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28th January 2021
Choosing software for your small business can be a make or break opportunity for a small business. You need something that's value for money. Doesn't go offline too often and allows you to take your data with you should you decide to switch to another provider down the line. In this article, i'm going to go through the 10 points I look for in a software vendor solution. In the hope that it can give your small business some food for thought. Intro: I have a checklist of requirements that I go through before committing to choosing software for my small business. It's not only the cost involved in subscribing to the new software that matters. But there's also the not inconsiderable time commitment required in learning a new user interface and workflow. 1) Does It Have Data Portability? Can you switch software service providers and take your customers and customer data with you when you go? Important. Especially when it comes to payment gateways like Paypal or Stripe. Ask their support before committing to a solution. 2) Server / Bandwidth issues. How fast is the service? Simple test. Sign-up for a free trial and access the service online via your web browser. Is the site slow or fast? If it's slow, check Google to see if Google is slow or fast. If both are slow. Then it's your own Internet connection. If Google is quick. Then it's the vendor's software that is slow. 3) Investigate Uptime. The length of time between the vendor's service going offline for any reason. Worth checking out for your software solution (see below). 4) Support. Always test support. Often software companies will offer support over Twitter. Some companies are based on the other side of the world and work 9-5. So it takes at least 24hrs for support to get back to you. Also, is the support helpful and knowledgeable? 5) Sign up for a free trial. Generally, software vendors have a free trial. If you sign up but get distracted and can't spend the time to test. Ask them to extend your free trial for another few weeks. Make the time to test the system the second time around. I often get an extension on a free trial for software I haven't used much the first time around. 6) Check online reviews. Most important. Sites like trustpilot.com, capterra.com, g2.com all contain customer reviews of software services. The best thing to do is to type in "my-software review" into Google and look for one of these sites. Where "my-software" is the name of the software product you're researching. 7) Does the site have a status subdomain? Eg. "status.acuityscheduling.com". Acuity Scheduling has a status page that gets updated if they go offline for whatever reason. The status page should also tell you the uptime of the site. AcuitySheduling has a 99.98% uptime, which is good. 8) Does the software have an up to date changelog? Bit of a technical one. But you want software that is updated and improved often. The changelog displays changes made to the software. The when and the what. So type "changelog mypthub.com" into google and it brings up the latest changes to the software. 9) Does it have a WordPress plugin? Not a deal-breaker, but handy nonetheless. Especially if your website runs the WordPress content management system. Most software should have a WordPress plugin that gets updated regularly. WordPress runs 38% of websites so it's a good sign if the software integrates with WordPress. To check type "my-software Wordpress plugin" and see what comes up. 10) Are you contacted over social media (particularly LinkedIn) by a company employee after signing up? Good sign. Gives you a go-to person to contact with any issues you are having. Generally this means the company has their house in order in my opinion. Conclusion: Finally, I'd suggest shopping around when it comes to choosing software for your small business. Often up-and-coming software vendors will try to make a name for themselves by offering features for free. That their more established rivals are charging for. If you think I've missed any steps in the list. Let me know in the comments below. Alternatively if you have any questions. Just leave a comment or else contact us. Don't forget to read our blog post on sourcing free images for your business. If you market to clients in the health, nutrition or fitness niche. Make sure you check out the Hahamarketing.com Health Profiler. Happy Hunting!
21st January 2021
Next in our series of articles about the Trading Online Voucher Scheme by the Local Enterprise Office in Ireland. We talk to John Kennedy from the Bank Of Ireland business resource site ThinkBusiness.ie. If you've never visited ThinkBusiness.ie, we suggest you check it out for information that concerns Irish businesses. For more information on the Trading Online Voucher Scheme read our blog post. For specific advice from the Local Enterprise Office please view our article. What is the current state of Irish e-commerce in 2021 John in your opinion? Better than it was certainly. At one stage only 1 in 4 Irish companies had an online payment facility. It's improved a lot lately. Back in 2014 it was estimated that 70% of all e-commerce transactions left Irish shores. Nowadays it's estimated that 60% of irish people buy from overseas. The government started the Trading Online Voucher Scheme 5 or 6 years ago. They made it a big focus. Today companies such as Salt+soul, siar photography, ps i love you and many others are reaping the whirlwind. Salt+soul used to do 70% of their business online. Now it's 100%. Multyfarnham cookery school did only 10% of their business online. Since the pandemic, that's increased to 100%. So 100% of their revenue comes from the Internet. They received the help of their Local Enterprise Office in Westmeath. How has the pandemic changed the way people do business in Ireland? Online matters now more than ever. However, there are still disadvantages to shopping online though. Such as waiting weeks for goods to come from abroad. Then there's Brexit and customs charges. What would your advice be to business owners who are thinking about expanding their online presence? Enquire at your Local Enterprise Office. Online marketing is hard. The Local Enterprise Office will help you with site, training and ongoing support. Take this opportunity with both hands. A lot of shoppers and consumers won’t be going back to shopping offline in my opinion. The bigger sister to the Trading Online Voucher Scheme is the Online Retail Scheme. So businesses should check that out if they don't qualify for the Trading Online Voucher Scheme. Has the Trading Online Voucher Scheme been a successful business-incentive program in your experience? How could it be improved in your opinion? It could be improved by having more case studies coming to the surface. It's a great thing that it exists at all. Anything that helps. Which online tools should small business owners know about when beginning to trade online? Pointy.com helps you bring all your inventory online. It's an Irish company that was acquired by Google. They created a piece of hardware that interfaces with your Point Of Sale software. They help drive footfall to your brick-and-mortar shop. Sharing your site to a local community group on Facebook is a good idea. Shopify.com covers everything to building website, training, online promotions. It may not be your own website but allows you to trade online. Also, some retailers display a QR code in their window for customers to scan and be taken to their website. Which niches are in the best position to capitalise on the scheme and on online trading in general? I would have thought it’d be clothes and physical goods. But really it’s people being inventive. Necessity is the mother of invention. The ones that surprised me most were people who had something to train or teach. What is your advice to business owners who are thinking about applying for the scheme? If you don’t already have a relationship with your Local Enterprise Office. You should have. Start by enquiring. Local Enterprise Offices are keen to help. Talk to them. See what’s feasible. How can business owners maximize their budget with the scheme? Do your research. If you plan to spend on tools, courses and platforms. How does that fit in with your working capital cost? People don’t have time, the problem is lack of time and trying to keep the lights on. The Local Enterprise Office will direct you better in terms of what is a priority and what isn’t. Study other businesses and see what they invest in. Make sure you spend your cash on the right things. Web designers aren’t cheap. What sort of support does the banking sector (and BOI in particular) offer to SME’s that they should know about? We did some work with Shopify, Pointy and the E-commerce Association before Christmas. Talk to your bank manager and check out what’s available. The banking sector is a key part in keeping the lights on. Do your research. Having taken on the government schemes is a string in your bow. The Credit Guarantee Scheme helps with funding if a business needs to expand. These are loans underwritten by the government. Anything you’d like to add that might be important to readers? Just that digital is the future. People are shopping online out of necessity and convenience. You can still have a relationship with your loyal customers. Online selling means your business keeps selling while you sleep. Conclusion: A big thanks to John Kennedy from ThinkBusiness.ie for taking the time to share his experience. Online trading is clearly the future and is here to stay whether you like it or not. Contact your Local Enterprise Office. Do your research. Start today. If you would like to discuss any of these tips. Please leave a comment below. For a free consultation about developing, marketing or designing a website or expanding your online presence. Contact us.
19th January 2021
Article continuing our series about the Trading Online Voucher Scheme. For more info on the scheme and to see if you qualify. Read our blog post. Our series will consist of interviews with participants of the scheme and with other business professionals that are tangentially connected with the scheme. Today is the turn of Paul McGuirk. Head of Enterprise for the Local Enterprise Office in Ireland. Paul has some tips for people participating in the scheme or thinking about participating. Let's get started... How do most businesses hear about the Trading Online Voucher Scheme Paul? Most people hear about the scheme by word-of-mouth. From friends or their accountants. Either that or online. We also ran an Irish radio ad campaign to promote the scheme. What do most businesses use the grant for? The majority of businesses use the grant for developing or enhancing the website/e-commerce facility of their business. Some people only have a social media presence. Others have a brochure site and upgrade it to fit an e-commerce, online booking and/or payment facility. Many use it for their Shopify or eBay subscription. Also, many businesses apply and receive the grant twice. Is the 90% grant over? Or will it return? The 90% grant scheme ran from Apr - Dec 2020. It's back to 50% now. There are no plans to bring back the 90% grant rate. What do you wish businesses knew before applying for the grant? Participants of the scheme should first have a firm idea in their own mind of what they want from the grant. For example, they should know which social media channels their customers use. They should know how they want to drive traffic to their website. They might need to commission ongoing maintenance work for their website. Having a strategy for driving people to their website is a must. They should also have a process in place for online ordering. How can businesses maximize their budget? To maximize their limited budget. Business owners should only spend 30% of their budget on social media. They should be able to identify what they want on their website. Be able to prioritize what they want. They might want 5 or 6 things but only be able to afford 4. Eg. They may wish to do some online training programs such as SEO, LinkedIn and Facebook training. The more they can train themselves the better. What other supports does the Local Enterprise Office provide business owners? Local Enterprise Office supports come in 3 parts. First the Trading Online Voucher Scheme. Next is ongoing online marketing training classes with experts eg. Facebook, SEO and Twitter training. Finally, there's one-to-one mentoring in running a business online. What’s the best way to source a Trading Online Voucher Scheme services/partner? Ask around business colleagues, friends and relatives. The best method is through word-of-mouth. What’s the key takeaway from the online introduction webinar? Business owners should be able to understand what they want. Be able to define the 3 or 4 objectives that they want from this. It's not just about creating a website and letting it look after itself. Social media marketing, maintenance and driving people towards the website are all key ongoing factors. Conclusion So there you have it. Tips for participating in the Trading Online Voucher Scheme from the LEO Head Of Enterprise, Paul McGuirk. The key takeaway in our opinion being that business owners should be as knowledgeable as possible about web marketing and their ideal customer in order to have a better idea of what's right for their business. One way to stay up to date with online marketing trends is to sign up for the Hahamarketing email newsletter below. Also, check out your local LEO office for more information. Need help with your Trading Online Voucher Scheme application? Or just web advice in general? Contact us and we'll be happy to give you a free consultation.