The Australian Small Business Blog

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Last Week for July Business Owner's Competition



How would you like to win one of 3 HP Officejet Pro 8500 Wireless All-in-One printers valued at $499 each?

All you have to do, is put a comment on this blog, on any posting you like. The more the merrier.

At the end of the month, the best 3 commentors will each receive one of these printers. The only catch is I can only ship them to Australian businesses.

*****Please Note: When you comment for the first time, just let me know that you have here so I can contact you if you win. (Blogger comments are usually anonymous unless you leave your email address in the post which I don't recommend).

Genuine commenters are also welcome to put a link in their comment which will help with their ranking from this highly Google ranked site for the Australian Small Business keywords.

May Your Business be as You Plan It!

Dr Greg Chapman

The Australian Small Business Blog

Competing with Your Business Owner Customers


Let’s say your business was to supply landscaping materials to landscapers and then you decided to get in the landscaping business yourself as a side business. What would your landscaper customers think?

For materials may be as much as a third of the cost of a job. So when they see their supplier competing with them, they will believe that they will have a significant cost advantage over them. They would also ask: “Why should I be giving money to a competitor to take business away from me?”

Which is why, most businesses in this situation go out of their way not to compete with their customers, even accidentally, as can happen sometimes. For example, distributors will in most cases refer retail sales to their retail resellers, but sometimes they may end up supplying a retail customer who has had a poor retail experience.

However recently, Google decided to compete with some of its customers, and they are not happy! Fairfax and News, owners of Domain and Realestate.com pay Google millions of dollars for keywords to send searchers to their websites. Now Google wants to provide listings of real estate directly on google maps for free. This will directly undercut the businesses of two of its largest advertisers. Another issue will be poor quality control from this free service on the accuracy of these free listings with out of date information appearing as well as allowing scammers.

A former CEO of REA a competitor of Realestate.com said:

"Google is moving from being a search engine to a portal," he said. "Instead of sending you to other websites - which have paid money to be there on its listings - it is now serving up the end data itself. That then raises the question: why would you need to go to the other sites and why would they then pay Google money [for search key words].

A Google spokesperson said they have received “great feedback”. I bet they have!

So if Google is giving this service away free, what’s in it for them? It is just one more free service Google offers to make it more difficult for competitor search engines to compete with it. Services such as free email, news, calendar, YouTube, and many others. As it expands, it will inevitably clash with those offering a paid similar service. If they are small, they can just ignore them, but it is more and more finding some hard boundaries and now Google seems to have taken the place of Microsoft in internet demonology and attracting the attention of the regulators.

If you are small like the landscape supplies business, there will be other suppliers who refuse to compete with their customers who will get their business.

There is a saying in business: “Stick to your knitting”. Business history is littered with examples of failures of businesses which tried to take over their customers knitting. While it may appear that the grass looks greener in your customers pastures, inevitably, there are just as many competitors grazing there as in your own paddock, and they will know much more about this paddock than you will.

Respect what your customers do, and help them be successful, and you too will be successful.

What do you think? Remember, the best commenters July 2009 will receive a $500 printer.

May Your Business Be - As You Plan It.

Over to You. What do You Think? Post Your Comments Below.

Dr Greg Chapman is the Director of Empower Business Solutions and The Australian Business Coaching Club and is Australia's Leading Advisor on Emerging Businesses and provides Coaching and Consulting advice to Australian Small Business Owners in Marketing & Business Strategies Planning & Systems. He is also the author of The Five Pillars of Guaranteed Business Success.


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The Australian Small Business Blog

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Working with Your Business Owner Friends


While driving around I heard a song on the radio from my youth. I didn’t truly understand it then, but I understand it more today. Although it was not written about business owners, it has a message for us.

The song is about how we need each others’ help to get what we need and want. In business, this means finding others of a like mind who we can work with. For large businesses regulatory competition issues come into play…. and lawyers. Two big businesses can’t combine and work together without getting a lot of unhelpful attention. There are just too many stakeholders – which is code for people who want to tell the business how it should be run for their benefit, but are not so interested in its success as to want to invest in it!

Take the alliance between Coles and Shell, and between Woolworths and Caltex, there have been a lot of complaints by ‘stakeholders’, although not from shareholders! The biggest losers from this arrangement have been the independent supermarkets and petrol stations. Some argue consumers may also have lost, but after scrutiny by the regulators and the government’s ill fated GroceryWatch and FuelWatch schemes, evidence of that has been very difficult to find.

In small business, because we aren’t changing the marketplace, we can be far more creative. You can exchange vouchers with as many business owners as you want to extend your reach. You can work on joint projects and events. You can advertise in each others’ newsletters.

You can create a referral ring. A classic example of that is the wedding mafia. This often consists of a photographer, a printer, a florist, a venue, and an event planner. If any one of them gets a wedding, they all do! This type of arrangement could quadruple a small business’ reach, which is very difficult for big businesses to do in the same way.

These strategies are the most powerful ones available for small businesses. They cost little to organise, although they will take time to find the right partners and time to plan.

Remember a small business owner is never alone and when they work with other owners, they are far more likely to achieve the success they desire.

To be successful in business, all you need is a little help from your business owner friends.

(OK I admit it, this is just a thinly veiled reason for me to post a song that brings back happy memories. Enjoy.)



What do you think? Remember, the best commenters this month will receive a $500 printer.

May Your Business Be - As You Plan It.

Over to You. What do You Think? Post Your Comments Below.

Dr Greg Chapman is the Director of Empower Business Solutions and The Australian Business Coaching Club and is Australia's Leading Advisor on Emerging Businesses and provides Coaching and Consulting advice to Australian Small Business Owners in Marketing & Business Strategies Planning & Systems. He is also the author of The Five Pillars of Guaranteed Business Success.


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The Australian Small Business Blog

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

How One Business Spends 50 cents to Make $100


The best earning marketing dollars are spent on your customers rather on advertising where the money goes to some media mogul. Consider this example:

Coles is currently offering to pay the GST on feminine hygiene products under the banner “Why should you be taxed for being a Woman”. Why are they doing this and will it work?

This is a fairly emotional appeal, but as a male I can be objective on this (he says quickly ducking to avoid sharp objects being propelled at him by the females in his life).

Clearly many women feel this is an unjust tax. It was very controversial when first introduced, although the then opposition and now government has done nothing to remove it.

Firstly, by raising this issue, Coles gets far wider coverage than their advertising would otherwise reach. It becomes a topic for talkback radio and newsletters like this.

Secondly, the actual cost for Coles on a typical product of value around $5 will be 50 cents. Given the tight margins in supermarkets, this might be most if not all the gross profit on the item.

Thirdly, it is most unlikely that a woman will visit Coles to buy these products only and go somewhere else to do her weekly shopping. In fact she is likely to get her $100 weekly groceries at the same time as the purchase of these products.

Finally, would someone change where they do their weekly $100 grocery shopping for just 50 cents? If the 50 cents off had been for razor blades or Cornflakes it would just be seen as another special, easily ignored, but in this case, Coles are appealing to women’s feeling of injustice, and some might just change to support the principle.

Will it work? As in all these strategies there is only one way to find out.

Can you think of a way of spending money on your customers to get them to try you?

Will you convert to Coles, or do you just see this as cynical manipulation?

What do you think? Remember, the best commenters this month will receive a $500 printer.

May Your Business Be - As You Plan It.

Over to You. What do You Think? Post Your Comments Below.

Dr Greg Chapman is the Director of Empower Business Solutions and The Australian Business Coaching Club and is Australia's Leading Advisor on Emerging Businesses and provides Coaching and Consulting advice to Australian Small Business Owners in Marketing & Business Strategies Planning & Systems. He is also the author of The Five Pillars of Guaranteed Business Success.


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The Australian Small Business Blog

Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Dangers of Passive Word of Mouth Marketing


Word of Mouth marketing is important in almost any business big or small. Every business lives or dies based on their reputation. So why would you risk leaving Word of Mouth to chance?

While positive reports about your service will get out there over time and create new business for you, bad reports travel like a rocket propelled by hard feelings and anger. Most of your clients who have enjoyed your services will mention you to help out friends and colleagues, but they aren’t active unpaid promoters of your business. When, however, you have let someone down, not delivered on your promise, and have not made things right, their only recourse is to damage you as much as they can.

Studies have shown that when you do a great job, people might tell 3 other people. When you don’t, they will tell eleven others that you haven’t, and those eleven will tell three others because people like to spread the bad news as it helps empowers the disempowered and provides a way to strike back at ‘the system’.

What if you let someone down who owns a megaphone? That is what happened to United Airlines when they let down a touring band, Sons of Maxwell, when they damaged a $3500 guitar when it was tossed around by baggage handlers, an act they witnessed while waiting to disembark. United then passed the buck on responsibility, and after wasting many hours chasing their claim, the band gave up on United, but not on getting even.

The wrote a song about their experience and posted it in on YouTube. At the time of posting, this had been viewed over 2 million times!



The claim for repair of the guitar was $1200, but there seems to be a general policy with United, and probably with most airlines, to make it as difficult as possible to claim damages. Consider the damage in reputation that has occurred to United, and the pain is not over yet. The band’s leader, Dave Carroll, has written a second song (currently being videoed) and is writing a third.

Belatedly United are now looking what they can learn from this incident, examining practices that have obviously been entrenched for years. Will anything good come from it? Well this has made the band’s music become far more widely known and has probably been great for business for them. However, for United, my suspicion is that their spokesperson is just in damage control, and as soon as the fuss is over, it will be business as usual. Am I being cynical? Well the comment from United was from a PR flack not the CEO. You be the judge.

The message for business is that when you give poor service, anyone of your customers may own a megaphone. In fact, today everyone has access to this same megaphone, and if the message hits a chord (sorry about the pun), or a stereotype prevalent in your industry, it will spread before you know it and you will be considered guilty until proven innocent while everyone has fun at your expense.

So treat every customer as if they had their own megaphone so that if they decide to use it, they will just be singing your praises.


May Your Business Be - As You Plan It.

Over to You. What do You Think? Post Your Comments Below.

Dr Greg Chapman is the Director of Empower Business Solutions and The Australian Business Coaching Club and is Australia's Leading Advisor on Emerging Businesses and provides Coaching and Consulting advice to Australian Small Business Owners in Marketing & Business Strategies Planning & Systems. He is also the author of The Five Pillars of Guaranteed Business Success.


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The Australian Small Business Blog

Friday, July 03, 2009

The Entitlements of a Small Business Owner



It can be intimidating for a small business owner visiting their corporate clients. They take the lift to the 41st floor and in a marble clad reception, they ask to speak with the executive with whom they have an appointment. They wait in a plush chair in a reception lounge with a magnificent view where they are served a cappuccino in a fine china cup. Finally, the executive assistant ushers them into the executive suite in a corner office, beautifully furnished with expensive artwork on the walls.

This is not the office of a small business owner, as they know they have a choice. They can have their own executive suite, or they can re-invest in their business to increase profits or increase their own dividends.

An executive on the other hand sees these trappings as perks. Along with first class travel and a luxury car. After all, they believe they are entitled to be treated this way. It is proof of their importance and authority. Besides which all the other executives at their level are getting the same perks and the company should provide them to demonstrate its strength and position in the business world.

Most executives don’t own the business, although they may hold some stock. They did not build the corporation from infancy. They are opportunity takers, and if things don’t work out, they will take another opportunity. The opportunity creators are the entrepreneurs.

So what are small business owners entitled to? Apart form hard work, long hours, stress about meeting their commitments to their customers, staff and suppliers?

They are entitled to keep their customers happy and see them return time after time. They are entitled to the referrals their customers give when they send their friends and colleagues to their business. They are entitled to the recognition and support they receive from their business owner colleagues who understand them better than anyone else.

They are entitled to decide who they will work with and who they won’t. They don’t have to justify their actions to others who just want their job. They are entitled to the rewards of their efforts – without someone else claiming the credit and getting the bonus. They can take satisfaction in seeing their business grow and prosper as they do watching their children grow.

When business owners understand this, they no longer need to feel in awe of their executive clients. In many cases the have risked more and done more than many of the high flyers. They don’t have the arrogance of the corporate executive. Arrogance doesn’t sell. They have created a valuable asset with their own mind and hands. Of that, they are entitled to feel very proud.

May Your Business Be - As You Plan It.

Over to You. What do You Think? Post Your Comments Below.

Dr Greg Chapman is the Director of Empower Business Solutions and The Australian Business Coaching Club and is Australia's Leading Advisor on Emerging Businesses and provides Coaching and Consulting advice to Australian Small Business Owners in Marketing & Business Strategies Planning & Systems. He is also the author of The Five Pillars of Guaranteed Business Success.


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Dr. Greg Chapman is also the author of
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