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Month: March 2016

A decade of agency life and its been fun.

April 2016 signifies eight years since iBox became a limited company – with another two years prior to that running as a sole trader. A decade of entrepreneurship has taught me many lessons and with every passing day to become a better leader, not to mention to meeting some of the most fantastic people in the UK.

It is with this in mind that as much as it will shock most people, the computer security consultancy business I founded a decade ago that grew into an ecommerce web design giant has come to an end. 

We have been growing strength to strength and had a fantastic team of expert designers, developers and marketers that made us really shine as a beacon of hard work and what a small Derby business could achieve without the need for external funding, growing off its own successes and ultimately becoming a place many young people in the city want to work for. 

Unfortunately it seems all good stories must come to a bitter end as we suffered from a client dispute which would end up costing us a considerable amount of money, more so than we would be able to recover from at our fast paced growth trajectory. 

The final blow came when as a result of this tight spot we had fallen behind on keeping up with other aspects of the business leading to an eventual shortage of cashflow. 

Having always had a very good success rate of winning over 75% of our sales pipeline I was convinced we could come back from this situation and move forward however it just wasn’t meant to be as cash is king and problems started to occur in the last 6-8 weeks. 

Having taken a very serious look at the business, my team and having discussed this scenario with trusted friends and family I have taken the decision to make the team at iBox redundant and wind the business up. 

I am deeply saddened that I am going to be leaving some people in a tight spot both friends and colleagues. My intentions are to do right by people the best I can.

For the clients and contacts I haven’t yet had a chance to speak with directly about this – please contact me via my usual work email or Linkedin to discuss anything current. 

I want to say a huge thank you to everyone that has helped the business over the last decade – every person from start to finish has contributed towards its successes over the years. 

Thanks
Sean

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It’s 2016 & your business is marketing like its 2010

It doesn’t matter if you are B2B or B2C – the year is 2016 not 2010!

Putting up a simple blog post, a call to action or maybe even adding in a nice infographic was considered ‘digital marketing’ gold once upon a time. In the fast paced world of today however this simply isn’t enough to engage your audience effectively enough and remain competitive. Back in the year 2010 a cool infographic with some buzz words were the most effective ways to generate traffic and high quality leads through to your website. These days it takes so much more creativity and imagination to engage with your target market. 

Digital marketing, whether it’s social media marketing, content marketing or video marketing, is all about getting your businesses message in front of the people that matter, when it matters. In 2016 your audience are spending less time in their email inbox than they were in 2010 and more time scrolling through Facebook, Instagram and other social networks. 

Although the creative elements of email and landing pages are still vital to business, being aware of the other aspects of digital marketing is so important. It is key to realise that your potential customers are going to be more receptive to your message on social media channels than they are in their email inbox is ultimately what matters.  

The old saying was that it takes 6 or 7 touches to have a happy paying customer – today those touches are more subtle. A piece of storytelling content about your brand on Facebook, a customer testimonial on the bottom of your email signature, that Linkedin post that demonstrates an in-depth expert knowledge of your industry- it all forms part of the necessary steps needed today to stay ahead of the competition. 

It doesn’t matter whether you are B2B like an accountancy practice or B2C retailer selling shoes, storytelling and brand building is key to growing a sustainable business and marketing effectively. Those 1000 leaflet drops no longer have the necessary impact they once did, nowadays a proactive accountancy firm today will tell their story through social media day after day, week after week. These new marketing techniques have proved effective in building brands to the point that when a business owner is looking for a firm to use then who better than the fantastic proactive firm who have consistently been front of mind day in day out. Social media marketing enables businesses to showcase their client success stories online over and provide content and context to the community rather than leaving them just waiting on the next eshot or leaflet drop.

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Bespoke software is crucial for small businesses today

What’s holding your business back in 2015? Are you tracking your sales leads efficiently? Are you remembering when to contact that client who said six months ago to remind them in a few weeks time to get back in touch? Do you know at the touch of a button how much revenue you have derived from a particular client whilst flipping through email?

In business there is no shortage of necessary evils we all have to take care of no matter our position in the company. Be it a sales rep or small business owner who needs to keep track of new leads, potential clients, deals that are in development or just who said what about a particular project that is being discussed — this problem is typically solved by CRM systems. However, the problem here begins when your business doesn’t fit into one of the cookie cut CRM systems out there on the market and you require something a little more suited to your exact business.

Perhaps your company maintains mission critical data on your clients finances, stock management or resources — the Excel spreadsheets don’t cut it anymore in today’s digital work. With all aspects of software moving to the cloud — the ways in which your business can benefit from such a change is endless there are a number of cloud providers that offer productivity suites from the likes of Salesforce for CRM or Microsoft 365 that allows your to get not only email but also project management and CRM aspects in the cloud. But what about your business, that may not fit into the ‘general’ CRM mould or perhaps you need some integration with your accounting package — this is where bespoke software comes in and really can help improve the productivity of your staff and business as a whole.

With the economy bouncing back from recent years, companies are beginning to fight back with growth and looking to increase sales and profitability. The systems your organisation uses every day really does power how effectively your team works together — understanding how your staff is performing with resource management, inventory tracking or customer relationship management systems that is all available from your iPhone/iPad anywhere in the world aids companies to achieve massive growth, and this is where a good software development agency can help sit down with your organisation, identify the pain points, areas of improvement and explain the benefits a system could improve your business efficiency.

Functional bespoke software doesn’t need to go down the route of typical IT projects the likes of the NHS has seen which cost millions and over run by five years that said the benefits of such software could end up saving your business thousands, even millions and weeks or months of lost productivity. A recent bespoke CRM client we worked with commented that last quarter their CRM system helped them keep on top of deals they weren’t giving enough attention to, keep in contact with customers and maintain proactive relationships that generated further business with customers that otherwise may have slipped through the cracks.

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A safety first approach

Even a 3-person company can’t rule out the need for cyber security reviews in their businesses.

The government recently allocating some £860M to its cyber security efforts particularly focusing on the recently launched CERT-UK (http://cert.gov.uk) which aims to provide advisory notices of cyber security issues related to national security. CERT-UK with Chris Gibson former cyber security chief of global banking corporation Citigroup at the helm launched in the last couple of months certainly seems like the first milestone towards achieving a more proactive approach to cyber security in the UK.

Because it’s not just governments and large public companies that need worry about computer security, with the average cost of a cyber security attack ranging from £400,000 — £800,000 every business small and large needs to be aware of the implications of cyber threats.

Smaller companies with smaller budgets still need to face the facts that these things occur and in order to remain competitive in the market place and resilient to current climate — IT security is something they need to keep in mind. With everything moving to the cloud its crucial there are policies and procedures in place to monitor goings on across their network.

From system downtime, lowering staff productivity and of course legal and financial problems that may occur due to a cyber attack there are many facets to take into account. These problems stem from poorly configured network appliances, out of date software, weak passwords, staff training and much more.

To give an example of possible threats you may not have thought of as being important enough to consider. What about Dropbox or similar ‘cloud’ data sharing accounts — it’s not just what you put into it that you need to be careful of but what others can put into it also.

It’s not unheard of during security audits we perform to see not only small business owners, but mid level execs, CEOs and more placing crucial company information into sync services. This poses a threat in more ways than one as you may share certain folders or files with others & this happens to allow others to not only ‘read’ what you share but also ‘write’ to your shared folders meaning a virus or similar malicious program could end up in your system without you ever clicking a thing. Once onto your system there’s no end to where this may stop.

So whats the solution — stop using these services altogether? No of course not — but to be vigilant about which you use, how you use it and who you give access to even if its only a single folder shared.

That’s just one of the many things we see happening on routine audits.

You may not lose 40 million credit cards like shopping giant Target did in 2013, be at risk of losing trade secrets or having your corporate data leaked across the Internet. But what would happen if your business systems halted for a day, a week, a month? Published author losing a manuscript, finance directors having their entire systems wiped out for ‘fun’ by a computer hacker. Companies are rarely ‘targeted’ any more with much of the ‘hacking’ being done for amusement by a variety of age groups across the globe.

What you need to take away from this is the knowledge that policies and procedures need to be put in place for any sized business, small, medium or large.

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Local economy, Richard Branson, web design and Coca Cola

Local economy, Richard Branson, web design and Coca Cola

It’s not unusual to be working on exciting projects but when one of your projects is put in line for the likes of Richard Branson to review, it gets the staff motivation pumping that much higher.

Whether it’s building mobile apps which I discussed last month, or fuelling our development team with Coca Cola and Red Bull to get the very best out of their creative abilities and the long hours they put in to produce incredible results — as a local Derby-based business we are always looking to the future and how our web team producing mobile responsive ecommerce sites, tie in with the marketing team and can continue to push local businesses forward and help the local economy.

This year we added a digital marketing team within our business with social media and online advertising operating as a perfect combination to our ecommerce clients. We are actively looking to grow each team within the company.

It’s no surprise that as a fast growing digital agency here at iBox we get to work on some incredible projects for some fantastic clients across the country who have one goal in common — to improve their online businesses in this digital era. That said our biggest pain point is finding the talented individuals to join our team as there is a severe lack of web designers, developers and high quality digital marketers in the local talent pool.

As a result we focus heavily on internal training and looking at recruiting with a more open mind than most when it comes to educational background. So that we can continue to grow our team as we expand our strong web and software development teams we need to in this era look towards not just who has a piece of paper stamped with a degree qualification but who is making waves and developing ideas of their own, who is putting together their own online projects and have a drive for success.

Saturday mornings I run Code Club in Derby which teaches a class of 9–11 year-old children to code and how to build games. This is merely the start of what I believe as a employer and local business we can give back to the community.

With ambitious growth plans to expand the team over the next 12 months coupled with a great order book of new contracts we are looking to next tackle some of the problems in our industry closer to home with a number of projects which will be announced over the coming weeks.

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