Are you still a Windows XP user?

If you’re still an old Windows XP user or even Vista user, you’re probably worried knowing that after long years of support Microsoft has now ended its support for the world’s second most popular operating system way back on 8th April 2014.

Microsoft warns you that if you continue to use its OS first introduced before the iPhone even existed “your computer will still work but it might become more vulnerable to security risks and viruses.” And if that isn’t enough to encourage you to upgrade or get a computer, maybe the fact that “you can expect to encounter greater numbers of apps and devices that do not work with Windows XP” will.

But given the millions of PCs running the OS and the scarce amount of time and resources many people have, some people will certainly be still be XP users or Vista well after its “expiration date.” If you’re going to be one of these daredevils, here are some suggestions that might help …

1)      Comparitech has produced a guide where it explains the options depending on which Windows version currently being run for upgrading.
2)      If you continue with XP then install an alternative browser — not Internet Explorer.
3)      Make sure Microsoft Office is fully patched if it is installed. Note, some older versions of Office will run things such as Flash by default if embedded in documents. If using an older version of Office, tighten up the security options.
4)      Review the third-party software you have installed and uninstall anything that isn’t needed.
5)      For the third-party software that you keep – consider disabling or uninstalling the browser plugins. Or at least set the browser to “always ask” what to do about things such as PDF files.
6)      Have an up-to-date security product with antivirus and firewall installed.
7)      Keep your XP computer connected to a NAT router, which will act as a hardware firewall. (Practically speaking, this means you shouldn’t be roaming around outside of your home with an XP computer.)

Living in the past may not be easy. But if it’s your only option, you should try to stay as safe as possible.

“Folks that continue to use XP at home can do so with some reasonable amount of safety, but they absolutely need to review their Internet and computing habits as April draws near.”

From an article in:  www.safeandsavvy.f-secure.com

Latest update on this from http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-26432473

Drop me a line and we can discuss how we can help get your web presence working for your business.

So where can you get good startup advice?

So you’re ready to start a business. The UK has a very supportive environment for startups, with a flourishing wealth of networks, groups and organisations for all types and styles of new business, where you can get practical advice, ideas and make many valuable contacts.

Australian waste bin
Get good advice before things start to go wrong – and end up in the dustbin

Taking good advice at this planning stage may well help you avoid costly mistakes later on. A business mentor can give you honest and constructive feedback, as well as provide useful contacts and pass on valuable experience. There are mentorship programmes to suit all kinds of businesses, including startups.

Here at Owl Communications we work closely with The National Centre for Micros Business.  All NCMB mentors are fully trained – get in touch to see how we can help.

http://www.ncmb.co.uk/

There is a wide array of services across England, offered by National Enterprise Network, New Entrepreneurs Foundation, School for Startups, Women in Enterprise, Local Growth Hubs and Enterprise Nation to name just a few.

You can get help with advice and support if you’re out of work from the New Enterprise Allowance, which can provide advice, mentoring support and financial help.

There are several membership organisations which represents and helps owners and directors of small and growing businesses, like The Federation of Small Business, British Chambers of Commerce, Institute of Directors and the ICAEW Business Advice Service.

Drop me a line and we can discuss how we can help get your web presence working for your business.

Loosely taken from: http://www.greatbusiness.gov.uk/where-to-get-start-up-advice/

10 points to help business start up

Below is a simple 10 point checklist which you should consider before starting your business. To make it more interesting try and answer these points by giving yourself a score for each question – 0=Don’t know and 5=Great.

1. How is it different?
Your underlying business idea doesn’t need to be original, but you need to establish unique selling points (USPs) if you want people to buy from you rather than your competitors. You have to offer something new. Is your proposition solving a problem? Are you filling a gap in the market, or building on an existing offering?

Don't be a fish out of water - do some business planning.
Don’t be a fish out of water – do some business planning.

2. Is there a market, and is it big enough?

Thorough market research is needed before moving forward with your business idea. You need to ensure there will be sufficient – and sustainable – demand to support your business and enable it to thrive.

3. What’s the business model?
How will you charge your customers, and what for? Can you think of additional revenue streams? Research is vital to determine whether your business model is viable; this should include analysis of how your competitors have structured their businesses.

4. Is the price right?
It’s no good having a winning product or service if your customers can’t afford it, but you need a decent margin for a sustainable business. Talk to your potential customers to find out whether your pricing is feasible.

5. What will stop others from copying you?
If you’ve ever watched Dragons’ Den you’ll have heard no doubt heard this question: ‘What’s to stop a big company coming along and stealing your idea?’ Have strong USPs – such as exceptional customer service – and wherever you can protect your intellectual property.

6. Do you know your customer?
Arm yourself with as much information as you possibly can about your target customer, and listen to them at every opportunity. What does a typical customer look like? How do they behave? What do they most value from a product or service like yours? Where can you find them? What marketing methods do they respond to?

7. Can you turn a profit?
How much will it cost to produce your idea? (taking into account manufacturing or supplier costs; salaries; overheads; office equipment, etc)? How much can you sell your product or service for, and how much do you need to sell to not only cover your costs, but make a profit? Is this achievable?

Set your own path through careful planning.
Set your own path through careful planning.

8. Do you have sufficient funding to get the venture off the ground?
You need enough cash to support yourself and your business until it becomes sustainable. If you don’t have the funding in place, can you raise it?

9. Do you have the necessary experience, attitude and skills to pull it off?
Even if you have the best idea in the world, without the passion, drive and commitment to see it through, it still stands a good chance of failing.

10. Is there scope for growth?
Can you expand on your idea in the future by adding new products or services, entering new locations, or improving your original proposition?

OK add up your total score, and how did you do?

If you scored under 20 you need to do a lot more work before you are ready, if you scored 21 – 35 then you are on the right track, but need to look at few pointers before getting started, if you scored 36 or more then well done, what stopping you – get on with your plans!

If you want to learn more  drop me a line and we can discuss how we can help get your web presence working for your business.

 

Why not start a business from home?

It’s simple to start a business from home and growing numbers of people are doing it.

2011-11-02 09.41.39
Why not start up in Stained Glass manufacturing

There are 2.9m home-based businesses in the UK and they contribute £300 billion to the economy. As part of its long-term economic plan to back businesses, the government has made it even easier to start a business from home.

The Home Business Guide explains the process of setting up a business from home and dispels common myths. It covers business essentials like rates, insurance and health and safety considerations. Here are some ideas you need think about when starting a home based business:-

  • You will also need to consider whether planning permission is required to run a business from home. The local planning authority will determine this on the individual merits of a case.
  • Check if your home business will be subject to business rates. Generally, you shouldn’t have to pay business rates for minor business use of the home.
  • The Health and Safety Executive’s home working guide will help you to check that your home business meets health and safety requirements.
  • Home business must still decide on the legal structure of your business. Sole traders, business partnerships and individual partners must register for self-assessment with HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).Private limited companies and Limited Liability Partnership (LLPs) must register with Companies House.
  • You should let your landlord know that you are planning to run a business from home and get their consent before doing so. The government has confirmed that social tenants are able to start and run a business from home.
  • If you own a leasehold property you should check your lease for any restrictions.

 

Drop me a line and we can discuss how we can help get your web presence working for your business.

Loosley taken from: http://www.greatbusiness.gov.uk/where-to-get-start-up-advice/

Key Start – Up Questions

Starting your own business can be a daunting thought and one which needs time to consider, however, working with The National Centre for Micro Business we have developed a simple and helpful checklist.

Help to start a business - where do you turn?
Help to start a business – where do you turn?

1. Why are you in business, and what do you want out of it?
2. What business are you in?
3. What do you want your business to become in three years’ time?
4. Where is your market now?
5. Who are your immediate target customers for the next 12 months?
6. Who could buy from you in the future?
7. Who are your competitors?
8. How might your market change in the future?
9. How can you make your business different from your competitors?
10. What is your marketing strategy?
11. How will you do your marketing?
12. What are your sales targets and how will you achieve them?
13. What are your operational requirements?
14. How much money do you need now and for what purpose?
15. Will you need more money in the future and for what purpose?
16. How will you manage the business?
17. What are the risks?

OK – so now what?  Once you have worked through these questions, and resolved some useful answers and you need more  Drop me a line and we can discuss how we can help get your web presence working for your business.

More Top Tips for Media Success

Sometimes you need to think big, and just go for it.

Be Presentonce you have your Facebook, YouTube or Twitter account spend time developing your style and presence.  Remember you are starting from the beginning, from scratch, and it will take time to for you to build your network, so pick a platform and then work hard at it.

Sometimes you need to think big …

Measure your impact – YouTube, and Google allow you to analyse your input/output and get feedback on who, what and where your followers are, so use this to develop the parts of your site that are getting the most attention.

Think about your URL – it might be worth getting a shorter branded URL – frankly mine’s a bit too long, oh dear …

Now use your time for that important homework and see what you can find.

The National Centre for Micro Businesses can help develop your ideas into business plans, call us for more help.

More ideas to follow soon …

Drop me a line and we can discuss how we can help get your web presence working for your business.

Want to know why things go viral?

So what makes something go viral?

If you ask most social media “gurus,” they’ll tell you it’s all about getting lucky. Viral isn’t a strategy, it’s like buying a lottery ticket. Or they’ll talk about cats. Lots of people share videos of funny kitties, so cats must be the reason things go viral???

Wharton Professor and author of “Contagious: Why Things Catch On – Jonah Berger” has a few excellent ideas – see his latest blog.

Blakes of Dover, Cellar bar
Blakes of Dover, Cellar bar

In it he describes how ‘word of mouth’ is the most important aspect of spreading your ideas – virally.  He explains further “… if you want to generate word of mouth? Get people talking about you? One way is to give them a way to look good. Make people feel special, or like insiders, and they’ll tell others—and spread word of mouth about you along the way.”

How true, we once owned a restaurant and ‘word of mouth’ can either make of break you, it only takes a few customers to tell their friends ‘what a wonderful meal they had’ and suddenly your fully booked.  Unfortunately the reverse is also true … so maintaining high standards at all time is paramount!

Will following this principles guarantee that 10 million people spread your message? No. But it will increase the number of people who pass it on. Encourage people to tell two friends instead of just one. By understanding the science of ‘word of mouth’ you can boost your average, and your sales.

Drop me a line and we can discuss how we can help get your web presence working for your business.

Attention Grabbing Headlines

I came across this amazing fact whilst surfing the net, that 4 out of 5 (80%) of people determine whether to keep reading about your products or services on the basis of your website headline.

Now with that in mind your website headline becomes THE MOST important part of your page.  No confusing double talk, clever ‘click through’ links – just capture your readers attention.

Charlie Cook in his how-to guides outlines three typical mistakes we all make:

  1. If you’re not a household company brand name, frankly most of us are not interested in knowing what you call yourself.  Move branding to the side and make room for a more creative headline.
  2. Don’t bother with a ‘welcome to my site’ first line – you don’t see this in the printed media?
  3. Avoid vague lengthy sentences containing business speak – who cares? Use language we can all relate to and understand, widening the net for potential customers.

We all unconsciously, so I am led to understand, look at web sites in the same way we read magazines ads – scanning to see if it is something we want.

Headlines therefore should:

Racing for the finish line
  • Clarify
  • Describe
  • Define
  • Explain
  • Emphasis
  • Compel

Headlines should NOT:

  • Confuse
  • Obscure
  • Be Vague
  • Lack drive
  • Be BORING

Now start surfing and see how many sites follow these simple guidelines – great sport.

Drop me a line and we can discuss how we can help get your web presence working for your business.

Increasing your Facebook Reach

You can increase your Facebook reach by understanding a few simple rules that Facebook use.  While Facebook has never officially divulged exactly how to gain greater reach, there are several tactics that if followed do work.

Be topical and brief: I cannot stress enough how effective succinct posts are, studies show that lengthy Facebook content goes unread …

Sometimes you need to stand out from the crowd

Have valuable content: quality content is king, photos are more engaging – a picture is worth more than a 1000 words, ask open questions to simulate a response from the reader.

Know your audience: study your readers, and write what they want to read.  Facebook Insights is a useful tool to evaluate readers historical consumption pattern.

Engage with your readers: answer responses quickly to show you’re listening, tag the reader so they are notified of the social attention.  If they ‘like’ your comment this further boosts visibility.

Like your followers: Facebook Insights provided details of ‘friends of readers’, these are more likely to be attracted to your site.  Then with Facebook ads you can target your readers. But be careful, Facebook ads should be complementary and not the primary way to communicate your message.

Follow these guidelines, and I hope this will increase your Facebook presence.

Drop me a line and we can discuss how we can help get your web presence working for your business.

 

The whirlwind of social media

The whirlwind world of social media is like Pandora’s box – it holds powerful tools that can seriously boost your business to attract new customers, retain loyal ones, and engage the digital world…or it can be a heap of resources wasted if you don’t use them properly.

Some myths need busting
Some myths need busting

Here are five of the major Social media myths debunked.

Myth 1: Social media is a weekday job

You may be on a 9-5 shift during the week, but social media outlets run 24/7 you might actually have more success if you engage on weekends and odd hours.

Myth 2: I don’t have enough content to feed the outlets

Content gets posted, pushed down, and becomes irrelevant before you know it. Re-post the same content in different ways to build concepts and values that your brand represents. The key is to not make it repetitive. Just put a new spin on it when you re-post it a few weeks later.

Myth 3: I can’t show personality

Your content should be mainly targeted at your demographic and within your industry, but don’t be afraid to show some personality.  Throwing in some humor through office pictures, or interesting news articles can humanize your brand’s message.

Myth 4: My target demographic is older, so social media isn’t worth it

Contrary to what you may think, the older crowd is quite active on social media. According to a 2012 survey by the Pew Research Centre’s Internet and American Life Project, 52% of online boomers and 32% of online seniors are on social networking sites, especially Facebook.

Myth 5: Social media marketing doesn’t drive bottom line results

This may be the biggest misconception about social media and its effectiveness.  Social media creates leads and inspires new customers. Fact proven: companies that use Twitter average twice as many leads as companies that don’t – the proof is in the profit.

So in summary: Social media outlets are the perfect places to create a platform for your business and showcase it for current and potential customers, you just have to know how to use them – and that means knowing the truth behind the myths.

What marketing myths have you heard that should be added to the list?

(from an article on Linked In)

If you want to learn more  drop me a line and we can discuss how we can help get your web presence working for your business.