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

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Chamber Blog: Virgin is Back on Track

By Emma Antrobus,  Member Policy and Campaigns Manager at Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce

It is great news to hear that Virgin has signed off a new directly awarded franchise agreement to run services on the West Coast Mainline until April 2017.

You may remember the fiasco that surrounded the re-letting of the franchise in September 2013 which resulted in a legal challenge to the process by Virgin and an embarrassing climb-down from the Government. During that time we received an unprecedented number of calls and emails from businesses saying that they didn’t want Virgin to lose the franchise as they offered great service.

As well as the huge cost to the taxpayer, the mostly unseen outcome from the franchise delay was that the company was poised to refurbish all the trains under the new franchise agreement and had to lay people off as the all plans were put on hold.

This new franchise agreement will see significant improvements for passengers with improvements to Wi-Fi on board and free Wi-Fi at all Virgin managed stations. There will also be investment in waiting rooms, seats and shelters, and the introduction of new automatic ticket gates across the franchise.

The big change will be that there will be a reconfiguration of first class seating, creating an extra 5,500 standard class seats EACH DAY. This has been one of elements that the anti-HS2 campaigners have been suggesting as the silver bullet to solve the capacity difficulties. Whilst it may impact on capacity in the short term it will not provide extra services to destinations with no current direct link to London, and will do nothing to increase freight on rail.

Other improvements are likely to come on stream, with possibilities of services to Blackpool and Shrewsbury, and there will be an increased premium paid by Virgin – so an improved position for all taxpayers regardless of whether they travel by train or not.

As a Chamber, we will continue to work with Virgin to help improve the experiences that businesses have using their services and would welcome any comments you may have.

Friday, 13 June 2014

Friday Guest Blog: Do You Keep in Touch With Your Contacts? If Not, You Should…

By David Wright of BSA Marketing

I appreciate that ‘keeping in touch’ is at the heart of our business but it never ceases to amaze me how many people don’t!
Over the past few weeks I’ve been asking the direct question to people I meet:

“Do you keep in touch with your contacts?”
Obviously I’m not talking about the people you are actively working with, it is all the others:
  • Enquirers where they don’t do business at the time
  • Sales contacts & prospects you have met/talked to
  • Contacts from networking
  • Referrals from customers and other contacts

Have a think:
“What has happened to all the business cards you’ve been given
over the life of your business?”

Admittedly, some people do send stuff to their target contacts but this is normally limited to offers and promotions. They were always going for the short term sale rather than aiming to really engage with their contacts to build the relationships, understanding and trust that foster the strong, long-lasting business opportunities.
Here are a couple of diverse examples that I have been given by clients recently. Each shows how fully engaging with your contacts can have real, profitable impact:
Example 1 – The Industrial Equipment Supplier
We have been working with this client for several years.
BSA designed, set up and implemented an e-newsletter programme to keep our client in touch with their contacts, giving them news, advice, company developments, case studies, testimonials etc, all intended to demonstrate how our client is an expert in their field of industrial equipment.
While the e-newsletters were never intended to sell directly, they all clearly demonstrate that if someone was looking for the products and services offered by our client, then our client was a good potential supplier and worth talking to.
Although the e-newsletters consistently elicit response, a recent reply shows just what can happen:
Our client received an e-mail which was simply a ‘reply’ to an e-newsletter that had been sent over two years previously (who says e-mail is transient!). The e-mail was an enquiry with a value in excess of £100,000. By itself this represents a return on marketing investment of over 1500% – and then all the other business is free!
Example 2 – The Business Consultant
Not such a big company as the first example (but at least as important for the owner).
We have been working with this client for many years and send out e-newsletters, only three or four times each year but enough for him to keep in touch with his list of around 150 key contacts and say ‘hello‘.

By regularly ‘tapping his contacts on the shoulder’ they remember him and the work he does. The e-mails we send regularly produce business opportunities. Last month was no exception.
He emailed me saying there had been service developments he wanted to let his contact know about. Because we have a good, established relationship we were able to put together his marketing e-mail, he approved it and we sent it – all within a couple of days.
He started to see the response almost immediately with a series of replies which he expects to yield a number of opportunities – this time the ROI will be around 1200%
Stop Press, June 2014: Latest feedback shows current ROI
is at 4500% with additional potential for next year

In both of these examples our clients were making the most of who they know.

Do you make the most of the contacts you know? There is good business in it!

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Member Blog: Making a difference can make your day

By Karen Sykes, Marketing Manager at Garcia & Sykes

We received a call two weeks ago from Tameside4Good who said they had nominated us for the "Community Engagement" Award in the Pride of Tameside Business Awards 2014.  It was to recognise what we had done to help them and the local community over the last year or so. This included donating two office desks to local charitable groups, providing fencing to the You Can Youth Community Project (see below) and also weld mesh to the Wooden Canal Boat Society in order to build a cage for safe storage of gas canisters. (See our post on this blog from 9th May).

More recently, Gareth Sykes, our MD, had also been involved in the Enterprise Challenge with Tameside4Good and Tameside College encouraging enterprise students to "build" a business and help with their projects and then judge the results which happened last week.

We were shortlisted against another local company and invited to attend the black tie gala dinner and awards ceremony which took place in the Jubilee Hall of Dukinfield Town Hall on Friday 6th June.

It is an event now in its fourth year, organised by Tameside Council together with sponsors to recognise local businesses and what they offer.  The night was a great success with fantastic entertainment and food before the awards themselves….

We are pleased to say we won the award and were extremely proud to pick this up and be amongst a number of other great local businesses. As a result of this, myself and Gareth (below) had an interview with Lizabeth Bohler for Tameside Radio which was broadcast the following morning.

So, it just goes to show that through giving back every now and then and helping the local community, good things can happen. Look beyond the day-to-day workings of your business and see how you can make a difference.