The Australian Small Business Blog

Monday, September 18, 2006

Finding Your Way through the Maze





As business owners we are constantly bombarded with “opportunities”. Everyone is promising something that is going to transform our business. But, by the time we have evaluated at all the opportunities, we seem to be back where we started from. And we have spent all that time and energy going around in circles in a maze.

In fact, for many owners, it is just like a maze. But here is a tip to help you get out of the maze. Can you remember when you were a kid, and you were given mazes to solve. Some were pretty easy. You could solve them without putting pen to paper. But others were so complex, that it didn’t matter where you started, or which turn you took, you always found yourself in a dead end.

And if you got really frustrated, just before you gave up, you tried starting at the end of the maze, and worked backwards. And in most cases, you were able to find your way to the beginning. The reason why this worked is that mazes are designed to stop you reaching the goal, and so offer you lots of promising opportunities or paths that lead nowhere. But when you start from the goal, you skip the dead ends.

Now as kids, we were discouraged from doing this because it was cheating. Like looking up the answer in the back of the book. But in business, as long as it is legal and ethical, its ok. So this is why it’s so important to start at your goal and work backwards to today. When you do that, all of a sudden, you recognise that most of the opportunities are actually dead ends.

When you have a long term goal, you can better see what you should be doing today to achieve your goals. And just as importantly, you can see what you should not be doing.

So, create a vision of what you want your business to look like in the future. Then put some detail on the vision. Ask yourself some questions like:

· What products and services will I be providing?
· Who will I be providing them to?
· How will I provide these services?
· What are the numerical targets behind these answers?
· When will I achieve them?

When you have answered these questions, you have described the end-point in the maze, and so now, you are over half the way to finding your way out.

Dr Greg Chapman is the Director of Empower Business Solutions and The Australian Business Coaching Club and is a Business Coach and provides Coaching and Consulting advice to Australian Small Business Owners in Marketing & Business Strategies Planning & Systems.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Golden Rules of Websites - Rule 2 in a series

By Ron Stark


A fire can hospitalise you or cook your food. Water can sustain you or drown you. A motor car can get you to where you want to go or run over you. Your website can help your business or damage it.

Probably the most commonly overlooked aspect of having a website is its capacity to damage your business. To a visitor it's a window into your business. It tells your potential clients, in a few seconds, the type of business you appear to be - not always what you really are. It's all about initial impressions.

If left unattended, your website goes through three distinct phases. First, when initially built it's an accurate reflection of your business. Second, when your business has moved ahead and your procducts and services have changed but your website hasn't. This is the stage at which your website doesn't help at all, but it doesn't damage your business either.

The third stage is when your content is obviously out of date, products are obsolete, the telephone number is no longer working, links are broken and the email no longer works. The message about your business is then loud and clear - that you've gone out of business.

The key thing to remember is that just because you've forgotten your website and it's long out of date, it still lurks on the Internet, still visible to your potential clients, relentlessly working against your business.


Golden Rule 2


A website has equal capacity to enhance or damage your business. Which one is up to you.



There are other issues, however, unrelated to whether content is up to date, but nonetheless damaging to your business. I will touch on these in a subsequent article, but here are a few:

  • An opening Flash page may gratify your designer, but to your visitor it's an obstacle.
  • Complicated navigation may satisfy a website programmer's ego, but to your visitor it's irritating and makes your business appear messy to deal with.
  • An amateur design may save you some money, but to your visitor it makes your business look unprofessional.


This is the second article in a series that exposes the many, yet frequently overlooked basic business rules that successful websites should follow. The author Ron Stark is the founder of Snapsite, where your business needs come before technology.

The Australian Small Business Blog

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Market to Thousands for Next to Nothing through Your Business Networking Group….

by Ben Angel

Not many business owners know how to get to their target market for next to nothing, but by utilising your existing contacts that you have met through your local business networking group, it’s well within reach.

How?

By utilising an alliance strategy called a host beneficiary

A host beneficiary is where you offer another business owner a special gift or discount for your business for them to then pass on to their client base either via email or in person. Instead of marketing through tv, radio or the newspaper, you suddenly start marketing through your business colleagues instead.

It works out a hell of a lot cheaper and more targeted when you align with the right kind of business.

This strategy benefits the three parties involved, the business owner who takes credit for arranging the offer on behalf of your business, the clients themselves as they get a special gift or discount and you as you gain access to a new group of potential customers overnight.
The best way to market your business through a host beneficiary is to come up with a special offer that sparks instant interest from your fellow businesses client base.

This includes three important factors:

The offer must add value to the host businesses client base, ie. be relevant to what their clients are interested in or looking for
The offer must give enough incentive for them to pick up the phone or email you to take the offer up
The offer must be limited to a certain number of people to make it exclusive and engage a faster response

Write an article
If you don’t want to go down the way of making an offer or giving a free gift to get a new lead, you can write an article of relevance to your business contacts database and get them to forward it on with your contact details at the bottom of the article with links back to your website.

This strategy is very effective if you have aligned with a business owner that has the same niche market as yours but with slightly different products/services.

Marketed to 8000 for free once a month
A colleague of mine established a host beneficiary with a video store owner six months ago that was in perfect alignment with her business.

Since then she has been able to advertise to their database of 8000 at absolutely no charge. Normally the client acquisition costs for that kind of database would easily run into the thousands, instead she gave away a few free tickets to an event of hers that cost her next to nothing.

By thinking big like my colleague did, you will open yourself up to a new market and lower your client acquisition costs instantly.

Your business networking group
At business networking events and business networking groups you will get to meet businesses from a wide variety of industries, take advantage of the host beneficiary strategy as it focuses on the 20% of things that will get you the 80% of results.

Until next time happy business networking…

Ben Angel is the Director and Founder of Nationwide Networking a business networking group that meets monthly to share referrals, knowledge, gain business advice from keynote speakers and work together to proactively help each other grow their businesses.

The Australian Small Business Blog

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Writing for the media


Many questions are asked about the correct writing style when pitching to the media.
The question that should always be asked is ‘what publication’?

Publications are wide ranging; topics vary and writing styles differ between them all, so it’s vital that you understand the publication and the in-house style guide.

It’s always the little things

Some publications use the sadly moribund semi colon; others chose to omit and opt for something different. Whatever the reason, get to know how your intended publication uses grammar and style. It’s your job to know, feel and study the publication.

Writing for print media is different to on-line. In the on-line domain you’ll see a plethora of abbreviated words and phrases which require the eye minimal study time. The web is there for scanning; print is there to absorb.

The definitive style guide to the correct format for writing media releases and documentation is often dictated by journalists and reporters.

Press Release

A conventional press release, sent via email but produced in word, is a brief document (no more than 2 pages) which must be double spaced and written in an easy to read font. Comic Sans has a time and place but it’s certainly not in a formal document announcing a product or service to experienced media professionals.

Email Release

The electronic age may be upon us, yet it doesn’t excuse poorly written material and badly punctuated sentences. Email, the apparent saviour of marketing, removes the personal touch from many communication practises. Email press releases are usually shorter in length and organised into three succinct paragraphs. Remember to include your company logo in a nice and compact file size. There’s little worse than sending a document to a journalist which takes 5 minutes to download.

Wasted words serve little purpose in all media releases. Check, check and check again.

Remember to include a compelling headline and an opening paragraph which covers the who, what, why, when and where questions. Finish your communication off with a short paragraph about your business and whom to contact.

Stuart Evans is a professional copywriter, PR practitioner and freelance journalist. He runs Vibe Communications, a communication consultancy specialising in helping small to medium sized business.

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Dr. Greg Chapman is also the author of
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The Five Pillars of Guaranteed Business Success

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