We started a chocolate business a few years ago to learn more about the retail food sector. An increasing number of our clients were in that sector and we needed to know about the issues they faced from the sharp end. Mission accomplished. 

Now that we are pretty much retired from Alpha (but please keep the interesting enquiries coming in) we have a product that has achieved brand awareness and modest early success in retail and direct sales – but it has a long way to go in terms of becoming a seriously profitable business.

We’d like to hear from companies with established distribution who feel that Beyond Dark would complement their portfolio. Please call me on 07801251767

Many thanks,

Elaine Nester

This week I engaged in a discussion on LinkedIn about the type of interaction that is acceptable between new business connections. Is it OK to pitch your business at a new contact, or should you shield your true intent until you’ve wooed them with articles, wise comments and other displays of how brilliant you are? The initiator of the conversation thought the latter. I defended my corner in favour of the direct approach. Surely LinkedIn is today’s alternative to working the room at a networking event? Identify likely prospects, tell them what you do and, if the signals are good, proceed to set up a meeting and sell to them. People who are in the market love to be sold to.

People who are in the market LOVE to be sold to – worth repeating, and believing, because it is true. How often have you set out to buy a product or service and been disappointed by the lack of enthusiasm and encouragement shown by a salesperson? If you are keen to buy, it’s reassuring to have someone to guide your decision, whether it’s a new suit or a training contract. You want to know that your purchase is the best choice for you and a skilled salesperson will understand that.

OK – I learned my sales techniques three decades ago. Rapport, reputation, fact-find, presentation, close. A process that was widely understood with no fluffing round the edges. Does this still work now or must business people remain coy; entering into vague flirtations with no clear agenda, no timescale and a lot of wasted effort? Should we just hope that customers will somehow work out that we rank above our competitors because our tweets are regular, our Facebook profile is compelling and we must be a  desirable supplier with our massive online following?

I challenge any business owner to report a ratio of social media activity to sales.

Consider these equations for B2B sales:

Decision maker contact x 10 = meeting x 1

Meeting x 3 = sale x 1

In other words, if you speak (that’s speak, as in using your voice, not via email) to 10 decision makers, you will get one meeting and one out of 3 meetings will result in a sale. These figures hold true over a period for anyone who genuinely believes in the product or service they aim to sell. Believe me. It works. I did it, and trained others to do it, for 25 years.

Opening up a sales conversation doesn’t come naturally to many of us, myself included. The fear of rejection has to be overcome. But when you get a positive response it’s very rewarding. My rule for myself was to make my calls for the day then move on to other aspects of work that I found easier or more enjoyable. It’s like going on stage – plan what you want to say, take a breath then just talk to people. It will eventually become second nature. The long term result is that, by doing something outside your comfort zone consistently whilst you are building your business, you will gain freedom for later life – freedom to carry on working, or to stop, to sell your business, try something new…..I can tell you that this freedom feels really great.

All the other communication you do is not sales but marketing and PR – very important too – but don’t kid yourself that you are selling, unless you are making real life connections with real life buyers.

Free confidential advice and signposting on any aspect of starting and running a profitable business. Call me on 07801251767 between 3pm and 6pm Monday to Friday. If I can help you to avoid some of the mistakes I made on my business journey, I’d be pleased to do so. 

Yesterday I passed the time of day with a man who was waiting in the reception area of a business where I also waited. The usual topic of weather came up and he remarked that, as a business owner, his staff holidays took precedence over his own and that he’d missed the best Summer weather this year so far. This reminded me of the many occasions when I had to cancel my own plans to take time off over the years. A notable one was the week before our son’s wedding when we planned to host his bride’s relatives. A key staff member took paternity leave unexpectedly early so my husband and I had to take turns to cover the absence.

Not complaining – it goes with the territory.

It’s easy though to allow yourself to be buffeted by the needs and demands of other people, and of inanimate bodies such as businesses. Baby boomers in particular are often the filling in a family sandwich and they can experience multiple conflicting demands at times – having to deal with the most pressing need and pushing their own preferences to the back of the queue.

It is the ability to prioritise and keep plates spinning that distinguishes those who survive and thrive from those who fall in a heap under pressure. When coaching business owners, I try to pass on    ideas for coping with multiple demands whilst not sacrificing things they may later regret. It’s sometimes a case of “do as I suggest, not as I did”! When, or if, work comes to an end, it’s important to feel that you made the right choices for the right reasons, at least most of the time.

I recommend the free app Headspace to anyone who struggles to find “me time”.

For an informal discussion about how coaching can improve business performance and work/life issues, call me on 07801251767 or email elainenester@adm-group.co.uk

…might smell as sweet but unless it has name awareness, it could sink into oblivion alongside lesser known plant varieties. Finding appropriate names for brands is THE most favourite part of our work. It’s creative, of course, but there is also a clearly defined process that we have honed over the years to make it more effective for our clients.

1. Brand positioning questionnaire – to unearth our client’s objectives for their brand.

2. Brand positioning statement – we agree with the client a defined statement about what the brand is to represent, the target market, any differentiating factors and evidence of differences that can be used as part of the marketing messages.

3. Examination of the market sector and the competition. Easier these days with online resources but we still do field work too. What is out there? How should we position our client’s brand so that it fills a gap?

4. Naming – the best bit. At this stage all feasible names are laid out for consideration. There should be a back-story attached to each name – a reason that makes it fit with the brand proposition. We need to think ahead and consider long term potential here, not just the new-born that has been presented to us. 

5. The names are short-listed and the favourites are checked against the trademarks register in the relevant classifications for the brand.

6. Names that have the potential for trademark registration are presented to our client. We normally offer 2-3 at this stage. This may seem like a limited choice but the client can be sure that the names offered are robust in terms of suitability by this stage and it is usual for us to get an instant positive reaction provided the client gave us an accurate brief.

This process ends with a design brief, which is the start of the next creative stage. Over the past 26 years we have named, created and helped to build countless successful brands. You will see them in supermarkets, on billboards, in magazines and in your home.

Call me if we can help – 07801 251767

A business advisor once suggested that our business needed to create a PRODUCT in order to become more sustainable. This was an alien idea to us at the time – our business model was based on the supply of bespoke marketing consultancy and design services. We took the suggestion on board however and thought about how we could use existing skills to create something tangible. 

It’s not unusual for consultants to enter publishing of course, with books, periodicals and dissertations providing an income stream. The most obvious idea therefore became our first product – a magazine entitled Business Solutions. It was a showcase for our core business and a really enjoyable exercise. For over 4 years it was both a marketing tool and an income generator in its own right. 

Publishing a profitable magazine is hard work and Business Solutions depended on the continued input of us as the business owners. The publishing industry was also undergoing a digital revolution in 2005-6 when we reluctantly decided to change direction. We wanted a product that could stand on its own feet – a product that had the potential for generating, if not a passive income, repeat orders without constant reinvention.

The story of our chocolate brand, Beyond Dark, developed from this requirement. http://www.beyonddark.co.uk

You might like to explore the potential for your business to develop a product. Call me for a free initial discussion on 07801251767 or email elainenester@adm-group.co.uk

PS Use voucher code BD50 at the checkout at http://www.beyonddark.co.uk/online-shop to try our chocolate at half price. Free delivery. Offer applies this weekend only. 

This afternoon I have been helping to pack  batches of chocolate for postal delivery to customers in their homes. The direct sales side of our family chocolate business is growing and, before long, fulfilment will need to be outsourced. For now though, the process is for us to receive orders via the website, print out invoices, stick labels onto postal bags, pack the chocolate and take all the bags to the local post office.

I like to read the address labels and think about Mrs Stewart from Newcastle upon Tyne and Mr Killman from Newquay – people living hundreds of miles apart with a common liking for dark chocolate – or maybe they are buying gifts with Mothers’ Day and Easter approaching. I like to make sure the pack is on brand by sourcing black postal bags and I take pride in putting the labels on straight.

As a marketing practitioner in my “day job”, I was rarely involved in the nuts and bolts of clients’ businesses, other than as elements of costs of sales, and I now find it refreshing to take part in the process of getting product from A to B. 

Small business can be very satisfying because it’s easy to see that the effort you put in brings a result, usually with immediate effect. We issue sales emails – we get orders – and we can affect the frequency and size of orders by using promotions. Not an exact science but certainly more so than some of the large, multi-disciplinary, cross-media campaigns that large companies tend to run, particularly in the B2C arena. 

Whilst all elements of the marketing mix are, or have been involved in our chocolate’s journey to market, from branding to pack design, to costing, to launch, to PR, to advertising, etc, etc, it is on a comparatively small scale which makes it manageable and extremely satisfying. The model we have built is scalable  and relatively low risk.

Please let me know if I can help you with branding or route-to-market issues. And, in the meantime, please feel free to use discount code* BD1603 at the checkout on the online shop for a third off our rather lovely chocolate. http://www.beyonddark.co.uk

(And whilst you are on the website, have a look at how we established the world’s first measure of pleasure which won us a spot on the Alan Titchmarsh show. You can also visit this story directly at http://www.measureofpleasure.co.uk)

*offer is limited to current stocks and may be withdrawn without notice.


07801 251767

This morning it was broadcast that there is a shortage of teachers – this was put down to the demands of OFSTED. If teachers forgot about the scoring system and focused instead on doing the best for pupils, good and excellent results would occur anyway, argued the presenter. But it cannot be denied that pressure is brought to bear on public sector employees to tick the right boxes, sometimes to the detriment of those who should benefit from the service.

Half an hour ago I called a government advice line in response to news about an export initiative I’d read about in LinkedIn. To be sure the person I spoke to was very helpful but all he was equipped to do was take my details including age, disabled status and ethnic background then refer me to another number. I called the other number to be greeted by a mono-tonal voicemail asking me to call back as the lines were all busy.

Am I being unrealistic to say, let’s focus on delivering help and achieving results first, then look at the stats later? There seem to be more people spending time gathering and analysing data than actually doing something meaningful. In these cash poor times, entrepreneurs and small business owners need all the help they can get and form filling is just another disincentive.

By the way, the people manning advice lines are never up to date with business news. They need to be.