The B2B Centre has been involved in helping clients choose and manage the implementation of ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) systems for some time. We have also found ourselves sorting out problems with ERP both at the implementation phase and when systems up and running.
Martin King-Turner, Director at the National B2B Centre, takes a look at some of the issues that he has encountered and provides some suggestion to help you avoid them.
It is worth saying upfront that bringing ERP into your business, whether you’re an SME or a corporate organisation, is a significant decision. There is no hiding from the fact that problems do arise with implementation and use of ERP systems. My experience is, though, that ERP attracts more than its fair share of difficulties even though there are tried and trusted procedures and methodologies that can be used to achieve success.
So let’s take a look at some of the big issues and importantly what you can do to prevent them.
Twitter is a fast growing social media tool that is widely used by businesses in a variety of ways. Despite its popularity the B2B Centre’s experience is that lots of people have found some of Twitters quirks and jargon a barrier to setting up or using it properly.
This article by Gareth Edwards, Associate Digital Marketing Specialist at the B2B Centre, seeks to provide some clear guidelines to getting started with Twitter.
Twitter is a social media site that allows you to send and receive text based posts (Tweets) up to a maximum of 140 characters. Around 175 million people worldwide have Twitter accounts and upwards of 200 million tweets are being sent every day.
Some people are a bit put off by the notion that Twitter consists of people telling you that they have just made a cup of coffee. In fact businesses of all types are using Twitter to reach out to customers, partners, suppliers and their peers to make all kinds of business connections.
Big brands such as Dell, The North Face and Virgin (Atlantic and Media) have used it as a sales channel or increased and enhanced their brand profile. More importantly smaller businesses have been able to identify their target audiences becoming Twitter users and have used the tool to reach out them.
This article is intended to help you get started if Twitter is still a mystery to you or to improve your success rate if you set up a profile but didn’t get any further than that.
“Doing more with less” seems to be the order of the day at the moment. It seemed highly appropriate, therefore, that the National B2B Centre should highlight some ways to squeeze a little more out of your IT budget.
Martin King-Turner, MD of the B2B Centre, highlights some straightforward approaches to making best use of your money.
For many small and medium sized businesses IT can represent a significant but somewhat hidden cost. Your hardware and software, and the nice people who come out and fix things if they go wrong, may have sort of blended into the background.
Computing, more than most elements of the business seems to have retained sense of mystery (or perhaps fear). This means that many companies will simply pay any bill that comes in and not question whether it represents value for money or if there are better ways of doing things.
In our experience, however, there are some simple approaches you can take to get best value in both financial and functional terms.
Despite lots of publicity from suppliers and positive comments from independent observers such as ourselves many people are still put off by the “techie connotations” of the term CRM (Customer Relationship Management) and its reputation for complexity and don’t believe it could help them.
Steve Orriss, Director and Lead Consultant at the National B2B Centre and CRM expert, examines just a few of the business issues that small businesses face and how CRM could help.
Interest among our small and medium sized clients about CRM systems has never been greater. It’s a combination of everybody trying to squeeze every last drop of efficiency out the organisation and the increased availability of low-cost CRM tools from Cloud based providers.
Our perspective is, though, that CRM is talked about too much from a technical perspective that over-emphasises functionality over business benefits. What this article seeks to do is highlight some of the real problems that small and medium businesses face and provide an understanding of how a CRM system would resolve those issues.
Despite its massive popularity actually making use of Facebook is creating some confusion amongst the small business community. It’s partly because the administration of Facebook pages is not always intuitive and partly because Facebook has a habit of changes things quite suddenly.
Gareth Edwards, The National B2B Centre’s Associate Online Marketing Consultant, has highlighted 5 quick wins that could improve the performance of your Facebook page and make it easier for you to use.
- Claim your user friendly Facebook URL.
By default Facebook assigns your page a very long URL that contains various bits of information that only it is interested in. You can choose your own URL simply by clicking the Edit Page button and then selecting the “Basic Information” option in the left hand side menu.If you are lucky (and nobody else has claimed it) you might get www.facebook.com/yourcompany.
- Create a meaningful profile picture
Did you know that your profile picture can be up to 180 * 540 pixels. This means that instead of just using your logo you can create a graphic that tells people what you do and attracts more likes. You’ll need access to a decent graphical editing tool such as photoshop but it’s worth it.Check out the Arrowsmith Marketing Facebook page for example.
As part of our business coaching activities we are dealing with an increasing number of requests to help people improve their sales process. One of the key problems that we have identified is a lack of “engagement” with clients at the level of their real need.
So what is the starting point for making a better connection to clients? Sales Coach Jackie King-Turner has some ideas for you.
The key to successful B2B sales lies in the fulfillment of a business need, or problem, in a timely and cost-effective fashion. In times of economic challenge, a “want” is unlikely to drive significant financial expenditure. If the client has a problem which is costing money or eroding competitive advantage and market share, then the proposal of a solution which addresses these issues is more likely to result in a closed sale.
A successful sales campaign will engage with clients on the basis of these issues and deliver concrete business benefit to the client’s organization.
At our Social Media workshops one of the first questions we always get asked is how to find out which Social Media sites to use.
As you might expect we don’t advocate simply selecting say, Facebook, just for the sake of it. Instead it pays to do your research and find out exactly which Social Media channels clients and prospects are already using, or which might be suitable for you to tell your story.
So how do you go about doing that research? Gareth Edwards. Associate e-Marketing Consultant at the B2B Centre, has a few suggestions to get you going.
Strangely this approach always seems to get overlooked but simply asking customers and prospects what Social Media sites they already use is a quick and easy piece of research. Some of our clients have been happy to do this on an ad hoc basis as part of networking meetings or via telephone help desks for instance. Others have added a question into email newsletters or customer surveys.
One of the benefits of this approach is that you are likely to identify something new, not just Facebook or Twitter. There are plenty of sector focused sites that might be more useful to you than the generic ones, TES Connect, for instance, is specific to the education sector.
Another quick win is to look at the websites of people that you deal with. Increasingly sites will include buttons and widgets that show what tools they are using and which allow you to follow, share, connect etc.
Social Media continues to be the buzzword on online marketing and many businesses are looking to establish some form of activity in this area. There are, of course, good ways and bad way of going about it though.
Gareth Edwards, Associate e-Marketing Specialist at the National B2B Centre looks at some of the key issues and what you can do to resolve them.
It is pretty difficult to escape from the relentless growth of Social Media and its impact on world: from its role in democratisation in the Middle East to the unveiling of footballers’ foibles closer to home.
From a business perspective it is pushing more and more small and medium sized businesses into looking at the adoption of social media. Clearly they can see the opportunity that exists to connect with a new audience, although the fear of being left behind is a spur too.
At the B2B Centre we are delighted that people’s attitude to this new set of technologies is quite different to what existed 7 or 8 years ago. When we helped to introduce websites and online marketing to an SME audience back then there was a lot of resistance to change, and many companies missed opportunities as a result.
In a way we are the ones trying to slow things down now. It’s great to see so much enthusiasm but the hype around social media is leading to poorly planned implementation of marketing activity, which ends up not working.
Why is this happening? Well amongst the culprits we would highlight these factors.
Cloud Computing, often referred to as “The Cloud” , is a term that businesses are rapidly become excited about. The excitement stems from the Cloud’s massive potential for delivering powerful computing resources at a much lower cost than “traditional” systems.
There is still some reluctance to use the Cloud and one of the main concerns is over security because systems and data are no longer held locally. But should these concerns be “show stoppers”?
“Not necessarily, and in many cases certainly not”, says Martin King-Turner, Managing Director of The National B2B Centre.
So how should you approach the issue of Cloud security? Perhaps the first thing is to recognise that computing resources delivered via the Cloud, whether we are talking about business applications, data storage or virtual servers, are delivered as a service.
This means that the emphasis switches from pure product evaluation to a process of supplier selection and due diligence. You need to apply the same rigour in choosing a Cloud service supplier as for any other important (potentially “mission critical”) business service supplier.
The key is to approach Cloud security in the same way that you approach other business decisions – namely:
- Understand the issues
- Ask questions of potential suppliers
- Evaluate their responses.
So what are the most important security issues and what responses should you look for? Here are our top 5 questions for potential suppliers:
”The Cloud” is the current buzzword in IT and everybody seems to be talking about it. It’s a marketing label used by suppliers from the very largest (Google, Amazon, Microsoft, BT, etc) to the very smallest, applied to a plethora of different products and services, making it very confusing for businesses. It is difficult to get behind the hype and understand the true value.
Martin King-Turner, Managing Director of The National B2B Centre, has written an introduction to “The Cloud”, examining what it is and why businesses should be interested.
The essence of “The Cloud” is obtaining IT service or resource over the internet. The most common example is access to specific software applications over the internet (referred to as Software as a Service, or Saas). You may already be using applications such as Google Docs, Xero – accounting package or Manu Online – online ERP, and not realised that they are part of “The Cloud”.
But the Cloud is not limited to accessing software. It includes access to IT infrastructure – ‘classic’ computing resources such as disk space or CPU – over the internet (referred to as “Infrastructure as a Service”, or Iaas), and even access to whole suites of software (referred to as “Platform as a Service”, or PaaS). Amazon has invested billions of dollars to support its IaaS offerings, and both Microsoft and Google have made similar investments in their PaaS offerings.
So what? The technology is not particularly new, and neither is the functionality offered by the software applications. But there are two crucial differences – cost and flexibility.