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Can you Zero Rate Charity adverts?

Gruppe junge Leute People multikulturell halten Wort Marketing

The supply of advertising to a charity is zero-rated. The zero-rating covers advertisements on any subject, including staff recruitment. A charity can also purchase pre-printed collecting boxes, envelopes and appeal letters at the zero rate. Low cost lapel stickers, emblems and badges that a charity gives in acknowledgement of a donation can also be zero-rated. More information can be found in Notice 701/58 Charity advertising and goods connected with collecting donations.

In what media can charities advertise VAT free?

Any medium which communicates with the public. This includes all the conventional advertising media such as television, cinema, billboards, the sides of vehicles, newspapers and printed publications. The important factor is whether the advertisement is placed on someone else’s time or space. If it is not there will be no scope for zero-rating.

If space is sold to a charity for advertising on other items, such as beer mats, calendars, or the reverse of till rolls, this will also be covered by the zero rate. The sale of the items themselves will not be VAT free, unless they qualify for other reliefs for example as books or children’s clothing.

Recently I was asked if a website would be able to zero rated, but its specifically excluded under UK Law VCHAR11000

10B None of items 8 to 8C includes a supply used to create, or contribute to, a website that is the charity’s own.For this purpose a website is a charity’s own even though hosted by another person. 10C Neither of items 8 to 8C includes a supply to a charity that is used directly by the charity to design or produce an advertisement.


How many businesses do you know that really take advantage of those one off “holiday” days throughout the year like Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Bonfire night etc.  I hear what you are saying , Valentine’s is only for florists and chocolatiers and maybe lingerie shops, but think again…… could be missing a trick.  Have you thought about how you could stand out from the crowd in your industry sector and steal an advantage using the “holiday” theme?

Mother’s Day

Let’s think about Mother’s Day for a minute, how could your business benefit and use this event in its marketing.  If you’re a florist, chocolatier it’s very easy to use the theme, and let’s be honest, most mums are relatively easy to buy for on Mother’s Day, beauty treatments, clothes and other gift items, but what if your business is less obviously associated with a holiday, for example if you are a “Boot camp” fitness company, which runs fitness and weight loss camps?

One way would be to run special mother and daughter camps for Mother’s Day and maybe father and son ones for Father’s Day.  This is exactly what the New You Boot camp have done with great success.  Their M.D Jacqui Cleaver thinks outside the box and uses holidays to promote offers and mailings.  Easter last year they sent out mouth-watering high-cocoa chocolate recipes and healthy recipes and as a result saw a boost to bookings.  People saw the value in the recipes, printed them off, put them on the fridge and when friends came round, it started a conversation and word of mouth referrals flowed!  It’s not rocket science, but it does take some thought, imagination and effort.

Valentine’s Day

I’m sure you can think of lots of companies doing special promotions for Valentine’s Day.  Not least the card shops with all those cards gushing with “love” messages and then of course there the usual chocolate hearts and other heart shaped gifts you see in the shops but what about the humble sausage, not something you would automatically associate with Valentine’s Day.  Heck, a family-run business making sausages, is really good at reworking its product.  This year for Valentine’s Day it created a sausage they called “PECK”, which of course was heart shaped and they managed to get it stocked by Waitrose and Tesco and as a result the MD and founder Andrew Keeble said resulted in rocketing sales.  You may remember this company if you watched the Alex Polizzi program a while back when she went in to help turn the fortunes round for the family run business.

Other “Holiday”  Days

Heck amongst others are thinking about their businesses differently, they are taking advantage of other days throughout the year to develop products on a particular theme.  Heck will be bringing out a star shaped sausage for Halloween and bonfire night.

New You Boot camp runs a fitness day in Richmond Park to coincide with Breast Cancer Awareness month and donate the proceeds to cancer charities.

What offers could you introduce for your business for the many “holidays” we have throughout the year like Christmas, Easter, even Wimbledon or rugby world cup.  There are so many events, days and “holidays” that your business could take the lead on and stand out from the crowd.  Even if you are strapped for cash, just repackage an existing product or service offering and just be a little creative.  Most businesses don’t have to do much to stand out from the crowd.

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Enjoy mothers day!!!


Is your business ignoring Mobile?

Mobile phone in the wallet

A OnePoll survey commissioned by AppsBuilder reveals that £52.6 billion of potential revenue to be gained via mobile is being ignored by over 3.2 million UK SMEs. It found that 65.8% of the nation’s 4.9 million SMEs don’t currently have a mobile presence, equating to potential lost revenues of £52.6 billion in the next 12 months alone. The number of consumers in the UK using mobile phones to access the internet has doubled over the past three years and about 5% of all UK retail sales come via mobile phones. (Law Donut)

Its not just about Apps, websites too need to be optimised…

With only 10% of the UK’s small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) having a mobile optimized website, businesses could be missing out on £77 billion in annual revenue a study has found. And only 13% of those without a mobile optimized site plan to have one by the end of 2014.

The survey, conducted by Impact Research for hibu, asked 900 UK SME owners and IT leaders about their companies’ websites, revenues and future plans for the mobile web. It showed that 45% of UK SMEs do not have a website, yet believe their annual revenue could rise by 5.4% if they had a website that was optimised for mobile transactions, equating to an average of £11,155 extra turnover annually.

I find it incredible that 45% of SME’s do not have a website? how will customers find them?

The days of looking yellow pages and printed directories are long gone, most people search google to find the goods and services they need.

The Perfect Corporate Video

Depending on which research you believe, including video within your campaign can increase click through rates by 300%. If you want to correspond with a company’s senior executives, you had better include a video link as 60% of them prefer receiving video to text. Yet click through only generates traffic. In order to be successful you really need to convert this into sales. That means generating compelling content. Whilst I could write a book on the subject, let’s break it down into three steps.

To find out more on video statistics, watch this:

Step 1: Know your audience

This is your starting point; it steers the whole production in a single, clear direction informing not only how the video looks and sounds, but also how it’s filmed, edited and presented.

In broadcast media it’s standard practice to have a profile of a typical viewer or listener. We give them a name, we know how old they are, where they live, how many kids they have, what car they drive, the newspaper they read and what other programmes they are watching.

You may think being too specific could lose you business; it won’t. The more specific you are the greater the clarity of your production.

Step 2: Know what outcome you want

It doesn’t take long in business to realise that nearly every marketing message your company puts out must have a clearly defined objective. If the aim is to make a sale then everything you do should point the viewer in that direction. If it’s to raise awareness you’ll need a mechanism for measuring that too.

Step 3: Know how you are going to get a response from your video

Now we have to determine how we’re going to achieve the final step – the all-important conversion. This is where a significant number of people are lost. Imagine promoting a holiday destination with an enticing video of the hotel. The pool looks inviting and there are lots of happy people saying what a great time they’ve had. The video ends on a call to action to visit the website to book. That’s another hoop, more typing and more effort. To increase conversions include directions in the video to a simple tracking link included in the email. Autoresponders such as Aweber and GetResponse allow you to manage your campaign.

Even with a compelling video, the maxims of email marketing still hold true – a captivating subject header, personalisation, call to action and tracking.

Alan Coote’s career spans 35 Years in Creative and Digital Media including the BBC, BAE Systems and numerous Independent broadcasters. He is the MD of 5 Digital and broadcasts weekly on the national business radio programme Let’s Talk Business. Follow him on Twitter @TheAlanCoote

Twenty-first birthday


Thanks to


Our practice is twenty-one years old this year and to celebrate …. well, we’re just working as normal. That’s not to say we’re not pleased, because we are, and though we’ve had our ups and downs, overall it’s been a good experience.

Why we, or more to the point, I, went into practice is a story for another day, but I am frequently asked how we got started, and how we secured new clients, so what marketing tips can we pass on to those just starting out or struggling to develop a customer base?

I would not pretend to have any particular marketing expertise, so all I can do is pass on some things that have, and have not, worked for us, and hope that it might help others as they take their first steps into what might be a very alien environment.

1. Advertising in local press and Yellow Pages: yes, we did pick up some early work from both these sources (remember this was early 1990s) but generally this was low value and poor quality work and certainly did not warrant the expenditure, so after a few years we stopped advertising. I guess this route to market is largely redundant in today’s digital era so it would be interesting to hear from other MiPs whether this type of advertising does indeed still generate any new business.

2. Direct mailing: we took advice from a marketing consultant and spent a small fortune, or so it seemed at the time, on brochures, mailing lists, and postage, and dutifully followed up every mailing with a telephone call to ensure that the brochure had been received and enquire whether they would be interested in meeting …. they were not.

3. Recruitment agencies: thinking that I really would need to step back into the world of paid employment after just a few months of ‘independence’, I reluctantly started contacting agencies, and found to my surprise that there was quite a demand for temporary, part-time, and interim, accountants.

At the time I had no idea what the latter term meant, but it paid well and I soon had a number of short-term projects under my belt and suddenly agencies were approaching me rather than the other way around. This gave me the confidence to continue, and one of these short-term assignments turned into a one-or-two-day-per-week marathon over eighteen months which provided a platform from which to build the practice.

4. Networking: I think I need to distinguish here between networking which occurs in the normal course of business where say, I have been discussing a client’s affairs with a bank manager and he or she asks for a card and then contacts me later to see whether I can also help with another of their customers, because this has lead to some good, long lasting client engagements, and the type of staged events which now proliferate and are promoted by various business and trade groups: as a colleague once remarked, “too many predators, too little prey”; I have to agree with the latter sentiment.

5. Referrals: similarly I have picked up new work from existing clients who have a brother, sister, uncle, good friend, customer, supplier, etcetera who has “… a problem you might be able to help them with”. Some have turned out to be headaches we could really have done without, but some have turned into good, long term clients, and indeed almost all new clients now come via this route – I have just learned to be a little more adept at asking the right questions to work out which I should pursue, and which I should avoid.

Yes I still find myself taking on things I probably shouldn’t when I see someone in need of help but I guess that it at least earns some goodwill with the client who has made the referral, or is that just wishful thinking?

6. Training: I have been delivering ‘Finance for non-financial managers’ courses via Chambers of Commerce and the former Business Links since 1997 (and still do via one such Chamber). Over the years it has proven to be a useful marketing tool in that inevitably a proportion of participants will approach me afterwards for more specific advice and some will then invite me to meet and to review their business requirements – it is one reason why a small practice based in South East Wales has clients from Birmingham, to Bristol, to Cardiff, and various points between.

In short I have been paid to market my business! How often does that happen?

A few year ago my colleagues and I put this online for our own clients at and I have already made an offer to other members of the local area MiP group that if they wished to do likewise with local Chambers, FSB, and similar organisations, then I have no problem with them using this ‘online workshop’ to deliver training provided the appropriate acknowledgements are made – it will be for them to bring it to life in a classroom situation with their own anecdotes and personal experiences.

I’m very happy to make the same offer to MiPs generally: we have had a very good return on the work I undertook to develop the course so it owes us nothing, and we’re not looking for anything in return beyond brand awareness for the award winning cloud/ SaaS ERP software in which we have had some involvement over the past several years, and on which website the workshop sits.

7. Website: we have one at and yes, we do get occasional enquires from prospective clients who have found it via search engine, but it’s much the same as the early advertising and Yellow Pages experience – nothing to get too excited about. We also get quite a number of sole traders in particular who are just looking for some free advice.

That said, it’s proven useful as an electronic brochure that can be ‘left with’ a prospective client, so it is worthwhile in my view, and it can act to both encourage the type of clients we are looking for, and discourage those we are not.

It might also be worth mentioning that the other question that often crops up in conversation with new MiPs is “how do I price for the work?” and over the years we have developed a formula that gives us a good starting point and which we use in discussion with the client in a question and answer session so that (a). we get clarity on what we are being asked to do, and (b). they understand the cost implications for their business.

If you think it might be useful and want to use it it’s at but remember not to send it to us when you’ve completed the form with the client as that will generate a good deal of confusion.

8. Social media: yes, we are active on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter, and have been for a few years, and the received wisdom is that this is the future for marketing. To date I cannot think of a single client that has been generated via this route, so for me the jury is still out. Clearly others may have had a more fruitful experience and there is no guarantee that we are using this tool to best effect so it would be interesting to learn of other MiPs experiences in using this.

I should also note that we have used pay-per-click advertising in another business in which I am involved, and this has delivered new customers, but I think the critical difference here is that that business has a well defined product, rather than a service that needs to tailored around the client’s wants and needs.

For our practice, there is nothing quite like face-to-face engagement with a prospective client to initially listen to what it is they want and need, and then deliver a response to address those needs, and if those prospects are there because of a referral and/ or recommendation from an existing satisfied client, it makes life all the easier.

As I write this I have no idea whether this very personal experience is similar in any way to that of other established MiPs, so it would be very interesting to learn of your experiences, and I’m sure that if you are able to share those experiences it might provide guidance and encouragement to those just starting out, or about to start out, in practice.

Look forward to hearing from you.


Paul Driscoll is a Chartered Management Accountant, a director of Central Accounting Limited, Cura Business Consulting Limited, Hudman Limited, and AJ Tensile Fabrications Limited, and is a board level adviser to a variety of other businesses.

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