Let’s face it 2020 has been such a stinker for so many businesses that assuming you can survive financially, anything that could help your business prosper by even a small amount in 2021 has to be a bonus, especially if it’s quick and easy to do?

Here are a few ideas, many of which we’ve deployed ourselves to good effect to help ensure we can keep offering the best value for clients:

  1.  Are you still paying for software licences that are now surplus to requirements or have been replaced with alternatives? Get them cancelled. Most companies are helpful even if you can’t recall log-in details, passwords etc. We even recently managed to backdate a refund from Microsoft!
  2.  In a similar vein cancel any recurring subscriptions or memberships that are no longer essential in your business.
  3.  You probably have a number of suppliers in your business that regularly invoice you the same amount each month or quarter. Why not plead poverty and ask them for a token % reduction in consideration of your continued loyalty to them. Even a 5% kickback could add up. We are about to do this with one of our major IT suppliers.
  4.  If you don’t have a regular program to update prices in your business (we haven’t increased ours in a decade) then its time to consider a carefully worded circular to put them up, we’d suggest just below the rate of inflation so 1.5% might be justifiable right now. And there are precedents https://www.thesun.co.uk/money/12440018/rail-fares-increase-inflation-rises-lockdown-ease/ . You could even say that if clients are feeling the squeeze and don’t want the increase, is it OK if you save the 1.5% in some other way such as supplying reduced quantities or fewer hours?
  5.  For all new business if you don’t do it already it’s worth considering introducing, even if they’re small, Set-Up or Admin fees that are charged just once. In the honeymoon period as a new customer, the mood is at its best to accept this and all funds raised go straight to your bottom line as profit which can quickly add up. We typically charge about 3% of annual billing.
  6.  If you can ensure some part of your business provides for the opportunity to charge a small monthly or quarterly recurring charge. Even if the amounts aren’t huge it still keeps your name at the front of the customer’s mind throughout the year. As an example, within our SEO business, we regularly check that clients websites are still being found in Google – it can’t be assumed they are even if the IT company pings the servers regularly – we might charge just £10 for this as an extra.
  7.  Change the way you reward some of your staff by switching to non-cash incentives like gift vouchers – it’ll reduce everyone’s tax bill.
  8.  If you can start to reward/pay key staff with dividends instead of pay increases – they can earn up to circa £2k per annum tax-free. Other tax-free perks exist from time to time such as gym memberships or free bicycles and you can, of course, open up a staff incentive scheme to reward creative new ideas outside of somebodies core job.
  9.  Ask existing customers for referrals to new clients and reward them with something extra for their business at no cost so it’s a win-win for everyone and you are not seen to just favour new customers.
  10.  Book all travel and accommodation in advance to reap discounts but remember to pay the small extra premium in case you need to cancel or this money saver could cost you money!
  11.  If you’ve introduced home working or hot-desking as part of covid-19 planning, follow-through by reducing how much space you need as business premises – we’ve cut 10% from our costs this way as smaller premises also save on utilities.
  12.  Ensure every page of your website has relevant unique meta content and Schema Mark Up written to accurately tell prospective customers what you do and what your USP is. Less essential are regular changes to meta descriptions.
  13.  Ensure you are listed on maps.Google.co.uk for every address that can receive postal mail verification for your business, this will help you appear in Google results more often but is just one of circa 140 techniques that we recommend.
  14.  Another easy fix is to regularly update your website site map to ensure the search engines can find all your content. This is the one read by search engine automated robots, not just prospective customers.
  15.  Remove any bad links to or from your website as these will pull down your score in Googles eyes and lose you valuable positions in the top search results, costing you customer leads.
  16.  Double-check that any phone numbers and email addresses promoted on your website or elsewhere still work and are followed through efficiently, and tracked.
  17.  Cut your losses on projects that aren’t performing as quickly expected and jettison costs on things stuck on the starting grid such as hoarding URL’s just in case! Keeping defunct jobs and working practices going is another case in point. Innovation is vital but it’s usually pretty clear if you are honest with yourself that something needs to change.
  18.  Revisit all your insurance costs – if you have smaller premises, less travel or even fewer customers it’s likely you can shed a proportion of your premises or liability insurance costs and every penny counts. There is less choice of supplier for business insurance versus consumer but it may also be worth shopping around for new suppliers provided the terms of cover are still good.
  19.  Consider if your staff may be wasting time internally on social media activity – in effect spending time on this distraction at the expense of getting on with their real job? In actual fact a little good quality output strategically applied will deliver way better results than masses of untargeted material – we have seen examples of companies wasting 1000% more effort than it would cost to deploy a good agency to help, in effect costing the company £30k pa when a better job could be outsourced for maybe £2-£3k, plus there is the huge opportunity cost wasted if staff were deployed in what they do best.
  20.  If your business is lucky enough to still have any surplus cash, and by surplus I mean funds you leave untouched for say six months, instead of keeping them in the Bank at 0- 0.01% interest consider putting some of the cash into peer to peer sites online such as Zopa or Assetz Capital. Obviously, this has a higher risk and cash can’t always be withdrawn quickly in a crisis but a typical 5% return here equals our profit margin so to us it’s worth some risk. We’ve used Zopa for over a decade. Please note we are not qualified to give investment advice so please make your own checks before jumping in and talk to your usual advisors – ask them why they didn’t suggest it years ago!
  21.  Last but not least – are you maximising legal opportunities to pay directors in the most efficient way? Every pound you can save them or the business can be spent elsewhere on growth helping ensure 2021 gets off to a better start than 2020 has finished!