An Uber Age

As the recession slowly lifted across Britain, something unusual happened; consumers began to take control of the market once again. Supermarkets were suffering, oil prices fell and consumers began to influence the way companies operate. One of the largest changes in the North was the introduction of Uber, the San Francisco based taxi service.774db002-2495-4f31-bfb0-261e2fee833f-620x372

The launch of Uber caused a huge market shift in the Taxi industry, something traditional Taxi firms are very unhappy about. But is it just? Traditional taxi firms argue the San Franciscan giant is stealing profits with its simple app-focused model, with dozens of competitors around the world bringing international cities to a standstill by staging protests, whilst the use of traditional taxis in some cities have fallen rapidly. I believe this may become a recurring model as consumers choose service and convenience over out-dated business models. Taxi firms may complain about Uber’s aggressive expansion but realistically the company has succeeded by offering consumers a service they prefer with customer service at the forefront of the business. This is clear, as Uber interact with customers via email and social media around the clock and appear more than happy to offer refunds for bad experiences. Previously, when demand outstripped supply, consumers had to accept whatever was offered allowing taxi firms to operate however they pleased, but this left both drivers and customers unhappy with drivers earning very little and customers left unhappy with the service received.

Consumers have become a lot more aware of their power and continue to demand better quality products and service. This new wave of consumer control has hurt some of the worlds largest companies including McDonalds and most British supermarkets. I personally believe this can only be a good thing, it gives independent businesses a fairer chance and ensures large corporations are forced to treat consumers with the respect they deserve.tesco-branksome1

Tesco has certainly felt the wrath from their consumers as many have chosen good value over convenience. While the consumer was struggling the supermarket giant was thriving, but finally things have changed as the consumer has become more discerning, Tesco has finally been forced to change and things are not looking good for them. Both Aldi and Lidl have taken a fair share of grocery sales by offering quality food at reliably low prices while the remaining grocery shop is often done at smaller shops throughout the week. In a sense Tesco is in part to blame for this change in shopping habits, their constant weekly discounts and launches of smaller local stores became inescapable.  Consumers then learnt their was a cheaper way of putting food on their family table that often meant the big four supermarket chains were pushed aside in favour of savier shopping habits.

If this theme continues I believe companies are going to drastically change their approach by improving customer service, integrating new technologies and pushing reliably reasonable pricing. Without altering their approach I believe there will be many more corporate victims in all sectors but particularly on the high street and in the service sector such as hotels and catering.

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Paris

Whilst Paris may not be my first choice for a city break, I had no choice but to cancel my plans to visit Amsterdam when I found Beyonce and Jay Z were performing their only European dates in the French capital. After paying slightly too much for tickets to see the world’s favourite duo, I was pleasantly surprised to find flights and hotels were extremely reasonable.IMG_0688-0

My past experiences of Paris had left a bad impression on me but I was looking forward to getting away in Autumn as it’s my favourite season and the weather was ideal for a city break. The trip couldn’t have been more perfect, after a bit of drama with online check in for my flight I was thrilled to hear a sound check for Halo filling the dodgy Parisian suburb as I stepped off the metro.

Seeing as it was Ben and I, we insisted on walking around the stadium shortly after we arrived to ensure we queued in the right spot at an ungodly hour the next morning. Unfortunately we both fail at life without 3G so we headed to Notre Dam as it was the only place we understood on the Metro map. This turned out to be a great decision, the temperature was perfect, the sun was setting and we were surrounded by beautiful bars and architecture.

With a lack of Google Maps we wondered down the river and headed to Bastille for dinner (the area was slightly cheaper but still lovely) as we sat down to our French cuisine it started to dawn on us that we would be waking up at 5:45 to queue the next morning. After another glass of wine we headed for the montparnasse tower, Ben suggested this would be better than the Eiffel Tower as we would be able to get a better view of the city and we could see the Eiffel Tower as well. Surprisingly he was right, the views were great and it was rather reasonable as well

With just five hours sleep, the morning of On The Run came and the French certainly don’t queue like the British. As ever we made friends with those sitting near us but it wasn’t nearly as well organised as we’re used to. After queuing patiently for nine hours there was a stampede of several hundred people with many losing their friends and phones. Fortunately this worked to our advantage, after much anxiety we were finally let in and rather proud to be on the second row considering there was 75,000 people in the venue that night.
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The concert was on another level with both Bey and Jay putting all their energy into the show as HBO was filming. The cameras were slightly intrusive for the first half of the concert but a surprise performance by Nicki Minaj made up for it. For a show lasting two and three quarter hours you would’ve thought they would lose momentum but there was never a dull moment. I was amazed at Jay’s stage presence with just a mic and a light he had the stadium captivated with not a backing dancer in sight.
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The following day we went into central Paris to post our posters back to the UK and move hotels, as we decided we would stay in a 5* hotel for the second two nights and what a great decision this turned out to be. We were given a free room upgrade and in that moment my whole life changed as I discovered duck down bedding making by feather bedding at home feeling very inferior.

As I was traveling with Ben I was on a tight schedule to squeeze in all the sights, this included the Arc de Triomphe, Louvre, Eiffel Tower, La Seine and my personal favourite the Catacombs.

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The Catacombs were something we were both looking forward to, after an hour of queuing (there’s a running theme) we walked through a small doorway and walked down a spiral staircase, the equivalent of a five story building. There’s certainly an earie atmosphere but it’s not until you discover the chamber of the dead where the atmosphere really changed. With 6 million humans buried below the city it may seem like an odd tourist attraction but there’s just something about it that keeps enticing people.

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This trip changed my mind on a lot of things including Paris as a whole, Stadium concerts and autumn holidays. Overall I just loved it and I think I’ll continue to have a city break in autumn for some time to come.

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Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.
Steve Jobs

How important is SEO to big brands?

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mage courtesy of Keso S

As business moves increasingly online, the importance of search engines continues to grow. Leeds is a hub for companies that pride themselves in search engine optimisation (SEO), with many agencies operating form the city.

Econsultancy estimates that the SEO industry saw an 18% growth in terms of revenue in 2011 alone. Not only does this technique save companies thousands of pounds in advertising but it also ensures their website is the first the consumer sees when making a search in that field. The techniques used are vital to a brand’s success with consumers making impulse decisions based on search results.

As Google currently hosts 67% of all Internet searches, this makes it the key focus for businesses particularly those specialising in SEO. Companies use a range of techniques but the general aim is to get as many links going to a page as possible. To ensure links originate from quality websites some firms will pay bloggers or journalists to link towards their page.

Leeds has continued to develop in digital industries with the City Council making it a key target for growth. Creative businesses have continued to expand in Leeds due to cheaper property as well as the existing creative roots in the city. SEO continues to grow in popularity with businesses, as it is one of the most cost effective methods of nurturing a business. A key element of SEO is working out the algorithm search engines use to determine their results; with this knowledge websites can be manipulated so they are favoured, and this in turn has a huge impact on a business.

Many agencies have a conflicting relationship with Google as many pay huge sums in online advertising but Google frowns upon SEO techniques. Chris Norton, the founder of Prohibition PR has a skeptical view of the technique. “SEO used to just be links but now everything has gone except technical SEO and online PR.” As Google has become more intelligent, PR has played a much larger role in building the awareness of a brand. Although the techniques used can greatly boost a company’s profile, they can have disastrous effects. In December the lyric website Rap Genius was black listed by Google after they discovered Twitter users were being bribed for links.

While SEO may be important, traditional PR is still relevant for businesses Norton says: “When bad press hits are they going to call an SEO agency or are they going to call a crisis management scheme.” With such a sudden change in the industry, SEO and traditional PR have moved closer together with the two complimenting each other depending on the business strategy.

While there has been a doubt about the future of SEO, Richard Lawrence the SEO strategy manager for Epiphany believes the industry has a healthy future ahead of it. “SEO is still a way to improve sales with relatively low investment in comparison to other channels, it is vital route for businesses to at least explore.” Unlike advertising SEO is much cheaper as websites are simply being manipulated to suit search engines rather than paying millions for national campaigns.

In September Google launched Hummingbird, the newest release of their search algorithm. The new system has been described as the biggest development since 2001, with the technology designed to be more accurate as well as more accommodating for mobile devices. The reform has greatly changed the SEO industry. Chris Norton said: “Many companies saw their position drop significantly because of the techniques they used previously, I think it’s great because Google are more human.”

The search engine is becoming increasingly private in the hope searches will be more accurate and businesses will pay for advertising, this has caused SEO and PR to come closer together to push quality content to consumers rather than simply buying up domain names. While Google has become more efficient for consumers it has dramatically changed the way companies interact with their clients.

 

How to get the most from Linkedin

Linked In- Michelle Beckett

Michelle Becket Linkedin expert

With more than 10 million unique users in the UK, LinkedIn has fast become one of the most powerful tools for both employers and those seeking to explore new opportunities, understand the job market and visualise potential competition.

The service, aimed exclusively at professionals, allows people to network with others in their sector as well as building a rapport among their contacts – or ‘connections’ as LinkedIn describes them. Many recruitment specialists have turned to LinkedIn to seek the best candidates. Michelle Beckett, a LinkedIn specialist and managing director of Skill Will, says: “While it may sound controversial, I believe LinkedIn is more valuable than any CV as it gives employers a more human view of candidates.”

Profile

Beckett suggests your profile picture is the most important element of your profile, stating: “You should present yourself in a professional manner with a simple head shot.” As obvious as this may seem, many users use casual photographs of themselves on holiday or out drinking, subsequently portraying an unprofessional image to potential employers. It is essential to use an image with a smile as this subconsciously shows the viewer you are likeable and trustworthy. Beckett explains: “It is basic human psychology.”

In your profile you should summarise your skills and experiences in a way other users can quickly absorb. “Make your profile as full as possible, use bullet points and list your skills. Always think ‘who am I trying to appeal to?’” says Beckett.  It is also important to use recommendations that coincide with endorsements, as this backs up your claims and shows others that you are a reliable employee.

A clear succinct summary of who you are and what you do should be your main aim. Only opt for the premium service unless you are operating as a business; the free account is more than adequate for most users.

Adding your personal interests including other elements of your life helps make you more appealing. “Although it is not Facebook, you still want to make yourself appear as a rounded individual, as it will enable you to forge relationships quite quickly.”

Connect and shake hands – virtually

While your personal profile is very important, using LinkedIn for networking makes it an indispensable tool. You should aim to connect as wildly as possible even if individuals are in a different sector as these contacts may help you in the future. Beckett says: “Even connect to your neighbours – don’t just think ‘how is this person useful to me’, but ‘how useful could their network be to me?’” You should also be using the advanced search function to find people who may be able to help progress your career.

Beckett continues: “You should virtually shake hands with people.” By sending brief messages you are able to forge stronger relationships, which may lead to meeting on a work basis. Looking at groups and joining them is a great way to find and network with people of a similar interest. One of the best features of LinkedIn is the distance and connected feature which shows where both of you are based as well as contacts in common or who you could ask to introduce you to a new contact.

Post links and updates

Another effective method of networking is post updates; this feature allows you to share articles and links with your connections. This can help start conversations and show your contacts you are an interesting individual. Beckett says: “They don’t necessarily have to be business articles, you should look to find articles that engage your following.” This shows others you are approachable and easy to engage with, even if you never meet your contacts in person.

“I would much rather use LinkedIn like having coffee with people, than firing out my CV,” says Beckett. Unlike a CV you are not necessarily looking for a specific job, but by networking and building relationships you have a greater chance of getting a position when one arises.

LinkedIn is changing the world of work by letting people interact in a professional manner, if used properly the service can help everybody work towards the career they want.

Crafthouse Leeds

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A range of food served at the restaurant

D&D London have announced a huge success in the North with their first venture outside London reporteding average weekly sales of over £90,000. Crafthouse has been open just nine months, but has made a huge impact in the city after an extravagant launch in the Trinity centre. With 24 restaurants around London and a growing international presence the company has learnt to tailor the dining experience to a range of customer needs. John Morrison, the Head Of Sales for Crafthouse, said: “Leeds is a completely different market, it’s a much smaller city and we have to work harder to drive customers through the door.” With local produce and a unique menu the company continues to grow an ever growing presence outside London.

Business can often be slow during weekdays particularly at lunchtime; although the restaurant is very popular at weekends. During the week Crafthouse largely caters to corporate clients while the weekend is exclusively for leisure. Unlike London based branches, working lunches are not as popular in the North due to businesses having smaller budgets for corporate hospitality. Crafthouse is generally a lot busier in the evening particularly with customers visiting the city for special occasions.

To counter the lower food business the company also operate Angelica, a bar situated just upstairs from the restaurant. Angelica offers cocktails and wine as well as high-end bar food to ensure the company caters to the northern clients requirements.

John Morrison described the opening as “a huge success” noting the launch of Leeds Trinity was hugely beneficial for local exposure, which tied in with the unveiling of the restaurant itself. In March a party was held in Leeds by D&D London that saw local celebrities, including Harry Potter star Matthew Lewis, sample the menu before the general public.

The menu is often changed to best accommodate local produce. Food from the region is often more expensive than foreign alternatives such as Canadian lobster. Lee Bennet, the Head Chef at Crafthouse said: “we don’t want to be a London Restaurant in Yorkshire.” With exclusive food contracts to suppliers such as meat supplier Ginger Pig, Crafthouse ensures customers get a unique experience.

D&D London has been hugely successful since it bought Conran Restaurants in 2006. The company looks to further their success after a £50m management buyout by LDC earlier this year. The key to the company’s success seems to be allowing each branch to operate with a unique identity. John Morrison described Leeds as “A completely different market altogether.” The rapid expansion of the company looks to continue as a new restaurant was recently launched in Trump Tower Istanbul. The company has recently expanded to many international destinations.

In 2012 the company saw growth of 2.5% in revenue while London branches rose 4%, this shows the economy in London often manages to remain stable as the rest of the country suffers during economic uncertainty. Although launching in Leeds may seem a risk by the company, the business model and tailored menu seem to have helped the brand grow beyond its high-end London clientele.