May 2006
Football Fever
Well, the World Cup is almost upon us. If you think like my wife, you will not be looking forward to it (though the fever will spread if the matches are entertaining, and England do well). Being an out-and-out football nut, I am already planning my evenings in front of each game.

I have to say that I feel that business has been somewhat slow in backing this global event up. This could be partly due to the legal protection offered to the 'official' sponsors, or maybe the football overload in the media. But companies are starting to wake up!

My company - Jack Marketing Solutions has been ready for a number of months, unrolling our traditional forecasting spreadsheet. This Excel document has surprised us for every tournament, predicting the winners with uncanny accuracy. It is just a series of calculations, but it overrides my gut feelings about the winners. If is also good fun, so why not take a look at it -

Obviously businesses such as Pubs, Clubs and drinks vendors will be doing a roaring trade this summer, but as a committee member for the local football club, I can see smaller clubs at the grass levels of the sport benefiting from this interest. Most clubs, including many semi-professional teams rely on bar sales to bring sufficient funds in to run the clubs. Showing the World Cup games could benefit them financially through the bar takings alone (licensing issues do, however, apply).

But this interest can also be tapped for next season. Business owners who see the increased interest in football will start looking at the smaller clubs, sponsoring shirts, facilities and players. At Fernhurst Sports FC we have developed a Media Pack to introduce the club to the local business leaders, and inviting them to sponsor the team in its centenary year. Take up has begun, but it is slow - but come the World Cup, I would expect interest to grow considerably.

There are many different options companies can take, on- and offline, but you now need to be quick, the tournament starts on the 9th June. I was talking to someone recently who had a great product idea, and invested a large amount of time and money into developing this idea. The only problem was that the timing was way out. The bigger the idea, the longer the lead time, generally. My spreadsheet took about a week to develop and test (having already developed it previously).
Local or 'Global'
Every business has a dilemma. Does it focus on its local customers, or go for any business it can get, possibly leading it further afield, including abroad?

Even 'virtual' companies must have a base, even if it someone's back bedroom. These local links are often overlooked by companies, especially when they leave the area. We have had a recent case of a large company that left the local area with a promise to help 'smooth' the transition in the community. Many of the company's former employees still live in the area, having decided not to relocate abroad, and as a result the unemployed and early retired population is higher than in surrounding areas.

As the company is still trading, it is seen as an act of goodwill to help the community with certain community projects. Obviously this support will be time limited, but it does show a sense of Social Responsibility.

Now that story relates to a community devastated by the relocation of a large organisation from a rural area. But do you chase the high paying customers, just for the sake of a good income, even if the outgoings eat into your cashflow. The alternative is to attract the local customers, charging less but enjoying shorter travel times, and lower costs.

In my business - e-marketing - I find this to be a serious dilemma. Many of the local customers are seriously uneducated in terms of Internet presence and marketing. The low prices they expect (and therefore the entry point for doing business with them) means that I have to do a great deal of work for their ever changing views, whilst educating them, and getting frustrated by their lack of e-business understanding (I am a great believer in educating the customer - but I find these locals "know their business" and are difficult to persuade otherwise).

The only way to drum home the fact that these local customers are getting a good deal is to highlight the NORMAL price, and show the discount they are receiving. Some will, of course be unaffected by this, but you will find some who will be willing to accept more from you when you demonstrate your actual worth.
Doing Business
Over the last few weeks I have been battling with two customers who, for different reasons, refuse to pay. This is always a dilemma - do you threaten them, do you take them straight to court, do you ride it out?

Cashflow is of course the most important factor in any business, and if customers are taking the mickey, they are endangering your own business. No-one should have to provide credit facilities to other companies. I have a general problem at the moment with companies constantly pushing for the cheapest deal, or getting advice or services for free - whatever happened to fair-play. Unless I compete with your company or product, there should be a mutual benefit to encouraging business - after-all, the greater the number of businesses, the more money should be flowing around the system.

One of the companies causing me problems is overseas, and they are trying to wriggle out of a fixed price contract, for which the service has already been provided. Given their location, and their unethical, unbusinesslike and illegal approach, I have no problems now with taking them to court - after-all - I do not want to do business with companies like that. The company does, however, have much more to lose - their business is dependent on being seen as trustworthy and ethical. If during a court case, they are proven to be anything but - they are likely to lose a lot more than a simple court case.

I suppose my rant is - why do companies do this? If I employ someone to do something, I expect to be charged for it, and I will pay for it within the agreed time. I will also ensure that I get the product or service I want and will be paying for.

Any comments on this - have you had similar experiences? Please let me know.