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

Monday, 23 November 2015

Member Blog: Does telemarketing work?

By David Wright, BSA Marketing

Telemarketing calls in business are a fact of life but I received a call recently which led me to ask the question:

Just how effective is telemarketing for B2B services these days?

There is no question that the telephone is a valuable and effective business communication tool but it’s the WAY it gets used for much B2B telemarketing that made me stop and think.

All too often calls are simply focused on nailing the lead rather than engaging with the prospect – a process through which, if the interest is there, they’ll probably get the lead anyway!

Here’s the scenario:

I was cold-called by a ‘typical’ telemarketer (you know the type) and her opening line went something like this:

“I’m calling from XYZ Accountants because our advert has been on ‘Local FM’ radio and we’ve had such a great response we didn’t want you to miss out….” 

So she was engineering a situation to justify her call!

She went on talking ‘at’ me (I’m paraphrasing a bit)….

“Our accountancy services can save you up to 60% on your annual accountancy fees”

Now call me old fashioned but I don’t just pick an accountant on price. I suggest that professionalism, competence and value for money (as opposed to cost) are more important considerations, but there you go!

What’s more, changing accountant is not something that businesses do regularly. A good relationship with your accountant is a valuable element of a successful business.

So most of the time, most businesses are NOT looking to change their accountant so just randomly calling businesses in the hope of landing on an opportunity is statistically likely to be a lot more ‘Miss’ than ‘Hit’

Now here’s the point:

We were looking to change our accountant!

We should have been a lead; but the whole approach the telemarketer took just turned me cold. Even though her basic massage was promoting the idea of ‘Cloud-based’ accounting, she wasn’t interested in me, she was interested in getting a lead – which she didn’t.

If she’d shown more interest in me and my business needs, and talked with me rather than at me (with some half-baked reason for calling in the first place!), maybe she would have got somewhere.

A better approach?

These days, marketing is so much more about engagement than it is about selling. Since the rise of the internet, if we want to buy something (whether it is a TV or a new accountant) we can go online and research options and find where to buy.

Marketing is about influencing our preference. Where and why a customer would like to buy something, and making it easy for those customers/clients to choose us!

Cold calling is a leap into the unknown. Anyone making a telemarketing call has no idea of the circumstances for the people they are calling. They might be busy, sad, happy, annoyed, who knows? It’s pure port-luck.

A good telemarketer can deal with what they find but the ONLY practical way is to empathise and engage.

There is another way – and that is to bully. We hear of a lot of this going on in B2C telemarketing and telesales but I believe this approach should have no place, anywhere.

So, back to my call. If the telemarketer had talked with me rather than at me, maybe she would’ve got further.

Are you interested in considering an alternative accountant?
Have you considered the benefits of cloud-based accounting?
Do you ever feel you are paying too much for your accountancy services?

A positive answer to any of these may have opened the door but just telling me why I should be talking to her didn’t cut it!

Even if she got nothing but negatives, taking a reasonable approach always leaves the door open for
Can we keep in touch?...

…and this leads to the opportunity for ongoing communication and engagement, the essence of modern marketing.

So does telemarketing work?

In my example, the answer is clearly NO!, but I believe if telemarketing embraces engagement as part of a joined-up marketing communication process, it can still play a valuable role in B2B marketing that delivers benefit to everyone.

If you are thinking about using telemarketing in your business, I’d be happy to talk to you but, in any event, always remember to think about the opportunity beyond the sales lead.

Thursday, 5 November 2015

Member Blog: How to tackle the HR issues that may arise over the festive period

By Michelle Gyimah - Pregnancy and Parental Rights Consultant at Equality Pays 

From the organisation of an office get-together, to the often emotion-fuelled issue of who gets to have time off, the festive period can be the cause of all kinds of HR issues.

Thankfully though, help is at hand. It’s often simply a case of ensuring that you understand your legal obligations, and communicate effectively with your employees.

Here, we give you the answers to some common HR questions that employers face at this time of year.

Q. It’s really difficult keeping our premises warm during the winter months. What are my legal obligations?

A. In the UK, you need to ensure that the minimum temperature in a place of work is 13 degrees for strenuous work, or 16 degrees generally. If it falls below this, you need to take action immediately, or send your employees somewhere warmer (if it’s possible for your staff to carry out their work at home, this could be an option).

Of course, it’s not just your legal responsibilities that are worth mentioning here. If it’s too cold, it could be dangerous for your employees, or they could at least lose concentration and carry out work that is not up to their usual standard. It’s in everyone’s best interests to provide a comfortable workplace.

Q. Do I have to pay for a Christmas party or function for my staff?

A. There’s no legal requirement for you to provide a Christmas party for your staff, unless it’s written in the contract of employment. If you’ve offered this for your employees for many years though, it could be argued that it’s an unwritten agreement.

Legalities aside, a Christmas function can be a great way to thank your staff for their contributions to the business over the past year, and can really increase morale.

Budget will often be an issue, but you don’t have to spend a fortune, and you can spend up to £150 per person on a staff party and it’s tax deductible.

Q. A large number of staff members want to take holidays over the Christmas period, and I’m worried about how this could impact my business. Do I have to give them the holidays they ask for?

A. This all comes down to the finer details of your employment contracts. You need to assess the exact terms and conditions that you’ve laid out regarding how holiday can be taken. In general terms, staff can ask to take holiday at any time, and there should be clear guidelines within your policies that explain how they should do this, and what notice they must give. If your business has particular busy periods, you might decide to state in your contracts that no leave can be taken during this time.

It all comes down to some careful forward planning in terms of your contracts and procedures. If you haven’t yet taken the time to ensure your documentation is in line with business needs, take action now. Speak to an HR professional who will be able to assess your policies and provide guidance on how they can be improved.

Q. Should I consider giving my employees a Christmas bonus?

A. The economy is still delicate, so it’s not surprising that many businesses are wary about giving bonuses. Here, we need to consider contractual requirements, and of course, apply a little common sense.

If it’s stated in the employment contract that workers will receive a bonus, you need to comply with this. If you don’t, you run the risk of facing a tribunal claim. Where this can get a little trickier is when you don’t have anything detailed in your contracts, but employees have always received a bonus, so it’s considered as an accepted custom and practice. In this case, it’s worth speaking to an HR professional about how your business will tackle the issue.

It’s also vitally important that you have crystal clear communications around bonuses, and can explain the criteria for receiving a payment. If you don’t give this some careful consideration, you could leave yourself open to a discrimination claim.

Q. I have a diverse workforce, with staff actively practicing a variety of religions. What issues might I face at this time of year?

A. You’d be hard pushed to find an HR professional or a savvy business owner that didn’t recognise the benefits of having a diverse workforce. Quite simply, it’s great for business. Inevitably though, there are many questions that arise in light of this over the Christmas period.

First of all, your employment contracts are once again vitally important. Check to make sure that yours are up to date and effectively address diversity within your business.

Remember that Christmas is a national holiday within the UK, and it’s recognised among many religious groups (including the non-religious) as having a special status. If you do have many employees from different religions, it may be worthwhile considering making arrangements to recognise other holidays that your staff may wish to celebrate.

If you have any questions about these issues, or other HR matters that are causing you worry in the run up to the festive period, get in touch for a no-obligation discussion.

Monday, 2 November 2015

Member Blog: Are you missing out on R&D tax relief?

By Managing Director of R&D Tax Claims Limited, Mark Evans FCA

Since 2009, the team at R&D Tax Claims Limited has successfully helped over 200 UK companies to save a staggering £21 million by helping them to make successful R&D tax claims.  This is an important milestone for us and we hope it goes to show just how much we’ve aided businesses from a wide variety of backgrounds to reinvest and grow over the past few years.

The UK provides one of the most generous R&D tax relief schemes in Europe, with around £7 billion available to SMEs to claim every year, so make sure your company isn’t missing out on what it’s entitled to.

R&D Tax Relief is a government backed tax incentive designed to give companies the encouragement to develop new and / or improved products and / or processes.  If your company pays Corporation Tax and is carrying out activities which qualify as research and development, you may be able to claim back tens of thousands in tax which could then be reinvested back into your business, great news for the future of any company..

Contrary to popular belief, R&D tax claims don’t have to be a long drawn out process.  We make sure all our clients’ claims are handled in the most efficient manner possible and with our expertise clients can receive their tax refund within just six weeks of submission of the claim to HMRC.

It’s a common misconception that R&D tax claims are only available to companies which design their own products such as OEMs but in fact many 1st, 2nd and even 3rd tier subcontractors can also qualify. Recent statistics suggest that many SME subcontractors have little awareness or understanding of the R&D benefits available to them and could be missing out on thousands of pounds in unclaimed tax credits.

So, how have we achieved these impressive tax claims? Well, our success is down to our vast technical knowledge of R&D, along with our long standing relationship with HMRC.

It allows us to recognise whether a claim qualifies for R&D tax relief quickly, at absolutely no risk to our clients. We operate a strict No-Win No-Fee policy, so you can be sure that we’ll only put forward your claim if we think you’ll be successful and with our 100% success rate, you can be sure you’re in safe hands. The average annual tax saving achieved for our clients is over £35,000. This annual “bottom-line” saving means a successful R&D claim has the power to completely revolutionise your business.

If you’d like to find out more about how we can help you to make an R&D tax claim, get in touch with our Shrewsbury or Warrington office today.