hit a slump at 3pm you can take yourself away from your environment and recharge in a communal kitchen or break rooms before returning to your desk. Often working from home causes stress as home and work lives clash, so having an office space in Manchester, away from the house, relieves this. Communal office buildings provide the opportunity to develop your social life too, meeting new people with similar goals and issues, providing much needed moral support.

Plan, plan, plan!
What are your reasons for moving to an outside office? Is it to have a professional environment or increase your productivity? Is it because your business has grown and the workload can no longer be managed by yourself alone? Asking yourself these questions will determine how big a space you need – you will then need to ensure you’ve included all costs in a thorough budget. Make allowances for forecasted increases in revenue, but ensure you’ll have cash remaining after your outgoings in case of late payments or unexpected expenditures.

It can be daunting to make the change from running a business that has very few overheads to one that has several monthly payments to make, but ultimately, your own, dedicated office space will reflect positively on you and your business - making you look professional and polished to existing and potential clients. At Stonebridge’s Bartle House office, based in the heart of Manchester, we offer high quality office space, furniture, telephone and high-speed internet connections for one monthly cost, and for contracts from one day to one year, making the move as easy as possible.

Stonebridge Offices is a fully serviced office environment with premises in Leeds and Manchester, and was recently awarded the Independent Business Centre of the Year Award at the annual BCA Gala Dinner. The company offers flexible working space and meeting room hire, helping an eclectic range of companies to set the right impression.

For more information on Stonebridge Offices please visit

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Patron Blog: 10 questions to ask your business energy provider

  • About to renew with your energy supplier?
  • Did your business pay too much for energy last year? Are you struggling to reduce consumption? 

Chamber Energy Solutions can explain how to save your business time and money by asking various questions to your supplier. Boost your profits and competitiveness this year. Find out what these questions are, visit:

However, the easiest way to get the right answer to these questions is not by spending time chasing energy suppliers but by going to one place: Chamber Energy Solutions. We can save you time analysing your power and water bills (to see what’s hidden) and take the hassle of trying to contact energy suppliers.

We can give any business total insight into power, gas and water consumption and put it in the palm of your hand with our utility insight app.

Whatever the size of your operation, we can help manage the entire portfolio energy procurement process, secure the right contract and manage the switch. By tracking your renewal dates, we can contact you with a new tariff at renewal so you don’t fall out of contract.

We found bingo hall operator Shipley Brothers the right contract and helped it save around £56,000 against budget for electricity, and it can now switch strategy to suit market conditions during it.

The energy market is complex. No single energy manager can know everything.

We have the expertise in-house at Chamber Energy Solutions to understand energy, your position in the market and how to manage risk.

On top of this, we have a Utility Management Plan that can help you control your utilities once and for all, helping you reduce energy and water costs so you can concentrate on what you do best: running your business.

Krispy Kreme, the global doughnut experts, saved £84,000 thanks to a Strategic Utility Management Plan.

Call us on 0333 000 0132 or email

Friday, 3 June 2016

Member Blog: Content Marketing in the real world

By David Wright LLB FCIM Chartered Marketer at BSA Marketing

There is a lot of talk about ‘Best Practice’ around content marketing; but what happens in the real world?

I felt an interesting starting point would be to see what Google has to say on the subject. A search for Content Marketing threw up 55,900,000 results in 0.67 seconds. 

Interestingly there was only a single paid result – so maybe people are learning that Adwords Keywords need to be targeted!

Anyway the #1 spot was: What is Content Marketing? – Content Marketing Institute. A useful first step, or so I thought..

I think this says a great deal about Content Marketing; There is a lot of talk but sometimes the action fails to live up to the hype.

There is no question that sustained, considered content marketing may be very effective but it is also hard work. Consistently delivering high quality, engaging and relevant content takes planning and application.

Having published almost 500 articles over the past 8 years,we understand the challenges so perhaps it isn’t surprising to find that although people start off their content marketing journey with the best of intentions, after a few weeks, or months, the distractions grow and the commitment wanes; yet the basic truth continues:

Sustained Content Marketing is a great approach to cost-effective

Too often (like so many marketing services) content marketing is pitched as an easy win. I recently saw a brief from a marketing services company that included the phrase:
‘A blog section is really important. It will help (if regular content is added) to improve search ranking

Those 5 words, added in brackets – seemingly as an afterthought, are actually the essence of the statement. Adding a blog is easy. It is delivering well thought out and crafted content month after month that requires planning and persistence. If that delivery fails, the core of the marketing communication fails with it.

Also is the sentiment right? Should content be focused on search ranking or should it be about engaging with your market? – As it happens, engaging content can boost search ranking as a spin off benefit anyway!

So what is the situation in the real world?

We took an audience of local SME business – people attending a recent B2B networking group so presumably aware of the value of marketing themselves and engaging with other businesses – and researched this sample to look at their online presence.

Specifically we searched for their websites and looked at how (if at all!) content marketing was implemented.

The results make interesting reading….

  • Business has a website – 94%
  • Site has News/Blog – 56%
And of the 56%….

  •     News posted within the past 2 months – 80%
  •     News posted in the past month – 42%
  •     Consistent content posted for over 12 months – 10%

These figures tell a story that is common across SME businesses. Marketing gets started but it isn’t sustained. Even to start with, people aren’t posting particularly regularly and within a year, the above figures suggest that 90% of News/Blogs aren’t being updated.

The danger is that a company website, which looks smart, modern and up to date when it is launched, begins to tell a different story. If you see a website with a news section and the most recent news article is several months old, what sort of impression does it make with you?

It is only when new, engaging and relevant content is regularly added that your website as a platform to communicate with your market to ‘tell your story’ and spread the word that content marketing can truly deliver.

So we have a dilemma. Ask most SME business owners whether they think sustained, proactive content marketing is the right approach and they will answer Yes; yet in reality, marketing that is actually done is short term. Businesses are regularly moving from one marketing approach to the next.

I believe there is – and the answer is considered commitment.

This means making sure that you have a plan you believe in and commit the resources to make it happen. But in saying this, I must stress the importance of not over committing. If you try to spend too much time or commit too much budget, keeping your content marketing running will be difficult, if not impossible. Things will slip and the short-termism will be back.

By keeping your commitment more modest (even ‘easy’) it is much more likely your content marketing will sustain and succeed.

If you want to find out more about effective content marketing, do get in touch

Thursday, 26 May 2016

Member Blog: Brexit – how could it affect Britain’s SMEs?

By Paul Burke, Managing Director of Davenham Asset Finance

As Managing Director of Davenham Asset Finance, it’s my job to keep an eye on what’s going on in the market that may affect our customers and clients, who are essentially end users of our finance services through broker introductions, made up of SMEs across the UK. A very hot topic in the news right now that seems to have divided opinions is the EU Referendum, and in particular the ‘out’ viewpoint which also goes by the abbreviation Brexit.

With the Treasury stating that the country would be worse off leaving the EU; economists overwhelmingly believing that leaving the EU is bad for Britain’s economic prospects and the Justice Minister saying the EU prevents Britain from being able to choose who makes critical decisions, it is clear that no two opinions are the same. With the referendum due to happen on June 23rd this year, there’s not much time left for business owners to make up their minds.

So, we have been looking at a number of leading industry forums such as Zurich Financial Services, The Financial Times, and more, to find out what they have to say and have summarised their points below to help you gain a better financial and economical understanding of the effects that the Brexit may have on businesses.

According to a study of more than 1,000 SME decision-makers by Zurich, British businesses are still torn on Europe, with 49% of those surveyed saying they would vote to remain in the EU. However, up here in the North West of England, small business owners seem more positive on remaining in the EU, with 58% backing the ‘in’ campaign.

How would it affect finance for SMEs?

Although the EU does have some SME financing programmes which would no longer be available should Britain leave, these have not had a large impact on SME lending and the UK government could use the increased financial leeway it would have to put similar schemes into place.

A large majority of SMEs in the UK export to the EU – a trend which is unlikely to change as selling to distant markets is even more challenging for SMEs. It is likely that small business owners will face greater costs when trading with the EU, as SMEs currently benefit from EU directives, and these factors would reduce profitability and make borrowing more difficult for small businesses.

However, leaving the EU might have a long-term impact on the availability of finance stemming from the large external current account deficit the UK has been running, as being a member of the EU makes the UK more creditworthy. This may lead to UK borrowers having to pay a somewhat higher price for credit, with most observers agreeing that the problem is manageable, but the outcome really depends on which future relationship Britain negotiates with the EU.

Could it have an economic impact for small businesses?

Economic growth seems to be a key concern among British SMEs, with 42% of those surveyed stating that the ‘Brexit’ would have a negative effect on the UK economy within the next five years, and only 1/5 of SME decision-makers believe that there would be a positive effect on the UK’s economy.

In general, it seems that economists are wary of transitions, fearing that heightened uncertainty over Britain’s relationships with other countries will damage confidence and in turn, investment, particularly as Britain is exporting around £19billion of financial services each year. If the exit negotiations are favourable, the GDP could rise by 1.6%, but should the agreement be less favourable, it could cost the economy -2.2% per GDP. However, costs to businesses such as pensions will see little change, because they are influenced by the global market and should not affect the UK SME economy.

As you can see, there are pros and cons to both sides of the argument, but hopefully this blog and insights from the industry has given you a better understanding of the potential changes and affects they may have on your business. So, are you leaning towards in or out? Let us know on Twitter @DavAssetFinance using #StrongerIn or #Brexit.

For further information on industry viewpoints, follow the links below:

Friday, 13 May 2016

Member Blog: 3 of the Best Ways to Share Your Presentations on Social Media

By Richard Barnes, Founder and Creative Director at Buffalo7

Do you think your presentations are brilliant? Do you carefully craft your content into a powerful narrative and labour over every PowerPoint design decision? Then you probably share a frustration that after all that time and effort spent perfecting a deck, its audience is limited to those in the room at the time of delivery.

With all the visual content and social sharing tools available, it’s now easier than ever to get your slides working harder to disseminate your message. The experts at PowerPoint design agency Buffalo7 have put together 3 key social media sharing tips for getting a higher ROI from your presentations.

1.) Upload it to SlideShare

SlideShare is a free presentation hosting service that’s used frequently in the business community for sharing knowledge and insights – being especially popular among marketing and communications professionals.

To get started, simply sign up for an account and hit the Upload button. You can then select presentation files from your computer for publishing on SlideShare.

Once your presentation’s loaded on, write an attention-grabbing, SEO-friendly title and description, then tag it with the appropriate subject categories to aid discoverability.

With your presentation hosted on SlideShare, you can easily include it in blog posts using the HTML embed code and share it like crazy on your social channels with just a URL.

Bear in mind that SlideShare is best suited to 4:3 resolution presentations (16:9 decks will suffer some cropping). If your presentation contains custom fonts, it’s also a good idea to save it as a PDF before uploading to make sure styles are preserved during the conversion process.

2.) Convert Slides into Standalone Visuals

This might not have occurred to you straight away, but each slide in your deck is an individual visual asset that is useful in your greater communication efforts.

Probably not every slide in your presentation will work as a distinct image, but hopefully there’s a significant amount of slickly designed slides in your deck that contain complete, concise messages.

And converting your slides to individual images is easy! Just go to File > Save As in PowerPoint then select JPEG as the file format and confirm that you wish to export All Slides.

With your slides separated out this way, you can choose the most appropriate ones and post them on social media to drive traffic back to your blog or website. And take advantage of more specialised channels like Instagram and Pinterest, which are focused on visual content.

3.) Convert Your PowerPoint to Video

Don’t panic – this one is easier than you think. Video is now the go-to source of information for many business professionals, making it a perfect medium for sharing your presentation. It’s a great way of increasing engagement and keeping the conversation going around your topic.

If your presentation has a strong design with smooth animations and transitions, it’ll likely become a powerful video asset. And the best part is that you can export your presentation as a video directly from the main PowerPoint window.

To turn your PowerPoint presentation into a video, first record the timing of transitions and narrate your content as necessary. Accomplish this by plugging in a microphone and selecting Record Slide Show from the Slide Show tab in the main ribbon.

Select Start Recording from Beginning and ensure that appropriate options are selected for recording slide timings and narration. Then simply guide through your presentation as you would if delivering it to a face-to-face audience: talk around each slide and move at a natural, appropriate pace.

Once you’re finished, head to File > Export > Create a Video and Use Recorded Timings and Narrations that you just set.

Once the video’s exported successfully, upload it to YouTube and Facebook, write a search-friendly title and description, and start sharing it across social. As with SlideShare, YouTube videos can be embedded with ease: the HTML code for this is located under the video’s Share options.

Buffalo7 is the UK’s leading PowerPoint design agency, creating premium presentations for some of the world’s premier brands. Its recent clients include Sony PlayStation, the Guardian, Unilever, and UEFA Champions League.

Friday, 6 May 2016

Member Blog: Social Media – Do I have to?

By David Wright - BSA Marketing

Listen to some people and you’d think that Social Media is the only game in town when it comes to marketing but hold on a second; let’s just take a deep breath, count to ten and ask the question:
Social Media - Do I have to?

…and the short answer: an emphatic No!

Social Media is just another way of communicating with your market – just another marketing tool – or perhaps more accurately a suite of tools.

Effective marketing needs a strategic plan and part of the planning process is to decide what communication tools you want to use and how you plan to use them.

I’m not going into the detail of marketing planning here, a quick search in our blog or on Google will throw up all sorts of info, but I want to look at some of the considerations you might like to take when deciding about Social Media for your business.

You must be committed.

As with any marketing activity, you must be ready to stick at it. I have heard people say it’s great to use Social Media because it is quick and easy. I disagree. It might be easy to publish content on Twitter or wherever but planning what you want to say and how you want to say it takes thought and time. If you start to use Social Media without a plan, the chances are that the programme will fail.

Think of your audience

Every business has a market that falls into 2 distinct groups:

1. People you know
2. People you don’t know

For people you know, these days you will hopefully have their email addresses so you can communicate with them directly. If you are doing nothing else, you should be keeping in touch with the people you know and building awareness and relationships. Let’s face it, if you don’t keep in touch with the people you know, getting to know new people is a bit of a waste of time unless you happen to be able to do business immediately – which these days is the exception rather than the rule.
My advice is that, if nothing else, focus on your website where you can build an archive of content and then use email as a way of letting contacts know about new content that may be of interest.

Having historic content on your site as well gives visitors the opportunity to browse and this content can also be useful for referral when you are dealing with specific enquiries.

Use Social Media to leverage your comms

The main limitation with what I say above is that if you don’t have an email address, you can’t communicate. Social Media is a great opportunity to leverage your contact with the people you know.

By also engaging with known contacts on Social Media you have the chance to communicate with contacts of contacts.

The downside of this approach is that you can’t know whether there is a fit between your business offering and these ‘second level’ contacts. It is important to consider your choice of Social Media platform(s) carefully (Take a look at this post for more on this) and aim to make your Social Media Joined up with your other marketing (Blog, E-news etc)

So, do I have to?

As with all marketing – and business in general – success normally comes from planning and it is up to you what you include in your plan so, as I started, No, you don’t have to use Social Media…
…But I think you exclude it at your peril!

If you’d like to look at joined-up, integrated Social Media for your business, do contact me at

Monday, 18 April 2016

Member Blog: 6 tips for making your business presentation more interactive

By Richard Barnes, Founder and Creative Director at Buffalo7

What if we told you that your audience’s attention level will normally plummet within the first ten minutes of your business presentation? That’s a scary thought – especially if your most important messages come later on – but it’s absolutely true according to Prof. John Medina in his book Brain Rules.

The brain needs a break from focusing on one thing. So if you want to keep your audience engaged, you need to be introducing new components that regain and retain their attention.

You can achieve this by making your presentation more interactive; try incorporating some of the following tips into your presentation to keep eyes off smartphone screens and on you.

1) Hook Your Audience In

‘Hooking’ is often used by teachers to generate learners’ interest in a topic by feeding them snippets of information that capture their imagination and precipitates the desire to learn more.

When your presentation arrives at an important part, deliver a hook statement or question that immediately creates interest. Then dive into your content to explain how you arrived at your key conclusions.

2) Always Tell a Story

Stories have always been a huge part of human culture since our earliest beginnings, and for good reason: when listening to a story, multiple parts of the brain are activated, increasing attention and retention.

Stories are much more effective than dull recitations of facts, so give your business presentation a clear narrative structure with a beginning, middle and end. Introduce conflict and provide a powerful resolution that reinforces your key messages.

3) Focus on Visuals 

We’ve all suffered through speakers reading from slides containing 12-point black text against a white background. Don’t be one of those presenters.

Instead, make visuals the forefront of your presentation. Our brains process visual information thousands of times faster than text alone, making it much easier to communicate difficult ideas and concepts using imagery. And support these with smooth, subtle animation that helps your message flow.

4) Involve Your Audience Directly

Getting your audience involved in your presentation makes it interactive in its truest sense.

Ditch the one-way conversation by asking your audience questions, taking live polls, and splitting them into groups to complete short tasks. These kind of activities work especially well with a ‘hook’, enabling your audience to become invested in your topic. You can then discuss audience responses and feed them back into your key presentation points.

5) Try Non-Linear Presenting

It won’t suit every setting – like if your presentation is very focused on a single topic and set of messages – but non-linear presenting can bring with it some distinct advantages.

Instead of putting off questions and promising topics will be covered later, you’ll be able to respond to your audience’s interests and needs in a very immediate and interactive way. Try dividing your presentation content under a few topics and create a PowerPoint navigation that allows you to jump between them – you can then take a more collaborative approach to presenting.

6) Use Body Language to Your Advantage

Non-verbal communication forms an important part of how we construct meaning, but you don’t need politician-style media coaching to make your body language work in service of your presentation.

Simply make things more interesting for your audience using gestures to enhance what you’re saying. For example, use dynamic movements to motivate your audience when delivering key points and calls to action. Or take advantage of calm, deliberate motions to remove barriers and focus attention on specific information. Above all, mix things up to appear natural and credible.

Buffalo7 is the UK’s leading PowerPoint Presentation Design Agency, creating premium presentations for some of the world’s leading brands. Its recent clients include Sony PlayStation, the Guardian, Unilever, Budweiser Budvar and UEFA Champions League.

For more information, visit:

Friday, 8 April 2016

Member Blog: Is content at the heart of your marketing? It should be!

By David Wright - BSA Marketing

I have written previously about website development often having too much focus on design and the look of a site. I believe at least as much focus should be on good content, and once a site is published, the focus on regular, new content marches on....

Marketing needs content - and content can be hard work to produce!

In my experience, lack of content it is the single biggest reason why website projects die before completion. I have even heard of clients paying for websites that never actually get published due to a lack of content!
Is your website at the heart of your marketing?

It is certainly true that good content needs to be the heart of an effective website. Regularly adding new material keeps your site fresh and relevant to your business. Once you have created your content there are great opportunities to leverage your hard work!

The internet, and the wider world, offer numerous options to publish (and re-publish) your work:

Social Media
Guest Blogs
Magazines, both on and off-line

Just like you, social media platforms, external blogs, magazines etc. all need quality content and if you are producing relevant articles, there are often opportunities to get your work published by others. Your work is seen by a wider audience but there is an issue; these external media are all transient. Pretty quickly, your content gets overtaken by new stuff and disappears into the depths of the archives. This is why (IMHO) it is inefficient to write your content purely to be published on a platform where you don't have influence over the flow of new content.

Don't waste your work - always use it first to build your own, managed archive on your website. Your content is then all available for your visitors for as long as you choose.

It is also a great resource when talking to prospective clients. You can link them to relevant articles, case studies etc. reinforcing your credentials and demonstrating how you can help them.

An added bonus

New content also keeps your site fresh and up to date meaning it reflects your business as it is now, not just how it was when you launched your site. Even better, search engines love new content!

Many of you will know I am not a fan of too much focus on 'classical' search engine optimisation but there is no question that regularly adding well written, relevant content to your site can have a significant positive impact on search rankings.

No need to wait for people to find your content

Just because you publish great content on your website doesn't mean people will see it! Let people know what you are up to and invite them to your site.

E-newsletters are a great option to engage with your existing contacts. By linking to content on your website you can keep your e-newsletters short and easy to scan. When a reader clicks from your e-newsletter through to your website, they also have opportunity to take a look around and get to know you better.

A limitation of e-newsletters is that you can only send them to the people you know. This is where social media, guest blogs etc. come into the picture. Your can reach out beyond your own contacts and engage with a wider audience - though you should always try to find an audience where there is a 'fit' with your business.

Simply trying to spread the word to as many people as possible starts to sound like spam!

Top Tips...

Here are my top tips for keeping your website at the heart of your marketing:

1. Be proud of your website. Make sure it tells your story. Want people to visit and browse
2. Regularly write/create new content and always add it to your website
3. Make sure all your content is properly categorised. Make it easy for visitors to find what they are looking for.
4. Build a network of relevant external publishers and keep delivering quality content to spread your word even wider
5. As always - stick at it!

To finish off, here is a great post from professional services marketing specialist, Ian Brodie, which adds another angle by suggesting that published content can also be effectively integrated with 'performed' content such as seminars and presentations.

Monday, 4 April 2016

Member Blog: Workplace Relationships - What happens if things go wrong?

By Zee Hussain - Partner, Simpson Millar Solicitors LLP

Office relationships often present employers with a headache. It is a sensitive area, and requires the employer to strike a careful balance between respecting the personal affairs of the individuals concerned, and managing any potential issues from a business perspective.

1. Why should employers care about workplace romances?

The mere fact that two employees have a romantic relationship is not an issue for employers – but the potential consequences in the workplace can be a valid concern. One of the employees might be in a management position over the other, creating conflicts of interest. The couple might engage in inappropriate behaviour in the office. And, if the relationship breaks down acrimoniously, it’s possible that the employer might face a claim of sexual harassment by the aggrieved party. Sensible employers will seek to guard against these eventualities.

2. Does a romantic relationship exist?

There is no legal obligation for employees to inform their employer of their office romance; though conscientious employees may decide to do so, many couples will want to keep the fact of the relationship private. There’s nothing to stop employers asking about a suspected relationship, but – in the interests of good workforce relations – this should be done sensitively. For example, employers should avoid quizzing individuals collectively, or being intrusive about the details of the relationship. Overall, the employer will have to take a view on whether or not it is worth raising the subject, bearing in mind the particular circumstances and facts.

3. What action, if any, can the employer take?
Short of introducing a policy on workplace relationships, or requiring the employees to sign a ‘love contract’ (see below), employers are entitled to point out the standard of conduct they expect from their employees. It would be acceptable to remind employees that any personal relationship should not impact on their professional conduct, such as on business trips. For example, the employer is entitled to ask employees to refrain from inappropriate conduct in the workplace.

Employers should be wary of taking any form of disciplinary action, unless the employees’ behaviour essentially amounts to misconduct or a breach of contract. If one employee in a couple manages the other, it may be possible for the employer to change reporting lines, or even job functions, to avoid the conflict of interest – though this must be done carefully and with due process.

4. Can an employer ban workplace relationships?

An outright ban on workplace relationships is extremely likely to be seen by the workforce as draconian and excessive. Even if a ban were imposed, and an employee acted in breach of it, the employer may well be acting unreasonably in taking disciplinary action.

5. How about a policy or ‘love contract’?

‘Love contracts’ – agreements where the couple agrees contractually with their employer that the relationship is consensual – are often used in the US, as a guard against sexual harassment claims. They are far less common in the UK, due to the difference in harassment laws. Employers are, however, well advised to introduce a sensible policy on workplace relationships. This should spell out what is expected of such employees. Where an employee breaches the policy, the employer is more likely to be able demonstrate that they have acted reasonably in taking action.

6. What happens if things go wrong?

Where a break-up impacts detrimentally on the workplace environment, employers are entitled to respond – though they should so proportionately, and only after giving due consideration to all available options. Rarely will an employer be able to fairly dismiss an employee following a break-up, unless there are other factors involved – for example, where an employee commits misconduct as a consequence. Where dismissal is an option, this should only follow an appropriate investigation or review process. Employers should always consider practical alternatives, such as redeployment, or negotiating a settlement for departure.