The Hunter Research Foundation has released their Business and Digital Technology survey for June 2014 with some interesting results that business owners in the Newcastle and Hunter region should take some time to understand.
While the uptake of technology for consumers is high, and businesses are using technology of others - they are paying scant attention to their own provision of internet functions with only 57% of companies having a dedicated website.
I've seen some of them - many of them are not working nearly as effectively as they need to and could be.
Businesses have many good reasons to get updated to operate in the world as it is today. The world where there customers live and do business.
To not be there is letting your business down.
The Internet Not Just For Hipsters Under 40
While the numbers are depressing on the face of it, they reveal real potential for our local businesses to improve their use of internet and communication technology. All they need is learning and that is definitely available.
If you're not sure how to start and are a bit scared of computers or looking "silly" contact me via the form on this page or give me a call on 0403 365 855 so we can look at your options to get in the race.
Of course I am always most interested in businesses in Newcastle and the Hunter Valley but all business can be, and really should be taking advantage of the available opportunities that Google make for business to get found online.
Indeed, if you own or manage a business, you really need to go and claim your listing - which may already be online and showing some information. That information not be up-to-date and if you haven't put it there yourself, probably is not showing your business as well as it could be.
Claiming your business listing on Google, is to some minds, the new equivalent of taking out an advertisement in the Yellow Pages. In some ways I agree and it is a very good step for business to take. is it enough? I don't think so, personally, but it is certainly something to make a priority. Even if you don't understand why you need it, do it anyway, or risk someone else claiming your business for their use, as detailed in this article, which has indeed happened in some cases.
While there is a bit of mucking about to claim your listing, it is worth the effort. Here's a snapshot of my business listing on Google
Your Google listing lets you select a photograph for your business and a good description of what you do, where you are located and your business hours.
Easy to see - this is also where people can review your business - in fact some businesses will already have reviews they may not know anything about! Customers don't need permission to leave a review so it is important to be monitoring your business online - whether you are active on the internet or not. Information can also be showing from other review sites in the public domain.
By claiming your Google listing you prevent others from falsely claiming your business as theirs.
Your listing also shows your location on Google maps - and this is important to note that listings are for businesses that operate in the physical space - either at your premises, or if you see clients at their places of business. You can elect to show a region in which your business services customers. EG within 20, 50, or 100 kilometers from your location.
You can also add photographs of your work or products and add detailed descriptions so that people can understand what you do and how you can help them.
As well as a photograph of your location or to represent your business you can also post articles and updates easily to you Google business listing.
If you have videos, these can also be added to give a thorough coverage of your products or services.
People can also follow your business and get your updates when you post. This an excellent way to let people know when you have news or an event coming up, or post new photographs or educational information.
And of course most importantly - you can link your website to your Google business profile.
This is really a fabulous free way to get new people to find your business. You can change the settings for the hours you are open if this changes throughout the year and your customers always can find out your current hours of operation before they head out to your store.
This is also a good way to ensure your business is easily found AND readable on mobile phones and tablets.
Have you some questions or had some experiences with Google for your business?
Give me a call!
Servicing Newcastle, Hunter Valley, Lake Macquarie, Port Stephens and Maitland, Sydney and country clients also welcome. Online coaching is available all locations
Some interesting selections from the 2014 Internet Trends study. While the study is geared to large company issues, the selected data also applies very much to local business, as they consider the new marketplace in which they are doing business. Thanks to digital master Paul Wallbank for pointing this study out.
Tablets continue rapid growth as the screen of choice for many internet users. What that means for local business - is that it is critical to ensure your online presence is presented in a way that renders intelligently on the screens of visitors.
Houzz is a website and online community and a fantastic example of how architects, building contractors and products for the home can be promoted and shared and open the door to being noticed by those with the interest and intention to learn and share about what they like in home design elements and building.
Yet many building trades are nowhere to be found online and are missing out on the benefits of good visual content to improve their reach online. This is a fantastic medium for those in the business of creating built environment still largely untapped by local business. A look at the average home renovation company website reveals a lack of understanding of the importance of good professional photographs, well lit, and well staged. If your images would not look good on Houzz, they probably are not the photographs to use on your website and online content.
Many owners of local business seem to have not yet got the message that computing is getting cheaper all the time. That should free up the budget to be doing more with that saving to enhance their presence online and capacity to streamline business operations through automation and other high output functions, that saves manpower and time. Using technology to streamline and improve quoting on new business, communicating with customers and internal departments as well as suppliers should mean faster throughput and less unexplained and unnecessary delay.
Let's be clear here. No matter what the rep from Yellow Pages tells you, that's not where people go now to find a service provider. Online reviews, and recommendation from friends is driving sales. You need to be there where the people are too, for your business.
If you're advertising on traditional TV or even radio then you can improve your results by also having good coverage online for the background story on what you do. Nobody is sitting there watching your advertisement during the ad breaks. Those days are long gone. They are looking for information on the next thing they will buy, or share or learn about. So again, your business needs to satisfy those needs of the consumer when it comes to what you do best.
There is a lingering doubt for those who are not using Twitter to doubt its value to business. For that reason this data set seems to put paid to the idea that it serves no purpose for business. Twitter has many benefits for business, but you need to understand how to use it effectively. That isn't by following 20 people with your business account. And it isn't by buying 20,000 fake followers. Learn what you need to learn to make this work for your business.
This looked like a powerful reminder and sometimes it can seem like businesses lose touch with this basic premise. Whether you are looking to invest in tech stocks, or looking to make the most of your business, understanding these points is a practical and useful philosophy to keep in mind. And technology and the internet including social media can assist in helping your business to earn more money.
Content marketing is the name given to the combined activities that generate information geared to appeal, entertain, or inform those interested in a topic, and provide the basis of keeping a website 'fresh' and aiding in the business or individual being visible online. Content can be across different online platforms such as social media - eg Facebook, Linkedin, blog, or website.
Context is matching the content appropriate to the business and the interests of the target demographic. When you have quality Content that is fit for purpose and on target so far as the context goes, you greatly improve your chances of being found online by those you want to find you. You also demonstrate your expertise and attention to the important issues for those with an interest in what you do.
A Content Marketing Strategy
To get this right you need to approach this as you would any other business project. With a plan written and a developed well-formed strategy with actions and activities organised to achieve your purpose.
If you would like help with that give me a call.
0403 365 855
Business & Executive Coaching | Social Media Marketing Training | Individual Training Classes
It's clear that social sharing is having a big effect on how people buy.
"According to a study by Mobstac, the most significant impacts of social media for business are the building of trust and lead generation. In 2013 Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest generated 75% of all social media referred sales. Mobstac notes that in 2016 U.S. consumers are expected to spend $327 billion online, making a social media investment all that more important."
Time to start taking your business approach to social media and online presentation seriously.
Social media classes are now available - one on one - to get you up to speed. Classes run for 2 hours and you can pick the module you want to learn about, with the class tailored to your individual business.
Make no mistake about it, if you want to make the most of online marketing on social media platforms like Facebook, you need to be able to leverage your business network.
We hear all the time about network meetings and business chambers and BNI and on it goes. When it comes to being visible online you need to get your posse assembled. Not just the talkers, the doers who will join with you to learn how to do this the right way and will make a commitment to doing social marketing that works. This is the first step.
As online sales increase and some retailers begin to reap the benefits of additional sales from sectors that once would have been out of reach, it is time for those who are not yet active to get organised.
Facebook is a channel that is driving sales for some products but many businesses are missing out because they have yet to establish a shopping cart or a presence for the business online.
Local businesses have a ton of opportunity to bring their business online and make their website a Shop Window to the world, but they need some work and budget to make that possible. Smartphones and Tablets for shopping online
Mobile phones and tablets are the growing sector for viewing and making purchases online and local business can benefit by making their business functional and easy to find by users. This is especially true for those with products aimed at the 30 and under demographic. Yet many businesses have not geared their website to be optimised for mobile browsing.
According to industry reports video advertising and video viewing also continued in 2013, and will grow consistently for the next five or so years according to industry trends.
Marketing for your business should be taking into account these buying trends and in presenting your business to compete in today's market means treating your online business face like you would do for your shopfront. This is just part of doing business now and preparing the face of your business, as well as the substance of your business to deliver promptly, and products that customers want to buy, while making it easy for them to find your offers and make a purchase is now part of every business manager's responsibility and opportunity.
Focus on these online areas for increased sales
In approaching your business activities for increasing sales driven by online activity, some areas you need to cover off on are:
digital marketing content strategy
social media optimization
increasing and improving search and online display
website content development
budgeting for this part of the business
Australia is leading the region for online sales but recent reports show that there is still insufficient investment and a lack of skills is preventing business from making the most productive use of digital marketing.
This is an exciting time and those who prepare well will certainly reap the rewards.
0403 365 855
Business and Social Media Consulting
Forget the old ways of shoppers making purchase decisions. Here's more on a 2012 study of online action motivators. The Zero Moment of Truth is when people do their own research, check out prices and comparison of features and benefits ... BEFORE they ever go shopping to buy. Google and Shopper Sciences studied 5,000 shoppers to find where shoppers switch from undecided to decided. In between stimulus and point of sale, we discovered decision-making now includes extensive research. Consumers go online to read reviews, comparison shop, look for deals, and more. Marketers that reach consumers here—the Zero Moment of Truth—will gain a true competitive advantage.
Thinking about buying some popularity on Facebook? You can spend your money, but like everything of worth when it comes to online presence on the internet, the real stuff counts for something. There are no short cuts. Just work to earn your place.
Take a look.
Here's the thing. Being visible and engaging online is a great thing for business to do. But it is not a job for the junior in the office, and there is no way to get any results that matter by short cuts. There are lots of things not to do and a lot of things that you can do that most don't know to. Do you need Likes? Yes. Do fake Likes count? No. As you can see in the video, they not only don't count, but they dilute the real Likes and makes it even HARDER for those people - potential customers - from seeing your updates.
Now you should know that since all these changes came in, getting Likes on your page has never been harder. So you need a comprehensive strategy to make that happen.
Your business online is as important as every other business issue you manage.
Make sure you get help with it from someone who knows and is up to date with all the shenanigans that go on. Or better still, get help with that and learn how to sort the good information from the bad.
Content for your business to showcase you online
I have space for a few new local businesses, preferably in the Newcastle region who want to get their business online and need the content generated to use to attract quality engagement online.
Some interesting tech stories out this week. Take a peek.
These Tiny Keyboards Could Reinvent The Smartwatch Interface
"Minuum simplifies the traditional QWERTY layout by smashing it down to about the third the size a typical soft keyboard requires. Doing this on a smartwatch, for example, leaves more room for other on-screen elements." Read the full story on this here
Google Glass Gets A Fresh Design
Isabelle Olsson makes the face computer into a thing of beauty. She talks here with Fast Company about the inspiration behind the fashion-forward redesign that lets you blend in with the crowd.
How 7 People Test 400 Million Pounds Of Starbucks Coffee A Year
"After filling hundreds of juice glasses with carefully measured grounds and almost-boiling water, tasters form a line with spoons in-hand, smelling each cup, then slurping, swishing, and spitting a spoonful of coffee for each with mechanized efficiency. They’re confirming whether the beans will end their life as house blend, espresso, or even a Starbucks reserve. For the most part, these decisions have been predetermined by global operations and earlier tastings in Switzerland. But in this room, on this day, the team is the last line of defense." Read the full story here
Seriously, that's never going to win you any friends. Customers don't need to know about your business management issues. Besides which, promoting the highly expensive renovations you just undertook, then complaining about the occasional extra money that the employees who have some relationship with your customers make is really poor manners.
Your customers might be working in hospitality at some other place when they are not paying your wages.
Here are some comments posted on their Facebook wall, that are indicative.
Is all publicity good publicity? Maybe not. These things have a way of taking on a life of their own.
And if you think your business is "safe" by not being active online, guess again. People can be reviewing your business like this whether you are active online or not. If you're smart ... you'll make sure you are monitoring your reputation and online presence.
So we have just finished the Christmas sale season and so what's happened in the past half a year on the department store front?
Not much. Yay!! DJ's has an online store. Myer has an online store. It has mostly not worked but from a company - two companies that didn't bother making convenience a priority for customers and had no shopping available on their website for the previous ten years I guess that's progress of a sort. Myer CEO you might remember gained much attention from the press and on social media when he made comments about the disabled - you can find his golden moment on that regaled here.
The good side in all of this is that if you have a business on Main Street, you can do a better job than the large stores. You can compete - and you must. Eventually, these large companies will get a clue about how to do stuff online. Or the American stores that are setting up in Australia will.
Now is the time to get your business working this space effectively to grow sales for your business and grow your profits.
Social media is a great way for business to be where customers are spending time. But there are some rules that you need to know to stay on the right side of the law.
Here's what the ACCC has to say about it
"Social media gives large and small businesses a direct way to interact with existing and potential customers, and promote their products and services. Businesses using social media channels like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have a responsibility to ensure content on their pages is accurate, irrespective of who put it there."
While it looks like "anything goes" - it doesn't. You have an obligation to act honestly and within the guidelines that protect consumers, just as you do in your business normally.
Note that this honesty of information also includes anything that OTHERS may write on your profile - your obligation is to monitor what others might be saying on your social media properties and ensuring that misleading information is dealt with in the appropriate manner.
Don't make misleading claims on social media
Don't allow others to make misleading claims in comments
Minimise your risk
Monitoring social media pages
Responding to false, misleading or deceptive comments instead of removing them
ACCC role in enforcement of social media
Offer your customers a refund
See the ACC website for full explanations of these issues - Click Here
The importance of social media and being online for business is clear. But it doesn't replace other aspects of business that need to be carried out. Other functions in the business need to work well to support the efforts being made online to promote the business.
Perhaps that starts with setting good goals for the business owner as well as the business itself. Because we are complex multi-dimensional people and not just all business.
Here are some business articles from my Actionbites blog. For businesses in the Newcastle and Hunter regions it can be tough to break out of the walls around us. Many businesses don't give us credit for being able to provide as good as they might buy from Sydney, but the reality we have some excellent people in Newcastle and the Hunter doing remarkable work and much more easily accessible.
Perhaps you can use that thought to open up more potential to expand the reach of your business as you read these articles.
Why 'Actionbites'? On this blog I want people to take action from the articles I write. The 'bites' are things that can be used as a catalyst to take action, and the article should give some direction on the 'How' to do so.
Every business now needs to be publishing regular content online that showcases the business, is interesting for readers and can grab the attention.
This is just one of those 'doing business' activities that is now mainstream and undeniable.
But not everyone has the capacity to do this in-house.
If you don't have a marketing department or you don't have employees that have been trained to understand the online world and social media marketing and inbound marketing, then you can get help with this aspect of your business marketing.
I have some limited places for businesses that need help in producing quality content for the website, Facebook, Twitter or Linkedin, blogs, or for printing.
Tailored quotation images
Copy writing for the internet:
Your message needs to be visually appealing and consistent.
If you would like assistance with this you can contact me on 0403 365 855 or find me on @lindyasimus
The digital age. What is it? We read so much blather about digital this, digital that . For many business owners, 'digital' meant either your fingers or that clock radio. So what does it really mean?
Does "The Digital Age" mean anything useful?
Once upon a time someone developed a way to show different locations electronically as 'pages' and share information over distance. This was great and opened up a whole lot of useful and some silly things we could do with computers that we were not able to do before.
Then came Web 2.0 Of course nobody talks about that now it would be a sure sign that you are living in the past. So now we have The Digital Age. Well what is it really? It's really just how things are now. Let's stop talking about the Digital Age and start talking about what you're doing now to get the message out about your business.
That's new. That's old.
Different fleas. Same old dog.
So What Do We Do?
It's not "optional" to know how all this works now. or perhaps more correctly, not optional to know how to use it effectively. Getting across this learning is a simple cost of doing business in 2012 and beyond. And by the way, anyone can learn this, with the right help. Yes even you.
It's as basic a skill as learning to make a telephone call once was.
And it is time for businesses to get cracking and learning how to get the best results they can for the least amount of effort, cost and aggravation, using new tools to save money, get far better product exposure and really show off the stuff of which they are made.
We hear about e-business. What's that? Well hello, e-business is just any - or every - business now. It is a capability you acquire. Want to run a nail and beauty centre? Well you can't do that online. But you can use online tools to draw customers, showcase new ways to get creative, new designs, new ways to book in, new ways to generate referrals.
You have a bricks and mortar business? Great. Sell from there, and see what else you can sell not from there. This idea that we are stuck in a location waiting for some customer to wander past our door during those hours we are open is over. Just as customers go looking for information about products at any time of the day or night, we have the ability to be there where they looking, with all the answers they need and the steps to let them buy when it is convenient, and assure them that we know our stuff when it comes to our core business. Pretty much like we used to do - but without the locality restrictions, and without having to keep staff on the clock 24/7.
The more that new products come into the digital space the more there is to learn. For business that's not new. Dynamic businesses have been weathering change forever. This is a new one, just like the old ones were. Those who are flexible and open to learning will do well. Those who don't will fall by the wayside. Just like always.
Change ... is Gonna Come
We see a lot about 'digital literacy' well that's not enough either. We need our businesses to be digitally competent and learning centres. Testing to see what works and being willing to adapt as the market changes.
Perhaps the biggest change - the only change that matters is developing an attitude that embraces change and commits to learning how to make new technology improve what we do and make it easier to do better with fewer resources. This is what The Digital Age is all about. And just as in the past, skills building and training is required.
You don't need to know the ins and outs of every terabyte of information around the technical aspects. You do need to learn how to ask the right questions of those who do know that stuff. And how to determine if they know what they are talking about.
You do need to know why your business needs a blog.
You do need to build a great customer database full of useful information.
You do need to know how to use an email program.
You do need to know that sending newsletters as a pdf is pointless - or worse.
You do need to know how to get all those great photographs off your camera and onto your blog, your website and your social media platforms.
You do need to know how to create content that you can share that tells the story about your business and that will interest existing customers and bring them back to you for new business and attract new customers.
There are many things you need to know.
And quite a few you don't really need to know.
Especially important is for local business to stop looking for excuses and start taking positive action to be relevant.
What Do I Need To Do?
But mostly, as a business, you need to know your basic business numbers, really know your customers and what they want (no, not just guess), and encourage and empower your employees to get behind your vision and help customers feel wanted again.
The Digital Age?
For small business that's The Customer Age.
That's a bit old fashioned isn't it.
You still need to sell more things to more people, and have them come back and buy again more often. Digital tools are just resources you can help you do exactly that.
Local business needs to be cool - tech savvy - with a bit of Retro thrown in.
Customers love that.