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7 steps to a free marketing plan

7 steps to a free marketing plan

Franchise owners, just like non franchise owners need to apply sound small business skills to what they are doing.

A common statement I hear is that marketing is too expensive. #Rubbish. If you’re a local business you can spread the word about your business without expense. Get busy and do the following at least:

Free marketing plan for a local business

  1. Social Media engagement. Get set up on all of them but as an absolute minimum. Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and Instagram. Pinterest if you have time.
  2. Local free directories. Type in “free business listing [your town] and you’ll be inundated with websites offering free marketing. Get your details on there and try and include a link back to your website.
  3. Human Mail Shot. You know where your customers are so get walking and knock on doors. “Hi, I have just set up a new widget business, I live locally to you and I think I could give you a better deal, where do you get your widgets from at the moment? “
  4. Direct Mail. As above but post through letterboxes, residential or commercial. £50 on Vistaprint could get you 1000 leaflets. You don’t need to put a stamp on them you can just get walking
  5. Trading what you do for publicity. Lets say you’re a florist for example. You’d like to be at a wedding fair that costs £250 but you don’t have £250. You could however afford to give the organiser a fresh bouquet of flowers every week. £250 at retail might only cost you £75 at wholesale price. Trade your £250 worth of flowers for a free stand at the show. I have done deals just like this all my life!
  6. Recommend each other. If you sell business consultancy then why not recommend an accountant to your clients? The accountant can then recommend you in exchange. Win/Win. You could probably set up 10 of these right away!
  7. ABC – My initials but actually stands for “Always be closing”. It’s a Sunday and you’re at a neighbours bar-be-que. Someone there could be client of yours? I have sold franchises worth £50k at neighbours bar-be-ques – truly I have! Get talking and suggest to people that they could be dealing with you. If it’s not for them sow a seed a different way, e.g. “I run a local charity for lost cats, do you know anyone who might be interested in working with us”?
  8. If you don’t fancy it get a professional marketing agency to help you like www.developingbrands.co.uk

Franchise Seminars & The Paparazzi

Actually I do like the franchise media and over many years now have some lovely friendships in place. Last week I was speaking at the International Franchise Exhibition delivering one of my franchise seminars. It was entitled “The Idiots guide to franchising any business”. The seminar room was full at 60 people which was a relief. You do wonder sometimes if anyone is going to turn up!

Franchise Seminars are a bit unusual I think. There’s no way you can deliver a lot of information in a short period of time so you’re options are basically to crack on and fly through as much as possible or cut the content short. I went for a fast paced 45 minutes and packed in as much as I could. 

Following the seminar I was interviewed by Franchise Direct to discuss Lime Licensing Group and it’s services to the franchise industry. A piece to camera which will be on Youtube in due course I expect.

Franchise Seminars

The International franchise show was over two days at the Excel centre and had a lot of different franchise seminars for visitors to choose from. It’s a great opportunity for me to meet a lot of industry colleagues and have a few socials with various people. Definitely a work hard, play hard weekend!

Important tips when buying a franchise resale

Let’s assume you’re in the market for a small ongoing concern costing around £25k

Is the seller cashing out for genuine reasons? Get that question answered first and foremost. You have to know why it’s for sale. Whatever answer you are given you then need to satisfy yourself that it is genuine. 

Next, you’ve gotta love the Franchisor. You’ll most likely have to meet them anyway as they’re the only ones who can grant the license. But you’ll be working with them, closer than you might think. So make sure you’re going to get along!

Next check the franchise agreement. How long is left? Technically all you can buy is the unexpired term if the agreement so it’s a good idea to check if the Franchisor will grant you a full term should you go ahead and buy it. 

Next ring a random selection of the current franchisee network. Be sure to ask them how many they know of who have failed. You can use the wayback machine to check the franchisors website two years ago and see who was in the network then. Speaking to an ex franchisee is always a great way to discover some home truths. But don’t believe the whingers, they might not be accurate in what they are saying. I’ve often found that failed franchisees hardly ever confess that it was their fault, it’s usually everyone elses fault. They can’t all be right! Once you’ve spoke to a few you can work out which comments have merit from those that don’t.

Check the legal agreement and if you’re not too savvy with these things yourself, as most aren’t, get professional advice on it. The franchise agreement is one document, you’ll need either a termination agreement or a novation agreement to assign the rights over to you or your company.

Halve your forecasts and double your costs. It’s more of a saying than a precise strategy but as my Dad used to say if the bottom line looks good when you under estimate sales and overstate costs then you’re probably going to be ok. #Oracle

Next find someone who’ll throw cold water over you. Metaphorically speaking that is. It’s good to speak to someone who’ll give you a reality check. Whilst we’re on this subject be sure to get the backing of your wife/husband/significant other. You don’t want any arguments down the line … “I told you so” etc

We’re getting serious now so whatever price the buyer wants you need to agree a lower one if you can. Or have a go at deferring some of the price, or paying for it out of future profits. 

Next, register your details here and I’ll let you know when the blog about funding a franchise opportunity is posted.

Thanks go too Dogancan Ozturan for the photo which we got from Unsplash

International Franchise Show 2019

Excel Centre 5th & 6th April

I’ll be working on Lime Licensing Groups stand which is No. 782 located by the seminar theatre dedicated to franchise suppliers. Come and have a listen to my seminar on “franchising any business” which aims to be a basic guide to the main considerations when franchising any business. 

Why a great slogan is one of your best business assets.

“Open 23.5 hours per day”. What does that say to you? I forget where I saw it but it was decades ago and I still remember it today. Choosing a great slogan gives customers a different view of who you are and what you do. A great slogan is one of your best business assets. It also allows founders to unveil a bit about the personalities behind the brand.

Business Assets Slogans and Strap Lines

You’ve tried the Cowboys, now try the Indians.

Patel & Singh Builders pulled off this master stroke of a strap line and I for one would probably hire them based on that alone! To me it not only shows a fun side but it also says they’ll do a great job. Builders work in an industry that often lacks credibility. Something about this slogan builds trust. 

A lot less bovver than a hover.

Can you remember the brand name? Maybe not, but if you are of a certain age you’ll already know what this refers to. It was the slogan that shifted an entire industry away from hover mowers. Out of all the tangible business assets that Qualcast owned this slogan was probably the most valuable. I don’t think they ever trade marked it either! Probably didn’t need to. 

“Fluent in Franchising”.

Three words that convey a certain level of expertise. If you were to be hiring a franchise consultancy this is what you would want isn’t it? Fluency. It says they know everything. It’s a great choice of words that Lime Licensing Group has used for over a decade. 

The Rastafarian Therapist. 

My wife and I were laying on a beach in Barbados when a Rastafarian walked up to us. He introduced himself and asked if we’d like a foot massage. We didn’t look interested until he said “I’m known as Dr Goodfoot”. I’ve long since forgotten his actual name but Dr Goodfoot has stuck in my mind ever since. His brilliant strap line got our business and it made us smile! He probably still uses it today as he wanders up and down the beautiful Maxwell beach. 

So what does your business slogan say about you? 

Do you even have a slogan? What do your potential and actual customers really want? To create one write down the most important elements that your clients value. Or the main issue you solve. How can you turn those words into a short message that resonates with them? Get your thinking cap on and push out a slogan. It can be fun, informative or just relevant. 

This is one of the business assets you can create yourself but if your struggling then any branding agency will help you for a fee. Be sure to put the time in to do it – because you’re worth it! (Credit L’Oreal)

The problem with side gigs

The problem with side gigs

It’s the first of February and in my industry at least January is always a mental month. Despite that I have managed to keep improving the two sites I’m experimenting with. Both are getting better as each week rolls by. I’ve made good progress in the first month.

New things take longer

It’s been interesting tracking down various broken links and wordpress issues. A bit of a nightmare if you don’t know what you are doing. However, I do now know what I’m doing! Ish! I found that my broken link checker told me links were broken even when they weren’t. Also the new Gutenburg editor doesn’t really like my Spicepress theme! The famous WordPress 5 minute install is anything but 5 minutes in my case. Took me ages to install from scratch onto a new domain.

You dont have the time you think!

Worse of all however is the problem with actually allowing the time to learn a new skill or run a side gig. I have intentionally restricted this to my spare time so that my full time career is full on. There in lies the problem. After a full time day I’m honestly lacking in motivation to do anything other than flunk out on the sofa. It seems easy in theory, an hour here or an hour there. Shouldn’t be too much of an issue but it is. 

If you are thinking of doing a side gig I think this is the biggest issue you’ll face. I class myself as a hard worker but the problem with side gigs or online learning is the most obvious one. It’s time, and when you put that time into your side gig or learning as I am doing. That also means you will have to be realistic with what you can achieve with the time you’ve got available.

A cinch by the inch, hard by the yard

What has worked with me is small chunks of time. So I’ll finish at 5pm and then do a 30 minute block on Lynda.com. On a saturday I’ll do an hour if Debs is out. Bit by bit it’s taking shape. Alas availability of time really is the problem with side gigs.

Love a nice plugin

In addition to learning wordpress with this site I have also revamped another website for a telemarketing brand that I own called the Cold Calling Club. The company has been fully booked for sometime so ironically it’s website wasn’t in any way a necessity. I think it’s last update was probably 5 years ago! But as part of my new hobby it has had a revamp and is now looking great again. Once again I used the SpicePress theme, just to make life easier for me since that’s what I use on this site too.

The Cold Calling Club works on a pre payment basis so for sometime now they’ve been sending pro forma invoices out or working on standing orders with clients. So my lesson for last week was to install a stripe plugin to accept card payments. I used Direct Stripe for this and it seems to have worked great.

I’ve also set up an Amazon Associates account and that’s a simple HTML code to copy and paste into a HTML snippet. What I really want to do though is to just link that to business items that I use in my every day work. I’ll figure that one out too over the next few weeks. This is a long running project with no time limit.

After the problems of a week or two ago Ive got to grips with it now and my plugins are doing what they are supposed to do, my Adsense Ads are running and my broken link checker is behaving! I have to say the way WordPress installs and activates plugins makes web design a real breeze. I’m genuinely amazed at how great this site and the telemarketing site looks using these templates. You’d never know that I’ve done them in my spare time and that I’m a relative novice.

Still won’t be sacking the SEO and web team who do Lime Licensing Groups site though, they are years ahead of me!

 

The Importance of a Free Cash Calculation.

The 5 minute free cash calc that every SME owner should do.

You have to know the difference between profit and cash in your business. Cash is what keeps you afloat not profit. Businesses don’t always fail when they are unprofitable but they always fail when they run out of cash. 

Whilst this is mainly a business hack for SME owners it’s actually well worth doing something like this for your personal finances too, but we can cover that another time! Knowing your free cash level guides your decision making, unveils your true available net profit and cash position and let’s you see into your financial future.

So all savvy SME’s must know how much cash, net of all expenses and future bills resides in their business. If your business shut up shop today, would you know how much money would be left? You need to know. Here’s a quick hypothetical easy way to do it. Let’s assume you are a limited company SME registered for vat for the purposes of this:

Bank Balances: £9,000

Petty cash: £1,000

Money owed to suppliers: £2,000

Money owed to you: £3,000

Net Vat owed or due: -£500

Corporation tax previous year due: £4,500

Corp tax calc as of today: £500

Free cash position: £5,500

Typical monthly overhead: £2,500

Add and subtract all of this and you end up with £5,500 which means you have free cash to cover just over 2 months trading if you don’t make any more sales or incur any more costs. 2 months and you’re out of business.

I regularly see SME owners running their business off their bank statements which has nothing to do with your profit or your cash. The calculation above shows you where your cash is and how much you’ve really got available. Looking at your SME there’s quite a lot of things around this topic that can hep you. You could for example set up a second bank account to move your vat and corporation tax liabilities into. That’s not a bad idea. I find that when you look at a low bank balance there is a certain motivation that ensues. So moving your future tax liabilities psychologically works for many SME owners.

An important caveat here is that you will get paid what you are owed. I’m assuming you’re running a limited company too, otherwise there’s no corporation tax and you need to calculate your personal tax differently. Everything else provides a good guide. Try it yourself? 

It’s is a fundamentally important  calculation to do monthly in any SME.  

I believe that it doesn’t matter how bad or good your financial position is. You just need to know it. Once you know it you can decide what to do. Not knowing it is the classic head in the sand scenario, and whilst your head is in the sand everyone can, and will, kick your arse. 

How not to look like a pro blogger.

Ever mindful of “where am I going with this” as a pro blogger my first week has seen the site setup. The first blogs are posted, and quite a bit of learning about blogs generally and WordPress. I keep researching how this could benefit my franchise consultancy firm, Lime Licensing Group. I’ve got a few good ideas which I’m working on for a later blog.

A well known pro blogger said I should set up Adsense on the site. That way as and when any one actually reads my stuff I might get some money from it. I should apparently also look into subscriptions. For that I will need a reason to subscribe. However one thing at a time. I decided to go forAdsense first. It’s quite easy to set up actually even for a novice like me. Google take a few days to confirm it all but then you’ve got the familiar adverts running. That’s where the problems start! 

Plugin problems

What I wasn’t quite ready for was the variety of ads that Adsense shows. Also how tricky the plugins are to get control of where the ads appear. I’ve spent quite a few hours faffing about and I’m not at all sure I like it. I’ll run with it for a while and see what happens. Oddly I found that one of the plugins I installed plucked old content from a previous web theme from some time ago. I used a car garage theme at first and one or two posts about tyre changing appeared from nowhere! This web design malarkey seems a constant job tidying things up!! Using FTP you can delve around and delete things that shouldn’t be there. You then have to make sure you havent got links to nowhere. One thing leads to another …

I changed the website theme from a green to a red and bought a “pro theme” from an Indian developer. The theme I am using is called Spicepress Pro. I struggled a lot with understanding how to upgrade from the free theme to the pro theme. It’s not novice friendly stuff Im dealign with here, but then the who point is to learn a new skill! I ended up locking myself out of WordPress and crashing the entire site! I don’t think that a Pro Blogger would do that. Hastily I got in through FTP, deleted the entire theme, reinstalled it and the site reappeared! But I was still on the free theme. Thankfully the developer said he’d log in and do it for me. No sooner as he was ready then miraculously the pro theme appeared all by itself! Maybe it was a cache issue.

The pro theme is now up and I’m learning the ropes with that.

Broken Links

I also installed a broken link plugin which does what it says on the tin, and now I have a load of links to fix! I’ve noticed if you use WordPress theme changer it often causes link problems so it’s best to choose your theme and then just go with that I think! I’ve found that sometimes my broken link checker says a link is broken even though it works fine. Driving me nuts! But I’m plodding along building the site and learning as I go. For some weird reason Im enjoying learning something new that will benefit my main business!

Hopefully by mid Jan it’ll look like a professional site!!

Why last years net profit guides this years sales

Net Profit knowledge matters if you run your own business.

Knowing the net profit in your SME is a brilliant way to reassess how you look at your sales effort. It’s also a great way to consider your purchasing habits. It might sound strange at first but let me explain. Your net profit figure in your previous accounts is a crucial number to take into account.Andy Cheetham Business Blogger

Let’s for arguments sake say that an SME has a turnover of £200,000. After all of it’s costs the taxable profit is £20,000. When all is said and done that is 10% of turnover. Or to put it another way for your business to make £20 you would need to sell £200 worth of product or service. So if you are thinking of buying a new printer at a cost of £300 you would need to sell £3,000 worth of whatever to pay for it. That printer looks a bit more expensive now doesn’t it?

Knowing what you need to sell to pay for anything is a great guide for all business owners.

It’s a very simplistic way of looking at things but I would say it’s the only way of looking at things if you are an SME owner. That is if you want to run a tight ship anyway. It’s also a great way to assess your sales efforts. To buy that printer you have sacrificed the margin on £3,000 worth of sales. Or you need to find another £3,000 worth of sales to pay for it.

You can over analyse this type of scenario if you want to. Your accountant might say, Yes but …. However, the point is you need your business to acquire some fat. Laying down some fat in business terms means keeping hold of as much of your turnover as you can. A lot of  well known businesses don’t have palatial offices. Those are the well run ones in my book.

Spending it versus investing it.

Knowing what you need to sell to lay down some fat in your own business means taking some painful decisions. It’s easy to spend it but don’t make any luxury purchases unless you’ve got plenty of free cash. Certainly don’t be impressed by the spending habits of other businesses or “entrepreneurs”. There’s a lot of entrepreneurs around these days! Investing in your business requires a financial outlay but an investment should have potential for a payback. An investment might lower your costs or increase your sales. That will increase your net profit, or have a good chance of increasing it anyway!

Spend out of profits not capital.

If you are able to aim to make your purchases out of profit not capital. You can’t do this when you are setting up your SME of course. However, you can make profit to pay for the things you might want to have. I’m referring to the non essential things here. Don’t buy that shiny new desk or commit to a brand new iMac until you are laying down fat. Those things can wait, they aren’t investments and they cost a multiple of your new profit remember. An ebay desk is just as practical as a new one from John Lewis. A Travel Inn bed is just as useful as one in the Dorchester.

I hope this makes you think twice about what you spend in your SME. As my Dad always used to say to me – CASH IS KING! So look after it!