Are Events Still Key to Creating Relationships that Drive Sales

London recently held its Technology Week and the majority of key companies and players in the industry used varying marketing channels to position and showcase their products, services to the mass market, I decided to visit some of the events to gauge the level of interest at exhibitions and customer events to see exactly how companies were developing business in the current economy.

What I noticed was that all of this pressure on immediate value-creation did accelerate a process that has been underway for some time in the marketing sector. Brands are increasingly making a break with their ad-centric past by re-centering campaign strategy and creative across a variety of mediums.

To drive sales by persuasively engaging marketing-resistant customers in a targeted manner, business-to-business and consumer brands are now giving below-the-line channels such as Web marketing and events an opportunity to originate campaign strategy and creative as well as integrate with other mediums from the bottom up.

As a result, it seems that now is an unprecedented time for marketers to more deeply explore their organisation’s investment in the event marketing discipline and how it drives integration with other marketing channels.

Confronted by a turbulent economic climate and the changing ways in which audiences consume and are influenced by media to make purchase decisions, the C-suite and boardrooms of major brands are looking to senior marketing and sales executives as a source for innovative new strategy. They are looking for measurable ROI on every investment.

Face-to-face interaction continues to be the reason respondents attribute to event marketing’s high ROI rating and overwhelmingly so. Face-to-face interactions are essential in forming customer relationships as they provide the kind of in-depth customer insight, trust building and immediacy about a brand that drives top-line performance.

By correlating marketing investment to its business impact instead of narrowly focusing on the success of the marketing tactic alone, marketers not only more easily secure investment for their programs but are able to create more targeted and effective programs in the process.

Event marketing is a discipline that seeks to evolve from the simple “features and benefits” sales dynamic that characterises most event marketing into more comprehensive and compelling interactions that physically, intellectually and emotionally involve audiences in the demonstration of the brand promise. The result is a powerful increase in the depth and volume of brand differentiation, conversion and loyalty.

Today’s business leaders have charged marketers to invest in areas that both drive revenue and build the brand – a challenging mandate as consumers and business buyers stretch out the purchase cycle, demand personalization and reject mass marketing.

In light of these realities, what is most important in this pressure-filled environment are relationships. Based on trust and intimacy, personal affiliations with brands, products, services and fundamentally between the people behind them are catalysts to business growth.

Senior executives clearly believe that events provide sound ROI but it’s up to event marketers to improve on this perception even further by ensuring executives’ agreement on ROI methodology and communicating those measures in language that more effectively articulates the validity and impact of the metrics.

Developing more efficient communication and measurement systems are thus the twin imperatives of today’s marketer. Those who do so successfully will achieve greater success for themselves and their organisation by becoming a force of profitable change.​

Do banks support SME’s – HSBC does

IMG_20140618_142834 small
Don, Andrew and Richard by Geoff Hudson-Searle

I was recently invited to a day with HSBC at the prodigious ‘The Grove’ property in Herfordshire to play golf and understand more about the HSBC support to SME businesses in the UK.

Interesting enough, the number of private sector businesses in the UK increased to 4.9 million at the start of 2013 – a record high. BankSearch report that there were 447,000 new business start-ups in Great Britain during 2013. This is 9% lower than 2012, but is still healthy and higher than in 2008 and 2009.

We discussed that small and medium-sized businesses account for 99.9% of private sector companies and provide 60% of private sector jobs. These enterprises have an important role to play in driving growth, opening new markets and creating jobs

The facts are when it comes to small businesses, data is more scanty, but a survey from law firm Taylor Wessing has revealed that 84 per cent are either “confident” or “somewhat confident” about growth in 2014.

Geoff Hudson-Searle
Geoff Hudson-Searle

Top priorities include increasing profits (29 per cent) and growing their customer base (25 per cent). 11 per cent said they were prioritising cutting costs, while nine are focusing on expanding internationally.

The survey also logged the challenges small businesses see for this year (list below).

The number one concern will probably be ameliorated over coming months. Earlier this week, EY published a report which found that lending is set to rise in all areas of the economy, with UK bankers’ confidence higher than anywhere else in Europe.

Data from the Bank of England has shown that, although there was a sizeable drop in loans to big businesses towards the end of 2013, small business lending rose.

And in terms of interest rates, the fall in inflation to two per cent has, according to economists, slightly reduced pressure (for the time being) on the Bank to raise rates.

Top 10 challenges for 2014:

1.     Access to lending from banks (13 per cent)

2.     Increases in tax and interest rates (13 per cent)

3.     Increasing costs e.g. energy and travel (11 per cent)

4.     Retaining and boosting competitive USPs (11 per cent)

5.     Skills shortages (9 per cent)

6.     Transitioning from start up to SME (9 per cent)

7.     Accessing international markets (7 per cent)

8.     Overregulation (7 per cent)

9.     Economic volatility (6 per cent)

10.  Compliance and regulatory issues (5 per cent)

In a bid to contribute to Britain’s economic growth, HSBC has announced the launch of a £1.5bn funding pot for SMEs.

Last week, HSBC dedicated a £500 million funding pot to West Midlands SMEs in a move to allocate £6 billion of new lending facilities across its network.

Amanda Murphy, Head of Business Banking for HSBC, said: “Ambitious British businesses are saying they are going to invest this year and get on with growing.

“We want to support their ambitions by significantly increasing our net lending to businesses this year. We are helping more than 6,100 businesses start up every month, and want to support our hard working SME business owners on their drive for growth.”

HSBC also published a new report last week called ‘Business of Growth’ in conjunction with the funding pot, which claims 2014 will be a turning point for ambitious businesses in the West Midlands.

The bank identified Britain’s business growth potential for 2014 by incorporating analysis of 39 separate forecasts of GDP and investment.

The report also highlights the constant upwards revision of GDP growth over the last 12 months. The UK economy’s outperformance of the Eurozone and a rise of business confidence are seen as apt surroundings for growth.

The analysis itself is supported by the bank’s own experience, where new term lending us up 16 per cent year-on-year, and the overall value of lending that is being approved is even higher, at 37 per cent over the same period.

To support SMEs right across the UK, the bank will also:

•             Host 100 ‘Access to Finance’ workshops, to help small companies maximise their chances of securing funding

•             Hold over 50 ‘Fast Lane to Growth’ events across the UK, sharing strategies to accelerate growth and enter new markets;

•             Hold five ‘Global Connections’ thought leadership events where the UK’s best business leaders will share their secrets to success.​

As always, feel free to contact me if you have any questions!

Goal setting for Start-Up Businesses – tips and things to consider

Tips for start-ups GHSDepending on the type of business you set-up, you could experience a number of challenges along the way and not just in customer late payments. How you handle those problems may show how you will manage issues that come up when the business is up and running. If you to do proper research, strategy and planning when setting up your business, you will likely avoid some common pitfalls.


When setting up your business, you may come across people or organisations that delay your progress. Some delays are manageable while others are completely out of your control. For instance if you learn that you need a special permit to run the business late in the planning process, you may have to push back your plans until the government agency reviews and approves your application. Always have a backup plan ready in case of these issues, such as a later date to open the doors of your business.

Financial Challenges

Lack of proper funding is a common reason businesses fail. A snag in the process of securing financing for your new company could halt your plans altogether. For this reason it is wise to take steps to seek and apply for financing early in the start-up process. Cash reserves to run your business and fund the first year of operations of your business may not let you to sustain day to day cash flow until the business can generate any real revenue. So make sure you get your personal financial matters in order and start saving well in advance of attempting to start your own business. Lenders and investors commonly look at the financial status and character of the business owner when evaluating the company for financing.

Poor Organization

Issues regarding your organisation may also plague a prospective business owner. This issue is far-reaching because lack of organisational skills can negatively affect every step of the business setup process. Poor organisation may also affect the way other parties perceive your business concept in general. You can avoid problems related to lack of organization by consulting a business mentor, buying programs to help you organize and hiring help to help you with the process.

Some risks to consider when setting up a business:

1. Select a business structure that limits personal liability. Change your business structure from a sole proprietorship where you are personally liable for business operations to a corporation or limited liability company where you have limited liability.

2. Transfer risk to insurance companies by insuring against major risks such as damage to your facilities, product liability, injuries to customers or suppliers and death or incapacity of company principals.

3. Perform a risk analysis by evaluating the consequences of risky activities, the likelihood of the consequences occurring and the benefits of the risky activities. Avoid risk by not carrying out activities that have severe and likely consequences and low benefits.

4. Transfer the risk of activities with severe and likely consequences but high benefits to other parties. Create a new, independent company to carry out these activities or assign them to suppliers or partners.

5. Reduce risk from product failure and warranty claims by implementing a quality assurance program. Develop a system of reporting from customer service to identify problems. Structure the quality assurance program to document production tasks and product testing. Link the problems reported by customer service to specific failures in production or testing procedures and start corrective action.

6. Reduce risk of surprises in operating results by keeping accurate records and instituting effective controls. Put in place a system that limits who can authorize specific actions and how much they can spend. Implement a reporting system that gives you key information about company performance. Evaluate the controls and reporting system by comparing actual practice and performance to the control procedures and the reported information.

7. Reduce financial risk by managing your accounts receivable to minimize outstanding balances and identify poor credit risks. Implement credit and payment standards, specifying which credit scores and payment records are acceptable. Evaluate customer payments and ask for advance payment from customers who don’t meet the standards.

8. Reduce financial risk by keeping outstanding loans and financing needs to a minimum. Control growth at a rate that the company can finance internally. If the company can’t pay off some loans, replace short-term credit with long-term, fixed-rate loans.

If you have any questions, please do ask. Here to help you succeed!

Love is … simple!

book cover Jo March "Love is simple!"
book cover Jo March “Love is simple!”

A large amount of discussion in entrepreneur and business groups has been around the subject of love and passion in the workplace for what we do. Whilst I understand this is a very subjective matter, exactly what is love and how do we apply passion to our thinking and execute this in our daily work and everyday lives?

There simply is not a one-size-fits-all formula for discovering what you’re passionate about and then transitioning to a new or existing career. That being said, I have learned a few things about doing what you love for work—and this was the précis for my book Freedom After The Sharks.

I decided to interview a love expert and special friend in the subject matter, Jo March, and author of Love is Simple. After several cups of tea at the Terrace Room at The Meridian Hotel in Piccadilly – London, and much discussion sharing past and present experiences, Jo explained:

Why people should live in love and why we are not communicating and forging meaningful and unconditional relationships, love is simple right…?

Love is simple when we understand the true meaning of unconditional love. The kind of love that transforms and transcends us as human beings to a higher level of consciousness, in those moments when we truly love, we become alive, we feel passion, we feel life in every breath. Love is life, at the core of everything we do on this life path it is love that is the driving force.

I believe we are not forming unconditional relationships because of the environment we live in, the world of technology, the fast paced, instant access, immediate response world, we receive things immediately, therefore we expect everything instantly, we are conditioned to having it all “now”.

As with the greatest things in life, the magic only happens when things are given time to breathe, when thoughts are clear, when the mind is at peace. It is only in this environment that unconditional love can flourish. The magic ingredient to unconditional love is finding peace within your own mind; for when your mind is at peace others will be at peace. It is with this level of peace that bliss exists.

Listen to what your relationships are telling you: love and listening go hand in hand. To love unconditionally you must have the ability to listen to what another person is asking of you; not listening to what your emotions and desires are telling you, but really listening to what that person is asking of you. When we listen to what another requires above our own needs then we create trust, and we create understanding; when we understand things, the fear goes away. It is only then can we become selfless, allowing the time for love to flourish unconditionally.

For love is simple… if you just listen…

Jo’s interview was invaluable and if made me think of 3 very valuable points around love in the workplace and in key relationships:

1: Do what you love and the money will follow.

If there’s one thing that holds us back from pursuing our passions, it’s the fear of not being able to take care of ourselves. It’s what keeps us in unfulfilling jobs: the guaranteed salary that’s enough.

But this ignores the fact that succeeding in anything requires a great deal of work and uncertainty. Risk is always part of the equation. For everyone who has made a good living doing something they enjoy, there are countless other equally talented people who were not able to do it.

This does not mean we should not pursue our passions; it just means we’re more apt to feel satisfied doing it if we define success in terms beyond financial gain. That might mean we need to live on less. It might mean we need to balance our passion with other work.

Do what you love and enjoyment will follow. Do what you love and you will feel more fulfilled. Do what you love and the money will seem less relevant. These things I have found are true.

2: Leap and the net will appear.

Fear can be too much to  make a leap, especially when you have no idea where you’ll land or how. A lot of us get caught in the planning stage because we want to know with absolute certainty we won’t make a mistake we’ll one day regret.

So we wait, we gather information, we imagine all possible outcomes and plan to avoid negative ones, and generally anchor ourselves with good intentions that, sometimes, never lead to action.

Confidence is that we need to have faith that we won’t fall flat on our faces. But the reality is that we sometimes we will.

What’s important to realise is that we are strong enough to get back up if this happens, and we can do it knowing that every fall is valuable. Every time a net does not appear, we learn a little more about how to weave one for ourselves. We also learn to be comfortable in the drop, which, if we’re honest, is where we always live. Life is uncertain, whether we take large risks or not.

It’s not just the leaps that dictate our success; it’s our capacity for soaring through the unknown, and our willingness to learn from the landing.

3: Do what you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life.

With any job or business, you often need to do things you would not choose to do.

But that’s not the only reason doing what you love can feel like work. There’s also the inevitability that most tasks feel different when they become things we need to do to earn. When the monetary compensation increases, suddenly the money becomes the motivation, and as a result, it feels less enjoyable.

I suspect this comes down to freedom: we tend to best enjoy the things we feel we’re doing entirely by choice. Since work, in any form, requires commitment that supersedes our moment-to-moment whims, we need to know going in that even the most enjoyable paths will have their ups and downs.

History has proven this is not universally true. Some of the most passionate, successful people are those who have sacrificed many of their needs to push toward one all-encompassing goal.

We all have different advantages, some based on good fortune and some based on choices we have previously made. We can only ever start from where we are. If we have the strength to play our hands, instead of questioning why we don’t hold different cards, then we can decide at any time to work toward doing what we love.

The important thing is to remember that so much is still possible. We all deserve to enjoy the way we spend our days. If we’re willing to dream, work hard, learn, and navigate uncertainty, we all have the potential to do it.

Jo’s book Love is Simple is available on Amazon.

Micro Management – looking at the bigger picture

Geoff SearleI had a very interesting discussion recently with one of my associates who works across the public sector. We were discussing micro management. As you can imagine, this became a very passionate discussion.

  • Why do managers not delegate to others
  • Is it even realistic to ask that question?

How can education transforms people to enable learning and growth so they will be able to embrace new challenges and develop leadership learnings?

Do successful entrepreneurs fear delegating?

Collecting responsibilities, multitasking, and wearing multiple hats can at times give a false sense of security and control to someone in a position of authority. But when 20% of their time is spent on one task, and 30% on another, and 10% on another…well, you’re not 100 percent focused on anything!

Strategic planning deserves your full attention. Delegating can help you use your time and staff more efficiently, ultimately reaching your strategic goals regardless of whatever roadblocks might lie ahead.

If you go to Wikipedia to look up the word micromanagement you will find the word “symptoms” in the table of contents. Symptoms are used with sickness and illness. Cancer and diarrhoea have symptoms. Like cancer, micro management can kill team spirit and enthusiasm.

The effects of micromanagement to your business

Micromanagement is a destructive way of leadership. It can destroy trust, morale, and you could damage your line of communication. You can get disengaged employees and then creativity will drop. Employees self-esteem will then drop as well and over time, their performance. All in all, you become a large contributor to a hostile and dysfunctional work environment.

What should you do instead of micromanage?

What drives employee engagement? Engaged employees produce amazing results, there is no doubt about it. Employee engagement is the main building block of a winning culture and all companies need a solid foundation and strategic plan to work from.

Keyword: Trust

Trust is a key component to drive employee engagement. Have faith in your employees and leave them room to perform. You will soon see an increase in productivity. Trust will also give you valuable feedback, as micromanagement leads to employees shutting down the lines of communication.

Keyword: Time

You spend a lot of time micromanaging, is it worth it? Could you be better at time management? Should you focus on growth strategies instead of being detail oriented?

Keyword: Communication

When you micromanage you are shutting down lines of communication. Your employees will stop talking to you in fear of becoming micro managed. Laying low will become a strategy in your office, resulting in no communication, no engagement, no growth, and you will not have enough information to do your own job effectively.

Implement Trust, Free Time and Communicate

Display trust, become a better communicator. Try to motivate performance and use positive feedback to accomplish your desired outcome. Be clear about what you want in results. Engage the employee in conversations. Listen, ask questions, and listen. Talk with the employee and display trust until you are sure that the message is understood.

You need to see that micromanagement can damage the work environment and that micromanagement is a result of unhealthy communication skills.