Small Business Leadership Programme – upcoming events

Have a chat with the team and find out about the course

30th September 4.00 – 4.30 interested in finding out about the course? Come and meet some of the team for a quick chat – Sign up here eventbrite link

Jonathan Westlake, Jane Pallister and Emily Whitehead ar ethree of our Entrepreneurs in Residence
Jonathan Westlake, Jane Pallister and Emily Whitehead are three of our Entrepreneurs in Residence

If you want to register for the Small Business leadership Programme sign up here http://smallbusinesscharter.org/small-business-leadership-programme/

For those enrolled on the course

Tuesday 6th October 3.00 – 3.30 Onboarding for those registered for the course – we will send you a meeting invite

Weds 7th October 4.00 – 4.30 – this is a back up event for anyone unable to make the event on Tuesday

Tuesday 13th October 3.00 – 4.30 Start of the course – we will send you a meeting invite

About the programme

The Small Business Leadership Programme supports senior leaders to enhance their business’s resilience and recovery from the impact of COVID-19. It helps small and medium-sized businesses to develop their potential for future growth and productivity.

Participants will develop strategic leadership skills and the confidence to make informed decisions to boost business performance.

The fully-funded 10 week programme will be delivered online by small business and enterprise experts from world-leading business schools.

The Small Business Leadership Programme is being delivered by a consortium of business schools accredited by the Small Business Charter (SBC), and supported by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy.

Thinking Bigger: Advice for Small Giants

Dr Andrew Taylor, Senior Lecturer, staffordshire business school


During disruptive times small scale can be a key advantage.  The management writer Mintzberg (1989) describes most small companies as either simple structures or adhocracies.  My research (Taylor 2013, 2019) indicates that in both cases innovation is central to their mission and survival.  The strength and the weakness of simple structures is that they are driven by one or two key individuals.  This both makes decision-making fast and flexible.  Adhocracies are project based, mission driven places, with little respect for traditional idea’s of good management practice, where inefficiencies are the price of high growth.  There is often a tendency, in both cases, as they grow, to define becoming professional as having more formal and robust processes.  The trouble is that as they seek order and stability, innovation and commitment often crashes as  resent a perceived loss of purpose or human commitment. 

During disruptive times it is often better to leverage the flexibility and commitment of peoples in smaller scale organisations to adapt, rather than seek to optimise.  Small companies, like speedboats, are fast and nimble compared to the large oil tankers of corporate business,.  Asking what are the right things, rather than how do I do things right Argyris (1991) is easier where best practices are less defined bureaucratically.

Small companies can most effectively do this through identifying their core competencies (Prahalad & Hamel 1990) .  Core competencies are the source of how you create value – those things that you do for your customers better than your competitors.  They:

  1. Provide access to a wide variety of markets
  2. Should make a significant contribution to the perceived customer benefits of the end product
  3. Should be difficult for competitors to imitate.

Knowing these allows you to ask yourselves how they could, using what Gavetti (2011) calls associative thinking, be transferred into new, more distant, marketplaces. Managers are good at identifying opportunities that are cognitively close to their business, but need to learn to recognise similar underlying patterns in distant markets and make the cognitive leap.

Organisations, that we are familiar with, successfully doing this include Fuji-Film, Honda, Danone, Dyson and Virgin.

Source – https://creativepool.com/magazine/inspiration/brand-stretch.3072

Often leaders of small companies familiar with doing this as anyway as a matter of survival.  Learning to use such knowledge to leverage the strength of organisation and its people, in a joined-up way, can, however, both transform the effectiveness and legitimise existing practices, such that small companies can harness their scale and people to flourish.


References

Argyris C. (1991), ‘Teaching Smart People to Learn’, Harvard Business Review, May – June.

Gavetti, G. (2011), ‘The New Psychology of Strategic Leadership’, Harvard Business Review, July -Aug.

Mintzberg, H. (1989), Mintzberg on Management: Inside Our Strange World of Organizations, New York, The Free Press.

Prahalad, C. K.  & Hamel, G. (1990), ‘The Core Competence of the Corporation’, Harvard Business Review, May-June.

Taylor, A. & Krouwel W. (2013), Taking Care of Business: Innovation, Ethics & Sustainability, Cluj-Napoca (Romania), Risoprint.

Taylor A. & Bronstone A. (2019), People, Place & Global Order: Foundations of a Networked Political Economy. London, Routledge.

Digital marketing students deliver for business

The MSc in Digital Marketing Management was developed to deliver the technical, strategic and organisation skills for this industry. As such the course includes a substantial project with an external client and this work is credited as part of the award. Carrying out a project at the height of the pandemic was even more challenging than usual with everything needing to be done remotely and ongoing changes to adapt to the new situation – so Congratulations to the students below for these excellent projects.

If you are interested in enrolling for this September we are putting on virtual course information events – 3.00-4.00pm 1st September register here or
3.00 – 4.00pm 10th September register here

Eerik Beeton carried out a project for The Waterfront Gallery, in Milford Haven, West Wales. This has involved developing the ecommerce offer on the website, creating social media channels Facebook, Instagram and helping to recruit volunteers for the gallery.

Eerik Beeton who carried out a project at the Waterfront Gallery in  Milford haven, Pembrokeshire
Eerik Beeton who carried out a project at the Waterfront Gallery in Milford Haven, Pembrokeshire

Charlotte Cunningham created a completely new website for Simply Hygiene which is already on the first page of google search due to excellent SEO optimisation. She has also started her own digital marketing company, Sharkey’s Digital Marketing and has also accepted a position as the Marketing Manager for The Aston Care Home group and The Learning College in Stone.

Charlotte has a new marketing job with the Aston Care group in Stone
Charlotte has a new marketing job with the Aston Care group in Stone

Craig Holdcroft carried out a project for the Donna Louise Trust developing the website and social media. He has also started his own marketing business, Holdcroft Digital Marketing while at Staffordshire University, completing projects for a number of Micro and SME’s.

Craig Holdcroft
Craig Holdcroft is running his own agency and part-time lecturing for business and marketing.

Grace Thomson started a student peer blog for the Staffordshire University Careers Studio and this has now been incorporated into the main careers website for the University. The project included providing guidance and training for students across the different faculties in blog writing and social media. The blog has already achieved 23,000 reads in the short time it has been up.

Grace Thomson
Grace Thomson

Amber Mottershead carried out her project for Stone Cricket Club providing a new website and turbo charging the social media channels on twitter, instagram and facebook. She now has a new job as marketing and events executive at The Retrofit Academy

Amber is now the marketing and events executive for the Retrofit group
Amber is now the marketing and events executive for the Retrofit group

Here’s a short film

If you want to find out more about the course please contact

Paul Dobson (Course leader) or Kat Mitchell or Jon Fairburn

Sign up to our virtual course information event here – 3.00-4.00pm 1st September register here or 3.00 – 4.00pm 10th September register here

New book chapter on Silver Entrepreneurs

Head of School Hazel Squire has a chapter on Silver Entrepreneurs in a new book entitled Entrepreneurshp Education: A Lifelong Learning Approach edited by Sukanlaya Sawang and published by Springer.

Book cover of Entrpreneurship Education
The book explores how entrepreneruship education can be embedded throughout the learner’s lifetime.

Silver workers (entrepreneurs over 50) represent between 26 – 34% of new start ups in developed countries. This chapter discusses the specific barriers they face when considering or setting up a new business venture. The chapter also identifies policy interventions that may help to reduce some of these barriers.

The research draws on the EU Erasmus project Silver Workers which worked across five European countries (Italy, Belgium, Portugal, Spain and the UK) to develop an online set of resources and a series of workshops to assist people in the entrepreneurship process.

Hazel Squire with her new book chapter on Silver Entrepreneurs
Hazel Squire with her new book chapter on Silver Entrepreneurs

Some of the businesses that were set up or assisted locally include:

Chapter reference – Squire H (2020) Understanding the barriers faced by older entrepreneurs: A case study of a ‘Silver Workers’ project pp 123 – 144 in Entrepreneurship Education: A lifelong Learning Approach (ed Sawang). Springer

Resources

Hazel can be contacted at h.squire@staffs.ac.uk or you can follow her on twitter @HazelSquire

Environmental health inequalities research – assessment report, systematic reviews and a resource package for the WHO European Region

By Jon Fairburn, Professor of Sustainable Development @ProfJonFairburn

I have been working with the World Health Organization for 10 years on the topics of environmental health inequalities and environmental justice. 2019 saw the culmination of a body of work that was started as a result of the Sixth Ministerial Conference on Environment and Health (also known as the Ostrava Declaration) in 2017. Anyone working in this topic area should have a good read of that document!

The Ostrava Declaration was signed by governments and commits them to a series of actions including:

“to consider equity, social inclusion and gender equality in our policies on the environment and health, also with respect to access to natural resources and to the benefits of ecosystems”;

“improving indoor and outdoor air quality for all, as one of the most important environmental risk factors in the Region, through actions to meet the values of the WHO air quality guidelines in a continuous process of improvement”;

“to actively support open, transparent and relevant research on established and emerging environment and health risks in order to strengthen the evidence-base to guide policy-making and preventative action.”

As such the WHO has co-ordinated a range of experts to meet and support the above commitments.

Firstly, a major report has been produced WHO (2019) Environmental Health Inequalities. Second Assessment Report and there is also a supplementary report providing country profiles

Environmental Heall Ineqaulities in Europe: Second Assessment Report
Environmental Health Inequalities in Europe: Second Assessment Report

Systematic Reviews

Teams of international experts were asked to carry out systematic reviews on a number of themes. Working with a team of colleagues in Germany we looked at air quality and social inequalities in the region.

Main findings of the systematic review into air quality

This systematic review has been published, it was pre-registered on PROSPERO, and uses the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta- Analyses: The PRISMA Statement

There is good evidence from ecological studies that higher deprivation indices and low economic position are usually linked with higher levels of pollutants such as particulate matter (particulate matter under 2.5 and 10 microns in diameter, PM2.5, PM10) and oxides of nitrogen (e.g., NO2, and NOx). There is also evidence that ethnic minorities experience a mixed exposure in comparison to the majority population being sometimes higher and sometimes lower depending on the ethnic minority under consideration. The studies using data at the individual level in this review are mainly focused on pregnant women or new mothers, in these studies deprivation and ethnicity are more likely to be linked to higher exposures of poor air quality. Therefore, there is evidence in this review that the burden of higher pollutants falls disproportionally on different social groups.

Here is a short film about the paper

References – open access and free

Fairburn, J.; Schüle, S.A.; Dreger, S.; Karla Hilz, L.; Bolte, G. Social Inequalities in Exposure to Ambient Air Pollution: A Systematic Review in the WHO European Region. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health201916, 3127. htt://mdpi.com/1660-4601/16/17/3127

Other systematic reviews in the series

The other four systematic reviews in the series are available open access:

Schüle, S.A.; Hilz, L.K.; Dreger, S.; Bolte, G. Social Inequalities in Environmental Resources of Green and Blue Spaces: A Review of Evidence in the WHO European Region. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health, 201916, 1216.

Dreger, S.; Schüle, S.A.; Hilz, L.K.; Bolte, G. Social Inequalities in Environmental Noise Exposure: A Review of Evidence in the WHO European RegionInt. J. Environ. Res. Public Health, 201916, 1011.

Pasetto, R.; Mattioli, B.; Marsili, D. Environmental Justice in Industrially Contaminated Sites. A Review of Scientific Evidence in the WHO European RegionInt. J. Environ. Res. Public Health, 201916, 998.

Sengoelge, M.; Leithaus, M.; Braubach, M.; Laflamme, L. Are There Changes in Inequalities in Injuries? A Review of Evidence in the WHO European Region. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health, 201916, 653.

The final output from this collaboration has been this document.

Environmental health inequalities resource package: A tool for understanding and reducing inequalities in environmental risk

The resource package explains key concepts and terms associated with the concept of environmental health inequalities and aims to support actions against disparities in exposure to environmental risk at the national and subnational level. The document presents methods for monitoring and assessment and suggests ways to use this evidence for action. It also provides information on a range of tools and guidance documents for those tackling environmental inequalities and striving to improve health and health equity.

About the author

I have been working in the area of environmental inequalities/environmental justice for over 20 years. If you are interested in this subject you can also follow me on twitter @ProfJonFairburn where I also maintain a specific air quality list. You can find my other publications in this area on our eprints system and on my google scholar profile.

10 Top Tips for restaurants and takeaways to prepare for the new normal after the Covid-19 lockdown

Paul Dobson, Senior Lecturer, Staffordshire Business School


At Staffordshire Business School we support businesses as part of our courses and I’m aware that some takeaways are doing really well, especially as their customers do not want to go to the shops, queue up, be too close to other people, etc.  But we’ve been told to expect a recession, possible depression, plus we have Brexit and there are concerned about the environment, so the way ahead is going to be tough.  My last blog to help hotels and bed & breakfasts post lockdown received a lot of positive feedback but the restaurants and takeaways I support requested that I could do a blog for them so, I’ve written some top tips.

1. Reduce costs

Look throughout your organisation where you can reduce running costs, for example I’ve helped takeaways reduce their online ordering costs by over 50% by looking around for better and cheaper systems, enabling ordering direct and not through other platforms, Facebook now has a free online ordering system, other e-commerce systems including a website has substantially reduce their cost and are now just a small one-off price. See if you can reduce your supply costs for example: a local restaurant and takeaway to me has reduced their electricity costs by 15%.

2. Watch and learn what’s happening abroad and in retail

Keep an eye on what is happening with restaurants in countries ahead of the curve and how they are adapting.  Retail shops are opening but in a post-Covid-19 more spaced and structured way. There are some good learning points being shown but also what issues/blockages they have and how they’ve got over it.  Look at how the best are using their social media such as YouTube to raise their profile and showing how they’re safe.  Trust is becoming a key area of importance in many areas ahead of this pandemic curve, use your social media to help gain this trust.

Image source: Insider.com

3. Transition to online

If you haven’t already; go online properly.  Don’t rely on third-party platforms who take a percentage of your money and don’t think that a PDF document showing your menu is enough.  It’s going to get even more competitive.  There are some I’ve already seen that are burying their head in the sand…don’t do this or you could be one of those closing.

4. Do not suddenly re-appear post lockdown

There are great examples out there how restaurants and takeaways are continuing to market their restaurant on social media in areas that are important to customers, for example takeaways showing disinfecting their insulated food delivery bags, extensive cleaning in their kitchens, personal protection equipment, how they’re developing their customer protection and so on. Social media videos are working really well at the moment so you need to enhance your marketing.

5. Mobile is king

One of the takeaways I support has over 70% of their orders via smartphones.  It is no longer the case their customers look on their mobile and order via a laptop or computer, they do the whole lot on their mobile.  If your website isn’t mobile friendly, you can lose at least 53% of your online clients and your website needs to load in less than 3 seconds because around an additional 27% drop off if it’s too slow. Your website speed can be easily tested at http://testmysite.withgoogle.com/

6. Try and develop your entrepreneurial spirit

Look to develop other products and services.  Some restaurants I work with have:

  • setup subscription boxes where they include cooking instructions or paid membership sites with videos and food deliveries
  • some have developed frozen versions to be cooked at home
  • a pizza takeaway has developed a separate salad takeaway business
  • some have developed drop off points for their meals

I’m working with one restaurant to develop and sell aprons, baseball caps and t-shirts with their brand on. What can you do?

7. Learn from the best

Domino’s marketing is really good, they know my last order, they email me a prompt at the same day and time as my ordering time from the previous week offering me an easy click option to re-order plus they have what looks like great offers for my customer type (family with adult kids). They don’t make the best pizzas in my area, but they do a good prompt at the right time and make it very easy to order.  Other local takeaways know my details and order preferences as I’ve signed into their website giving my contact details…and yet they don’t prompt me.  I don’t even get emails or offers from most of them.  Have a look around at what others are doing and learn from the best. As a minimum you should be capturing your customer contact details and keeping in touch.

In addition, look to develop and improve your marketing in all areas not just online, the graphics, the text, the menus, what your offering, and so on.  Look for what the best organisations are doing, for example in the US and how can you adapt this to improve your marketing.

Image Source: Braze Magazine

8. Go paper and contact free

Your customers are concerned about hygiene and avoiding contact, use technology to be better and cheaper. Your customers should not have to touch a pen or receipts or have their card taken away to be put in a card machine.  Everything should be contact free.  They should be able to go totally contactless using their mobile phone and their receipts should be emailed to them.

9. Look at the numbers

If you have a website, you should be getting weekly statistics including what your customers are doing and where the blockages are.  This is important information, in just 10 minutes I enabled a 100% increase in takeaway orders just by pointing out where the barriers are for customers and how to get over them.

Do a user test, find someone who’s not seen your website before, give them a task, for example buy a vegetarian or meat feast pizza for delivery, and watch how they use your site.  Do not prompt or guide them and see if you can learn from this to improve the customer journey to increase sales.

The websites analytics should also give you the keywords customers are using to find your website.  Are they looking for meals or services that you don’t currently provide, and you could? – If customers are looking for these meals you know your onto a winner.

10. Create a Wow factor

As a family of four we take turns to order one takeaway per week so we like to try different meals. In our town the pizzerias all offer the same types of pizzas, there’s virtually no difference between them and none of them have tried to educate and sell Roman, Sicilian or Detroit style pizzas.   None have talked about milling their own flour onsite or getting their flour from a local stone mill and therefore they have a low carbon footprint.  I’m not aware of any of them demonstrating their special techniques or trying to raise their personal brand.  Have a look around and see what you can use to develop a wow factor in your restaurant and takeaway.

Thoughts on happiness

Angela Lawrence, Associate Dean, Staffordshire Business School


There are lots of things that make me happy, but not many of them are material things. My “thing” is more profound, more enduring and gives me a far greater sense of purpose and contentment. Over the years, my thing has changed, adapted and moved in different directions, but it comes down to this – seeing things grow and develop into beautiful entities that I appreciate and am proud of yields more happiness than anything tactile you could gift to me.

So, watching my children grow into independent, hard-working adults that I am so proud of makes me happy. Seeing them enjoy the delights of parenthood themselves brings me great delight. Watching their children, my grandchildren, blossom and thrive in a world full of confusion and mixed messages, knowing that they love me unconditionally, is priceless.

Greeting students on their first day at university, nurturing them through the highs and lows of academic life, watching them mature and grow over years of study, applauding proudly at their graduation and then following the development of their careers on LinkedIn or Twitter gives me a huge sense of pride and hope for the future. Over my career, few jobs have ever made me as happy as I feel on graduation day.

I must make mention of the gift of nature and the delights of watching seedlings emerge from warm soil in the springtime, cultivating and raising those seedlings at my allotment to be strong independent plants that delight me and provide sustenance, both for my dinner table and to share with others – never forget the delights of sharing. The pleasures I gain from growing at the allotment are more profound and not only make me happy but provide head space for me to escape from the complications of modern life. I am in my absolute element when rummaging in the soil and watering my crops. Thinking time is so good and fresh air so invigorating.

I never would have thought 40 years ago that I would say studying makes me happy, but it does. Who would have known that I would still be studying? Yet here I am, halfway through my Doctorate in Education and thriving on it. Pondering why this should be so, I believe it is about being able to express myself, able to share with others what fascinates and challenges me, in the knowledge that I will bring something fresh and new to my field of study. At times I forget how much this matters to me, when deadlines are looming and time is precious, but it is always worth the effort and undoubtedly will be so when I cross that platform to receive the title of Doctor.

In all of this there is a theme of nurturing, be it people, plants, thoughts or words. Incredibly we don’t need money or objects to nurture, we just need to be ourselves and to learn to derive happiness from the small things that we can control in our lives. It’s true what they say – all the money in the world cannot buy you happiness. Find your “thing” and create your own – smile and be happy!

International Day of Happiness – March 20th

Preparing for the New Normal – How accommodation providers in France are rethinking and adapting their services and what can we learn from this?

Paul Dobson, Senior LEcturer,Staffordshire Business School


It’s been a challenging, confusing and worrying time for most industries during this current Coronavirus Crisis. But the hospitality sector in particular stands to be one of the hardest hit as it struggles to contemplate how it can continue to trade successfully keeping social distancing in mind, coupled with a rapidly shrinking economy.  As part of Staffordshire Business School’s support to organisations I’ve been supporting the local and international hospitality sector and as the French businesses are ahead of us in coming out of lockdown I’ve noted some points to help prepare UK organisations.

After 2 months enduring some of the strictest lockdown controls in Europe, France is slowly opening up its economy and society. And the vast, hugely varied accommodation sector, which historically welcomes visitors across the world, is undergoing a rapid and radical revolution to ensure it can continue to attract customers in these unprecedented times.

The newly forced need to keep distance and natural sense of personal safety has fallen well into the hands of some of the self-catering sector. Private homes and villas, especially those that can offer generous outside space as well as little or no contact with others, have seen a huge demand since the 11th of May when the French Prime Minister officially declared that travel up to 100km was now permitted. The public, who have been largely “imprisoned” with massively limited scope to be outside their own homes since the middle of March inevitably have an overwhelming desire for a change of scenery. However, this is not a universal permission and policy, and restricted zones still exist across France, and indeed many local governments, even in the less-infected “green regions” are enforcing the continuation of heavy trading restrictions and forced closures of accommodation providers. But where these rules do not apply, the flood gates have opened and demand, all from customers within the 100km radius, has been significant. Also worthy of note is that the average length of stay has seen a dramatic increase for this time of year.

That’s not to say that this is return to normal times for these accommodation owners. French hospitality organisations have had a massive increase in questions about sanitation, personal responsibility and uniform industry standards on cleanliness and contact that the UK accommodation businesses will need to be prepared for when lockdown restrictions are relaxed. As of today, these restrictions haven’t been totally clarified in France, and only “best practice” guides from local tourism authorities exist online. Some of the leading booking platforms and websites for this sub sector are advising “safety gaps” between customers of, for example, 24 hours to allow any surfaces to become less likely to cross contaminate in the future. What is apparent from discussions with French hospitality businesses is that there is an increased desire for customers to have  “direct online contact” with the service rather than through  online booking platforms.  This could be a welcome shift in attitude as this not only allows peace of mind for the customer, but also less commissions for the business owner to pay to the booking platforms which have come under much public criticism and scrutiny of late because of their high charges. One of the French businesses I’ve talked to has had an 800% increase in Facebook messages, their analytics has shown an increase in both mobile and desktop visitors to their website and the number of emails has increased by over 200% compared to last year.

The B&B (Chambres d’hote) and Hotel sector have reported an uphill challenge. With a mix of different guests under their roofs, all with potentially varying attitudes to respecting the new government guidelines, this poses a significant threat to their short- and medium-term existence. However, those that can offer genuine space, especially outside, have a clear advantage over those that cannot. Going from one restrictive box to another isn’t likely to be a great draw for the new discerning needs of the Covid-19 era traveller.  Forced confinement has brought about a new desire to be out and about in nature, and burn off all those excessive calories consumed since March.

But with the high season fast approaching during which these businesses would traditionally run at maximum occupancy, the reality is that these organisations will be forced to not only give “buffers” in between guests checking out and the next ones checking in, but also run at a lower occupancy to ensure that interaction between different customers is minimized. Therefore “Making Hay whilst the sun shines” will this year inevitably bring about a lower yield, and reduce the vital cashflow which sustains many of these businesses during the quieter months. 

An example of changes implemented is the hotelier Tim Bell and Ingrid Boyer in the Auvergne region of Central France. Tim has developed their website to include a link to their Covid-19 guidance on their home page (see https://chabanettes.com/). This is updated on a regular basis and outlines their commitment to client’s safety.  He implements rapid alterations to its usual offerings and has created the foundations for business continuity and customer confidence.  He has also set up a Facebook forum for like minded accommodation owners in Europe seeking support and advice. Tim collates industry data, statistics and best practice ideas from all over the accommodation sector and share his opinions and advice with the group.

The sector in which he operates is having to rethink more radically about its traditional services to ensure competitivity and customer confidence. This ranges from the provision of catering which is leaning initially more towards a “Room Service” culture to a complete overhaul of the check-in/check-out customer touch points, looking to technology and globally recognised physical safety barriers to reduce risk of viral spread. For an industry which relies heavily on close, personal contact for their reputation and overall experience, keeping a balance between customer satisfaction and safety is proving challenging, but not impossible. Clients now expect a more sterile and distanced world, with supermarkets leading the way in some innovation and rethinking of the customer journey that the hotels are learning from, such as one-way corridors.

Until the world is safely vaccinated against the virus, the accommodation industry will have to adapt quickly and radically to guidelines, legislation and customer fears. History has told us that businesses that do this will have the best chance of survival, and those that don’t not only fear a downturn in business, but also a very visible online reputation for ignoring what is now the number one priority for the 2020 traveller – Safety.

Chatting with chatbots

Keair Bailey, Msc Digital MArketing Management


Chatbots are the cost-effective way for a business to stay engaged with their customer 24/7, this blog will discuss why businesses should be including them in their next marketing implementation.

On a very simple level, a bot is just a bit of software that can carry out pre-determined actions on its own without being actively controlled. This is discussed in further detail by Neil Patel who describes it as a “wind up toy”, you build it to carry out what you want it to, you wind it up, and then you let it perform the action it was designed for.

The Customer comes first

The first advantage that a business will notice when introducing chatbots to their marketing is the speed in which the bots reply to customer support messages. This is extremely important as its very common for customers to get very frustrated when made to wait for a human over the phone on through a chat. There is no way to accommodate enough human customer support workers for every customer with a query which results in long wait times. TheModernFirm did a study on customers who have had to call in order to reach customer support, these numbers were found:

  • “67% of customers hang up out of frustration when they can’t reach a real person.
  • 75% of customers think that it takes too long to reach a human being.
  • 72% of callers who reach an automated/recorded phone line will hang up.”

These problems will result in lower customer loyalty and eventually a loss of profits.

Implementation of a chatbot would eradicate these problems, A chatbots response is immediate and a customer can have their query solved in a matter of seconds. Customers are also more likely to reach out for support if they see a ‘Live Chat’ button.

More information

Businesses today put a lot of emphasis on knowing everything about their customer, this is normally done through primary research. Information such as what a customer is buying is available as a company can just look at sales statistics, however, products that a customer is choosing not to buy is harder to work out as there are far more variables involved. The best way to gain this information is straight from the customers their selves, this is made possible by the mighty chatbot. Email doesn’t result in as accurate information due to the back and forth nature, a live chat allows the customer to reply naturally which leads to more accurate information.

Modern Evolution

LearningHub stats show that Chatbots will power 85% of customer service by 2020 and by 2022, chatbots will help businesses save over $8 billion per annum. If these stats stay true, which information is leaning towards, companies who HAVEN’T introduced chatbots into their marketing strategy will be left behind. Customers will simply stop doing business with company’s that require extra steps to get what they want. Together with the cost efficiency of the chatbot, It makes less and less sense to continue to pay a human to do an AI’s job. Speaking of humans, its very common for somebody working customer support to make a ‘human’ error, this could be something as simple as interpreting the meaning of a question slightly wrong which can lead to frustration or a loss of sales from the customer.

They’re taking our jobs!

While the AI in a chatbot can usually accommodate for most requests from a customer, it’s very easy for a chatbot to get stuck if a customer’s query is slightly different to its base algorithms that its been taught. Also, as a chatbot learns from the responses it receives from a customer, it can sometimes make the wrong decision internally due not being able to actually choose which decision it wants to make, it is just following the code. An example of this is a Microsoft chatbot used on Twitter being taught racist and misogynistic responses by customers in less than 24 hours, to avoid this, the chatbot must be optimised properly.

Conclusion

There is an endless supply of advantages when it comes to assessing chatbots, they can save your company money and time, improve your customer relations and customer loyalty and ultimately create a better brand image. Although, an influx of AI and bots makes the whole customer service process very impersonal and cold as suggested by Neil Patel. Neil also suggests that chatbots should most definitely be used in their marketing strategies but the businesses should also be careful as to not “water down” their marketing.

“All good things in moderation”.

Top tips on how to be an influencer

Paul Dobson, Senior Lecturer, Staffordshire Business School


Over the past three years, as part of our Digital Marketing courses, we’ve worked with one person per year and enabled them to be influencers earning over £3,000 per month working part-time so I know that there is a proven and systematic way of doing this. See our undergraduate BA (Hons) Marketing Management and Post Graduate MSc Customer and Data Analytics. As part of this, there are some top tips that I’ve learnt.

  • It doesn’t matter if you’re shy and not out-going.

Some of the best people in my area of Digital Marketing, such as Michael Stelzner and Pat Flynn, have admitted that they’re not extroverts.  This helps make them more authentic and real in-front of the mic and camera.  Remember as well that when you record your audio or video that no one is listening / watching, you have control and people only see this when you post on social media etc. So you can do this, even if you have uncertainty and fear.

  • It doesn’t matter if there is competition.

This helps prove that there is a market for your area and they have already set the ground work. You can also be different from them or even compliment them, so that you become partners with them.

  • Right now, is the best time to start.

When people are in lockdown and a potential recession may be around the corner this isn’t a barrier. Some of the best businesses out there such as Disney, Google, Facebook and FedEx started during a recession.  The start-up costs are very low and the potential is high… There is no reason to delay.

  • Choose a niche that you love.

You need to treat this as a part-time business that you need to develop to earn money. It needs working on, so choose a hobby, past-time, area that you can learn (yes, you can learn a new area and do this) that you enjoy… I hear people all the time saying I don’t have a hobby or I don’t do anything and every single person after a chat has had a good potential area.  There are interesting ways in all areas for example there is someone with over 1.5M subscribers who cooks with their dog watching (see https://www.youtube.com/cookingwithdog ), so the world really is your oyster.

  • You do not need complicated equipment.

Some of the influencers we’ve worked with just use their mobile phone but ensured that the sound and video looked OK, e.g. enough light and not a lot of background noise.  You can get cheap mobile stands or stands with light fairly cheap online, for example one of the influencers we’re working with at the moment has bought a basic one for less than £4, and a more comprehensive one with a stand etc for less that £13.

  • Yes, you do need to make time.

As noted above this does need treating like a job, i.e. don’t put it off, and you do need discipline to keep developing your materials etc for your niche on a timely regular basis that your audience can listen to / watch. You will need to develop and post this material at least once per week but the potential reward is fantastic.

  • It will need research and keeping an eye on.

You will need to research and consider your audience and competitors. What areas are people interesting in, need help with, want to learn, have problems or issues with that you can discuss?  What areas are the competitors covering, how and can you be different or complimentary?

When you start your journey what areas work, what doesn’t and why?  Use these as learning points to develop your podcasts and videos etc.   Always keep an eye on what your audience is saying, sharing, and listening to / watching for a long time, so that you can use to improve what you do.

Stay Safe


Paul Dobson MSc, MA, MBA, PGCHPE, Senior Fellow HEA, MIPM, FCMI, MAM
Senior Lecturer in Digital and Strategic Marketing
uk.linkedin.com/in/paulmddobson/