Business Espionage That Won’t Break The Bank

There are plenty of online consultants willing to help business owners with competitive intelligence, although this is generally costly. Thankfully, there are cheaper ways for self-employed people to get the competitive edge, through their own DIY research, all it takes is a little time.

Companies House

Look up companies house UK at Duedil.com. Companies house data is an online gateway to comprehensive business information, about two million companies in the UK. It’s free to check company names and addresses in a searchable index. Gather in-depth insights into the company’s filing history, document images and company reports.

Join the Twitter Chatter

Self-employed people who haven’t joined Twitter or underestimate its power, should rethink that decision.  This social networking site buzzes with a constant stream of short messages, some revealing and others irrelevant. It’s possible to zero in on company’s daily ruminations, or prominent people’s thoughts on issues. It’s also possible to spot industry trends before they happen, and important need-to-know news.

Monitor Their Staff 

Not nearly as creepy as it sounds. Start with the ‘About Us’ page on their website. Also keep abreast of their recruitment process and new job postings. This will reveal what qualities they are looking for in staff and any plans for future expansion in some areas. Take a forensic look at the backgrounds of the high flyers in the company. Normally, company executives will have their resumes available online, or the website will have insights into their professional past. This is helpful to learn about their management style and the future direction of the business should you decide to work with them.

Google Alerts

Google Alerts takes the hard graft out of gathering data on competitors. It has the two-fold purpose of gathering intel on competitors, and also feeding back information about one’s own company. This is done by setting up alerts for particular keywords and phrases, that trigger an email notification, each time the word or phrase occurs in a news story or blog post.

For example, Google Alerts could be set up for your own business, plus a couple of main competitors and the directors of these companies. Yet another handy and free innovation from the web wunderkinds.

It’s never been more important to gather intel on competition, than right now. Self-employed people can swim alongside of the big fishes and those of many varying shades; when they look up companies house UK online, join twitter and follow the minutiae of their competitors working lives.  All it takes is some strong coffee, some time and a good broadband connection.

Marketing materials: Where should you start?

When starting up in business it’s really important to get your name out there in the market and your services known. Unfortunately, banks remain reluctant to lend to small businesses, so any marketing practices you do adopt may need to be fairly low cost.pastedGraphic.pdfBuilding a start-up campaign by going back to basics and using promotional tools combined with free platforms online is a great way to maximise a small budget, and here’s how to do it:

Go back to basics

The value of traditional marketing materials such as branded pens, totes, business cards and flyers should not be underestimated. They help to get your name known and when branded with the correct information, they give potential customers the means of getting in touch with you. At a basic level, flyers and business cards printed from companies like Flyerzone tend to be the easiest means of doing this as you are able to fit far more information on them. Alongside location, services and contact details, many firms are now choosing to include their Twitter handle and Facebook page on there too – opening up new avenues of content.

Social engagement

Don’t just wait for potential customers to start following you on Twitter, search for those with interests in your market and start following them. As well as using the platform to notify people about offers, new services or flash sales, show that you know your sector well by tweeting and commenting on relevant subjects. This will help establish you as an expert in the area and hopefully raise your profile. There’s a common misconception that the results of marketing campaigns on Twitter or Facebook are hard to quantify. In fact, the return on investment can be easily measured if you release a promo code or offer only available via these mediums then measure the increased footfall or number of sales for that period. Remember, if you are running your own social media your initial investment will be minimal.

Give great customer service

It might seem obvious, but providing the best service you can is one of the easiest ways to expand your customer base, especially in the digital age. Customers have the potential to recommend you by word of mouth to friends, family and colleagues and also to share their views about you and your company via social media.


Cloud Computing: What Is It All About?

Although the concept dates back to the 1960s, it is only in more recent times that Cloud technology has taken the IT world by storm. In fact, Cloud services are currently undertaking the most rapid adoption of any technology to date.

What is Cloud?

With ‘Cloud’ and all its many related buzzwords (PaaS, SaaS etc) floating around, you could not be blamed for feeling a little lost in the midst of it all.

Cloud computing is an internet-based technology. It is an umbrella term used to describe a number of different concepts. The purpose of Cloud computing is to help consumers get the most from their computers in the most simplified way.

The ‘Cloud’ is used as a metaphor for the internet and a key aspect of Cloud computing is the use of the internet to exercise the typical functions of your computer. This provides a ‘lighter option’ for your computer by alleviating the sole dependencies of servers and hardwares as data is easily accessible through an internet channel.

What forms does it come in?

It may seem complex but it is likely that Cloud computing has played a part of your business or personal life at some point. Google Apps are a popular example of Cloud technology. This type of of cloud provision is known as a public cloud as shared services are available to all consumers.

Many businesses opt to adopt Cloud technologies without using a third party. To do this, a cloud-like infrastructure is introduced into their data centre. This type of cloud usage is referred to as a private cloud.

Hybrid cloud technology denotes a combined utilisation of both public and private cloud services.

Is it a piece of software?

Google Apps and Google Docs are examples of how cloud technologies are used in software form.These are pre made packages which can be accessed through a web browser. This is known as SaaS (software as a service).

There are a number of other dimensions to Cloud technology. PaaS (platform as a service) describes an operating system, web server or computer language interpreter which developers can then build applications on. Windows Azure and Google App Engine are examples of such platforms.

At the earliest part of the Cloud services chain is IaaS (infrastructure as a service). IaaS offerings typically come in the form of servers (often virtual), networks and firewalls, delivered on a pay-as-you-go basis. Amazon’s Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) is a popular example of this type of infrastructure. IaaS forms the ‘bread and butter’ of cloud technology of which PaaS and SaaS build upon.

To Cloud or not to Cloud?

There are a number of benefits to cloud technology which contribute to its popularity. For many businesses incorporating cloud technologies can help to keep overheads and expenditures down. The flexibility of the pay-as-you-go format offered by many cloud providers also tends to appeal to smaller businesses. It is widely believed that cloud services offer greater efficiency and performance potential than traditional options.

However it is not the case that one option is right and the other is wrong; cloud services mark a progression in the technological market which some companies may find beneficial. An IT solutions company could offer you more information on how cloud technology can help your business and provide you with full migration and support services.

John Hughes writes for Bristol Computer Support organization Competent Solutions, providing you with expert IT solutions to help your business move forward.

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