It’s shaping up to be an interesting year in business, with Article 50 set to be triggered in March and inflation poised to creep up on us, giving the Bank of England’s MPC some interesting debates and decisions to make on interest rates. Nevertheless, we will continue to persevere. Despite the warmer than usual weather over the festive period, it still remains a key time for everyone involved in the heating and plumbing trade. Although most engineers would prefer adverse conditions. While the weather was mild, with no snow or ice in sight, for the large part of the holidays, business continued to tick along nicely for us and we are on target for further growth, which will hopefully set the tone for 2017. We are already creating new job opportunities to cope with increased demand and continuing with one of our business targets to open even more branches to serve a greater geographical reach in the North East of England. Our business model is beginning to take shape and the quality of our staff are helping drive forward our growth, but the industry as a whole, is in a good position. According to the Construction Products Association’s (CPA) latest state of the trade survey, sales in the UK, within the construction products manufacturing market, grew for the fifteenth consecutive quarter from October to December 2016. Some 78 per cent of companies surveyed reported that sales had increased during that period, with 75 per cent of firms saying that sales were higher during that period, compared to a year earlier. We deal with many manufacturers and suppliers of heavy-side products, which have benefited our customers immensely, so the figures are of no surprise to me or my management team. The industry is in a decent place at the minute, but, unfortunately, I don’t have a crystal ball and can’t foresee the impact that Brexit and other uncertainties will have on foreign exchange rates, inflation and, as a result, the cost of manufacturing and selling these goods. For now, this positivity and upturn is certainly sustaining our growth and driving business targets. I think that sensible marketing can also be a contributing factor to a company’s success, particularly in drumming up interest and creating new leads. When establishing a business, you tend to take control of all aspects of the operations and marketing can sometimes pass you by. At the start, word of mouth recommendations can be great, but it isn’t the most sustainable form of marketing/advertising. Sometimes it’s best to take a step back and review everything and either employ someone with expertise to take control of different functions of the business, including marketing, or outsource. Outsourcing allows you to concentrate your efforts on growing your business and managing staff, while the external agency handles the marketing aspect. Digital and multimedia marketing is becoming even more important as millennial consumers embrace new technology, with smartphones at the forefront. SEO and positioning your company towards the top of Google searches is vital, as is social media. There are more than 30m Facebook users in the UK, which shows just how important it is to create a digital presence and, ultimately, reach out to a vast pool of potential customers. More and more people are enquiring about companies’ products and services through social media, in addition to placing orders on websites. In some cases, social media groups and pages can act as another communication stream for customers and companies, in unfortunate cases of complaints, for example. That is why it is essential to have a presence and someone on hand to deal with enquiries and complaints, as well as create a robust policy to handle everything with the utmost care and to the satisfaction of the customer. Traditional means of marketing are just as important. Boosting the profile of your company and its staff through traditional forms of media, whether this is on the radio, television, a trade publication or your local newspaper, can also help generate new leads. At the back end of the year, I appeared on our local BBC news channel for a minute or so, but this actually generated many enquiries at our Stockton branch (where the broadcast was filmed). It just goes to show the power the media can have. Networking opportunities, as well, provide platforms for key people at an organisation to mix with other businesses and ‘sell’ their services and products to them. As we progress through the digital age, there will no doubt be a shift from traditional sales to online – businesses simply need to embrace this and manage their marketing and processes accordingly.
This article is part of a wider campaign called Founders Diaries, a section of Real Business that brings together 20 inspiring business builders to share their stories. Bringing together companies from a wide variety of sectors and geographies, each columnist produces a diary entry each month. Visit the Founders Diaries section to find out more.
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