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

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Member Blog: The Call...Let’s Start at the Very Beginning

By Kevin Charlton - Managing Director, Steer Coaching & Development Ltd

I’ve been thinking about the mistakes I’ve made with telephone calls over the years and, the time and money it has cost me….And I don’t want you to lose out in the same way.

I’m in the business of helping people and I believe that selling is hard enough without inadvertently causing more problems. I’ve been fortunate to work with learned people who have passed on their knowledge and expertise. This coupled with my own learning means I have something to share with others.

All of my working life; I’ve had to pick up the telephone and make a call to find business. So, in 30+ years, you can imagine the number of mistakes I’ve made and the time, deals and money I’ve wasted by saying the wrong things.

Let me give you just a few examples of classic phrases I’ve used:

“Hello Mr Smith…how are you today?”
“Hello Mr Smith my name is Kevin Charlton from XXX and what we do is…”
“Hello Mr Smith…this is just a courtesy call”
“Hello Mr Smith…I’m just updating our records”
“Hello Mr Smith…we are your local XXX”

Your opening is the most powerful and critical part of the call and if you don’t get this bit right, then closing techniques are irrelevant.

If you were the customer, what would you want to hear?

Well, the customer won’t tune into the words for the first few seconds; they are listening to the voice quality and making a decision on whether they might like this person and what they have to say. When they hear a slight pause before the caller engages, they get the impression that they are just another number on a speed call list and they switch off or hang up. The same thing happens when you dial the number without picking up the handset; the customer answers and, all too often there is a second or two before you react and pick up the phone…Just don’t do it!

We understand when a customer calls or visits us they are looking for a solution to a problem and the salesperson’s role is to qualify the extent of the problem; create the urgency to act and persuade them to buy. When we call a prospective client; they don’t even know they have a problem for us to solve; so the call has to accommodate this.

If I were the customer, these would be my thoughts:

1. Do I fit the profile of what they are talking about?
2. Do I have an issue and could this be the right solution for me?
3. Are they a credible supplier to provide the solution?
4. What would make me do it now?

So after the professional introduction, checking you are talking to the right person and seeking permission to continue, you need to quickly answer the questions in the customer’s head.

1. Profile:

“Hello Mr Smith….as a long-standing customer…”
“Hello Mr Smith….as the head of careers I’m sure you will….”
“Hello Mr Smith….like fellow business owners….”

2. Problem & Solution:

“You may unknowingly be paying too much for…”
“Students are more likely to succeed if they…”
“The cost of finding and training the right staff can…”

3. Provider:

“I thought it only right to inform you and…”
“We are accredited and approved by…”
“We understand and do something different…”

4. Now:

“There is a limited amount of…”
“It has been suggested that we talk to you…”
“So before you throw away any more money…”

Preparation is the key to call success. Taking time to plan what you want to say, thinking about it from the perspective of the customer and their likely responses will enable you to overcome possible objections. I now apply the B.E.V.A. test to everything I present (I’ll save this for another time!) which has made a massive difference to my success rate.

The good news is I now spend more of my time in front of clients rather than trying to pin them down to appointments through a telephone call.

If you’d like to find out more about telephone sales coaching then either give me, Kevin, a call on 07866 469194  or visit:

Friday, 24 October 2014

Friday Guest Blog: Flexible Working

By Aarti Bedi of Colemans-ctts LLP

On 30th June 2014, the rules on flexible working changed and the right to request flexible working was widened. Research by Sage UK has shown that 10 per cent of small businesses are completely unaware of the new rules, while a third of small businesses are still not complying with the changes. 

What is flexible working?

It is a change to an employee’s working pattern and can take various guises such as part time working, shift work, home working, job sharing to name a few.

Who can apply?

As of 30th June 2014 the right to request flexible working has now been extended to all employees with at least 26 weeks' continuous service, previously this right was reserved for only those with caring responsibilities.

How to deal with requests?

Employers must deal with all requests received in a “reasonable manner”. This means holding a meeting to discussing employees requests and communicating your decision in writing to them within a reasonable time and at least within a three-month period.

Can I refuse a flexible working request?

Yes, whilst an employer must consider each request carefully there are eight legitimate business grounds for refusing a request and they are:

1. The additional costs which would be incurred in granting the request would cause an unacceptable burden on the business;
•    For instance, where the company would have to pay for equipment to enable the employee to work from home.

2. The business is unable to distribute the work amongst existing staff;
•    For example, if an employee has a specific skill set, job, or ability, the employer would need to consider how easy or difficult it would be to redistribute the workload. Employers should consider whether retraining would equip another employee.

3. Not able to recruit additional staff to cover the work;
•    if an employee who worked unsociable hours, recruiting another staff member to do these hours might be extremely difficult.

4. The employer considers the change would cause a detrimental effect on quality of business;

5. The employer considers the change would have a detrimental effect on being able to meet customer demands;
•    High pressure jobs sometimes come with high pressure time constraints, however, an employer should not refuse a request outright for this reason. A trial period can be considered as a way to see whether the flexible working arrangement the employee wants can work.

6. Detrimental impact on performance;
•    When considering performance, employers will need to consider the impact on performance of not only the singular employee, but the team and the company.

7. Insufficient work for the employee to carry out during the hours the employee has proposed to work;
•    Some employers have periods of ‘peak’ demand. If the employee is suggesting they work quiet hours only then the request can be reasonably rejected.

8. Planned structural changes mean that the flexible working changes would not fit.
•    If the operating hours of the company are changing making the change in shift patterns not relevant to the business then the request can be rejected on those grounds.

In some cases an employer may not feel that they are able to accept a request, but may be in a position to offer something slightly different to what was originally requested. If refusing a flexible working request it is advisable to inform the employee of their right to appeal the decision. The process including appeal should be completed within the three-month period.

If you are worried about the changes in the law in 2014 or any other employment matter, call Aarti on 0161 876 2502. Email or visit

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Member Blog: The Jumping Off Point

By Kieron Hill – Owner, Kieron Hill Employment Services Limited
There comes a time in the life of a company where the owner has to make a clear choice. Are they self-employed or do they turn the company into a business? The trigger for the decision usually comes when the business owner finds that they are working long hours but still not earning as much as when they were employed. The dilemma is this, they need more work to earn more money but they don’t have enough time in the day to service their customers.

If you are that business owner, the first question that you need to ask yourself is “Do I like doing the work that my company does or do I want to run the business?” The two are not the same. If you are a plumber that enjoys plumbing then you like doing the work your company does and that is what you should do. Therefore if you are not earning enough money you have only a limited number of options, either charge more or do more.

If you are a plumber who likes to research new markets, try new products and services and expand your business then you want to run a business. There is no moral issue here both options are equally valid the choice you make is based on your aspirations. Anyone who tells you that one way is better than the other is what my daughter would call a “butinski” and should spend more time with their family!

In many cases however the business owner decides that they want the adventure of creating a business and working on it, not in it.

So the process begins. First you need to define your aspirations, in terms of what you like doing for a living and what you want to do with your life. For those with the joy and pain of family commitments there is also the cold wind of financial reality that needs to be considered.

Having got your aspirations nailed down you then need to analyse what jobs needed doing in order to achieve those aspirations. You then have to allocate those jobs, whether by outsourcing, investing in IT, purchasing machinery or employing staff. Finally (and this is often the hardest part) you have to take action.

So it’s aspiration, analysis, allocation and action. Suddenly a horrible thought strikes me, I’ve just invented one of those awful management clichés like “the 10 steps to business success” or “the four S’s to marketing excellence” (or the 6 Z’s to a boring business lecture!)

But cliché or not it’s my firm belief that it’s a decision every company has to make sooner or later and then revisit on a regular basis, because the priorities you have when you are in your 30’s will be quite different from those you have when you are 56.

I made my choice a few years ago and decided to build a business but I’d love to find out what other people have decided to do when they reached their “jumping off point”, or was the whole process too much trouble and you decided to carry on as you are?

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Member Blog: How to Use Content Marketing to Grow Your Business

By Nadia Latif, Content Marketing Manager at Banc Media

The internet can be a frustrating place for businesses. Imagine a room containing 99% of your potential customers, but they’re all distracted by pictures of cats on the walls and what their friends are eating. How do you draw their attention away from the fluff and to your good stuff?

Content marketing is, in its essence, the creation and distribution of quality, relevant content. This content engages with your audience, lets them know what your brand is about, and ultimately converts them into loyal customers and brand advocates.

Here are the essentials if you want to use content marketing to grow your business:

Create Excellent Content

The clue’s in the name: it’s content marketing.

This content needs to be relevant to your business; just because listicles work for BuzzFeed doesn’t mean that they are right for your brand. The aim here is to produce blog posts, articles, infographics, videos, etc. that people want to share and that resonate with what you do.

Give Your Excellent Content a Good Home

You could write the most incredible articles known to humankind, but without a well-designed website/blog with a clean layout, your efforts will likely come to nothing.

People’s attention span online is minimal; you have to capture their attention with the look of your site, not just the formatting and readability of your content.

Additionally, get to grips with SEO best practise so that your content is visible to Google and can be found by your audience – this guide from Google is a great place to start.

Engage with Your Audience

Your content marketing efforts will come to nothing without great content. But it’s also about how you use that content and find appropriate channels to connect with your audience.

Brands have the ability to develop a fluid personality through social media thanks to constant communication with followers and other brands. Tesco Mobile’s social media team has been widely lauded for raising the brand’s profile by entering into lively debates with fellow brands and customers.

Proactive social media engagement can help build your brand’s authority, and it’ll cost nothing more than the time you invest into it.

Don’t Be Afraid of the Guest Post

A great way to reach new audiences and add great content to your blog is to diversify with guest posts. Think about who would bring value to your blog; you should only invite people who have something useful and relevant to say.

Invest Your Time

There are no short cuts; quality content marketing takes dedication. Sure, you can churn out blog posts and set up automatic updates on your social channels, but the real value can be found in taking the time to find, listen to, create content for, and interact with, your audience.

We’ve put together a round-up of 50 content marketing ideas you can use on your website and blog – check them out here.

About Banc Media
Banc Media is a search engine marketing company, specialising in SEO and PPC. Based in Manchester, they are comprised of operational specialists including a dedicated content marketing team.

Friday, 10 October 2014

Friday Guest Blog: Medical Specialists Pharmacy enters the online jungle of Amazon!

By Brandon Wilkinson - Medical Specialists Pharmacy

Medical Specialists® Pharmacy are delighted to announce they are joining forces with international e-commerce colossus Amazon, by far one of the most successful internet retailers to ever be involved in the buying and selling of products, boasting an almost unparalleled capability of reaching millions of potential buyers.

Some might say the move to Amazon has been long overdue for a pharmacy giant such as Medical Specialists®, particularly after being pioneers themselves in expanding to an ever-growing customer base that are now choosing the internet as their preferred means of purchasing over-the-counter pharmacy products.

After all, it is convenient and hassle-free to buy online and have products delivered to your doorstep, saving any possible embarrassment of actually walking into your local pharmacy and asking for products to treat conditions like halitosis (bad breath), irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and many more troublesome health issues.

Medical Specialists® already have an impressive history spanning almost three decades, with its origins in private clinics in the late 1980s, at the time being one of the leaders in the move to computerisation for patients and medication.

However, the company has always looked for ways to way to increase its accessibility and efficacy for patients and by 2001, Medical Specialists Company Ltd (as they were then known), became the first legal online clinic in the UK supplying a range of medication via online consultation – to be quickly and poorly imitated as other clinics soon copied their ideas.

This expansion was far from over though and in 2011 Medical Specialists® grew even further to become a fully-registered online pharmacy, becoming the first ‘One Stop Pharmacy and Doctors’ in the UK. Part of this evolution meant that Medical Specialists® could dispense NHS prescriptions, with GP’s able to use the rapid Electronic Prescription Service (EPS), an easy and convenient way for patients to receive medicines, being sent by post to their home, place of work or any other suitable address.

The move to EPS as the name states, meant Medical Specialists® could provide an electronic/paperless, supremely fast and efficient way of dispensing and shipping prescription medication, negating the need for patients to even leave their house and have to go out of their way to get to a pharmacy for their medicines.
At the same time, Medical Specialists® also decided to boost their chemist shop – a side of the business that now incorporates an impressively huge range of over-the-counter non-prescription products, i.e. these items can just be quickly purchased outright without the requirement of an online consultation or private prescription from the customer’s own GP.

So why the move to Amazon now after all this time? Well, Medical Specialists® cater to tens of thousands of patients from around the world, but Amazon has an estimated 130 million customers globally. This is more than double the UK’s population! Information released by shows Amazon having an incredible 16 million visitors from the UK for May 2014 – the most visited online retailer and having more views than eBay, Tesco, Argos and Asda, the other online retailers that make up the top 5.

Therefore, it is safe to say if you are a business that wants to get its products listed and out there, Amazon is the way to go. All businesses simply need to do is decide on a fixed price, note the condition, and the listing will be live within about 15 minutes – a less complex and time consuming procedure than many other ecommerce and auction websites.

Medical Specialists’® Amazon page already has several products listed but the company will be looking to add much, much more in the coming months to further boost brand awareness – a key component of any major successful pharmacy or business. Or alternatively, there is always the Medical Specialists® website for a more extensive over-the-counter product range for health issues such as hay fever and allergies, holiday and travel, sexual health, and more.

It is now 13 years and counting that Medical Specialists® have been at the forefront of sexual health, trying to break down the taboos and worries that many people used to have about seeking help. In this time, Medical Specialists® have had thousands of patients coming forward to request treatment from them for sexual dysfunction problems, and they are confident the move to Amazon will enable their chemist shop over-the-counter product range to similarly flourish.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Guest Blog: Into Autumn - Are you ready for the latest legislation changes?

By Peter Mooney - Employment Law Advisory Service (ELAS)

As the leaves – and the temperatures – start to fall, it’s the perfect time of year for a good spruce-up to make sure your business is up-to-date and in good shape.

So here’s a timely reminder for you of the key changes to areas such as Employment Law and Health and Safety legislation, for the rest of the year and into 2015.

From 1st October, 2014 the Children and Families Act 2014 gives employees and agency workers who are in a “qualifying relationship” with a pregnant woman the statutory right to take time off to attend antenatal appointments. This new right applies from the very first day of employment (i.e. no continuous period of employment is required).

Those in a “qualifying relationship” include:
A pregnant woman’s husband, partner or civil partner (if she is in a same-sex relationship)
The father of the child
The parent of the child; and
Intended parents in a surrogacy situation who meet specified conditions.

It is possible that a woman’s partner may qualify for time off even if he is not the child’s natural father.
Those who qualify for time off only have the right to attend TWO antenatal appointments (not all of them) and they can’t take more than 6 ½ hours for each one.

The appointment must have been made on the advice of the registered medical practitioner, midwife or nurse.

Pregnant employees have a statutory right to reasonable time off work with pay to attend their antenatal appointments.  However, those in a qualifying relationship do not have a right to be paid.

Employers have the right to request the employee (or agency worker) to make a written declaration stating that they are in qualifying relationship with a pregnant woman or her expected child, that they are taking some off specifically to attend the antenatal appointment with her and that the appointment has been made on the advice of a registered medical practitioner, midwife or nurse giving the date and time of the appointment.

The Children and Families Act also increases the amount of the award for an unreasonable refusal of time off for antenatal care.

Also from 1st October, Employment Tribunals will be given the power to order equal pay audits, where the employer has breached the equal pay provisions under the Equality Act 2010, except in prescribed circumstances.

On the same date (it’s a busy time!) the National Minimum Wage increases:
£6.50 for workers 21 and over
£5.13 for workers 18-20 yrs
£3.79 for 16-17 yrs olds
£2.73 for apprentices under 19 or 19 and over who are in the first year of apprenticeship

On 1st December 2014, the Paternity and Adoption Leave (Amendment) Regulations 2014 come into force.
These rule that an employee cannot take paternity leave in relation to a child where he or she has already taken shared parental leave in relation to that child or has taken paid time off to attend an adoption appointment in respect of that child.

From the 10th December, the right to take unpaid parental leave will be extended to include children up to the age of 18. Currently this right applies to parents of children under five (or 18 if the child is disabled).
From 6th April, 2015 provisions for Shared Parental Leave take effect, for parents of children born or matched for adoption on or after 5 April 2015.

Under this new system, parents will be able to choose how they share the care of their child during the first year after birth. Mothers will still take at least the initial two weeks following the birth; but following that they can choose to end the maternity leave – and the parents can OPT to share the remaining leave as flexible parental leave.

And on the same date, the Children and Families Act 2014 brings statutory adoption pay into line with statutory maternity pay by setting it at 90% of normal earnings for the first six weeks of the adoption pay period.

Also in April, employer national insurance contributions for workers aged under 21 are to be abolished. In his autumn statement last year, the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced that employer national insurance contributions for workers aged under 21 who earn up to £42,285 are abolished.

It is expected that April will also see the introduction of new rights for employees who are reservists. If the proposals are confirmed, they will be exempted from the two year qualifying period for bring an unfair dismissal claim where the reason for dismissal is the employee’s reservist’s service.

A proposed change that reflects our increased life expectancy (and longer working lives) is that the upper age limit for jury service should increase from 70 to 75, in England and Wales. This is expected to be ratified in the early part of next year.

Be assured, ELAS will be on hand to warn you of any forthcoming changes and their implications – and will also be here to offer guidance on all aspects of the laws that affect your business.

ELAS is a leading provider of a full range of business support services such as HR, employment law advice, occupational health and safety, food safety, payroll services and training to businesses both in the North West and nationally.

For further information, visit

Friday, 3 October 2014

Friday Guest Blog: Beyond the new frontier - Automatic enrolment and support for businesses

By Rob Hawthorne - Chartered Financial Planner at Rowanmoor Consultancy Limited

On 25 August  2012, the Voyager 1 spacecraft became the first man-made object to leave the boundaries of the solar system and enter interstellar space.  The probe has now been operating for almost 37 years and continues to explore the interstellar medium, transmitting valuable data back to Earth.

The probe, along with its sister Voyager 2, represented the very pinnacle of planetary science and with Voyager 1 having only just entered the vast arena of interstellar space, the journey is very literally just beginning.

Back on earth, or to be more specific, the UK, the programme for employers to start automatically enrolling employees into workplace pension schemes is now in full swing, a journey that started in 2012.

At the time of writing, over 4,000,000 workers have been automatically enrolled representing some 21,000 employers, many of whom had no existing pension provision and no experience or technical know-how administering a complex financial product for their employees.  Where Voyager represented one of the biggest challenges for mission planners, calculating gravitational slingshots around the outer planets, one of the biggest challenges facing employers is the implementation and ongoing demands of one of the biggest changes to UK pension legislation in over a generation.

Over the next four years, small to medium-sized employers in the UK will start their journey and will be required to comply with the automatic enrolment regime.  Many companies have only a sketchy knowledge at best, of their new legal duties, and those that believe a “one size fits all” payroll system will meet their needs in full, are very much heading towards disaster.  Experience so far has shown that to achieve full compliance employers really do need to get the bull by the horns and in true mission control style, plan ahead, task by task, step by step.  Failure is not an option.

In outer space, the margin for error is slim.   Back on Earth, those employers that find themselves in breach of their new regulatory responsibilities could face disciplinary action or even prosecution.  To safeguard employee interests, an enforcement regime has been established.  Employers will be required to register with The Pensions Regulator to declare compliance.  Furthermore, employers will be required to comply with new statutory employment rights and contributions will be monitored to ensure that all are meeting the new financial obligations.

When Voyager was envisaged, decisions were taken to determine objectives, experiments and destinations well in advance of the launch dates.  In preparation for automatic enrolment it is essential that employers consider what type of pension will suit their needs.  Employers will need to update their payroll and HR systems (assuming of course they have them) to meet the new administrative burden, familiarise themselves with their new duties and they will need to consider the financial impact of the compulsory contributions on the company accounts.

Regular duties include self certifying compliance, providing scheme information to employees, automatically enrolling employees, making contributions on their behalf and keeping accurate scheme records, to list but a few.   The impact of these reforms will be nothing short of significant on the day to day operations of your typical small to medium-sized employer.

Advice on how to plan ahead is fundamental if businesses are to survive the journey. The final destination might not be known, but those who would challenge the credibility of independent financial advice and planning in the context of automatic enrolment have not fully understood the wider challenges faced by employers.  Although automatic enrolment started in 2012, the journey for UK workplace pension provision is only just beginning.

Our corporate clients are provided with a clear automatic enrolment strategy. If you would like to find out more about how the new legislation will affect your business please contact our Consultancy Support Team on 08445 440 747 or email  We look forward to hearing from you.

Rob Hawthorne is a Chartered Financial Planner at Rowanmoor Consultancy Limited, Independent Financial Advisers, Bolton.

Friday, 26 September 2014

Friday Guest Blog: Landlords and Property Owners Urged To Comply With New Legionella Legislation Or Face Prosecution

By Jamie Tranter, Legionella Risk Management Specialist and Head of Legionella Control International’s North West team

Landlords and property owners now face hefty fines if they fail to comply with the latest legionella legislation recently updated by the Health & Safety Executive. The revised legislation deals with the control of risks associated with legionella, a water-borne bacteria, which although rare, can have serious and often fatal consequences if it develops into Legionnaire’s disease. With the help of specially designed tools from Legionella Control International, landlords and property owners can now take appropriate steps to mitigate the risks and ensure the safety of their tenants.

As legionella experts, we offer a series of free guides and check-lists to assist landlords, property owners and managing agents control these risks.  Our ‘Legionella Compliance Self-Audit Checklist’ is one such tool which is free for landlords and available to utilise on request.

Legionella is typically found within aquatic environments and is especially dangerous where specific conditions enable the micro-organisms to propagate speedily. Legionnaires’ disease itself is rare but 359 reported cases were diagnosed during 2010 in England and Wales alone. Landlords, property owners and managing agents are encouraged to implement risk assessments and water management systems to ensure that impending risks are minimised or eliminated altogether. Landlords have been urged to watch for especially vulnerable individuals who may be further susceptible to contracting the disease when exposed to contaminated water systems.

Although outbreaks of Legionnaires’ disease are rare, the ramifications are real and can be devastating to those involved. It is essential that landlords, property owners and managing agents satisfy their legal obligations to ensure that legionella is not ignored and left unmanaged within their properties. Fortunately, it is relatively easy to implement appropriate risk management strategies to ensure that the bacteria does not get a hold. UK tenants and businesses require complete compliance in this area which is why those that fail to comply with the law can face hefty fines.

The HSE issued a revised addition of the Approved Code of Practice entitled, ‘Legionnaire’s Disease: The Control of legionella bacteria in water systems’ to ensure that property owners manage any risks appropriately. The scheme must be enforced by all within the property sphere regardless of the size and complexity of their water systems.

Legionella Control International ensures world class solutions are implemented to minimise, control and prevent the risk of legionella outbreaks in private and commercial properties. Offering independent, impartial advice, we offer landlords and property owners an extensive range of legionella risk management services including risk assessments, compliance audits, training, assessment of water systems, crisis management, and laboratory testing as well as an array of other essential options all designed to safeguard against legionella.

To find out more about Legionella Control International and how to safeguard your property to comply with the legislation, visit:

To access the ‘Legionella Compliance Self-Audit Checklist’, click here.

About Legionella Control International: Legionella Control International is a UK based company specialising in offering world class solutions from risk management experts to help landlords and businesses safeguard against the risks of legionella. Their independent, impartial advice enables people to control, manage and prevent the likelihood of outbreaks.

Friday, 19 September 2014

Friday Guest Blog: Unsubscribes – An Opportunity Not a Problem

By David Wright, Chartered Marketer at BSA Marketing

When I’m talking to clients about using e-mail marketing and e-mail newsletters, there is one question that comes up more than any other….

Will I annoy people?
I don't want to alienate my contacts

You may be surprised that the short answer is an emphatic –
NO! Unsubscribes are good

Unsubscribes are a fact of life in e-mail marketing and not something to be afraid of.

They are another point of engagement between you and your markets. The feedback you get through unsubscribes can help you improve and refine your offer and make your business better.

Don’t forget the basics

People read newspapers and magazines because they are interested in the content. Not necessarily every article but they do have an interest. E-newsletters should be exactly the same. Content should be relevant to the target audience. We receive many more positive comments about our Marketing Matters e-newsletter than we do unsubscribes.

Realistically there will always be someone who simply objects to everything but when you look at the statistics, the power and benefit of well targeted, relevant e-mail far outweighs any negative impact.

Naturally, every e-newsletter we send includes an option to unsubscribe and if someone takes that option, we respect it, because unsubscribes are good…..

Unsubscribes are good

The essence of marketing is to communicate a relevant message to an audience that will recognise the relevance of the message (and consequently a ‘fit’ with the company that sent it)

E-mail marketing is no different, and if someone chooses to unsubscribe that is normally because they don’t see the relevance of the message so it makes sense they don’t receive it.

As a consequence of unsubscribes, the target list becomes ever better qualified!

Use your common sense

As with most things, common sense is a valuable tool and should be used in your marketing.

It’s true that some unsubscribes can be a good thing, but you do want your list to grow as you add new (well qualified!) contacts. Adding qualified contacts tends to be a steady, rather than fast, process so getting too many unsubscribes can make your list go backwards – and if you do see a lot of unsubscribes, perhaps you need to ask your self whether your content really does engage your market? Alternatively, consider just how well qualified are your contacts in the first place?

Watch the stats

As a general rule, you may well see a few more unsubscribes the first time you run a list (maybe 3-5%) and this can be OK on the first ‘send’ but after this, unsubscribes should be much lower – typically well under 1%

Make sure you are adding contacts too

Unsubscribes are part of e-mail marketing so if you aren’t adding contacts to your target list, it will shrink.
Having a sign-up form on your website can be a way of growing your list and it can work well if you operate in a B2C or wide B2B market with a lot of traffic to your site. For B2B businesses working in niche sectors (i.e. most of BSA’s clients!), a more proactive approach to list development is normally required but don’t forget:

Contact quality is more important the contact quantity
Remember, you should be communicating good quality, relevant content to well qualified contacts. If you do this, unsubscribes will be minimal and maintaining/growing your list should not be a problem.

Sometimes an unsubscribe may be worth a follow-up

If you only see small numbers of unsubscribes (and you should!) it is worth keeping any eye on who is unsubscribing.

If it is someone you know personally, it might be worth giving them a call to find out why they have unsubscribed. This shows (at least) that you are on the ball and take a joined-up approach and your conversation may give you valuable feedback which you can use to improve your marketing.

I have even had the experience of finding that someone had unsubscribed inadvertently and my call not only resurrected the contact but resulted in a business enquiry!

Be positive and use your common sense, but remember: unsubscribes are an opportunity, not a problem.

If you want to see how e-newsletters can help you grow your business, call me on 01457 851111 or email

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Member Blog: How a migraine can do everyone’s head in at work

By Brandon Wilkinson - Medical Specialists

Are you a migraine sufferer? Or, are you an employer with employees that you are aware regularly suffer with them? If so, you will be delighted to hear that Medical Specialists® Pharmacy have gone to great lengths to make migraine treatment available for the thousands of people that need it after being inundated with requests for help from your fellow sufferers, and this help could enable you to get on with your day-to-day activities without the pain and stress associated with the condition.

Migraine is the most common neurological condition in the developed world. It is something much more intense and painful than a common headache, even though many people confuse the two. With an estimated one in four women and one in 12 men in the UK affected by migraines on a regular basis, this means around 15% of adults in the UK are suffering. Although sufferers may feel alone and isolated, migraine is a health problem even more prevalent than asthma, diabetes and epilepsy combined.

Despite this, it can be still misunderstood and underestimated in the workplace. Statistics indicate that over a third (34.3%) of sufferers are experiencing difficulty or discrimination in the workplace due to their condition. (The Migraine Trust, 2004).

Firstly, let’s look at some hard facts about migraine:

* Each year migraine causes a loss of over 25 million working days at a cost of around £2.25 billion to the economy.
* Migraine and chronic headache are the second most common reasons given for short term absence from work.
* A recent YouGov poll involving 2,105 people saw 15% of workers who pulled a ‘sickie’ used migraine as their excuse for a day off work.
* A survey conducted by The Migraine Trust in 2012 found that almost half (46.3%) of workers with migraine say they are unfairly untreated because of illness-related absence, over a third (40.5%) felt unsupported by their bosses and colleagues, and three in ten (30.5%) had received disciplinary action due to their health condition.

The main obstacle between fellow employees and the employer and their employees, is simply lack of awareness about migraines. Migraine pain can be excruciating for those afflicted, but an attack is often disregarded as ‘just a headache’. In addition, many employers are lacking understanding and not providing sufficient support for staff with migraines due to non-sufferers commonly using migraine as an excuse when they have a ‘sickie’ from work.

It is partly this reason why migraine sufferers feel isolated and unsupported, and employers should do their best to communicate with these particular employees, as even with the severe pain experienced during an attack, many sufferers will still continue to either attend or stay in work despite their productivity levels being negatively impacted.  This could have major implications for employers, both financially and with the subsequent drop in staff morale and productivity.

It is called ‘presenteeism’ when an employee still goes to work despite being unwell, and is rife amongst those with regular migraines and headaches because of the fear of reprisals from bosses.  Employers should have a fair and open communication policy with all employees – not just those with migraines – to reduce the risk of presenteeism, which can be problematic for everybody concerned.

The issue of presenteeism could be down to the fact some employers utilise strict absence record systems that focus on performance monitoring after a certain number of sick days have been reached. Some empathy needs to be shown though from the employer – otherwise stress and anxiety can be caused and exacerbate migraine attacks by acting as a trigger.

You as an employer should be aware that depending on the circumstances, migraine sufferers could be classed as having a ‘disability’ according to The Equality Act 2010.  It is employers’ responsibility to put into place appropriate conditions that make it easier for employees that suffer with migraines to actually do their job to a good standard and stop them being unfairly discriminated against.

Some helpful adjustments that employers can introduce for migraine sufferers may include: make sure employees have frequent breaks where possible, offer flexible working hours, amending shift patterns, carry out necessary improvements to the working environment (lighting, computer screens, work station), and make sure there is easy access to drinking water for all employees.

As well as being flexible with working hours, employers should also consider being flexible with regards to sickness policies to prevent migraine sufferer’s absence (which is highly likely to be only short term) resulting in strict/unfair punishments being handed out to them. Remember that the aforementioned changes do not cost much to introduce, and often have benefits to the wider team. A happier working environment will inevitably lead to increased productivity, and a happy employer!

For anybody still worried about the impact of migraine on their working life or indeed any day-to-day activities, Medical Specialists® offer a fantastic range of migraine prevention and migraine relief treatment ( which, for UK patients, can be obtained within 24 hours following an online consultation with one of Medical Specialists’® GMC-registered doctors.