Tuesday 23 October 2012

Mentioning the ‘C’ word – 7 tips for a happy marketing Xmas

Should you advertise during the run up to Christmas?

Millions of British companies and organisations spend time and money jumping on board the annual Xmas marketing bandwagon. But is it always a good idea?  

It’s a bit like the Olympics, where everyone who was anyone came up with an Olympic themed special offer or marketing campaign. Did they all attract loads of new customers and inspire existing customers to buy more? No idea, but common sense suggests there must have been an element of Olympics marketing fatigue and the same thing probably happens at Christmas.  

Standing out from the crowd

It’s hard enough standing out from the crowd as it is. But when the entire crowd joins in it makes your marketing life much more of a challenge. Do you have the budget to spend your way to visibility amongst the noise? Or would you be better off lying low ‘til the new year, when everyone gets back to normal?

NOT driving people nuts!

It might turn out that Christmas isn’t all it’s cracked up to be in your sector, full stop. Some people get stuck in as early as September, but does mentioning the C word four months in advance annoy people more than it attracts them?

If you can’t find a logical, clear, practical connection between the stuff you sell and Christmas, is it worth bothering? If your offer or campaign is less than relevant to the season, which many are, will it have the right kind of impact or will it fall flat?

Waiting for better media buying deals

Many direct marketers stop sending out campaigns half way through October because their message just gets lost in the Christmas frenzy. And media buying often costs less after the festive season is done and dusted. It’s a matter of supply and demand: when demand is high, prices go up. In the new year, when demand is lower, it can be easier to find good deals on ad space and advertorials as well as negotiate free or cheap editorial.   

What about email marketing? If your inbox is anything like yours it’ll be filling up with Christmas messages already. Would it be better to leave it until the fuss is over and things have died down? Or can you make yourself heard amongst the rubbish? The same goes for your newsletter. Your customers and prospects might thank you more if you just wish them season’s greetings and leave it at that –what do you think?  It’s all worth mulling over first. 

Whatever you sell it’s worth bearing in mind that female target audiences are traditionally busier than blokes, more so the closer we get to the day itself. We’re supposed to be equals these days but buying gifts, decorating the house, sending cards, buying food and cooking tends to be woman’s work in the majority of households. If your target audience is females over eighteen, it might be safest to leave them to get on with it!

7 tips for a happy marketing Christmas

1.     Keep it real – if the things you sell have absolutely no connection with Christmas, think twice about marketing at this time of year
2.     If your media costs are going to end up higher than normal because of Christmas, do your sums. Will your usual response and conversion rates cover the cost? If response goes down, what’s the worst case scenario? If you think you’ll end up making a loss, step away
3.     Plan everything like a military campaign to maximise your chances, creating a dedicated Xmas marketing plan
4.     Choose your target audience/s carefully, establish what they do at this time of year (buy gifts, buy supplies, ignore the whole thing in a business context) and tailor your offers as closely as you can to their needs. It’s always important but even more so at times like this, when targeting might be your only real way to stand out
5.     Remember that benefits sell much better than features. Again it’s always important but it’s more important than ever at Christmas, especially for people buying gifts. When you’re buying a gift you often need more detail than when you’re buying for yourself. You want to make exactly the right choice and benefit-led communications do a much better job the feature-led. It’s no good telling people what the buttons on a gadget are. They want to know all the good things the button functions will do for them. Don’t say this gadget has a ‘go faster’ button. Say the gadget’s ‘go faster’ button increases your play speed by at least 50%
6.     Do unto others. Use your most powerful tool, your consumer head, to gauge whether you’d appreciate and enjoy the offer yourself. If you wouldn’t, tweak it until it sounds like something you’d be thrilled to receive at this time of year
7.     Make your message the best it can be – creative, funny, beautiful to look at, quirky, rude, compelling, awe inspiring… whatever it takes to cut through the babble

Monday 15 October 2012

National Minimum Wage October 2012

The national minimum wage (NMW) is the set minimum hourly rate that UK employers must pay their workers. There are three aged based rates and an apprentice rate which are usually updated in October each year.
Almost all workers who work in the UK are entitled to the NMW, except self-employed people and children who are still of compulsary school age.

The rates from October 2012 are as follows:

Adult Rate (21 and over):  Increase of 11 pence to £6.19 an hour

The 18-20 year olds rate will remain at £4.98 an hour

The 16-17 year olds rate will remain at £3.68 an hour

The apprentice rate: Increase of 5 pence to £2.65 an hour

HMRC enforces the national minimum wage and if they find you have underpaid the NMW they will issue a notice of underpayment showing the arrears you must pay to your workers and possible penalties you must pay HMRC.  Does your payroll software flag up when employees rates are due to be reviewed? Check your employees' ages and make sure you increase their houlry  rates when applicable.

Monday 8 October 2012

EC Sales List - Reporting EU Sales to HMRC

If your business is registered for VAT in the UK and you sell goods or services to VAT registered customers in other EU countries you are required to submit an EC sales list (known as ECSL or form VAT 101) to HMRC.

Why HMRC needs EC Sales Lists

The information you give on the ESL is used by the tax authorities in other EU countries. They use it to check that the businesses you've supplied your goods and/or services to are dealing with the VAT correctly.

The details are also used to build up anonymous statistics showing how goods are traded in the EU.

The same thing happens if your business receives goods from a supplier in another EU country. Your supplier also completes a similar sales list showing the value of the goods and/or services they've supplied to you.

EC Sales Lists - the basics

All VAT-registered businesses in the UK that supply goods to a VAT-registered customer in another EU country must provide HMRC with information about the supplies.

There is no threshold for ESLs - you must list every supply, no matter how small.
  • You submit the details on what's known as an ESL.
  • This contains details of:
  • Your customer
  • The relevant country code
  • The value of the goods and/or services

An EC Sales Declaration


The ECSL is generally submitted quarterly, but businesses that export goods totalling more than £35,000 (excluding VAT) per quarter must complete an ECSL every month.

When you completes box 8 on their VAT return because you have sold goods to a VAT registered business in another EU country, the Tax Office will automatically send you an ECSL form to complete.

If you move your own goods to a branch or subsidiary of your business in another EU country, this movement is treated the same as if to a third party and will also have to be entered on the ECSL for that period.

The paper ECSL form must be submitted within 14 days of the end of the reporting period. You can also complete the ECSL online, and have 21 days from the end of the period to submit the form. Note that this deadline is well before the deadline for your regular quarterly VAT return


If your business only sells services to other EU countries you can continue to submit a quarterly ECSL, but they can opt to submit monthly ECSL forms.  You will not have entered this sale in box 8 of the VAT return so there is no reminder that you have to complete an ECSL.

If your client moves their own goods to a branch or subsidiary of their business in another EU country, they may also have to complete an ECSL for that period.

Ann Hughes