Big challenges for small businesses – invest in the help you need

THERE are more than five-and-a-half million small businesses in the UK. This accounts for 99.3% of all private sector businesses – 99.9% of which are small or medium-sized (SMEs).

SMEs are growing in popularity and increasing numbers of skilled workers are taking the leap from employment to employer and setting up on their own.

Embarking on the challenge of building your own business is exciting and daunting in fairly equal measure – I know because I joined the ranks of the self-employed just three months ago.

I have spent 30 years working as a newspaper journalist and, come what may, the security of a monthly deposit into my bank account has been the reliable norm.

But, when you know the time is right (and it was) and are confident you still have a lot to offer – you know and enjoy your trade and you know exactly what your customer wants – and your gut instinct is screaming at you to follow your (new) dreams – it’s hard to ignore.

Small businesses

It’s not very long, however, before you discover that the secret to becoming a successful entrepreneur rests on more than just ‘knowing your trade.’

Because your own skillsets are just one factor. Suddenly a whole new bunch of learning curves are thrust upon you – and it’s at times like this that we need to embrace our ‘uncomfortable zones’ and shouldn’t be ashamed to outsource.

For instance, I’m a writer, my background is words. Expect me to balance my books or file my tax returns or design a website or design a logo or take a professional quality photograph or. . . you get the idea. . . and I lose all my confidence.

This is why then, there is an increasingly growing demand for professional help (and I don’t mean of the psychiatric variety!) for us SMEs.

Cue then the first of what I’m sure will be a series of training courses and workshops for yours truly, courtesy of FL1 Digital Marketing Company.

FL1 are a successful St Albans-based company expanding their training offering in response to the aforementioned growing demand – and the good news is (not least for me) they’ve just arrived in Warwick.

One of the very first bums on their training room seats, I was about to take my first foray into formal digital training. And it was Google Analytics on the agenda.

I quickly realised that building a shiny new website with all the bells and whistles was great in so far as it goes. But if I was to really let the site work for my business and gain maximum advantage, it had to come down to a better understanding of how to do it.

The prospect of digital training can bring on a cold sweat for many of us luddites. I’m one of these people who feel the need for an interpreter every time someone from the IT department opens their mouth! (I know I’m not alone in that.) I’ll remind you – I am a wordsmith not a techie!

FL1 Google Analytics WordPress
Jason Sammon.

FL1 co-founder Jason Sammon isn’t fazed by this. In fact he presented a potted version of Google Analytics for beginners if you will, with unintimidating clarity.

Our small group (I’ve always hated large classroom setting scenarios where the lecturers gallop off at high speed along the ‘information highway’) is taken through the following key areas at a friendly pace:

  • Installing Google Analytics – The rest of the course is pretty pointless without this!
  • Tracking Visitors – Important overview of visitor behaviour, such as how long they are spending on the site and the average number of pages viewed per visit;
  • Traffic Sources – How are visitors arriving at your site, eg: from search engines, referrals (other sites) or typing in url;
  • Content – What are your visitors looking at when they’ve arrived and what does this tell us about our products or services?
  • Measuring Performance Goals – You can set up and monitor specific events or actions within your website, eg. data analysis of completion of a sale or enquiry form;
  • Useful Tips – Does what it says on the tin! Really it’s all about getting into good habits by, for instance, checking your analytics every month, setting at least one goal every month and changing/adding content regularly.

This is all very well I hear you say, but what do these results tell us? None of it means a thing unless we have the wherewithal to interpret it.

Jason’s bitesize sessions and simplified language arm us with the confidence to go forth and do just that.

Far from being fearful of the murky world of digital, I’m now looking forward to my next FL1 workshop, on March 1st – WordPress Essentials. It looks at:

  • What is WordPress and how to use it;
  • Pages, Posts and Categories;
  • Tagging your content;
  • Customising WordPress;
  • Features and Plug-ins;
  • Tracking your readership and capturing statistics;
  • Integrating WordPress with Social Media.Learning your way around this widely used web platform is essential. Once the ‘nuts and bolts’ of it have been built for us – and without a highly-skilled IT team across the hall or at the end of the phone to troubleshoot – we’re on our own. So this is another valuable way to invest a couple of hours into your business plans. I’ll be reporting back on how I fared in that one in a couple of weeks.
    Further details on the WordPress course and how to book can be found hereLook out for news of more workshops being announced soon.


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