Energylinx for Business News
September 15, 2016
UK businesses are facing a period of uncertainty after Britain decided to leave the European Union. A recent survey by CBI, has shown that optimism amongst UK SMEs fell at the sharpest pace over a 3-month period, since January 2009. The period covered April, May, June (the month of the BREXIT vote) until mid-July.
Around 8% of SMEs said they were more optimist and 53% said they were less optimistic about the future. The survey reported that total new orders and new domestic orders for SMEs were relatively unchanged. However, firms expected these to fall over the next three months and were planning to scale back investment intentions in buildings, planting and machinery.
According to 23% of survey respondents, export orders fell over the 3 months while 15% said that export orders had rose and 9% anticipated them to grow over the next 3 months. Whilst some businesses remain optimistic for the year ahead, a record high 49% of SME manufactures listed concerns about political and economic conditions abroad as likely to limit exports.
There was a rise in employment in the last quarter and it is expected that employment will stay stable over the next year.
Rain Newton-Smith, director for Economics at the CBI, said:
"The UK's SME manufacturers reported higher production, more staff hired and now expect to sell more of their world-class goods overseas over the next quarter, with a weaker sterling having a hand in this.
But overall, they do feel less optimistic and are scaling back some investment plans in machinery and plants.
Naturally, much of the concern is related to uncertainty and businesses want to now see the new government deliver a clear plan and timetable for the EU negotiations ahead, while cracking on with immediate domestic priorities, including a decision on new aviation capacity in the South East, which will help the UK's SME manufacturers to reach new markets in the future."
Posted on September 15, 2016 at 11:03 AM
September 1, 2016
Not sure what to be pinning on Pinterest or favouriting on Twitter? Clueless about the difference between your SERPs (Search Engine Result Pages) and PPC (Pay Per Click) Don't fear, you're not alone.
Digital marketing is an umbrella term for the marketing a product or service using digital technologies, mainly on the internet, but also including mobile phones, display advertising, and any other digital medium. It's how a brand uses its social profiles, websites and apps to promote itself. So it really is something you should embrace for your business because it might open you up to a whole new audience.
So what are the different types of digital media you might use and what can you get from them? These tools can be split into often interchangeable sectors, including search engine optimisation (SEO), content marketing, social media marketing, and email marketing.
Search engine optimisation
SEO is probably the most misunderstood element of digital marketing. In short, SEO is optimising your site to rank as highly as possible in search engines.
Google, in determining where your site ranks, takes into account 200 or so factors, including site speed, backlinks (links pointing to your site), social media signals and site usability.
Link building isn't everything when it comes to SEO but it should form a key part of SEO strategy. It must be used carefully, to ensure impact and avoid penalisation by search engines. Link building falls into three types: from companies that naturally link to your content and require no effort - on relevant sites as part of an outreach effort - and non-editorial links on forums, blog comments and user profiles. The latter is considered 'spammy' and should be used with caution. As long as links are relevant and are not being used to cheat the system, link building can be very effective.
The huge amount of factors Google studies for site ranking goes some way to illustrate the intricacy of SEO. However, a well-structured, user-friendly website with high quality, regularly updated content will always be beneficial to search engine rankings.
Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience -- and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.
So the most important thing to do when considering your content marketing strategy is to have as a clear image of your target audience. A cake company would likely use a visual social platform, such as Instagram or Pinterest to promote their service. They could create a hyper lapse video of them baking a cake and share it with their fans. However, a blogpost might work better for a dentist. They could create a guide to help their social media following to help them look after their teeth. These would be posted on networks such as Facebook or Twitter. The content you can create can take many forms - text, images, gifs, video. The form it takes will play a huge part in where you place it.
I like the donut analogy for social media:
Facebook: I like donuts.
Twitter: I'm eating a #donut.
Pinterest: Here is a donut recipe.
Instagram: Here is a vintage photo of my donut.
YouTube: This is how I eat my donut.
FourSquare: This is where I eat my donuts.
SnapChat: Watch my donut snaps story
LinkedIn: My skills include donut eating.
Social media marketing
A presence on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+ and other social networks will help raise your profile. It can also help you engage with your potential customers and learn from their feedback. It can be time-consuming work though, so begin with one or two networks.
Social media marketing can take two distinct forms: paid and organic. Paid marketing includes Facebook promoted posts and ads. Facebook can be a particularly effective tool as you can be very specific with your targeting, choosing who sees your ads or promoted posts on their Facebook feed based on their age, gender, interests and the type of device they use. Most social media platforms have some form of paid promotion like this.
Organic social promotion is simply posting to your existing social audience. It's free, but certain social platforms have started to limit your organic reach so that updates don't go out to all your followers - you have to pay for that. When trying to grow your organic reach you could consider some of the following things to post;
- Ask Questions - Everyone has an opinion and asking a question will drive engagement with your audience.
- Offer Free Advice and Tips - Make yourself look like an expert in your field. This ties closely with your content marketing strategy as well.
- Comment on a Trending Topic - It stands to reason that issues with the most relevance to your business also can have the most significant impact. Use hashtags that are relevant. Good use of hashtags has been shown to increase engagement by 21%.
- Always include Pictures in your Posts - Did you know photos get 53 percent more likes, 104 percent more comments, and 84 more click-throughs on links than text-based posts? Photos enable you to tell a story visually, so use them to your advantage.
- Play on Nostalgia - Everyone love a throwback. Seriously, post a picture of a mixed tape and people will go mad with memories of recording the radio and stopping as soon as the DJ started talking.
Chances are, you'll have been on the receiving end of a marketing email. You know the ones, with the snappy titles that are trying to sell you something.
Brands that do this well are data experts. They will segment their audience to make every email relevant to the group that receives it. You can make this work for your business too. Use your customer base, tell them about a promotion. Reward them for their loyalty.
Digital marketing can be scary for a small business, but with a little research and time you can make it work for yours.
Keep refreshing your marketing campaigns and testing new ideas. Stay active and never stop learning.
The digital environment is constantly changing. If you're enthusiastic and determined, your small business will get the best out of it.
Posted on September 1, 2016 at 02:13 PM
August 12, 2016
The Capacity Market (CM) is one of the main building blocks of the UK Government's Electricity Market Reform (EMR) programme. Its goal is to ensure adequate capacity within the electricity system to ensure that the lights stay on during periods of peak demand.
Generators who are successful in the CM auction benefit from capacity payments that encourage them to invest in new generation or to keep existing generation available on the system. The capacity obligation means they must be available to deliver energy when needed.
What is the current situation?
The first contracts for the CM were put in place to cover winter 2018/19 and the first auction for this period took place in
December 2014, where the majority of required volume (49GW) was secured. The cost of this volume has already been priced in across the industry and will be recovered from customers on their invoices.
Usually, CM auctions are held four years in advance and secure the majority of the volume, with a smaller top-up auction held one year in advance.
What changes has DECC proposed?
On 01 March 2016 the Department of Energy & Climate Change (DECC) published a consultation1 which includes a proposal to bring forward the start of the Capacity Market to October 2017 (from October 2018). This auction would take place in January 2017 and secure generation volume for winter 2017/18. This is part of a wider plan to deliver energy security going forward.
How will this affect the CM Settlement Costs Levy?
Initial forecasts from Cornwall Energy are that this additional CM auction may result in a further £1.25 billion being recovered from the end user on customer invoices. However, the range of potential costs is very wide and there is a lack of certainty over the cost impact as all volume will be potentially secured in this proposed early CM auction.
DECC will publish an impact assessment for the early capacity auction this spring. The auction will also require an extension to the existing State Aid approval, which the Government is pursuing in time for the auction. DECC's current expectation of the timings for capacity auctions in 2017/18 are:
- Any regulatory and rule changes required for all auctions to be in place in July 2016.
- Prequalification for all auctions to run concurrently from August 2016.
- The early capacity auction (under consultation) would take place in January 2017.
Key Points for affected customers
- DECC are proposing to bring forward the start of the CM from October 2018 to October 2017.
- The early CM auction is expected to increase the cost of the CM Settlement Costs Levy across all volumes.
Posted on August 12, 2016 at 02:23 PM
August 5, 2016
A survey of more than 2,100 business across England and Wales by the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) and British Gas, has highlighted the need for financial aid to helps businesses reduce their energy costs.
The results suggest that in addition to financial aid, the government and suppliers need to do more to promote a wider use of smart meters to help companies reduce their costs. Unsurprisingly to us at Energylinx for Business, the report suggests that businesses should review their current energy contract and switch if there is a better deal out there, in order to feel the benefit of the fall in wholesale prices.
Key Finding of the Survey:
- For 36% of the businesses surveyed, the most important thing the government could do for business is provide grants towards the cost of installing energy efficiency measures.
- Respondents said no one issue prevented them from investing in energy efficiency measures. The most frequently cited barriers were the marginal level of savings they might achieve (15%), other investments taking priority (13%) and a lack of available funds (13%).
- Only 8% feel that more information would help them in this aim, while just 4% say that financing options such as lease agreements and low-cost loans would help.
- More than seventy per cent said they spend less than a tenth of their operating budget on energy, shockingly only 13% of businesses have had their energy costs fall over the last three years, whilst 36% said they had seen their costs rise; 37% reported little or no change, and 13% said they didn't know. So there's a real opportunity for businesses to save money.
- Just over a quarter - 27% - of businesses who rent their premises state that they have no influence on energy efficiency improvements.
Commenting on the findings, Mike Spicer, Director of Research and Economics at the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), said:
"These results demonstrate that getting the economics of investment right for energy efficiency is crucial to promoting take-up. At a time when businesses face growing upfront cost pressures from other sources, grants and tax breaks have an important role to play in offsetting the cost of new energy efficiency measures. On its own, more information won't do the job.
Commercial landlords also need to do more, to support leaseholders and renters who are looking to save money and make their energy use work for them."
The vast majority of survey respondents (91%) were SMEs with 1-199 employees. Over three-quarters (76%) of respondents classified themselves as service sector firms, while 24% classified themselves as manufacturers.
Energylinx for Business urge every company who can take charge of their energy costs to do so. It can have such a big impact on your bottom line.
Posted on August 5, 2016 at 02:37 PM
July 26, 2016
RBS and Natwest have both written to business customers warning them of negative interest charges for the first time in UK history.
The banks have changed their terms and conditions and warned business and commercial customers that negative interest rates - where banks charge you for holding deposits - may be on the way.
In a letter sent to 1.3 million customers, the banks explained: "Global interest rates remain at very low levels and in some markets are currently negative. Dependent on future market conditions, this could result in us charging interest on credit balances."
The change in T&C's could mean an account holder with £1,000 in an account could see that shrink to £999 or less within 12 months as the bank charges a negative rate of interest.
The Federation of Small Businesses have released a statement regarding their concern over RBS and Natwest's warning and the worry that it will cause the small businesses throughout the UK that currently bank
Mike Cherry, National Chairman at the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), said:
"Today's warning from Natwest and RBS will be deeply concerning to small firms. FSB's latest research shows small business confidence is already at a four year low. Firms are less optimistic, cutting headcount and curbing investment intentions.
When the Monetary Policy Committee meets next week to decide on interest rates, we would call on them to do everything possible to consider the implications of changing interest rates for smaller firms and the self-employed looking to maintain or grow their business.
It is now vital that all finance providers holding deposits from small businesses do everything they can to update customers concerned about any changes to their Business Current Account (BCA) during this uncertain economic period."
The FSB also encourage smalls businesses to take initiative and consider whether it is worth moving to another, more competitive, BCA. They urge SME owners to consider using Business Banking Insight. A website which compare BCAs offered on behalf of every bank in the UK and to find whether there is a better deal out there for their business.
Savings Expert Ray Boulger said:
'It is going to make businesses much less keen to hold significant balances in their accounts. If NatWest start doing this, other banks are likely to follow. Eventually personal customers with large balances could be hit, but the banks may decide that is going too far and take the hit themselves.'
Posted on July 26, 2016 at 03:59 PM
July 20, 2016
Summer finally arrived in the UK this week and with it travel chaos, causing miserable commuters all over the country. Unfortunately, this isn't the only issue that effects small businesses throughout the UK when the temperture gets, just a little, too hot.
This week the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) published guidance to help businesses overcome the challenges as temperatures reach record levels. While the hot weather can be beneficial for many businesses' profits, employers also have a duty to ensure that work temperatures are reasonable for staff, customers and clients.
When it is just too hot to work?
OK, this unusual heat isn't an issue the UK commonly has to face (and after the last few nights of uncomfortable sleeping, I'm glad!). Government regulations place a legal obligation on employers to provide a "reasonable" temperature in the workplace. However, while there is a minimum working temperature, there is no legal requirement for a maximum working temperature. Although employers should always adhere to health and safety laws that necessitate a comfortable working environment and the provision of clean and fresh air.
As the UK records some of its highest temperatures for a decade, this is an ideal time for employers to explore the potential benefits of flexible working for their staff to minimise the hot weather's impact.
Mike Cherry, FSB National Chairman, said:
"In many businesses, the hot weather will boost sales but it is important that firms are prepared for the adverse effects of extreme weather too.
For those employees without air conditioning, experiencing travel chaos to and from work or who work outside, employers will need to be mindful and take action. Solutions are available to every type of business and we hope that our advice will assist our members in finding the right way forward for them."
The FSB recommends offering employees regular breaks, water and a more flexible working approach. Look at getting fans for desks, but really just figure what works for your staff and workplace and how is best to keep them safe and comfortable. Lets also hope the weather continues until the weekend!
Posted on July 20, 2016 at 08:24 AM
July 13, 2016
Crowdfunding is a way of raising finance by asking a large number of people each for a small amount of money and over the last five years the industry has boomed - with entrepreneurs pulling in over £370m via online platforms in 2015.
A report by Nesta has predicted that 2016 will be the year "alternative" finance will go mainstream. As crowdfunding has evolved from a few brave start-ups in 2010 to an industry worth over £3.2bn in 2015.
Crowdfunding platforms such as Crowdcube, Kickstarter and Seedrs are now central to many business plans. The ability to pitch a business plan online and receive funding, in return for either equity or rewards, is an attractive idea for entrepreneurs in need of investment. Anyone considering crowdfunding must understand that it is not easy money. There are significant costs and responsibilities involved and success is far from guaranteed.
Our tips for a successful crowdfunding bid:
Define your proposition and hone your pitch
Before going live with a crowdfunding pitch, any business should already have investors in place. If your pitch gets off to a good start, it will gain attention. Failure to go out and sell your business, and thinking once the pitch is live it will take off, will usually end in disappointment.
You need a short pitch that gets your message across quickly as most people have a very short attention plan. If what you are offering is long-winded and complex, people won't invest. You also need to have a story to your business.
Most importantly, you need to have a face. Investors will buy in to you, maybe more so than they buy in to your business idea. Hire a marketing agency and work hard at developing your story and getting your company out there for a while before launching!
Spell out simply what you want the money for.
They are attracted by your pitch and now they want to make sure their investment is being spent sensibly, so you need to be clear where the money is going in both your business plan and pitch. Lay it out clearly, show them what the money will help the business in achieving. Have a clear goal for where the investment is going!
Calculate the costs of the fundraising - don't forget legal fees.
While crowdfunding is a proven method of raising funds for a variety of reasons, it's important to research the platforms before you choose one for your campaign. One thing to consider is what it will cost you. In most cases, you'll pay a platform fee (what you pay the platform for hosting your campaign), plus a processing fee for accepting payments. A common fee structure is 5% for the platform and 3 to 5% for payment processing. For every £100 you raise, you'll have to give up between £8 and £10 in fees (be sure to factor in the fees when determining your funding request). It really adds up across the industry: In 2015, UK crowdfunding sites raised more than £3.7 million, which amounts to somewhere between £296,000 and £370,000 in fees.
Research the platforms carefully - they are not all the same.
Just like there are many different kinds of capital round raises for businesses in all stages of growth, there are a variety of crowdfunding types. Which crowdfunding method you select depends on the type of product or service you offer and your goals for growth. The 3 primary types are donation-based, rewards-based, and equity crowdfunding. Research the right one for the direction you want to take your business in.
Crowdfunding can be brilliant for a business if done correctly, if you decide it is right for your company then just make sure you research it first.
Posted on July 13, 2016 at 03:50 PM
July 5, 2016
On Thursday 30th of June, Energy Live News held the fourth annual TELCA awards at the Honourable Artillery Company grounds in Central London.
The Energy Live Consultancy Awards are an annual celebration of energy brokers and TPIs who work with small to mediums businesses throughout the UK. The awards act as recognition for the hard work that they do on a day-to-day basis.
Energylinx for Business were up for one award, as energy advisor Brian Ogilvie was short-listed for Sales Professional of the Year. Disappointingly, Brian didn't take home the award but didn't let it damper the mood on the night!
It was a privilege to have been short-listed during the award process but as a relatively new company, this is proof that Energylinx for Business is growing and that we are going from strength to strength. Things are really beginning to take off for us now, so we expect to be back at the TELCA's next year. And to win.
Well done to the whole team at Energy Live News for what is, undoubtedly, the best event in the energy industry calendar. Here's to #TELCA2017.
Posted on July 5, 2016 at 02:00 PM
June 24, 2016
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has finally released their report in to the energy market. You might remember back in 2014, the Office of Gas and Electricity Markets (OFGEM) referred the energy market to the CMA. This was for after years of mounting concerns, mainly around the rising cost in energy, which seen bills rocket between 2004 and 2014. Well, today the CMA issued their final report in to how to make the energy market more competitive.
You can read the full report here.
What does it mean for micro-businesses?
The investigation found that in 2013, 45% of micro-businesses were on 'default' electricity tariffs and could be paying over £220 million a year more than they would in a fully competitive market. So the proposed remedies should have a positive impact on the 5.1m UK SMEs.
Suppliers will have to publish their prices
At present many tariffs for micro-businesses are not published as they are negotiated between customer and supplier. Suppliers will now have to publish all prices that they offer to micro-businesses, so you can have a better idea of what you should be paying.
Thankfully, at Energylinx for business we are ahead of the game here. Our platform already shows you the prices that you are getting, before you sign the contract.
You won't be locked into expensive rollover contracts
If your existing contract with a supplier comes to an end, and you don't actively renew it, your supplier will usually roll you on to a new contract. Some suppliers build in clauses to their contracts which can make them expensive and difficult to get out of!
Suppliers will now be stopped from inserting termination fees and no-exit clauses for rollover periods.
This means you won't be penalised if you want to switch to a better deal after the initial period of your contract has lapsed. You'll also get greater notice periods about when your contract is coming to an end and will be able to shop around for the most competitive price plan for your business.
You'll be prompted to switch
If your micro-business has been on your supplier's default tariff for at least 3 years you will be prompted to switch.
The prompting system will be closely controlled: you'll be able to opt out and there will be no irritating telephone calls, texts or emails.
If you don't want to be prompted or you want to be able to compare over 27 suppliers and their tariffs, then Energylinx for Business can easily do this for you. One of our advisors will be on hand by calling 01259 225400 or you can visit the Energylinx for Business website. It is really easy to compare and switch and will have a big impact on your businesses bottom line.
Posted on June 24, 2016 at 02:51 PM
June 14, 2016
The run up to the EU Referendum on June 23rd has, so far, provided both positives and negatives for UK SMEs. On the plus side, the value of the pound against the euro has dropped 15% this year and this benefits SMEs that export to the rest of Europe, as they enjoy a competitive boost. On the negative side, a survey published by Captialise and PKF shows that one in six SMEs are currently postponing investment decisions until after the referendum. Showing that many businesses are failing to commit to anything due to the uncertainty over the future of the UK in the EU.
Whilst no-one can realistically predict what will happen if the UK vote to leave the EU, the uncertainty of the situation is halving SMEs opinions on what to vote on the 23rd. According to the Federation of Small Businesses, 52% of SMEs do not yet feel informed enough to make a decision regarding how they will vote on referendum day. Has any of the "facts and figures" thrown at you from either side made you any clearer on what to do? Nope, me either!
The views of the UK small businesses' on the referendum show a broadly equal split between those who want to remain, and those that favour Brexit. It is clear that many SMEs really have little idea about how their businesses will be affected. In one piece of research published by Close Brothers, 34% of firms said leaving the EU would have a positive effect on their business, while exactly the same number warned the effect would be negative. The other 32% conceded they just didn't know.
Pro-Brexit SMEs focus on perceived benefits, such as a reduction in the red tape and regulation that could result if the UK was free to disregard European Union directives. The remain camp's biggest concern is that SMEs will lose tariff-free access to the EU if the UK is no longer a member; some worry about skills shortages in the event that an out vote results in much lower levels of immigration from the EU.
What about SMEs and energy costs - will they be cheaper or more expensive if we leave?
In theory there will likely be very little change in respect to energy bills after the 23rd June 2016 referendum on the EU as the UK is not wholly reliant on the EU for primary fuels. In fact, the EU is more reliant on the UK for primary fuel rather than the other way round. As over 60% of our electricity is generated from gas which we import from non-EU states such as Norway and Russia, then the effect of leaving the EU is likely to have very little impact on our fuel bills.
So will there be any effect on your businesses energy bill if we leave the EU? Energylinx for Business Chief Operating Officer, Bruce Laird makes his argument:
"Well at the moment the UK has to comply with EU legislation that influences our decisions in regards to primary energy use. If we exit the EU we will not be governed by our commitments to help the EU meet its international environmental emission targets or renewable energy targets which would allow us to make our own decisions on how best to meet our own commitments on the environment to the international community.
This release may allow us the opportunity to re-evaluate our energy mix and address the energy trilemma by balancing the cost to the consumer with the overall environmental benefit that can be changed."
The truth? All arguments are all highly debatable and there are no definite answers. SMEs in Germany don't struggle to strive under EU regulations and the uncertainty of a "leave" vote could spark years of struggle for UK SMEs. The "Leave" campaign believe it is a short term risk to leave versus a long term risk to stay. Simply, we do not know for sure what will happen if we leave the EU.
If reducing your energy cost is a priority, whether we choose to leave the EU or not, then the solution is to compare the price plans available to you and see which energy supplier offers you the most competitive tariff. Once you switch to this tariff then the best way to reduce the cost of your energy is through good energy management.
Energylinx for business can help you choose the most competitive price plan for your business. Start by clicking here.
Posted on June 14, 2016 at 08:06 AM