An introduction to social media marketing for European SMEs in China
When entering the Chinese market, one of the key challenges for any foreign company, but especially for small and medium-sized enterprises, is effective marketing. Whereas traditional media – newspapers, magazines, radio and television – are hardly an option, mainly because of the costs involved, ease of access, low costs and high relevance make the booming social media landscape in China the prime playing field for small European companies looking to increase visibility of their brands and products in the country. In a recent webinar by the EU SME Centre 83% of participating SMEs stated that marketing is the principal reason for their online engagement in China. The following will give some pointers as to how this can be done successfully.
By December 2012, there were 564 million internet users in China, almost 200 million more than in the European Union. This number translates into a penetration rate of 42.1% of the population, leaving ample room for growth in the coming years. More than 90% of all users are active in social media, a higher percentage than anywhere else in the world. A number of reasons have been given for the rapid spread of internet usage in China, amongst them increasing purchasing power, affordable broadband internet connections and the wide use of smart phones (today, more people access the internet via smart phones than desktop computers in China), whereas cultural factors might explain the popularity of social media in particular. Personal connections, or guanxi, have always been highly valued in Chinese society and social media offers all the tools necessary to maintain these relationships independent of time or location. In addition, China’s younger generations are known as quick adopters of innovative technology: Messaging application Weixin (or WeChat in English), for example, was launched in January 2011, went global in August 2012 and now boasts more than 300 million users, exemplifying the fast rise possible for newcomers in this sector. No matter what the underlying reasons are, Chinese consumers spend an exceptional amount of time online and use that time to an exceptional degree for interacting with others via social media.
The right stage for the right audience
Social media encompasses a number of different modes of online communication, presented in different ways to different audiences. Whereas the number of popular service providers is fairly small in the West, each Western platform has many equivalents and spin-offs in China, making the market vast and difficult to assess at any given moment. Overall, social media can be divided into the following main activities:
Chinese market leaders
Online video sharing
Sina Weibo, Tencent Weibo
WeChat, QQ Messenger
Bulletin board systems
Baidu Tieba, ClubSohu
While social networking sites (SNS) like Facebook are dominating social media in the West, micro-blogging platforms (the equivalent to Twitter) have overtaken SNS in China – even though it has to be noted that micro-blogging sites in China offer many more options to users than Twitter, thus blurring the line between the two services.
European SMEs need to be aware that China’s social media sector is very fragmented and local, with different players catering to different audiences in terms of age, interests, education, income levels and geographic location. While QZone attracts mostly youth to the age of 25, often from second and third tier cities, Douban is frequented by students and academics passionate about arts and culture living predominantly in first tier cities. It is advisable to work with local staff familiar with the different platforms and services available and versed in local preferences in style and presentation to increase the likelihood of reaching a higher percentage of your target group.
Taking social media seriously
Social media marketing is not advertising. The term ‘media’ is misleading in that it is still associated with traditional media, which generally constitutes a one-way street from sender to receiver. However, social media is all about two-way conversations, with the responses deserving just as much, or even more attention as the original message. This is why it is important to think of social media marketing in terms of on-going conversations with your past, current and potential customers, in essence, building and maintaining strong relationships with them. But the goal of all marketing efforts in social media goes beyond maintaining relationships – it is a tool to turn customers into advocates for your company by motivating them to make their peers aware of your offerings through links, re-posts and publicly accessible responses.
Before you can turn customers into advocates, though, you will have to make them aware of your company and its products first. Many Chinese customers rely exclusively on the internet to gather information before making a purchasing decision. Newly acquired products are closely scrutinised and many post detailed accounts of their experiences online to help others in their decision-making process. The only way to influence these discussions and respond to grievances quickly is to be present on these same platforms and be as active on them as your customers. Setting up accounts is free on almost all platforms available in China, but their maintenance needs to be a top priority, which means allocating knowledgeable and responsive staff to the task.
All of this goes to show that while social media marketing in China is a great way to connect to your target group and (get them to) spread the word on your products, it is only effective if done with commitment, knowledge and appropriate funding. And even though it is difficult to determine the return on investment with accuracy when it comes to this kind of marketing, it is by far the most cost-effective and versatile way to raise visibility amongst Chinese consumers to date.
If you would like to know more about social media in China, please see the recording of a recent webinar on How to develop a robust digital marketing strategy in China on the website of the EU SME Centre. For companies ready to take the next logical step, i.e., complementing their online marketing activities with a presence on one of China’s large e-commerce platforms, the Centre’s report on Selling online in China will provide useful insights and best practices. A report specifically on marketing in China is planned for publication later this year. If you have specific questions on marketing or other aspects of market entry, contact our experts and receive an answer within seven days. To keep up-to-date about the Centre’s events and publications, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
The EU SME Centre is a support service provider for European small and medium-sized enterprises and business support organisations facilitating market access in China. Financed by the European Union, the Centre provides free of charge, practical information, advice and business tools to better equip SMEs to develop their business and tackle challenges faced in the Chinese market. For more information, including the diagnostic kit ‘Are you ready for China?’, please visit the Centre’s website at www.eusmecentre.org.cn.
In 2013 Croatia will become the newest member state of the European Union, joining as a full member on 1 July.
It has been a long road for Croatia. Like any other country joining the European Union, they have had to harmonise a large number of their legal texts to fit with the various European directives and regulations.
One of the harmonisation requirements relates to how public sector organisations in Croatia are to procure services, goods and works.
The main legal text in Croatia is NN010/2010 complying with the EU directives 2004/17/EC, 2004/18/EC, 2005/75/EC, 2005/51/EC, 2007/66/EC, 2009/81/EC. Click here for the English version.
The Act does not necessarily apply to contracts valued at under €10,000.
All Croatian tenders above the €10 000 threshold must be published on their electronic procurement platform
In addition if the contract value is above the EU threshold it needs to appear on http://ted.europa.eu
Like bidding for contracts in other parts of the UK, across to France or Poland, Croatia, from the 1 July 2013, will be bound by the European principles of fairness, transparency and non-discrimination.
Could Croatia be your next market?
If you would like to find out more about public procurement then the Enterprise Europe South EastUK team in Southampton is here to help with your questions, identification of tenders in the UK or Europe, bid review, bid writing etc.
Contact: Toni Saraiva: firstname.lastname@example.org 02380 20 61 62
According to the EU's directorate general of Enterprise & Industry, over the next two years, 90% of world demand will be generated outside the EU. To open up more market opportunities for European businesses, the EU continues to negotiate new Free Trade Agreements (FTA) with key countries.
A high-Level Working Group for Growth and Jobs with the United States is still running, while negotiations for a free trade agreement with Japan are about to start.
As far as Southern Mediterranean partners are concerned, the Council adopted negotiating directives for Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Areas (DCFTAs) with Egypt, Jordan, Morocco and Tunisia, to "upgrade" the current trade agreements with these countries. DCFTAs are currently being negotiated with Eastern neighbours Georgia, Armenia and Moldova.
There are ongoing negotiations with Canada, India, Singapore, the ASEAN region (Malaysia and Vietnam), Mercosur and the Gulf Cooperation Council. Regarding the African, Caribbean and Pacific countries (ACP), the EU has 10 trade deals under way in addition to several more trade and development negotiations (EPAs).
The EU has concluded FTAs with Peru and Colombia, Central American countries (Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama) and the Ukraine and has negotiated five Economic Partnership Agreements with African, Caribbean and Pacific States (Cote d'Ivoire, Cameroon, Southern African Development Community, Ghana and Eastern African Community) but they have not yet entered into force.
Agreements with South Korea, Mexico, South Africa and Chile are already in force. FTAs are also a core component of many Association Agreements as well as Customs Unions (Andorra, San Marino and Turkey). The EU also has free trade deals in force with several European countries (Norway, Iceland, Switzerland, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Croatia, Albania, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia) and the Faroe Islands; several countries in the Southern Mediterranean (Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestinian Authority, Syria, Tunisia); and with African, Caribbean and Pacific countries.
Currently the EU has 28 trade agreements in force.
China features heavily in TV and press reports these days. Hardly surprising, with the phenomenal growth of its economy in recent years, and the societal changes that are turning the country into a consumer market of vast proportions.
Europe imports huge quantities of goods manufactured in China, but it can be a daunting market to tackle and the balance of trade is overwhelmingly in China’s favour. In the UK, and particularly in the South East, UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) has experts to advise anyone planning to export to China. Enterprise Europe Network is expanding in China and will soon have 27 offices there.
If you are seriously considering trading with China why not register with the EU SME Centre in China? It too is funded by the EU with the primary mission of providing practical information for small and medium-sized businesses interested in the market. They publish reports, guidelines and case studies to enable entrepreneurs in the EU to get a better picture of the Chinese market and its opportunities. Their experts in the fields of market access, law, standards and HR answer enquiries from EU SMEs and organise events in China as well as in Europe to reach as many companies as possible. Registration on their website is free and there are numerous publications available to download, plus a regular newsletter you can subscribe to.
Another valuable source of information is the EU-China Standardisation Platform (CESIP), a fairly new one-stop-shop for market access information. CESIP currently has information on standards for electrical equipment, medical devices, machinery and environmental protection. Sectors to be added soon include textiles, toys, aerosol cans, packaging and energy efficiency in buildings. Over 4,500 European Standards, 3,000 Chinese National Standards and 16,000 Chinese Industry Sector Standards are referenced on the website and classification by international product codes (ICS) makes it much easier to identify the standards relevant to your sector.
And if concerns about your intellectual property rights make you hesitate to take that first step towards the Chinese market, there is always the China IPR helpdesk. They too are EU funded and offer IPR guides that can be downloaded, training webinars or they can answer your specific question if you e-mail email@example.com.
For more information give us a call on 0844 725 2244, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
There is often confusion between being inventive and being innovative. An invention is simply coming up with a new idea whilst innovation is the commercial application and successful exploitation of an idea; in simple terms; innovation = the introduction of something new to your business.
Examples of Innovation could be:
- Increasing the productivity and efficiency within your business by improving or replacing a business process
- A new innovation start-up
- Development of new or improved products and services
- Extending the quality of the range of products/services offered by your company
- Making improvements to the quality of the existing products/services
- Developing products/services to meet the demands of an ever changing customer base
- Making changes to differentiate your business from your competitors
Whether it be the implementation of a series of small changes or a single major breakthrough, the outcome is the same… Innovation!
Innovation is a creative process that can be driven by the current employees, managers or by research carried out internally (from inside the business) or by suppliers, media reports, market research, universities and sources of new technologies (outside the business)
By filtering the ideas from both inside and outside the organisation you can identify those that your business can focus on and ensure that you can apply the resources required to exploit this to the maximum benefit of your company.
By introducing innovation you can:
- Improve productivity
- Reduce costs
- Become more competitive
- Build brand value
- Establish new relationships/partnerships
- Improve profitability and increase productivity
Business failing to innovate risk:
- Losing out to competitors
- Suffer from a decline in productivity and efficiency
- Loss of staff
- Encounter a gradual reduction in margins and profit
- Going out of business
It is important to ensure that whilst you are being innovative you must have the required protection for your ideas, knowledge, motivation/vision and your companies Intellectual Property (IP)
Originally from Brittany in France, I have grown up eating home made traditional French food. The culinary experience was not one of my incentives to move to the UK a decade ago, having heard stories about fluorescent green peas, boiled meat with jam and jelly.
Once I arrived, I was amazed by Modern British Cuisine movement, the improved food coverage in newspapers and magazines, the advent of the information-rich internet and the emergence of celebrity chef TV shows. Overall, the English cuisine was not what I was expecting. I was told that the quality and variety has improved remarkably because a growing number of home and restaurant cooks are becoming more skilled, passionate and creative in the kitchen. And, the public at large has become more discerning because of increased foreign travel fostered by low international airfares. A French newspaper even mentioned last month that the Olympics put British cuisine back on the menu.
In the last few years, Enterprise Europe South EastUKhas been helping Food and Drink producers from the Garden of England maximise the international trade opportunities. Our ambition is to see greater access to overseas markets for British products from the region, we have already helped export marmalades, chutneys, apple juices, cheeses and ciders across the Channel. We have been lobbying for the removal of trade barriers; ensuring businesses, particularly SMEs, have access to the right information and support; showcasing the exceptional quality of British food and drink produce, accompanying local businesses to International trade fairs such as TAVOLA in Belgium and SIAL, taking place in Paris next month.
If you want to explore opportunities in Europe why not come along to our Free workshop on the Friday 5 October 2012 at the Kent Science Park - Breakfast is on us!
We have to find ways of being smarter with resources; using them more sustainably e.g. reducing consumption, renewing, recycling and re-using, with a 'closed loop' economy being the ultimate goal. Achieving that will require considerable changes in our attitudes and our priorities.
All European countries are having similar challenges regarding water management, recycling, energy from waste and sustainable building, but skills and technologies are varied.
This is why Enterprise Europe South-EastUK is organising European matchmaking events during trade fairs such as Ecobuild, Resource Week and JADDE Lille. It is about sharing ideas and best practice, sparking debate and discussion, learning about the most current regulations and legislation and to create technology and business cooperation between businesses to better contribute to a vibrant, resource efficient and environmentally responsible economy.
These events brings together the key stakeholders from business, industry and government and professionals from all backgrounds and disciplines from these three interconnected and rapidly evolving sectors.
We hope those events will stimulate new relationships and new ideas for a greener future.
With the recent proliferation of social media in the consumer space, peer-to-peer (P2P) networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn now offer individuals the opportunity to interact with vast audiences – transforming the way that people communicate with each other, and increasingly with businesses.
Many businesses now use social media platforms for domestic marketing, but the widespread use of global P2P networking sites provides businesses with the opening to promote their services abroad to a much larger audience of potential buyers.
As a marketing channel, social media is an important PR tool for building and maintaining brand awareness, gathering customer feedback and monitoring the online conversation about your business: all of which can have a major impact on your sales. Social media offers the tools to engage with new audiences – and at relatively low cost compared to traditional marketing channels.
Businesses aren’t restricted by multiple language requirements either. Popular sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn are all global brands with their own localised setting for foreign language users – so take advantage of this and make it easier for your potential overseas clients! If used in the right way, social media can help you produce content, get people talking about your product or service, raise your profile globally and most importantly make you stand out from your competitors.
As well as social media, your website is a vital key to success in the global marketplace. It’s often a client's first impression of you as a business. Internet marketing is an effective method for crossing borders, expanding your reach and increasing sales but you need to make sure your messages and language used on your website can be understood in potential new international markets. Google Translate is a great tool to to help you with this.
Social media has fundamentally changed the roles of online interaction and marketing for good. Businesses that haven’t successfully adopted and integrated social media into their daily routine can be sure their competitors will have – and will be ultimately winning new business across the globe. With a little planning, effort and persistence you’ll find the response to your international social media efforts far outweighs the investment of time and money!
GrowthAccelerator is a new, premium service that will help England's brightest growing businesses achieve their ambitions with rapid, sustainable growth. It’s a partnership between private enterprise and government. And it’s affordable.
GrowthAccelerator's network of world-class growth experts work side by side with leaders of high-growth potential small and medium-sized businesses to provide them with the know-how and ability to achieve sustainable growth. The service will help discover the real issues that could be holding businesses back, define the right growth plan and open doors to world class business experts and networks. Whatever these businesses need to speed and sustain growth, GrowthAccelerator will help drive them forward.
What will my business get from GrowthAccelerator?
How can I grow sales more quickly?
Where do I get funding?
Where are the new ideas that will galvanise my business?
These are questions all good business leaders ask on their way to even greater success. Together we’ll find the answers and get you there. Our experts and coaches will help you:
• Appreciate your true potential for growth and set achievable goals
• Identify and overcome the barriers holding you back
• Attract investment by developing your funding proposition and introducing you to funders
• Stimulate product development, commercialise your innovation and motivate your employees
• Energise your plans with one-to-one leadership and management advice
• Meet peers who’ve tackled the same barriers as you
• Connect with business experts and networks to achieve insight and build relationships
Our aim is to work with 26,000 businesses over three years and we have built an unrivalled 100 strong team of Growth Managers responsible for identifying ambitious, high growth potential businesses and matching them with our 800 experienced Growth Coaches across the country.
Our Growth Coaches:
• Have proven track records in helping small and medium-sized companies accelerate and sustain their growth, in every size, region and sector.
• Have made the same journey themselves so they know what it’s like to fight for success.
• Know when to talk, when to listen, and how to lead you to ideas that will transform your business.
Is your business eligible? If it is registered in England, has fewer than 250 employees and a turnover of less than £40m, go to www.growthaccelerator.com to take a simple online test to find out.
What do I have to invest?
GrowthAccelerator is a partnership between private enterprise and government which means we can keep the service affordable. Because Government is investing with you in the growth of your business, the cost to you is significantly reduced. Your investment in GrowthAccelerator will reflect the size of your business:
Micro and start-up businesses (up to 9 employees) – £600
Small businesses (10 to 49 employees) – £1,500
Medium-sized companies (50 to 249 employees) – £3,000
How does coaching benefit the business bottom line?
Businesses who seek external advice and information are 14% more ambitious and 50% more successful than those who don't. (BIS 2010)
Coaching is proven - 92% said it has a positive impact on the bottom line (CIPD).
80% of businesses that sought external advice expect to grow in the next two to three years compared with 67% of businesses that didn't. (BIS 2010)
To find out more please contact us at email@example.com or call 0844 725 2244.
Research and Development (R&D) is vital in the innovation process – ie bringing new products or services to market. Companies that make a large investment in R&D become more successful than those that don’t - they create more attractive goods and services, higher quality jobs, bigger profits for themselves and thereby increase their country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
There is a strong correlation between how much countries spend on R&D and the strength of their economies. The “Big Three” – USA, Japan and Germany - spent 2.7%, 3.3% and 2.3% of their GDP respectively on R&D in 2011. By contrast, the UK spent just 1.7%, France 1.9%, Italy 1.1% and Spain 1.3%.
The temptation when the going gets tough, whether you are a country or a small to medium-sized enterprise (SME) is to reduce “costs” and unfortunately most people seem to view R&D as a cost – but when you face increased competition or suffer reduced profitability I consider R&D to be an investment which needs to be increased or at least protected.
Look at some of the emerging markets and how their investment in R&D is increasing – South Korea’s is now 3% and China’s 1.4% and growing. It’s even scarier when you consider that China’s GDP is 4 times ours so they are investing almost 4 times as much as us in R&D.
OK - that’s all very well but what does it mean to your SME? Well - try to stop thinking about R&D as a cost and instead think of it as an investment in your future. I know times are tough and if there is really no option but to limit spending then try to make sure it is well targeted – keep reading these blogs so that you can focus on effective creativity and innovation, raising finance and innovative marketing.
Better still, if you have the ambition to grow, contact one of our High Growth Coaches and see what we can do to help you! Call 0844 725 2244, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
1 Identify the directive(s) and harmonised standards applicable to your product
There are more than 20 directives setting out the product categories requiring CE marking. The essential requirements that products have to fulfil (e.g. safety) are harmonised at EU level and are set out in general terms in these directives. Harmonised European standards are issued with reference to the relevant directives and express in detailed technical terms the essential requirements.
2 Check the product-specific requirements
It is up to you to ensure that your product complies with the essential requirements of the relevant EU legislation. Full compliance of a product to the harmonised standards gives a product the “presumption of conformity” with the relevant essential requirements. The use of harmonised standards remains voluntary. You may decide to choose other ways to fulfil these essential requirements.
3 Identify whether an independent conformity assessment is required from a Notified Body
Each directive covering your product specifies whether an authorised third party (Notified Body) must be involved in the conformity assessment procedure necessary for CE marking. This is not obligatory for all products, so it is important to check whether the involvement of a Notified Body is indeed required. These Bodies are authorised by national authorities and officially “notified” to the Commission and listed in the NANDO (New Approach Notified and Designated Organisations) database.
4 Test the product and check its conformity
Testing the product and checking its conformity to the EU legislation (Conformity Assessment Procedure) is the responsibility of the manufacturer. One part of the procedure is, as a general rule a risk assessment. By applying the relevant harmonised European standards, you will be able to fulfil the essential legislative requirements of the directives.
5 Draw up and keep available the required technical documentation
The manufacturer has to establish the technical documentation required by the directive(s) for the assessment of the product’s conformity to the relevant requirements, and for the risk assessment. Together with the EC declaration of conformity, the technical documentation must be presented on request to the appropriate national authorities.
6 Attaching the CE marking to your product and EC Declaration of Conformity
The CE marking must be attached by the manufacturer, or by his authorised representative within the EEA or Turkey. It must be attached according to its legal format visibly, legibly and indelibly to the product or its data plate. If a Notified Body was involved in the production control phase, its identification number must also be displayed. It is the manufacturer’s responsibility to draw up and sign an “EC declaration of conformity” proving that the product meets the requirements.
That’s it! Your CE-marked product is ready for the market.
Need more information? Ring 0844 725 2244 or e-mail email@example.com
Finding tenders is one of the most time-consuming things for businesses. There are hundreds of websites advertising contracts and finding the most useful, inclusive, interesting ones for your business can be quite challenging.
What are the 5 best ways to get the tenders you are interested in?
1) Target the organisation/area you want to sell to. Introduce yourself to the procurement team and get them to email you the tenders matching what you can offer. This is particularly good for small value contracts where opportunities are not necessarily advertised but the procurers will instead send a message to companies that have previously been in touch with them.
2) If you want to sell across a specific geographic area then it might be useful to find which regional portal advertises the tenders for the organisations in that region. This does not mean that all the tenders will be available in this regional database but a good number will. For the South East of England please visit: www.businessportal.southeastiep.gov.uk (FREE)
3) Taking it a step further and looking at supplying at country level, you have two options: either find a national portal, though few places have a real national portal with all the opportunities available in that country (in the UK you could look at www.contractsfinder.businesslink.gov.uk/ (FREE - mainly central government but bound to expand) or you look at the bigger contracts through http://ted.europa.eu (FREE)
4) Private sector contracts are also advertised in a wide array of portals, such as www.theitindex.co.uk (for ICT sector products) and www.competefor.com (FREE - started for the Olympics but contains much more now).
5) Finally if you have better things to do than monitoring many different websites you can take the pain away by signing up to an aggregating service which will look at many different databases for you and then email you the results on a daily or weekly basis. You can try the one offered by the Enterprise Europe Network office based in Southampton (FREE to try for 1 month without commitment, or £150 pounds per year to subscribe) www.winningtenders.eu
“IP is the term referring to a number of distinct types of creations of the mind for which a set of exclusive rights are recognised under the corresponding fields of the law”
There are many myths associated with IP, many smaller companies believing that IP does not affect them as they are too small or that the idea of IP is an ancient principle that no longer applies. IP can be an idea, design, invention, symbol etc and it’s highly important to any company that they protect themselves correctly. Common types of IP rights include copyrights, trademarks, patents, industrial design rights and trade secrets.
Patents protect inventions and new products, by protecting the patent owner with exclusive rights. People are often mistaken in believing that patents last a lifetime whilst they actually only offer protection for a limited period.
Trademarks are typically used to guarantee the origin of your goods and services; they can be enormously valuable in helping to ensure customers do not purchase your competitors’ products in error.
Designs protect the look of your product and design protection can be obtained to protect a product throughout the EU.
Copyright is an automatic right; it does not require the application process which other protections do. If your work/creation is original then it would be protected by copyright with or without displaying the copyright symbol ©, visible on your work/creation.
An important part of IP is the need to keep all ideas etc confidential until professional advice regarding your IP has been sought so you can ensure that you and your ideas are fully protected. Professional advice should always be sought to ensure companies, in particular SMEs, are not misled or ill-advised.
A good reference point for any company would be the Intellectual Property Office website that produces a number of discussion documents including a really informative report ‘From Ideas to Growth, Helping SMEs get value from their intellectual property’
BSK-CiC, as a lead provider of Enterprise Europe South EastUK, has highly experienced advisors on hand to help you with any business issue. If you feel that your company would benefit from some FREE advice or a 1:2:1 please give us a call on 0844 725 2244.
You might think it’s too late to get involved but you’re wrong, there are still plenty of opportunities, just not where you expect.
OK, so you’re a bit late to build the Olympic Stadium or the Velodrome, but have you thought what the extra visitors (tourists) are going to do when they visit the UK?
First, a few facts
- It’s anticipated that there will be an additional two million visitors to the UK during the Games
- The Olympic Torch Relay started its tour of the UK on 19 May 2012 and at all the towns and cities it travels through or stops at there will be events and activities
- Typically visitors to the Games will spend one or two days watching sport and the rest of the time exploring the host country, so there are massive opportunities for the South East Visitor Economy
- 50,000 or more journalists are here for the Games looking for stories. Have you written yours?
- There will be hundreds if not thousands of cultural events during the Games
- Pre-games training Camps will host 200,000+ people
- Opportunities still being listed on Competefor.com
So what does all this mean for businesses?
- If you’re in the Visitor Economy supply chain, make sure you’re ready to take advantage of the opportunities and pro-actively search out where they might be
- Put a plan in place to manage travel issues during the Games and read the business guide
- Make sure you are registered on the procurement portal Competefor.com and manually check for open contracts using key words
- Increased demand for food and drink for all the restaurants, hotels, catering outlets, training camps etc.
- Greater demand for travel: road, rail, bus, underground, air and all the support services.
- Check out your local Council website to see what they are planning during the Games
- All this activity needs products and services so don’t miss out!
One comment stands out from the rest when talking about the London 2012 Games;
“For most people and businesses this is a once in a lifetime opportunity, so don’t wake up one day in October 2012 and think I wish I had been more involved – do something and get involved NOW!”
A couple of weeks ago I left my workplace, the information desk at Enterprise Europe South EastUK and called at my local supermarket. Turning a corner, I met a man brandishing a slightly misshapen cucumber, demanding to know whether the EU would find it acceptable. At first amazed that he could have sensed that I was a potential source of EU information, I then realised that he was merely reflecting what many people think of the EU as an institution; primarily policing the shape and size of fruit and veg. On a more serious level, add the Euro crisis and its shockwaves and it is not surprising that the benefits and opportunities within the EU are often overlooked.
The UK has been part of the single market since 1973. It has since grown further and now gives our businesses easier access to the 26 other member countries; according to HMRC statistics our trade with the rest of the EU has grown since the beginning of 2012.
Progress may sometimes be slow, but work is constantly going on to remove barriers and reduce the bureaucratic burden, particularly on small businesses that are not just the backbone of the UK economy but of every other member state. And if you check our website regularly you will find that the views of business people are constantly being sought when regulations are reviewed or revised. Right now we have an online survey that will only take a few minutes of your time, on the top 10 most burdensome pieces of EU legislation and how the European Commission can make it easier for you to engage with European trading and technology partners. Simply click here.
Around 60% of the UK’s external trade is with the rest of the EU – it is a hugely important market for us, it is on the doorstep, it is easy and inexpensive to get to. And they want to work with us – you only have to search Partner Finder to see how many opportunities are out there. Are you making the most of the single market? If not, we may be able to help you. Get in touch.
One of the key ways Enterprise Europe South EastUK supports local businesses is by making it easier for them to trade and do business with Europe – and occasionally this means bringing Europe to London.
We’re delighted to report that 300 meetings took place over an exciting two days of frantic networking at our very own European brokerage event, held as part of Ecobuild, a major international trade fair for the sustainable construction industry. Ecobuild takes place annually in London and this year saw more than 1500 exhibitors and 45,000 visitors. Our brokerage attracted buyers and suppliers from 22 European countries, and Enterprise Europe South EastUK plans to build on this achievement in 2013.
Activity in the building sector remains fairly buoyant in the UK. The UK alone accounts for 47% of the European construction market in the education sector and 30% in the health sector! In addition, the government aims to build 240,000 new homes each year up to 2016, adhering to the ‘Code for sustainable homes’. Having been widely disregarded in the past, eco-construction is currently enjoying a boom in the UK and key European players are positioning themselves in the marketplace.
South East businesses are a big part of this marketplace: and this is just some of the feedback we received from the event: “Ecobuild was very fruitful to us, and thank you to all of you for your assistance before and on the day. On the day, we made two very good contacts as suppliers and having followed up on these this morning, it does seem that we need to go to Italy to discuss the available deal(s) in more depth,” Neil Edwood, Solarpack, Kent UK
It’s not too early to register your interest for the next event, to be held in March 2013. Just drop me an email at Valerie.firstname.lastname@example.org – I’d be delighted to hear from you.
Valerie Pondaven – Network Manager
Aside from the recent headline hitting Feed-in-Tariffs, there are still a number of funding and support schemes available to businesses that are keen to improve their energy efficiency and reduce costs. For the time-strapped business it is about knowing where to look!
Renewable Heat Incentives are payments for organisations that generate heat for their premises and hot water through their own renewable energy system (Feed-in-Tariffs are payment for renewable electricity generation). Payments are per metered kWh of heat generated and eligible technologies include biomass boilers, solar thermal panels and ground source heat pumps. www.decc.gov.uk/rhi
Enhanced capital allowances are a form of tax relief for investment in energy (or water) efficient equipment. Businesses are able to write off the full purchase and installation cost against their taxable profit in the financial year they made the investment. Loss making companies can also claim a payment from the government. A list of eligible technologies, which includes boilers, lighting and pipework insulation, can be found at http://etl.decc.gov.uk.
Through Low Carbon Essentials, a European funded programme, businesses can take advantage of a free energy audit of their premises or a feasibility study to see if their site is suitable for renewable energy, or attend a UTILISE Workshop. UTILISE helps businesses understand their bills and find areas for savings at their premises through energy, waste and water management. Courses are being held across the South East, including Brighton, Crawley, Littlehampton and Milton Keynes. www.lowcarbonessentials.co.uk, www.utilise.org.uk
Sustainable Routes is also European funded, and provides grants of 33%, up to £1,000, of the cost of projects that reduce transport related CO2 emissions. Video conferencing equipment, bike shelters and vehicles conversions are all eligible. www.sustainableroutes.co.uk
To promote the uptake of electric and low carbon vehicles the government has introduced a 20% grant, up to £8,000, for businesses purchasing a van with ultra-low emissions. Eligible vehicles can be found at: www.dft.gov.uk/topics/sustainable/olev/plug-in-van-grant
STEM is an environmental management system (EMS) accreditation scheme. An EMS is a documented approach to identifying and improving environmental performance. STEM is free for small and medium sized businesses until end 2012 and achieving Blue, Silver or Gold accreditation is a great way to demonstrate environmental commitment, for such as public sector tenders. http://tinyurl.com/STEM-EMS
West Sussex Sustainable Business Partnership CIC
Public procurement is not for everybody, but understanding the rules and the process that procurers have to go through should give you a better indication of where you stand.
Firstly, the purchasing guidelines. Understand at which level each procurer is able to make purchases and what they have to follow to make these purchases as well as what advertising route they need to follow. Different purchasing values mean different hoops to go through. We are not all gold medal rhythmic gymnasts, but understanding which hoops are within reach is a big step towards success. Find the purchasing guidelines of the organisations you want to sell to – these are usually available on their website or ask them directly.
Secondly, understand the process used to purchase: these might be open, restricted, negotiated, competitive dialogue etc. Understanding these differences will save you previous time and help distinguish between tough competitive tenders or some where preparation is less strenuous. Do attend one of the free workshops organised by Enterprise Europe South East UK to find out more about what these different procedures mean.
All of this and more can be found in the texts governing public procurement. And the good news is that the rules of public procurement are more or less the same throughout the EU especially when it comes to contracts that are over the EU thresholds (i.e. limits which currently stand at anything above €200 000 for buying products and services or €5 million for construction activities).
Directives 17/2004 and 18/2004 are the texts to look out for. They are pretty hard to digest for most people and are currently being simplified and harmonised to make procurement more effective and user-friendly to Small Businesses. The new directives should be coming out sometime in 2013.
The story does not stop here, as these directives contain frameworks of things to do by the procurers, and the different European Member States need to adapt and apply these texts into their own legislation. The UK regulation is the Public Contracts regulation 2006 which looks very much like the directives.
These texts coupled with the fundamental principles of the EU (transparency, fairness, non-discrimination, proportionality and mutual recognition) are the paving stones for procurers on their way to purchasing almost anything that fall within the remit of these texts.
The good news is that we’re here to help. For more information about these texts, the purchasing guidelines and procedures, do get in touch with the Enterprise Europe South East UK office based in Southampton, or to me directly at email@example.com.
Toni Saraiva Project Manager, EISC Ltd
What’s the first problem you face when you decide to enter a new market outside the UK? Rules and regulations? The thorny VAT issue? Or is it something more fundamental like language.
We in Britain have the great good fortune that for much of the rest of Europe, if not the rest of the world, English is increasingly the lingua franca, the only language that is widely spoken by business people on every continent. How lucky are we? How complacent are we?
If you are hoping to gain new business outside the UK you can take a chance and make your initial approach in English, or rely on the English version of your website to attract new customers. But you must make sure that your e-mails, your website content and your brochures are clear and readily understandable for someone who may be struggling with a foreign language. Keep your sentences short and clear. Don’t use jargon or slang. And don’t let any errors creep in or your potential customer may lose the sense completely.
If you rely on everyone else to speak and read English you are taking a big risk. Ultimately, you will probably not be able to sell your product without translating the list of contents, the instructions or guidance on its use. It may be costly initially, but investing in a good quality professional translation of your sales material and sections of your website will pay dividends and demonstrate your commitment to that particular market.
What are the barriers to international trade that you have faced? How did you overcome them? Or have they put you off completely. We’d love to hear from you.
Don’t be deterred. If you think you have potential for your product or service outside the UK, contact us and get the ball rolling.
There were 1300 exhibitors and 40,000 visitors to this year’s Eco-Build. It was an impressive event, but not surprisingly for some small businesses it was hard to see the woods for the (sustainably planted) trees. Meeting the right contacts in the throng was something of a challenge.
We were delighted then to host a matchmaking event on 21 March, with 200 companies from 22 countries taking part in a furiously busy day of one-to-one meetings and intense networking aimed at encouraging transnational collaboration.
The day attracted a wide range of companies in the sustainability sector: from manufacturers of smart meters and solar panels, to innovators in building materials, ICT and rainwater systems. A contingent from the Canary Islands proved particularly popular, and really showed what Enterprise Europe Network is all about: finding business and technology partners you might never have found otherwise. The Spanish team even managed to convince myself and Network Manager Valerie Pondaven to take starring roles in a video they were filming to promote their success (but in English, much to our relief).
Thank you to everyone who attended, and even to those curious souls who wondered what all the fuss was about, sneaked in, and exchanged a few cards. Spread the word for next year.
And thank you to all those who have already completed our feedback survey. “As always, Enterprise Europe Network came up with the goods,” was one response, while another said they made several worthwhile contacts ”in a single day in a single location. That would normally have taken several days - and a great deal of travel.” There’s still time to offer your own thoughts. It’s only the second year we’ve held the event, so we’re always looking for ways to improve and welcome any feedback.
Innovation Manager, BSK-CiC
Your local university is a resource that is available to you to support your business growth.
For example, you can access the graduate talent pool through Intern Programmes and Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTP). If you’ve wondered how KTP schemes work and how they are financed, your local university will be glad to explain.
Could your company benefit from specialist academic expertise? Do you have an idea for a product or process but are unsure how to develop it or how to acquire the necessary expertise? There is a wealth of expertise on your doorstep and there may even be financial help to enable you to take advantage of it. Do you need specialist equipment and facilities? Why not visit your local university to see what is available and enquire how you can access it to help your business?
Is protecting your intellectual property (IP) a concern? Are you reluctant to share your ideas? Universities are accustomed to dealing with IP security and can advise you on how best to protect your good ideas – normally referred to as background IP, i.e. the IP that belongs exclusively to you. If you do collaborate with the university to develop your idea to a new level, of course new IP will be created and there are different ways to allocate the ownership of this new (foreground) IP between your company and the University in an equitable fashion.
Would you like to expand your business by forming commercial or R&D partnerships with other companies and universities throughout Europe? Did you know there are free services that can help you find partners using the Enterprise Europe Network, the world’s largest network connecting businesses within and beyond Europe? Did you know you can access these free services via your local university?
If this all sounds appealing and you’ve never tried working with a university, perhaps it’s time you did!
At the Kent 2020 Event on 19 April, the University of Greenwich will be hosting a workshop to outline some of the available resources and provide you with information to help you tap into them.
Business Development Manager, University of Greenwich