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For a successful business, you need a viable business idea, the skills to make it work and the funding. Discover whether your idea has what it takes.

Forming your business correctly is essential to ensure you are protected and you comply with the rules. Learn how to set up your business.

It is likely you will need funding to start your business unless you have your own money. Discover some of the main sources of start up funding.

Businesses and individuals must account for and pay various taxes. Understand your tax obligations and how to file, account and pay any taxes you owe.

Businesses are required to comply with a wide range of business laws. We introduce the main rules and regulations you must comply with.

Learn why business planning is an essential exercise if your business is to start and grow successfully, attract funding or target new markets.

Marketing matters. It drives sales and helps promote your brand and products. Discover how to market your business and reach your target customers.

Some businesses need a high street location whilst others can be run from home. Understand the key factors from cost to location, size to security.

Your employees can your biggest asset. They can also be your biggest challenge. We explain how to recruitment and manage staff successfully.

It is likely your business could not function without some form of IT. Learn how to specify, buy, maintain and secure your business IT.

Few businesses manage the leap from start up to high-growth business. Learn what it takes to scale up and take your business to the next level.

Writing mailshots and emails - checklist

Writing to customers and prospects can be an effective way to promote your business. Business emails and mailshots each have their own advantages; the important thing is to get the right tone of voice and message that will boost sales.

  • Clarify the objective of the email or mailshot. Are you collecting leads, driving traffic to your website, making direct sales or providing information? Email is often a good way to link to useful online content; hard-copy mailshots are more likely to be sales-driven.
  • Identify your target audience - what do they already know about your business and products, what are their needs, and what objections might they have?
  • If appropriate, identify different groups of readers and consider preparing different versions of the mailshot for each group.
  • Personalise each letter with the customer's name and add your signature; you can also personalise emails. However, the letter or email must have specific appeal for the recipient; if it is too generic, it could backfire.
  • Consider which method of communication is most likely to get noticed. Email works with existing customers - ensure they have given you permission to contact them. Direct mail leafleting is better for drumming up new local customers.
  • Use a friendly and direct tone of voice. Focus on "you" (the customer) rather than "we" (the business). Avoid unnecessary jargon.
  • Decide what the main message of the mailshot will be and focus on the single major benefit you offer.
  • Decide whether you can write the mailshot yourself, or whether you should invest a few hundred pounds in using a freelance copywriter.
  • Produce a headline and an opening sentence which will highlight the main benefit and encourage the reader to read on.
  • Make a credible offer: explain the reasons for buying your product or service, anticipate likely objections and provide facts to back up your claims.
  • Maintain the reader's interest throughout, for example, by offering solutions to common problems or including provocative questions.
  • Use short sentences and keep everything clear, simple and convincing.
  • Make key points stand out by using bold or italics sparingly. Keep the look clean and uncluttered. Simple emails often get more attention because they look more personal.
  • End with a call to action, telling the reader what to do next; make it easy (eg by including an email or web address, freephone number or reply-paid card).
  • Add a PS which restates your main point in a different way.
  • For hard-copy mailshots, think about inserts that could support your message, such as a free sample, a brochure, press cuttings or an order form. With email, add links to useful pages on your website.
  • Proofread your letter and try it out on colleagues and customers. Use sample mailings to test how effective it is.

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