The Australian Small Business Blog

Friday, March 31, 2006

The Four Basic Principles of Media Relations

Working with the media can throw up its challenges but the basic premise of the media-relations task is relatively simple.

If your main objective is to achieve favourable editorial coverage, it is your job (or the job of your PR or communications agency) to make sure that you meet the needs of the journalist which you are targeting.

Most companies may think that the above sentence is the wrong way round. After all, shouldn’t a journalist be interested in what you have to say?

There is no simple answer! Sometimes they are, sometimes that are not.

Mention the word PR to a journalist and the common complaint is that they are often bombarded with information that is either irrelevant, inappropriate for their audience/readership or contains little or no factual information.

If you have something to say and believe that using the media is the best way to carry your message, then neglecting to target your message wastes their time and yours.

It isn’t necessary to sit down and have lunch with every single journalist you contact, but it is crucial to understand their needs are and to gradually build up a relationship with them.

There are 4 basic principles which can help and prepare you for dealing with the media. Follow these rules and you’re off to a good start.

Why should a journalist or editor listen to what you have to say? Is it newsworthy? Is it relevant to their readership? Has the subject been covered recently? Just because it’s news to you doesn’t mean that it’s news to them.

When is their deadline? How frequently do they run? Is it a weekly, monthly or quarterly publication? When is the best time to call the journalist? Calling a journalist when they are on a tight deadline will automatically earn you a black mark.

How do they like to receive information? Some prefer email whilst others prefer fax. Find out what methods suits best. It may be time consuming, but targeting a media release with up to date information is more likely to get your product or service noticed.

Respect what they say. Sometimes your article just isn’t considered newsworthy. If this happens it doesn’t mean that you stand no chance in the future, it just means that further study of the publication could be in order. Learn the publication’s language and ‘feel’ and write with their audience in mind, not yours.

Work with and accommodate the needs of the journalists you are trying to reach.

Good relations take time to build, but persistence and knowledge can be the difference.

Stuart Evans is the Director of Vibe Communications

Tuesday, March 28, 2006


The only constant today is change. With global competition, economic uncertainty, constant restructuring, changing culture and demographics just to name a few. Our world continues to accelerate in scientific and technological breakthroughs. Even the perception of world safety has changed due to terrorist events.

With all of these global changes, the nature of our workplace is changing as well. The workplace is even more competitive, we work longer and more varied hours. You need to be multi skilled. Security is something we don’t have in the workplace, however we are increasingly accountable for everything we do and we also have an increased reliance on technology.

Lifestyles are changing as a result too. We eat more fast/packages foods, exercise at gyms rather than through our occupation, we bank on line, we are entertained with high tech gagets. More women are in the workforce than ever before and more families will have no children.

What is the impact of all this change? As a result we have, less time for all our activities, great distraction, increased stress and it is much harder to maintain our balance. Our lives are imbalanced as a result.

Lets first have a look a what work life balances is?

Work-Life balance does not mean an equal balance. It is unrealistic to schedule an equal number of hours for each of your various work and personal activities is usually unrewarding and unrealistic. Your best individual work-life balance will vary over time, often on a daily basis. The right balance for you today will probably be different for you tomorrow or the next month or year. There is no perfect, one-size fits all, balance you should be striving for. The best work-life balance is different for each of us because we all have different priorities and different lives.

Characteristics of a balanced organisation

· Increased individual productivity, accountability and commitment
· Better teamwork and communication
· Improved morale
· Less negative organisational stress

Characteristics of a balanced individual

· More value and balance in your daily life
· Understanding of your best individual work life balance
· Increased productivity
· Improved relationships
· Reduced stress

There are obvious benefits for being balanced for both the organisation and the individual.
So the focus really is on YOU as balanced individuals lead to balanced organisations.

According to ‘Managing Work Life Balance International’ in their 2005 survey of Australian organisations they found:

· 9% have observed an increase in turnover due to long hours culture
· 77% believe the impact of work-life efforts is hindered by increased work demands overshadowing personal needs
· 35% have observed an increase in the average hours per week worked
· 28% indicated that had developed a work environment that fits in with their lifestyle demands

Only 28%!

So now that we have heard all the bad news, here is the good news. In the same research, they also found that those organisations that did have work life balance strategies and initiatives, showed significant improvements. Over 2005, they have found:

· Reduced turnover by an average of 3.6% compared with Best Practice Organisations
· Reduced absenteeism by an average of 3.8%
· Increased return rate from parental leave by an average of 21%; and
· Increased employee satisfaction by an average of 13%

So we can create balance and we can change all of this but it takes work at an individual level.

Below are the 7 key steps I believe are necessary to creating your own work life balance:

1. Create your ‘wheel of balance’
2. Give yourself credit for the areas that are working well
3. Highlight areas requiring work
4. Set goals
5. Develop a plan
6. Take action
7. Seek support and feedback from others

As we work through these steps we can take you from being characteristically unbalanced:

· less flexible
· see problems as threats rather than challenges
· our energy is consumed by worry and self doubt and we are unable to work towards self improvement
· we withdraw from new ideas and change is viewed as a personal threat

To being balanced person:

· have more of themselves to give to their top priorities
· feel less stress and guilt about what they’re not doing and more excited about the future
· have more fun and are more fun to be around
· appear to be more purposeful, and are more interested
· equip themselves so that they can experience a higher quality of life

Look out for further articles on each of the key steps to create the right balance for you.

Nicole McAuliffe is the Director of Creative Connections

Monday, March 27, 2006

Training – An investment or an expense?

When you buy software for your business, you write it off as a tax deduction that same year. Great, but that is an “expense”. Software that you buy should be thought of as an “asset” —something that will help develop your business.
To work properly, people have to know how to use it, the software must be set up
correctly and of course the software should be suitable for your operations.

Regarding the training aspect, word processing programs will make life easier, but the financial/accounting & operational programs, spreadsheets and data bases will all give you many times their current value if you know more about them.

If you know the programs well and understand the logic of the processes, you can use the data to tell you three things:
- What you have achieved (Profit/Loss for a particular period)
- Where you are now (Balance Sheet, especially your control accounts, customers, suppliers and inventory), and
- Where you are heading (Sales mix & changes, customer data base and the changing mix of your inventory)
Using the data within your records is the basis for past analysis and future planning

When a new employee starts with you, do not teach them bad & restrictive habits, ensure that they are taught good habits from the start.

Used correctly, and as long as the data has been entered correctly, your accounting & operational software can be the springboard for developing your business to greater levels of profitability.

Employers sometimes ask “ If I train my staff in how to do something properly, and they then leave for another job, why should I waste time and money in training them?”
My response – “what is worse, a trained staff member who has been of value, or one who has no training and is an “expense” as well as be a liability to your business?”

- Every asset and investment should either save or make you money
- Every expense should be monitored so as to gain the most advantage
And there are very few areas of your business that can gain as much as a comprehensive training program.

John Barnett is the Director of JB Business Systems

Saturday, March 25, 2006

If You Don’t Measure It, You can’t Manage It!

Ask yourself the question, why are you in business? Is the answer: “To Make a Profit”? If it isn’t, what you have is not a business. It’s a charity. Now, there is nothing at all wrong with charities. The world would be a worse place without them. But if you are not making a profit, you are paying your customers to do business with you. If you want to make a profit, or increase the profits you are currently making, you have to focus on the numbers in your business.

Every part of your business has processes that can be measured. In Marketing, it is about the number of Enquiries and the success at each step in your sales pipeline. In Operations, you would focus on unit cost, equipment availability, units produced per month. When you look at your people, you would consider turnover, and training. And of course in your financials you would keep an eye on debtors & creditors, cash at hand, net profit etc.

When you go through your business workflow process, you will find these numbers, or Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) everywhere. How do you make sense of all the data? By creating reports at different intervals throughout the year. Some KPI’s you might measure daily or weekly, such as the number of enquiries. Others may have a considerably longer interval. For example, if you are a small builder, the number of sales might be measured quarterly, but tight control on weekly and monthly costs would be maintained.

In each part of your business, you should create reports, to monitor your progress against your budget, or even your quotes. As the owner you should review these reports with your staff, or even yourself if you are a soletrader. Are the KPI’s hitting the targets you have set for your business. If not, why not? Sometimes, when it is not possible to see what is going wrong, you need to slice your processes even more thinly to see if there is a problem in the intermediate steps which is not otherwise evident.

When you identify where the bottlenecks are that prevent you achieving your business goals, you can either fix the problem yourself, or bring in someone else to do it. But if you don’t measure it, you can’t manage it!

Dr Greg Chapman, MBA is the Director of Empower Business Solutions

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Who are you trying to impress?

by Dr Greg Chapman

When most people start a business, they tend to look around for other successful businesses, usually in their own sector, to come up with a plan. There is nothing wrong with this. But it may also cause you to adopt the bad habits in the sector.

After being in business for a while, it is easy to become a part of the culture of your chosen sector. We all know the stereotypes. Accountants are conservative, butchers are outgoing, tradespeople never turn up when they should and motor mechanics overcharge. (I apologise immediately to all these people as this is a gross generalisation and you can point to many businesses for whom this is simply not true.) Now some of these stereotypes are a good thing. For example, I don’t think we want our accountant to be a risk taker. But for every stereotype, there is an opportunity.

Many businesses are successful because they break the mould. They do something different from their competitors. There is one doctor I heard about that decided that he would be different by making sure his patients never had to wait to see him. Would you want to see a doctor like that? Now most people expect that they have to wait to see their doctor, and to be frank, doctors expect you to wait. And in fact, would regard what this other doctor did (he ran his practice like a business) as unprofessional.

There is often pressure in a sector to conform. And the culture in a sector often gives the businesses permission to offer lower quality service. Like its ok for a plumber not to turn up on time, because, all plumbers are like that. Aren’t they?

To offer something different compared with your competitors is not easy, or else everyone would be doing it. The doctor whose patients never had to wait, had to totally redesign his business. He looked outside his industry to see how he could do it.

All to often I have heard from owners: “We don’t do things that way in our industry”. But if you want something different from everyone else in your sector, you must do something different. So ask yourself: “Who am I trying to impress, my competitors or my clients?”

Dr Greg Chapman is the Director of Empower Business Solutions

Thursday, March 16, 2006

What makes a Great Salesperson?

The best salespeople think in the long term, act in the short term and develop customer needs. They are also recognised as a consultant or trusted advisor by their clients.

Becoming a trusted advisor to a NEW prospect as all salespeople know can be a very difficult thing to do. Trust is something that you cannot buy and have to earn. On average it takes a minimum of six contacts with a prospect in a complex sales environment before you can become a trusted advisor.

These contacts can consist of a mix of any of the following activities:

• Cold call
• Email
• Fax
• e-Presentation
• Postcard
• Introduction letter
• Face-to-Face meeting
• Demonstration
• Pilot program / Trial
• Follow-Up call

Ice Breaker

Of the above activities, introduction letters are the most affective tool in your arsenal to start the process with. Email has unfortunately become an ineffective medium, whereas snail mail is widely under utilized.

Typically a mass unsolicited business introduction letter will only have a response rate of between 1 & 2%. A well crafted and targeted letter however is the perfect ice breaker to send to a NEW prospect. The better the letter matches their needs, the greater the result will be. It is not uncommon to achieve response rates as high as 10, 20 or even 30%.

Finding the Target

There are a number of tried & tested techniques that will significantly improve the chances of your introduction letter getting past the secretary or p.a. to your intended contact and to gain their interest.

If you think about how you treat unsolicited letters & advertising material that you receive at home, a few seconds is all it takes to decide whether to read a letter or discard it. A secretary or p.a. will open your introduction letter and quickly decide whether to pass it to your intended recipient.

The aim of your letter should be to get your prospect to agree to speak with you on the telephone when you follow it up and nothing more. As a salesperson you are most affective when you are in front of a prospect and this is just another step in the process of earning trust.

Powerful Writing Tips

For your introduction letter to make it past the round filing cabinet under the desk in your prospect’s office (i.e. rubbish bin), it is essential that you include a number of key elements in your targeted correspondence.

Some of these elements include references to you or your organization’s Expertise, Professional Integrity and Credibility. There also needs to be an Impact Statement which grabs the attention of the reader. Another key inclusion is Greed; by nature we are all greedy and want someone for free.

Most importantly, every aspect of the letter needs to be Quantifiable and truthful to provide Assurance to the recipient.

Introduction Letter Structure

It is important never to mix your words and only to write for one of the four possible target recipients who are the Approver, Decision Maker, Influencer or Recommender.

The letter must be easily scanned and quick to read, relevant to the prospects current or future needs, written so the reader can easily understand the message / take action and easily forwarded to someone other than the recipient.

Use the eight second rule when preparing an Impact Statement; you must grab the attention of the reader in this timeframe to have any chance of them continuing to read your letter.

As a minimum your introduction letter needs to introduce your product, service or solution, gain the interest of the recipient, establish yourself as an authority figure or trusted advisor and create a sense of urgency. To get through the maze of obstacles (gate keepers) your introduction letter also needs to be professional, different and relevant.

Tim Williams is the Managing Director & founder of Deakon Pty Ltd.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Business Structure

Unfortunately, many small to medium sized business owners are operating their businesses in structures that are not the most appropriate for them.

When commencing your business is the ideal time to get your structure correct. If you start off in the wrong structure the costs of correcting it can be extreme.

The most common entities available when starting a small to medium size business include, companies, discretionary trusts, a sole trader or partnerships of the above combinations.

When choosing the most effective structure, a number of factors should be considered.

1. Legitimate Tax Minimisation.

In most cases a discretionary trust is the best structure to reduce the tax you pay. The advantage of a family trust is that tax is paid by the beneficiaries. In general a beneficiary could be anyone, normally however you would not use a beneficiary outside your family group. The benefit of using beneficiaries is that you have the discretion each year to decide who pays the tax, thus making use of family members in lower tax brackets.

The benefit of operating as a company is that when you are in a higher tax bracket you pay tax at a flat rate of 30% as long as you are not drawing down on profits. It should also be noted that a company could be used as a beneficiary of a discretionary trust.

Having the correct structure could save you thousands of dollars yearly in payments to the tax man.

2. Asset Protection.

Another major consideration when in business is how to protect your assets such as your family home from the risk of being sued. If you’re running a business as a sole trader the assets that you own are more exposed to the risk of being sued. A company offers a greater level of asset protection as your personal assets are separate from the business. A trust can give the same increased level of asset protection when the trustee is a company that owns no assets.

It should be noted however that in today’s times no structure is completely safe and as a business owner you should always ensure that you have the appropriate insurances in place.

3. Access to Capital Gains Tax Advantages upon Sale of a Business.

Even though when you start your own business you probably haven’t given any thought to its potential sale it should still be a consideration when determining your operating structure. As a sole trader or discretionary trust you will potentially be entitled to the 50% capital gains concession as well as the small business concessions.

As a company most capital gains tax concessions are available, however in some cases they will need to be paid out as an unfranked dividend with the top rate of tax being applied.

Having the correct structure can save tens of thousands of dollars down the track when your business is sold.

4. Will you be performing any work for Government Organisations?

Today when setting up an entity, its important to consider if you’ll being performing any work for government departments. In recent times government departments have become more reluctant to deal with discretionary trusts with corporate trustees. This is because many government departments have archaic paperwork that does not recognise trusts. As well, government organisations have recently found it harder to sue trusts with a corporate trustee.

5. Getting full value for Superannuation Deductions.

If you are operating as Sole Trader and wish to make contributions towards superannuation, the first $5,000 is tax deductible, then 75% of the amount after that up to the age based limits. In a trust or company you have the ability to pay yourself a wage and salary sacrifice superannuation contributions. The benefit here is that the full amount of your contributions towards super are tax deductible up to the age based limits.

In summary there are many factors and other entities than those discussed above to consider when deciding how to structure yourself when going into business, the above is just a brief overview. Most importantly you should ensure that you get the correct advice from a professional.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Ten Financing Pitfalls

Some Loan writers will do anything to get your business. Watch out for these traps:

1. The Honeymoon Rate
You will be instantly attracted by the interest rate offered for the first year of your loan term. Unfortunately, the honeymoon period does not last. The rate will usually revert to a much higher rate after the first year. There are often heavy penalties if you wish to leave the relationship.

2. The Fixed Rate Loan
If you opt for a Fixed Rate Loan you may be penalised for making higher repayments or paying it off in lump sums. Substantial penalties may also apply if you pay off your loan during the fixed rate term. However Fixed Rates may protect you against rate movements.

3. The Split Loan
If you split your loan or have it part fixed and part variable, some Lenders may charge you set-up fees, account fees and discharge fees on both portions of the loan.

4. Exit Costs
When you pay out a loan, watch for the exit costs. A Lender may charge you a Deferred Establishment Fee, legal and preparation fees to discharge your mortgage, and some even sneak in a service fee.

5. Upfront Costs
Some Lenders charge you an ‘all up’ establishment fee, which includes the Banks’ legal fees, an application and a valuation fee. Others add 'security costs’ as an upfront fee and then claim that they provide no on-going fees!

6. The Wrong Loan
A Line Of Credit Loan may be the wrong one for you. It is like a very large credit card and if you are not disciplined you may find yourself in financial difficulty. An Offset Mortgage or a Basic Loan may suit you better.

7. Paying for “The Bells and Whistles Loan”
Yes, you do pay for what you get. Often the more flexibility provided, the higher the interest rate and cost to you. Do you really need all these additional features?

8. The Package Deal
Some lenders offer banking packages and discounts, which may reduce the cost of your everyday financial needs or provide significant discounts to certain groups. These packages usually have large annual fees, therefore need to be considered carefully.

9. Loyalty to a Current Lender
New borrowers may get a better deal than you. It’s also surprising that your current Lender suddenly offers a better rate once you mention you are leaving them – why didn’t they offer that to you before?

10. Not Seeking Professional Advice
It is important to seek professional advice that takes into account your particular situation and needs that benefit you rather than the Lender.

Darryl Simms is the Director of Access Loans

Thursday, March 09, 2006

The Search Engine Optimisation Myth- Part 2

In the Search Engine Optimisation Myth- Part 1, we explained that while Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) can be important in your online promotion strategy, if you are in a popular category, it will probably do little for you. In this article, we discuss the conflict between marketing to search engine robots and people.

An important part of SEO is the use of keywords in the headline in your website, and in your website content. Search engine robots look for high frequency words on your website. So if you sell books on space travel, keywords in your headlines and text might be: space travel, travel to the moon, interplanetary travel, space shuttle, satellites etc. The search engine robots look for the frequency these words are used in the headline, and in the text on your website. A high level of repetition of these words would indicate to the robots, that this is a site with a lot of information about space travel, so when anyone types in these keywords in a search, your site may be highly rated.

Unfortunately, high density repetition of keywords, while attracting the attention of robots, can be a real turn-off for humans. People make a decision in seconds on whether they should continue to browse at a website or click away. And the headline is the first thing that visitor sees and is the primary reason a person will stay a little longer. A compelling headline is usually inconsistent with a headline stacked with keywords. Copy with lots of keywords will also be less compelling.

So an overemphasis on SEO can actually reduce sales. Online sales consist on two basic components. Firstly getting traffic to your site. SEO can be important in this initial step. And secondly getting your visitor to take some action towards creating a sale (eg contacting you or actually buying something online). SEO has no role to play in this second step, and may well be counterproductive. This is particularly so if SEO has only a minor part to play in your traffic generation (compared with, say pay-per-click advertising).

Making you website pay requires the consideration of multiple strategies. For a website providing a product or service in a niche with little competition, it can be important, but for most online businesses, it often only provides an advantage at the margins.

Dr Greg Chapman, MBA is the Director of Empower Business Solutions

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Where’s the angle…?

Getting articles into the paper is not easy. It takes a lot of research and a lot of relationship building with journalists and media to gain trust.

Strategies can be developed to ensure that all PR activities are carried out with marketing campaigns,

Many small businesses think that the media will be interested in their new product or that they have a story to tell which is guaranteed to get published.

The sad fact of the matter is that what’s news to a small business may not be news to the journalist or editor of the publication.

Possibly the most important word that a journalist or editor mutters is ‘where’s the angle?”

Put briefly, an angle is a different perspective of looking at things. It is not ‘spin’ nor is it a case of embellishing or exaggerating the facts. It is simply a different outlook or slant on a story.

For example, take the Australian soccer team as a fictional starting point.

The vast majority of players are based in Europe yet the Australian soccer team travel back to Sydney to play a game against New Zealand

How many stories could be developed from this simple fact?

Some examples include:

· Jet lag – Given the flight, how do players cope with the jet lag? How are their preparations affected?
· Family – Do the player take their family with them on overseas trips? What is the impact on a sportsman’s family life when overseas travel is concerned?
· Clubs – As the majority of players are based in Europe, what is the impact on their respective clubs? What is the financial impact when the star players are missing?
· Australia – How is soccer being perceived in Australia? Is it improving? Where do people see the long-term game when compared to Australian Rules?
· Financial – Do the players receive win bonuses for international games? What is the financial impact of Australia playing at home?

For many companies, finding suitable stories can be hard and time consuming.

The rule of thumb is if you’ve got something to say, ask yourself is it news. If it isn’t news, why should the media pay attention?

Dealing with the media can be tough and challenging, but play by their rules and listen to what they require and relationships can flourish.

Developing story ideas takes time, research and a lot of dedication. PR is best treated as a marketing component. If marketing is about trial and error, then PR should be treated as such.

The benefits of a good, well thought out PR campaign can bring many benefits. If you could ‘market’ your product in a daily newspaper to over 250 thousand people, the benefits can be endless.

Stuart Evans is the Director of Vibe Communications

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Stock Control

Maintaining the best level of stock is not easy. It is a balancing act.

The competing needs are:
- Minimize the investment in stock
- Be able to satisfy customer needs 100% of the time
- Never have stock that cannot be sold or used within a determined time-frame
For many companies that have to carry stock, this juggling act can either make or break them.

The choice of which need you aim to satisfy is dependant upon the company direction.

Are you aiming to be the business that has everything in stock and charge more for it, or are you going to go for high volume and smaller choice with lower prices?

Yes, you can take an each-way bet, but please define which is your specialty.

There is no more critical part of a business than the inventory area (with the possible areas of marketing and credit control).
- Purchasing has to buy in sufficient quantities at the best prices
- Accounts Payable is the department that maintains the working relationship between your Purchasing and the suppliers Sales operations. (Be careful not to jeopardise your trading relations with your suppliers – to them, you are a customer and I hope that you want to become one of their “A” grade customers)
- Production department uses the goods to manufacture new products – insufficient goods at production time means no production (or maybe emergency purchasing at expensive prices)
- Distribution section cannot send out what is not available
- Maintenance department may not have spare parts to service equipment – again production ceases.

I hope that you can see the necessity for a functional stock system. It has to be:
- Accurate
- Updated (cycle count) reasonably frequently
- Set up with the correct purchasing policy. Usually –
o Re-order point
o To order
- Logically laid out with bin numbers
- Able to account for consignment stock (if appropriate)

There are various styles of stock management with probably the most drastic being JIT (Just in Time).
Often seen in the automotive industry, this is great when everybody works to the “plan”. But this can leave a business up for ransom if there is a single hiccup in your suppliers’ supply chain. Be very wary of this style.

If your components or raw materials can be purchased on a one day (or less) lead time, inventory control is not critical compared with a business that imports parts.

All accounting systems give you a stock/inventory module (sometimes optional), but I am afraid that the popular ones are barely adequate.

John Barnett is the director of JB Business Systems

Monday, March 06, 2006

Top Ten Public Speaking Sins

1) Many people think a speech is like an essay. This is not so. In an essay for example, it is not appropriate to write “in conclusion”. In a speech it is very important to signal when you are changing topics and especially when you are concluding.

2) Some people read their speech, either by holding it or by looking down most of the time and then glancing up. This is not very effective because they are missing essential eye contact. Instead, a speaker should learn the first and last parts off by heart and practice READY, AIM, FIRE by looking down in silence when they need to and then looking up and “firing” the words at someone in the audience.

3) Sophisticated words belong to an essay or paper. In a speech simple words are much more effective and easier to say and for the audience to remember. The words with images, smells sounds and textures carry much more meaning than polysyllabic words that are difficult to pronounce.

4) Repetition in a piece of writing is often melo-dramatic and over the top. In a speech, repetition is very effective if deliberate and it helps the audience hear the idea and keep it.

5) One of the biggest mistakes made in presentations is overuse or miss use of Power Point. Only have points up you need. Use blanks in between to draw attention back to you.

6) The pace that most people deliver their speeches is too fast. The listeners cannot take all that much in. Give them time to digest the material. Deliver at about 120 words per minute.

7) Most listeners become bored not because the content is boring, but because the voice of the speaker drones on and on. One of the key things in a speech is to vary the voice. The more the better.

8) Gestures are a tricky aspect of speaking. Most people err by putting hands on the lectern, or in pockets or behind the back. Keep your hands by your sides and let them come up naturally.

9) Humour in a speech is also tricky. Many people tell a joke straight off. This is risky as it can fall flat. You have not yet established rapport or warmed them to you. Tell an appropriate joke in the middle or once you have them in you palm.

10) Some people forget they are speaking to a living audience. You need to connect with your audience, not just by using “you” and “we”, but also by telling stories they can associate with and making comments that apply to them.

Judith Field is the director of Direct Speech

Saturday, March 04, 2006

The Search Engine Optimisation Myth- Part 1

Just about everyone with a website ‘knows’ that Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is an essential step to obtaining traffic to their website. But SEO on its own is not enough and in many cases may do little for your website. In fact spending too much effort on SEO may be time wasted.

Consider the situation if you sell a popular service with many competitors. Such as selling books online. In this category you will have many competitors. Particularly as this service does not have to be local- it can even be provided internationally. Type in ‘books online’ into google and you will see pages and pages of online book stores. To get on the front page in such a category is difficult, with the top ranked store on page one having a page rank of 8. And if you are not on the front page you chances of being found are very small.

Now the knowledgeable will say, you need to SEO around a niche- for example “books on space travel”. And if that is your niche, that is exactly what you should do. But if yours is a general book store, you must consider other strategies.

And SEO will not get you to number 1 on its own. Traffic generation and linking strategy is also necessary. But getting a Page Rank of 8 is not impossible, but this does not come easily, and is a dedicated marketing strategy all on its own. The search engines have their own secret formulas for page ranking- which they change all the time. So to stay at number one, you are constantly fighting your competitors who want to knock you from that position, as well as fighting the search engines. This is not a do it once and leave it alone strategy.

So what should you do? Linking strategy is a key factor to build your website marketing. Although we don’t know for sure, quality links will give you higher rankings than just SEO. Linking strategy is also one of many traffic generation strategies. Search engines use your website traffic at your for ranking.

Also consider pay-per-click advertising. This enables you to jump the queue in the listings and can be very effective and much more targeted. Note that most people don’t even know the difference between the ads and the organic search.

SEO will help you improve your organic search results, but not in popular categories. And I would argue that there are far more profitable ways to generate traffic than sweating on SEO.

(Watch out for Part 2 of the Search Engine Optimisation Myth).

Dr Greg Chapman is the director of Empower Business Solutions.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

The Old Tactics are still the Best

It seems small business are not the only ones relying on Word-of-Mouth. In a recent article by Steve Creedy of the Australian, Ozjet is seeing if it will help rescue its business:

Upmarket start-up Ozjet is stepping up marketing efforts to lure customers as it heads in to the make-or-break resumption of business traffic in February.In a bid to boost passenger numbers the carrier is to announce today a two-for-one deal giving passengers who book on its flights either a free return ticket or a companion fare. After more than a month of operations, Ozjet is still struggling to fill planes and has flown with as few three passengers.

The limited offer is an attempt to get people to try the product ahead of the full return of business traffic after Australia Day on January 26. The airline has also raised to 10 per cent the commission it pays travel agents as an incentive to promote the airline at a time when most competitors are slashing commissions. "It's about bringing people on board and showing them the product," Ozjet chief executive Hans van Pelt said. "You can put billboards up, you can do the advertising, you can do whatever you want to. What's working best and generating the best word-of-mouth is people experiencing it."

It appears there are still some tricks that larger businesses can learn from the small guys and girls.

Dr Greg Chapman is the director of Empower Business Solutions

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

What is VoIP and is it Right for You?

VoIP is a process of digitizing and sending voice telephone signals over the Internet or other data network. Enterprises of all sizes can benefit from this technology, but they must do some basic research to figure out if VoIP is right for them. Which vendor should I call? Would I rather deploy and manage my telecommunications inhouse, or does it make sense to outsource to a hosted services provider? How much will this cost, and how much money can I save in the long run?

The first thing most people realize about VoIP technology is that it can save their business money by reducing or eliminating the toll charges for long-distance and even local calling. However VoIP is much more than simply a plan to lower a company's phone bill. There are many so-called "soft" benefits enabled by VoIP, such as increased worker productivity, the ability to collaborate among multiple branch offices, and lower operational expenditures as a result of simplified management schemes.

The first thing many people think about VoIP is that this technology is primarily a cost-saver. For many enterprises, that is enough of a reason to consider VoIP. Of course the cost element has many aspects to it that merit consideration. Tremendous cost savings come in the form of lower telephone bills. By converting voice into packets and transporting these packets over an IP network, corporations are able to avoid the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) and the tolls associated with that. In the case of an enterprise with multiple branch offices, this is especially true. By using the company's data network, enterprises can eliminate all costs associated with calling between branches. Furthermore, they can have all locations served off of a single IP PBX, thus enabling extension dialing between far-flung locations. By simply dialing a coworker's extension, you can speak to a distant colleague as if they were in the very next cubicle.

VoIP enables seamless call transferring to experts across a connected enterprise, be they in the same building, across town, or across the globe. If the data network reaches a remote location, so too do the telephony applications that are enjoyed by employees at the main corporate location. Applications such as conferencing, voice mail, unified communications, click to dial—all of these new productivity-enhancing services are enabled across the enterprise. But managing the system is simplified due to the elimination of the need to look after multiple networks.

VoIP reduces the cost and complexity associated with moves, adds, and changes. Many enterprise VoIP solutions allow administrators to manage the system via a web-based browser interface and enable managers to enact changes to an employees phone settings and voice mail settings (for example) remotely, and without the need to call the phone system's manufacturer to send a representative to make those moves, adds and changes. Irrespective of the significant cost savings this flexibility may be what makes you decide that VoIP is for you.

Pierre Lutgens is the director of Your Local Telecom


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Dr. Greg Chapman is also the author of
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