Sunday, April 28, 2013

Understanding Customer Ways

The ideal combination for business is to have: More customers, buying more often and spending more money.

To do that Businesses need to be attuned to and ready to respond to what customers expect and want.  But what happens when those expectations change? 

Since Port Stephens is built around tourist businesses I thought I would talk today about how customers – especially travellers – go about planning for their trip to a new location.

But you know  travellers don't have to always come from a long way away. Even people from Newcastle or Lake Macquarie could be looking for services in the area – or could be encouraged to visit the area if they knew about more of what Port Stephens has to offer.

There are some things that are a given, for any business that customers rightly expect. They expect we will
Do what you promise to do
Provide what the customer thinks they are buying.
Fix anything that isn’t working when problems happen, as they often do.

A travel survey last year revealed this interesting statistic: 
Roughly half of discretionary travellers in developed markets and two-thirds in emerging markets do not have a specific destination in mind when they start their trip planning process. 

Yet, it is not easy to browse destinations on most travel websites today.   Especially for inexperienced there is a need for better more condensed snapshots of information such as seasonal temperature/weather and price ranges. Freshness and accuracy of destination information is also an issue, particularly for emerging markets.

Now I was thinking about this recently since I was in Italy at the end of last year and spent a lot of time researching where I was going to stay, things we might like to do there and visit and ways to get around. Also what the specialty of the areas might be, attractions to look out for and any customs that would be important to know – like that fact that the shops are closed on Mondays and close through the week between say 1 pm and 3 pm.
If you are out and about in a strange town that has a different language - that’s good to know! 

So I am a tourist from another country coming to Australia what would I be looking for here? 
Now it happens, that Italy has many, many wonderful websites with fantastic information available. Each region promotes their patch very well.  Some information is from businesses, some from blogs written by travellers who had experienced visiting these places for the first time, and also reviews on places like Trip Advisor.

But when I came to plan a trip to Australia the job is much harder. Lots of links to the same old places, hotels and big corporate websites and a squillion pictures of beaches... but that’s not the kind of holiday I want. If I go somewhere new I want to learn about the place. 

But see I am not your average tourist. I want to stay somewhere that is not a commercial hotel, and I want to know what facilities are there, and easy it will be for me to take care of my shopping needs while I am there. 

If I don’t drive, I want to know how I can get there, 
when I can get there and 
what I need to know to get tickets and all that.

While I may not be your average tourist, there are a lot of tourists like me. And a lot of people who would think about travelling more often and staying longer if they could travel this way. 

There are many niches now for types of travellers and each have their own wants - and opportunities for business to service them.

So we have a problem locally – well across Australia really – because we are not good at showcasing the different things that we have to do that are not so highly publicised. We have lots of vineyards – but not so much in classes for wine and cooking for tourists to take while they are here. We have lots of B&Bs but many of them don’t have a presence online and don’t show their business in a way that makes the most of what they have to offer.

An example
If I am going to visit an area, I am going to look for somewhere not a hotel as my first preference. I might look for a self cater house, or apartment. One with cooking facilities but close to conveniences and places I might eat out. 

Now as I look for places of this kind, how they look, is important. How clean they look and how comfortable the furnishings – this tells me a lot about how important the comfort of guests is to the owners.  If they seem to care about how nice it is for me to stay there, then that’s something that is important to me. It conveys a sense of them being somewhat like me and that they would understand my needs and what will make the stay more pleasant.

Looks aside, the number one thing that I will be looking for – all else being equal – is how fast and reliable and easy to access is high speed internet. And I don’t expect to pay more for that. 

This is one buying criterion that has changed in recent years. Nowadays it is considered a basic facility for internet to be available for visitors. Anyone who is interested in keeping their vacation rentals booked - and receive great reviews cannot afford to overlook the importance of this to visitors. 

Customers also want ease. They want it to be simple to learn what they want to know. Easy to make it happen and confident because they get a fast confirmation and don't have to wonder about arrangements.  Certainty makes for peace of mind. 

There are many other ways that customers shop now and their expectations about what a business provides and how they provide their services have changed dramatically in the last 5 years.  Many businesses have not adapted to suit this way of buying and so they are missing out on sales that they could be making from their websites – and even using payment over the phone in some cases. 

Mobile devices are becoming the primary medium for accessing the Internet – and its related services – across all age groups.  So naturally Websites need to be readable on mobile devices since so many people are doing their shopping and travel planning this way.  And access to broadband wifi is a big factor for travellers who will be seeking information on the local area before they arrive – and when they get here. 

As a region, the whole Hunter and Port Stephens and Lake Macquarie areas combine to make a fantastic central tourist spot for visitors to spend an extended time here to look around the many things we have to offer – but if they can’t find out about how easy that is and what a fun time it will be – and affordable – not just for the rich travellers – they will pass us by. 

So there are some things for you to consider in your businesses.
Research other locations and see what they do that’s different. 
Discover what has changed for your customers in the past few years in how they shop for your services or products.
If your customers are travellers
Look at your local area and business as though you are new to the area and seeking to find services. Do some search on Google and see how what you can find easily and make not of what you would want to know but can’t find.  Your own business can use this as a start on improving your online information and when multiplied across the region, suddenly the whole area will explode online with fantastic content for travellers – even local travellers – to use. 

These are all ways to help push growth in sales, encourage repeat sales and increase the dollar value of sales.   Meeting expectations is the start point. Exceeding them is where the magic is. 

More sales, more often, for more money - that’s the only way to grow exponential profit

If you need help with any of this give me a call. 

Lindy Asimus

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Local Businesses Online: Articles

Some interesting articles this week that are useful for owners of local businesses to understand some new trends. These articles just in are great examples of the changing ways that businesses do business and the importance of to any business in keeping up with the changes. 

These changes are not just in marketing, they are reflected all across the business and the way that businesses must learn to operate in this age using technology and responding to the requirements of those customers they want to have spend money with them. 

1  Promoting Yourself In The Digital Age - Sydney Morning Herald
"Young's top five tips for building your personal brand:
1. "LinkedIn is ‘Facebook for suits’ and it has four million Australian members. If you’re in business, you really should have a presence on Linkedin. Depending on what industry you’re in, you might want to be more active on the network, but as a minimum make sure your profile does you justice – include your photo and tell your story but not in a CV kind of way, write it with a bit of verve and personality."

2. Open an account on Twitter and get active. From his own experience, Young says: "Twitter has been incredible in building my network and opening my eyes to other people’s ideas. It helps you connect and build relationships with people who in all likelihood you would not get to meet in day-to-day real life."

3. Start a blog. Young believes that, in many instances, it should form the cornerstone of your online marketing efforts. "I’ve seen many examples where a blog has contributed to the success of a company through heightened profile and increased opportunities."

4. Consider becoming your own media channel. Young is referring to producing your own content and distribute it across the social web. This means blog posts, but also perhaps an e-book or whitepaper, videos or a podcast. "A lot will depend on your business and your area of expertise obviously, but the fact that today you can become your own media channel and share your ideas with the world for next to nothing dollar-wise, is an amazing opportunity."

5. For those in professional services, Young suggests checking out Slideshare. "Contribute a presentation or two that you can then embed on your blog and/or LinkedIn profile. Slideshare is a "quiet giant" of the social media world that is steadily building its community and growing in influence".  Promoting Yourself In The Digital Age

2  Online Pennies Start To Drop - Smartcompany 
"They are also getting insights into how cost-effective, flexible, measurable and convenient websites and online marketing are compared to their comparatively pricey and cumbersome traditional counterparts.

Better still, the costs of experimenting with these new online techniques is miniscule compared to similar experimentation with traditional media." Online pennies start to drop for Australian SMEs

Survey finds SMEs failing to put mobile on the menu - Smartcompany

"SMEs have been warned not to overlook the growing number of customers who use mobiles to access business' websites, following a new poll that found that less than 10% of restaurant owners have mobile-optimised websites..

The Melbourne-based business has released the findings of its latest Restaurant Website Visitor Report, which reviews all of the information from its customers' websites.
Data from March 2013 was compared with data from May 2012.
The report shows 29% of all traffic to restaurant websites comes from mobile devices, while Safari is the most popular browser – it makes up 50% of all browsers, up from 37%.
But according to the report, less than one in 10 businesses actually have a mobile-optimised site"  Survey finds SMEs failing to put mobile on the menu

Are You Keeping Up?

These are just a few of the dozens of articles and posts that I review every week. How will you keep on top of new developments you need to know?  One thing that is constant and that is that change is with us forever. Those businesses that will do well are those whose owners ensure that they have access to quality and targeted information that is useful to them and their business. We are past the point where finding information is the main use of the internet. Analyzing that information is critical. Knowing which information matters is useful and which is not is key. 
Keep following our articles and check out Like my Facebook page at to stay informed. And if you have any questions, give me a call on 0403 365 855. 

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Goodbye Yellow Pages Hello New Media

Businesses have stopped paying for big ads on Yellow Pages - but are not applying that money to new media.

There is a bunch of money they could be getting value from promoting their business online and offline in a way that is more active than they ever had with YP - and already finding in their budget. 

Bare minimum that business needs to do is:

1) monitoring reputation - what is being said about them online
2) cleaning up their websites so the look good and are on track for good (free/organic) search results and have fresh content since that is what impresses Google
3) their websites are usable on mobile devices
4) have claimed their free listings and built these out with useful information.

Has Your Business Been Hijacked?

Recently a local accountant was telling me of a client whose listing was claimed by a competitor and the number diverted to their own phone. 

Imagine that. 

Beyond these basic needs, there are many, many ways to enhance conversions and manage the business end of the marketing using technology and new ways of operating. 

What Else Is Important To Do To Generate Sales In This New Marketplace?

Some that come to mind - 

Radio ads for getting your message out to people when they are not sitting in front of a computer - and would never have thought to look for you anyway!  Radio just clicks with online marketing tools.

Ways to measure and track your inbound responses so you know where the sales are coming from

Visual improvements to your online and offline presentation - including good photographs, good styling of your product in the photographs and good styling and presentation of packaging, shop layout and presentation and image that does your products and service proud. (This is very rare to see!)

Copywriting to promote your business story and bring it to life and help with search results on Google. 

A strategy for using social media platforms like Facebook, Linkedin or Twitter, YouTube etc for engaging in the social space. This is where people who know people who know you get to know your business, like your business and then trust your business. 

That's so valuable. And you can't buy that. 

Need help? Give me a call. 

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Social Media For Business Makes For Growth

Even the ABC TV program The Business is bringing us stories on the growth of business due to the internet.

Time to do something about yours?

With big cyber dividends, small business can't afford not to go digital

Updated Mon Apr 15, 2013 10:34pm AEST
A new report found a third of enterprises have virtually no digital engagement, but those that do are twice as likely to be growing and profitable.
TICKY FULLERTON, PRESENTER: Log on to the digital world and reap the rewards - that's the message to small business missing out on the cyber revolution.
A new report found a third of enterprises have virtually no digital engagement, but those that do are twice as likely to be growing and profitable.
Tracey Kirkland reports.
TRACEY KIRKLAND, REPORTER: Michael Tattersfield has been a printer for more than a decade, but this has been his best year yet. He puts his company's rapid growth down to the internet
MICHAEL TATTERSFIELD, BUSINESS OWNER, APPAREL ART: So initially I was using things like mail drops, leaflets and sending out letters to businesses to try and get some interest. And then that was successful on a very patchy scale. And then I started reading about web marketing.
TRACEY KIRKLAND: Two years ago, he consulted an IT professional and together they built a website. Now he uses social media, posts web videos and constantly updates his site. He's also doubled his bottom line.
MICHAEL TATTERSFIELD: We might have had half a dozen inquiries a week. Now I'm getting 20, 30, 40, 50.

See video and full transcript here

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Good News And Bad News For Accountants

Some interesting results in a survey released by Business Review Weekly has some good news and bad news for accountants and financial services in Australia. 

Why SMEs still trust accountants over financial planners

Published 12 April 2013 11:23, Updated 12 April 2013 13:15

Two points from the article ...

Point One:
SMEs have identified accountants as their trusted external adviser, but they may not appreciate that their accountant is there to help design a sound business plan and avoid the pitfalls that can bring down a business,” he says. “This is especially so in the critical period 12 to 24 months after starting.”
The survey also shed light on the type of advice SMEs are turning to for professionals. It found 63 per cent of the advisers time was spent handling transactional or administrative functions for SME clients, and only 37 per cent gave strategic business advice."

My experience would suggest that accountants are poorly equipped to help with business planning beyond the 'get funded type of business plan' that is a fiction created for banks, and not a blueprint for how to drive the business forward. Indeed, few have one that guides the direction of their own business. 

Let's be clear. 

Marketing is not an accounting skill.
Communication is not an accounting skill. 
Technology is not an accounting skill.
Social media marketing is not an accounting skill.
Customer service is not an accounting skill.
Content creation for the web is not an accounting skill.

And sadly, being an advocate for a business is 
not an accounting skill. 

A financial planner too, has a range of skills and not all financial planners are equal. Sadly, the legislation around the industry lumps them all together but while some are merely providing a sales front for selling managed funds, some actually will work through with you on your life ambitions and help you create a plan that is in your interests - not their financial reward. 

So how do you tell them apart? 

That's a good question. And a good strategy for that is worth developing for selecting (and reviewing the performance) of your accountant and other advisors and suppliers and sometimes customers.

Trusting, or not trusting a 'class' of professionals is a bad idea. 
Having a good process to assess competency, is a good idea.

Point Two:

The survey also points out... 
Cloud-less accountants may be ditched
"Most SME owners said they would replace their accountant if they failed to make the transition to cloud-based computing software.
The survey showed only 23 per cent of accountants servicing SMEs have moved to cloud-based software to manage their clients’ accounts. But of the 77 per cent surveyed who are yet to make the move, 60 per cent said they expect to do so within three years."

The cloud, if you don't know, is where instead of buying your copy of MYOB, you use an internet based  service that you pay only for a monthly subscription, is updated automatically (in the cloud) and is available for you and your employees or accountant with permission, to access as required.  Bank details are updated automatically and you can get your current figures at any time with the press of a button.

This is a real time saver and eliminates so many hassles with keeping the books straight. And should reduce your bookkeeping and accounting costs.

Yet many accountants are still set in the old ways and are not updating their knowledge to participate actively in the way business can be done in this century. 

That can be costing you money.

And holding your business back from reaching out and becoming more profitable and using technology to do more with less in your business. 

We are in a new era and it is critical for business owners to understand that the internet for business is not just playing around on Facebook. Your online strategy needs to be thought out and to do that you need to be able to get quality information that is always up to the minute so you are not left falling behind your competitors who more now than ever could be stealing your business even from outside your local area.

But let me mention a third point the article makes. Many business owners rely on 'instinct' when determining trust. Instinct without a good checking process is a bad idea as the article explains.

So who should you trust?

  • Advisors who are competent at their profession but also 
  • always current in their knowledge of new business information and 
  • who make sure that you are kept up-to-date.  You should look for advisors who 
  • put your interests ahead of what they can gouge you for in fees and hidden commissions.

Oh... and don't look for advice from your accountant or your financial planner on issues that relate to marketing and technology.

Go where that knowledge is demonstrated.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Google Solution To Social Accounts When You Die

It's a sad time when someone who is a friend dies and their Facebook page or other social media account can't post the update, but it can be shown from time to time in your contacts. There has really been no protocol for accounts on social media platforms to reflect the new status when someone passes on.

Google has introduced what it calls an Inactive Account Manager to help with thisThis lets you set up a very straightforward procedure for what should happen to your data after your account becomes inactive “for any reason.”

Here's what Google had to say about it...

Plan your digital afterlife with Inactive Account Manager

Thursday, April 11, 2013 at 12:05 PM ET

Posted by Andreas Tuerk, Product Manager

Not many of us like thinking about death — especially our own. But making plans for what happens after you’re gone is really important for the people you leave behind. So today, we’re launching a new feature that makes it easy to tell Google what you want done with your digital assets when you die or can no longer use your account.

The feature is called Inactive Account Manager — not a great name, we know — and you’ll find it on your Google Account settings page. You can tell us what to do with your Gmail messages and data from several other Google services if your account becomes inactive for any reason.

For example, you can choose to have your data deleted — after three, six, nine or 12 months of inactivity. Or you can select trusted contacts to receive data from some or all of the following services: +1s; Blogger; Contacts and Circles; Drive; Gmail; Google+ Profiles, Pages and Streams; Picasa Web Albums; Google Voice and YouTube. Before our systems take any action, we’ll first warn you by sending a text message to your cellphone and email to the secondary address you’ve provided.

We hope that this new feature will enable you to plan your digital afterlife — in a way that protects your privacy and security — and make life easier for your loved ones after you’re gone.

Giving some thought to what happens when you die is wise at all levels. What some have not considered is that often it can happen that on the death of a person, the secrets that have been contained within their emails and online activities can scrutinised very closely by the partner of that person. It happens quite often that what the partner finds in their perusal, can reveal elements about the partner now gone that is a surprise - or a shock.

There is no comeback to recriminations at that point.

Taking care of our digital estate planning is a good move from Google that will give us some measure of privacy and determination over our digital footprint after we're gone.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

75 Percent Of Small Businesses Missing Out

"Nearly three quarters of small and medium businesses in Australia are failing to use social media as a marketing tool, research conducted by Telstra shows.
The report reveals only 24 per cent of the 1000 small and medium businesses surveyed have embraced social media.
A further 12 per cent also believed social media actually dampened business success.
Telstra Business group managing director Will Irving said with 62 per cent of adults worldwide now using social media, businesses ignoring this powerful tool were missing out.
"In a digital age where smartphones and tablets are used on a daily basis, we know customers expect a company to have a social media presence," he said." reported today in  Business Spectator article
Your business needs you to be out there where the customers are not just relying on those who somehow stumble upon your business during the hours it is open.

Starting Point
  1. Kick your website into gear. Make sure it is optimised for people and for search engines. 
  2. Dedicate a budget to your marketing online. 
  3. Get your story straight on what it is that you're good at and why customers will be glad they bought from you.
  4. Get active with a well planned but flexible strategy for making your presence visible online using your website and social media platforms that are a fit,  such as Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, YouTube and more. 
 The platform that will work best for your product line will depend on many variables, not the least of which is the amount of personal effort you are committed to spend on it - or delegate to someone with experience in business use of social media.

This is bare minimum stuff. Part of that 'cost of doing business'

Ready to join the businesses who are making the online world an additional sales channel?

Related posts:
Many hands make lighter work of social media for local businesses
Here's how to save time and get good content for your business online
Inbound marketing the new old fashioned way to do business
Financial planners: Social Marketing the key to keeping business on the books
Business writing not just on the social media wall
What every business should know about social media

Like some help with your social media marketing?

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Kogan Makes April Fool Of The Australian

 Online retail business has successfully managed to prank The Australian newspaper with its April Fools’ Day claim that it was opening a bricks-and-mortar store in Melbourne. Startup Smart article

"The clues should’ve been there for Oz journalist Chris Griffith, with the press release including clearly sarcastic Kogan gems such as: “Our Chadstone flagship store will be massive! While you won't be able to read reviews and what thousands of customers thought about our products, you will be able to hear what our incentivised sales staff have to say about them.”

Like you'd open a bricks and mortar store and create all those costs when you are selling online and have no need to carry all that expense.. Get it? 

Are you getting your low cost sales online too?

Monday, April 1, 2013

Australian Top 20 Online Retailers 2013

SmartCompany has posted a list of top 20 retailers in Australia for the year so far.

"It was the year when online retailing grew up. Though the industry has had the same debate for years, the last year has seen a huge resurgence in the way companies both large and small are dealing with digital.
A decade after shutting down its original digital strategy, David Jones has come back with a vengeance. The retailer, along with department store rival Myer, has spent tens of millions of dollars in buffing up its online presence.
But it isn’t just the department stores getting their digital chops dirty. Woolworths and Wesfarmers have started giving regular updates on online sales in their financial updates. Chains like Speciality Retail and Country Road are reporting sales increases, or actual revenue figures from digital sources.
Even though Gerry Harvey may still decry the use of the internet, Harvey Norman is turning over several million dollars."
Google is getting into online sales and National Australia Bank's latest Online Retail Sales Index showed online sales grew to $13 billion over the 12 months to the end of January, up 27 per cent at a time when overall retail sales grew by just 0.4 per cent.
The gain restored the speed of internet sales growth to the peak seen in November, and marked an acceleration from December, when the pace of growth slowed to 23 per cent.
The question for you in your business, is: What are you doing to get your digital strategy working?  A connected friend on G+ today spoke of all the "many outside pressures, online, for instance" that local business owners face. Can it be he was referring to the opportunities that online sales opens for them?

To compete in the market that now exists, it is wise to face the marketplace that is, not the one that is now gone. It is not coming back. 

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