How do you leverage Facebook?

David Critchley makes the crucial point below that Facebook is now a key business tool. So how should entrepreneurs use it? One tip I’ll offer you is to get in touch with a Facebook Preferred Developer. There are only 52 of these firms worldwide. The mark was created by Facebook to provide businesses with a reliable guide to the best developers so you can be sure these guys are the cream of the crop.

The UK Preferred Developers are TechlightenmentiPlatform, Ralph,  Wishpot, Candytech, Nudge Social Media, Syncapse, Gamaroff Digital and 77Agency.

And what should you say to these Developers? I was talking this week to Jan Rezab, the Czech founder of Candytech, which runs Facebook campaigns for Unilever, Tesco and GE Money, and he said he was quite used to clients arriving with very little idea of what they wanted to achieve. Facebook is such a dynamic medium and most marketers simply haven’t grasped the possibilities. But, as Rezab was keen to point out, that’s what these agencies are for. They will help you develop your entire strategy and campaign as well as handling the tricky technical stuff.

One of Rezab’s other businesses is the fascinating and rather useful statistics portal Facebakers. This displays all sorts of Facebook data, such as which developers have the most active users (Zynga, maker of Farmville, which has 63m users, holds the top spot).

Facebakers ranks Facebook users by country. It lists the Cost per click for advertising in every country. You can find demographic data on membership. Have a play!

One stunning stat: Facebook has 26.5m users in the UK, almost half the population. In other words, this is not a medium entrepreneurs can ignore.


Recession hitting your sales? Then do “an Ollila”

My all-time business hero is Jorma Ollila, the Finn who took over Nokia and completely reinvented the firm. When Ollila became chief executive in 1992 Nokia was mess. It manufactured televisions and car tyres, and had a huge wood-pulping division. Ollila declared the future lay with mobile phones and utterly transformed Nokia. All non-mobile divisions were shut down or sold.

By the end of the decade Nokia was Europe’s most valuable firm.

I believe all entrepreneurs should ask themselves: “Can I do an Ollila?” If you make bicycles, perhaps you’d be better off switching to roller-skates. Or electric cars.

Restaurateur Sam Hurst is doing just that. Hurst founded the roast-meat-sandwich chain, Grazing, three years ago. But his initial concept isn’t working too well. The recession hammered sales and his five-year-plan to be the new Pret a Manger has since been dumped in the circular filing cabinet.

So he’s decided to “do an Ollila”.

In his own words: “Oh, god, my initial plans were hopelessly, wildly optimistic. We thought we’d be opening a Grazing by every Starbucks up and down the country. The recession hit us hard. Sales went down for 18 months. Fortunately we’ve discovered a new sales channel – office delivery. It wasn’t anything we planned. We got a few requests for deliveries and these have grown organically. We actually did no marketing at all. No fliers. No advertising. It just grew without us trying. I realised we needed to seize the opportunity. If we could grow the delivery business without marketing, just imagine what we could do if we really focussed on it.”

Hurst is essentially relaunching Grazing as an online-booking and delivery service. Same product. Different approach.

“We are taking a huge gamble with office delivery. We’ve invested tens of thousands in a new kitchen. Our overheads have doubled without growing revenues. We’ve spent money on an amazing website to take orders. Now its time to deliver! With the restaurant it took 18 months to break even. I don’t have 18 months of cash for this new project. I have three months. Which is tight! But I am really confident we can do it.”

It’s a gutsy move, no question. Fortunately his investors are backing him. As he says: “It’s a great opportunity to grow sales at a time when business conditions are dreadful. We’d be crazy not to do it.”

Cool Britannia | Standing Up For British Businesses

I just bought a new hi-fi.

  • Bowers & Wilkins 695 speakers
  • Cambridge Audio 650A amplifier
  • QED Evolution speaker cables
  • Music Fidelity V-DAC

The trend? All British manufactured. In fact, the experience reminded me that the entire audiophile industry is dominated by British brands. Off the top of my head I can add Rotel, Wharfedale, Arcam, Tannoy, Cyrus, Q Acoustics, Crane Audio, Quad,  AE, Beauhorn, Roksan, Mordaunt-Short, ATC, Castle, Leema, Neat, Meridian, Harbeth, REL, Atlas, Chord, Spendor, Kef, Mission, Naim, and Rega.

The best DAB radios are made by Roberts in South Yorkshire. There are lone wolves, such as Stanley Beresford who designs and hand-builds the world’s finest DACs and valve-amp master-craftsman Glenn Croft.

And there’s the mothership, Linn Audio. Founded in 1972 by Glaswegian Ivor Tiefenbrun, Linn is to hifi what the Mir space station is to camping. A set of Linn Komri speakers costs £32,750. A Linn Sondek vinyl record player costs £2,300. The ultimate.

All these audio firms are independent. And whilst most outsource construction to China, all the R&D and design is done right here in Blighty.

British Business

The relevance? We are about to enter an election with the economy as the number one issue. And I can guarantee both voters and politicians will cite that tired old canard about the destruction of British manufacturing. And it’s rubbish. I could have written this blog about defence, oil & gas, pharmaceuticals or the motor sports industry. Britain leads the world at all of these. Our motorsport industry is bigger than that of France, Germany, Italy and Spain combined.

We are surrounded by world-beating British brands. We just don’t hear about the entrepreneurs behind them because they are too busy creating their next product line and cracking Asia. If you want empirical proof, here’s a graph confirming UK manufacturing has risen steadily since the Second World War.

So if you hear someone spouting drivel about manufacturing, just remind them of these world-beating brands. Chances are they won’t even know they are British.

Ten forecasts for 2010 (Part2)

Hi again,

Continuing where I left off last week, we go straight to number five in my list of top ten trends for 2010.

Let me know what you think about my forecasts using the comments box below.


5 VCs come charging back

Getting funding from venture capitalists has become brutally hard over the last two years. Their reticence has been, in part, to the inability to sell on any investments in the secondary buyout market. In fact the secondary buyout market is in a dire condition – its worst in living memory.

In 2010 this will change. The buyout market is showing signs of bursting back to life, and since VCs love a cut price bargain this could be a spectacular recovery. Furthermore we should see the launch of a new £1bn government VC fund to offer investments of £2m to £10m to plug the “equity gap” which could kick-start the process.

4 The cost of borrowing will soar

Financial Times economics editor Chris Giles describes the latest inflation figures with the word: “Ouch”.

Consumer prices in December were 2.9 per cent higher than a year earlier, sharply above forecasts. The danger that the Bank of England’s quantitative easing (printing money, also known as Mugabenomics) is causing price inflation. The worst case scenario is that inflation gets high enough to require a sharp rise in interest rates – causing a nightmare for anyone who has borrowed money, such as homeowners and businesses.

What you need to do: Calculate exposure to rising interest rates. Hedge, using fixed interest rates if necessary.

3 Augmented Reality

The movie Avatar is the perfect art-form for 2010 – the year when technology really starts to intrude on reality. We’ll see digital books become commonplace, laptops and writing pads merge in the form of Apple’s iSlate and 3D will shake up the entertainment business. But the real star will be augmented reality – the real-time fusing of camera footage with digital enhancements.

iPhone owners can already experience the joys of augmented reality through apps such as Layar and Nearest Tube. This year you can expect a glut of aug-reality applications, from in-store video screens to websites using webcams and XBox games. Toyota is planning to introduce head-up displays onto even basic models.

What you need to do: Understand that this technology isn’t a fad, and isn’t expensive to develop either. For example, an augmented reality iPhone app can be developed for £10,000. Get investing!

2 Every business will become a software business

Seriously. Every business. Take farming, where the use of in-vehicle GPS and yield management software has transformed the harvest from a labour intensive event to a mechanised data harvest process. Combines use automatic steering so they can run at night, without drivers, to a path accurate to 2cm. The National Farmers Union forecasts that robots will soon perform all the heavy-duty manual tasks on the farm, from sowing, spraying fertilizer, sample taking and ploughing, leaving the farmer to stay indoors to play with his software.

Even physical, “real world” industries such as shipping and logistics are being taken over by the silicon chip. The world’s biggest container ship, the Emma Maersk, which is so big it would take a train 72km long to hold her cargo, has a crew of just twelve. The ship can sail from Hong Kong to Rotterdam without human input.

No profession is safe from this trend.

What you need to do: Retrain as a software engineer. Or consider early retirement.

1 Customers don’t believe you

We live in a cynical age – and this is the year when customers finally stop listening to what you say about your product and start relying on the opinion of their peers. Review sites such as Reevoo and ReviewCentre have been around for years, but consumers have started to use them in more aggressive ways. Smartphone apps mean customers can read online reviews whilst in store, in fact they can even bring up price comparisons and reviews by scanning in the barcode of any product using only their phone. Entrepreneurial businesses are endorsing this trend by actively encouraging customers to refer to review sites. Brother, Canon, Hotpoint and Kodak are just some of the brands which publish uncensored Reevoo listings on their own websites.

What you need to do: Acknowledge that consumers prefer honest, third-party advice to your own marketing message, and help them find and use that advice.

And the next 30 years?

  • 2014  Automatic house cleaning robots will have become common.
  • 2020 PCs as powerful as the human brain
  • Nanobots make eating obsolete
  • 2022  Life expectancy increases by more than one year per year, permitting immortality
  • 2030  Mind uploading becomes possible
  • 2040 People spend most of their time in full-immersion virtual reality
  • 2045  Machines supersede humans, developing a planet-wide dimension of super-consciousness. “The Singularity” is upon us.

Ten forecasts for 2010 (Part1)

Hi all

This is going to be a great year to be an entrepreneur. There’s a boom (…overseas), new technology (…think phones) and Britain’s favourite entrepreneur is going to get even richer. And there are a few landmines ahead for the unwary…

10 Branson earns another billion

No matter how good 2010 is for you, Sir Richard is going to do better. He’s launching a new high street bank, starting work on a new launch site for his Virgin Galaxy spacecraft and will be celebrating a series of victories in the airline business as international operators such as Japan Airlines and British Airways hit turbulence. Looking as far ahead as March and Sir Richard will even be enjoying the debut of his Formula One team, Virgin Racing, at the Bahrain Grand Prix. God knows what he’s got planned for the rest of the year.

What you need to do: Look at your business and ask yourself “What would Branson do?”. And then do it.

9 Newspapers could go bust

The Independent is at death’s door. The Guardian is haemorrhaging money. The Evening Standard was sold for a quid. And the Times and Telegraph are losing sales year after year.

The dead tree press is on its knees and 2010 could be the year when the owners tire of losing money and shut up shop en masse. Regional newspapers are already being culled. Even the Birmingham Post now comes out just once a week. And no, Murdoch’s paywalls won’t save the industry.

What you need to do: Squeeze the value out of print before it dies. Haggle hard for advertising rates, safe in the knowledge that newspapers and magazines are desperate for your business. And develop a marketing strategy which can survive the end of print.

8 Europe falters

China and India will boom in 2010. China grew its economy 8 per cent last year and is forecast to beat that this year. India is not far behind, with an official growth forecast of 7.5 per cent.

By contrast France, Germany and the rest of the Eurozone will be struggling to hit 1 per cent growth. EU member Latvia has posted a fall in GDP of 24 per cent over the past two years – a world record setting collapse.

What you need to do: Get out of Europe. Book yourself on a trade missions to India or China to take advantage of these cash rich markets. Tickets for exporters are heavily subsidised by UKTI, and now there are free flights for exporters courtesy of BA.

7 BIS-who?

Riddle inside mystery wrapped in enigma… just what does the department for business do? There was the Rover Enquiry, ten million quid over budget, four years late and useless when it was published. There are dozens of bizarre quangos. The productive bodies, such as the small business service and small business council, have been abandoned. It was the DTI, the DBERR, now BIS.

A quid says BIS gets renamed by the Tories as they carve up the Whitehall department seen as bottom of the productivity rankings.

What you need to do: Nothing.

6 Look mum, no wallet!

Contactless swipe cards were unveiled last year, but didn’t really catch on. This year they will. The ability of consumers to use a debit card for purchases under £10 without inputting a pin will change consumer behaviour. Vending machines will become more popular, just as they are in Japan, as payment processing time is cut from a minute to two seconds.

We will also see debit cards being incorporated into mobile phones, so consumers don’t need to carry around a wallet. Just wave your mobile at the terminal, listen out for the beep, and then you’re done. The Nokia 6131 is just one model incorporating this technology.

What you need to do: Upgrade your tills to enable contactless payments.