QUESTION: Why do so few people read the e-mail newsletters which we circulate to the customers of our manufacturing business as part of our marketing campaign?
NIALL McKEOWN, managing director of ION Online Marketing ( www.ionom.com) replies:
We all believe that because we have something positive happening to us in our businesses that others will want to share in that happiness, but the reality is somewhat different.
Your e-mail marketing message is vying for attention with low cost airline offers and credit card statements.
Truth to tell, unless you have something that connects with me and is a compelling or quirky read, I don't have time for you!
The answer is that you must find stories that engage with the audience. Try asking your sales force what big question your customers keep asking and use that as your first story. Create a link with your audience by connecting the second story (even if it is about your new product) with something topical in the news — say recession or high oil prices.
Perhaps your product can save us money in these hard times?
Finally, end with a story that is quirky and shows a human side to your business — like an interview with a member of staff or someone that people talk to on the telephone but never actually get
to meet. The key is to connect with your audience and remember when you are creating your content it’s not about you, it’s what is in it for me!
QUESTION: Do I have a responsibility for employees who use their own cars for my business?
ROBERT WILLIS, of Willis and Co Insurance, replies:
Driving at work is an area that needs particular attention with regards to the implementation of the Corporate Manslaughter Act in April 2008.
Most companies have employees who drive as part of their job. In many cases, the employer does not provide a car
but allows employees to use their personal vehicles for business.
In this case, risk management and assessment will still apply and you should therefore take all of your employees into consideration in your risk management for driving at work.
You will need to check employees’ licences, insurance cover and condition and safety of the vehicle as you would if the company were providing the car.
In addition, the employer’s instructions regarding use of mobile phones in the car should be reviewed.
In the event of a fatal road accident and when police check mobile phone records, if they show that the employee was on the phone at the time of accident, whether hand held or even hands free,
then the employer as well as the employee could be prosecuted with criminal manslaughter charges, particularly where there was a lack of proper management by the company. Employers should check their insurance policies to ascertain the level of cover afforded should they be prosecuted under the Corporate Manslaughter Act.
QUESTION: Can you tell me how to go about setting up and registering as a self-employed sole trader?
ANDY REILLY, a member of Invest NI’s Entrepreneurship Development team, replies:
In order to legally set yourself up as a self-employed sole trader there are
several things you must do. Firstly you need to register as self-employed with HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC). You can download a form to do this from the HMRC website (www.hmrc.gov.uk).
Depending on your line of work you may also need to obtain a permit to trade. This applies to some types of work including childminding, running a restaurant or taxi-driving. You can find out about permits from your local council. If you choose to trade under a business name you must put your own name as well as the trading name of the business on your business stationery.
You will also need to set up a system to record financial information, as you are required to keep certain records.
Invest NI’s nibusinessinfo.co.uk website gives practical guidance on how to go about setting up a basic record-keeping system. As a self-employed person you’ll have to pay Class 2 National Insurance contributions (NICs) throughout the year — £2.30 a week for 2008/09.
At the end of your first year of trading you’ll need to fill in a self-assessment tax return showing the profit you have made on which you will pay income tax. If your annual profits are over a certain amount — £5,435 for 2008/09 — you will also have to pay Class 4 NICs.
The nibusinessinfo.co.uk website has a very useful interactive tool ‘Beginner’s guide to tax and accounts’ which will help you work out your obligations.