Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Power up your marketing with an infographic

Infographics are proving to be an incredibly powerful way of getting your message across.

The combination of information and images (hence the name) attracts attention in a way that a page of written text never will.

Our brains are wired to remember images more easily than words. Marketers have been using eye-catching, memorable pictures for decades. But they usually need some supporting text, or dialogue, to get the message across.

A good infographic can convey a lot of information in a way that's attractive and convincing. Many are designed to promote a particular message, such as the benefits of cloud computing.

Could your business benefit from creating an infographic? Share it on your website and blog and you may be surprised how many people share the link and come to visit.

Here are five infographics we've come across that we think you'll find interesting.

The first is the one about the benefits cloud of computing for SMEs (or SMBs as they're known in the US). It's a bit US-focused, but the basic messages also work for the UK.

The next infographic explores the extent to which UK SMEs are making use of social media to promote themselves. It's based on a survey carried out in April 2011.

Infographics can do more than present statistics in an interesting, visual way. They can also explain processes or information flows. This infographic from Touch Financial explains how invoice factoring works.

This next infographic is a visual representation of the performance of the UK's SMEs in Q2 of this year. It's a mix of hard statistics and business sentiment.

If you're looking to hire someone, don't be completely surprised if their CV comes in infographic form. Here's an example from student Jonathan Frost, which includes an infographic within an infographic. It caught the attention of The Guardian.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Dorset councils win awards for supporting small businesses

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has just announced the winners of the Small Business Friendly Awards for the region.

These awards acknowlege the best small business friendly initiatives undertaken by local authorities in the area.

Every council in Dorset entered for the awards and the winners were:

Best All Round Small Business Friendliness - Christchurch Borough Council

Best 'Small Business Friendly' Procurement Policy - Bournemouth Borough Council

Best 'Small Business Friendly' Programme or Campaign - Bournemouth Borough Council

Bournemouth won recognition for provided free workshops to small and micro businesses, to help them apply for public sector contracts. The initiative reached around 600 SMEs.

The 'Bournemouth Face the Dragons' project, which helped to fund start ups, also played a large part in the awards.

Christchurch Borough Council was presented with its award for providing consistent support to businesses. Fast payment of invoices, which helps firms to manage their cash flow, is one of the core qualities that was recognised.

FSB Wessex Regional Chairman, Ken Moon, said: "These awards are an excellent way to say ‘thank you’ to council members and officers who rarely get recognised for the work they doThe FSB looks to the region’s local authorities to help create the environment for small businesses to survive and thrive and we have seen from the nominations that councils have adopted some of the good practise which received awards in 2010".

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Boat anchors on Weymouth beach

As part of my BT Storyteller role, I’m following a number of Weymouth and Portland businesses through their London 2012 experience. They’ve agreed to share the expectations, achievements and frustrations that come with running a business in a major Olympic venue.

Daren Deadman's family has been serving food and drink from huts on Weymouth beach for generations.

But this summer saw the realisation of a twenty-year old dream, to open a cafe and wine bar which brings continental sophistication to Dorset's silken sands.

The Boat, Daren's new establishment, sees the traditional rectangular hut replaced with the curves of an inverted ship's hull. It's as if a large sailing ship had beached, been abandoned, and a section of the hull turned over, converting the keel into the ridgeline of the roof.

That's exactly the effect that Daren, who runs The Boat with his wife Claire, sought to achieve. Daren conceived the design several years ago and in conjunction with an architect and boat builders, created the distinctive reality.

A new style of beachfront cafe

The Boat, which opened in July, stands on a decking platform which reaches out across the sand towards the sea. From here, diners and drinkers can feast on miles of views of the Jurassic coastline, while keeping a watchful eye on their children, playing on the beach.

While Daren and Claire have always run a beach catering business, The Boat is a big step up. Staff numbers have more than doubled, with around 14 full and part-timers. The old menu of takeaway food has been superseded by a broader selection of meals that can be eaten at the gleaming new tables.

It's also a licensed bar, selling wine and beer until 10pm. Long evenings see customers drinking in the scenery and emptying a few bottles, as the tide ebbs and flows.

Attention to detail is a hallmark

Good quality service is important to Daren and Claire. "We treat everyone the same," says Daren. "It doesn't matter if they're a day tripper or a resident." It’s apparent that cleanliness is important. Customer service extends to ensuring that every customer's dog is provided with its own drinking bowl.

Not surprisingly, this eye-catching venue has rapidly become popular with Olympic visitors. LOCOG representatives and members of visiting sailing teams have already eaten there. Local councillors like to use it as a showcase venue when entertaining.

Daren has lots of plans for The Boat. A winter menu, themed evenings, and an even higher quality of catering are just a few. Having been open only a few weeks, he's still getting used to how it works, and how popular it's already become. It will be interesting to come back in a few months and see how it's navigating the cooler days of autumn.

You can 'Like' The Boat on Facebook.

(Top photo: Claire and Daren Deadman)

Free business seminar: Social media, the web, the cloud and you

Your business can’t afford to get left behind by the 21st century communication revolution. Come along to this free seminar to discover what you may be missing out on and, more importantly, how to turn technology to your advantage.

Social media
Andrew Knowles, of Writecombination, will be sharing some of the experience he’s gained through building a copywriting business using social media. Discover what works and what doesn’t, and why business marketing is becoming more about winning advocates than writing advertisements.

The web
Paul Weeks, of Digibug, will talk about why effective websites are more than just a mix of graphics and text. He’ll share proven strategies for guiding customers to your website and, once they’ve arrived, how to steer them gently but firmly to the checkout.

The cloud
Stephanie Pettitt, of Equation Accounting, will tell you her secret for building a business that’s portable, scalable and successful – despite having almost no visible means of (IT) support. She’ll open your eyes to the possibilities and potential offered by today’s technology.

And you
Come along to have your eyes opened to new ways of running and promoting your business. It’s completely free and we’ll even supply cookies. Places are limited, so book now because we predict this event will be popular.

When: 10am to 12noon, Tuesday 4 October. There will be time for questions and networking.
Where: Weymouth Community Fire Safety Centre, Radipole Lane, DT4 0QF. Free parking available.
For more information visit the Open4Business website or contact @andrew_writer on Twitter.
To book email: [email protected]

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Business Connections networking event in Dorchester

Now that summer's behind us, the business events season is warming up nicely here in Dorset.

Here's another one for your calendar - a business to business exhibition and networking meeting on Friday 14 October at the Dorford Centre, Dorchester.

Inspired by the success of the Business 4 Business show in Weymouth earlier this year, Simon Marfell of Stag Office Products and Matthew Pye of Bartlepye have put together this new event.

They've also created Business Connections (Dorset) Ltd in order to run other events in the future. Their desire is to support local business, which they believe offers a cheaper and more customer focused solution than that available from national firms.

For more information about the exhibition in Dorchester visit the Dorset Connections website. You can also follow @BCDorset on Twitter.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Business Link events in Dorset - get them while you can

Whether you're an existing business owner or thinking of starting one up, you should take advantage of the Business Link events scheduled for this autumn in Dorset.

Many are free, requiring only some of your time and the costs of getting to and from the venue.

Events like these have helped thousands of business owners over the years. If you've never experienced one, give it a go before the Business Link cut backs take effect in November, reducing the service to a website.

You'll get more from these meeting than simply listening to presentations. They are great networking opportunities, allowing you to make valuable new contacts.

The Business Link Dorset events in September and October are:

15 September - Successful business leadership (Dorchester)
A free half day workshop including lunch. Book here.

20 September - Meet the entrepreneur (Bournemouth)
A free half day workshop aimed at ambitious new business owners. Find out more.

21 September - Value innovation - its logic (Weymouth)
An evening event including a ploughman's supper, for £15. Here students will meet business people in a creative and forward thinking environment. Book here.

22 September - Driving your business forward (Bournemouth)
A half day workshop costing £25. This will be all about growth, with a particular focus on overseas expansion. More information here.

11 October - Meet the buyer (Bournemouth)
An open day which includes a free lunch. If you would like to sell to local councils and want to know how, this is for you. Book here.

19 October - Innovative marketing strategies (Bournemouth)
A full day workshop costing £39. How to market your business on a limited budget. Information and booking here.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Portland accountant starts building his own business

Mark Franklin, a Chartered Certified Accountant, has taken the bold step of creating his own accountancy practice in Weymouth.

Mark, who’s lived on Portland all his life, is well known to many local businesses. He's working for a local accounting firm for over 12 years and over that time gained his professional qualifications, along with an extensive knowledge of accounts and tax.

One of Mark’s strengths is his ability to translate the sometimes obscure language of finance into something his clients can understand. As a result, they give him glowing testimonials.

Laura Dench, of H20 Hair Salon in Weymouth, says that Mark “takes the stress out of it all”.  Another hairdresser, Francesca Hegg of Steven May Hair Design, calls Mark: “A true professional and always with a smile.” She “would not hesitate in recommending him to anyone looking for an accountant.”

Moving from the security of a regular salary to the challenge of having to find your own work can be a daunting prospect, particularly in today’s challenging economy. Mark is confident that his professional skills, excellent reputation and local knowledge will allow him generate the income needed to support his family of four young children.

He says: “By taking the time to go through the figures in detail with my clients they are able to make sense of the accounts, see where they have done well and identify areas for improvement.”

Mark’s enthusiasm for his new venture is clear to anyone who meets him. You can experience this for yourself if you choose to take up his current offer of free consultations for local firms. Find out more about Franklin and Co by visiting his website.

The Bizoh blog loves to celebrate business success in Dorset. If your firm has a great story to tell, why not get in touch?

Monday, September 5, 2011

Popcorn even sweeter after five years

Popcorn Marketing, based in Weymouth, has just celebrated five years in business.

The occasion was marked with a reception for 35 guests at the Fossil Barn in Chickerell. The building, a holiday home designed by Popcorn, has recently been awarded a Visit England 4 Star Gold.

Founded by Julie Cleaver, Popcorn helps local organisations manage their brands. Clients include Weymouth College, Weymouth and Portland Chamber of Commerce, Vintage Dorset and the Tall Ship Pelican.

Julie Cleaver said: "Today is a celebration and thank you to all my loyal staff, business colleagues and of course my outstanding clients."

In addition to her work at Popcorn, Julie is also Managing Director of Open 4 Business (Dorset) CIC, a non-profit organisation that delivers a festival of business awards and events throughout the year.