Where do profitable business ideas come from?

Business growth is possible either through the acquisition of other businesses or through unique and innovative ideas which have a market which is willing to pay the price for the product or service to make it a profitable venture.  

For most businesses, acquiring another business is either not high on their business objectives or it is not financially viable.  This means they need to be looking for new business ideas to grow their business.

New business ideas are all around you

CC-BY Image - Environment Economy Society from Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Environment_Economy_Society.jpg
CC-BY Image – Environment Economy Society from Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Environment_Economy_Society.jpg

New business ideas are all around you, but developing innovative ideas requires a number of personal aspects, such as:

  • Having a ‘new’ mindset which is continuously seeking out new ways of doing things
  • Personal interests that present ideas which you are motivated to pursue
  • Skills and knowledge in an area, either through experience or training, which you can tap into for new ideas
  • Experience to draw upon to seek out opportunities
  • Resources, including physical, intellectual and personnel, which present new ideas or opportunities
  • Personal investment of time, perception, intuition, personal energy and drive which provide the headspace to be receptive to new ideas
  • Personal risk preference which determines the level of risk you are willing to take to follow through with an innovative idea

Drawing upon these personal aspects opens a whole new world of new business ideas.

PACE your business

Free image from Pixabay - https://pixabay.com/en/photos/brainstorm/
Free image from Pixabay – https://pixabay.com/en/photos/brainstorm/

One way to do this is by PACE-ing your business. That is, brainstorming potential ideas based on your area of expertise, experience or interest by considering the prompts under each of the key starting words of problems, analysis, changes and extensions.  

Problems Analysis
Related to:

  • Industry
  • Organisational/Operational
  • Product
  • Customers
  • Regulation/Compliance
  • Break down processes into parts – what can be done better?
  • What trends can be exploited?
  • Niches?
  • Internal – Skills? Talents? Resources? Networks?
Changes Extensions
Related to:

  • Legislation / Regulation
  • Social attitudes/structure
  • Technology
  • Add something before or after an existing product or service


For example:  

Area of expertise, experience or interest =

Helping businesses use technology

Problems Analysis
  • My clients understand the benefits of digital marketing and social media but don’t know how to get started
  • Opportunity – Offer one on one digital marketing/social media coaching and mentoring
  • Most businesses see an increase in their profit when they invest in their digital presence
  • Opportunity – Offer ‘digital first’ health check services which analyse where a business could profit more from their digital presence
Changes Extensions
  • More people are buying online or using the internet to research their purchases
  • Opportunity – Offer ‘how do your customers behave online’ consultancy services
  • My clients don’t know where to source a full range of the services they need to use digital marketing and social media
  • Opportunity – Partner with other businesses in my value chain and offer loyalty discounts to my clients, and cross promote our services on each other’s websites   

Download a PACE template and brainstorm the problems, analysis, changes and extensions for your area of expertise.  

You can do this yourself or with a group of people or get input from others. Also,  allow yourself 1-3 attempts to do this activity eg start the brainstorm, and then leave it for a while, then go back and so if you can add more information and suggestions.

Evaluating these opportunities

CC-BY Image Performance-Evaluation-Process-z from Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Performance-Evaluation-Process-z.jpg
CC-BY Image Performance-Evaluation-Process-z from Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Performance-Evaluation-Process-z.jpg

In order to determine whether these opportunities can become a viable business idea, you then need to analyse the critical success factors:

  1. How unique is the business opportunity? – what special characteristics does the business opportunity have that will draw customers to it, and away from competitors eg what is it the business opportunity’s unique value proposition?
  2. What up-front capital will you need? – what capital will be required to get the business idea up and running eg what human and financial capital will be required?  This will vary depending on the business opportunity.
  3. What is the anticipated growth pattern for the business? – will the risk of investing time and money to launch the opportunity be financially rewarded through low or high profit gains? How quickly can you make it happen and the make a profit?
  4. How readily available is the product or service now? – How long will it take you to get the product and service ready for sale / delivery?
  5. Are there customers willing to pay for the product or service? – Is there a market which needs this product or service, and will these customers be willing to pay the price needed to make the opportunity a profitable idea?

Analysing the critical success factors will help you determine whether any or all of these opportunities have enough potential to be viable and profitable business ideas.  

If you do identify a potential opportunity worth pursuing, then further investigation of this opportunity through a business ideas evaluation is the next step in determining whether this product would be worth investing in and pursuing.

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Contact us now (email or [+61] 0400 732 270) to discuss how we can help you find your next profitable business idea.

Stay up to date with the latest in being successful online by subscribing to our Digital Capability eUpdate or connecting with us online through Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

Do it in the Cloud: cheaply, safely and cleverly

For more than a decade, people have been taking advantage of doing it in “the Cloud” by accessing computer programs and online services through the internet rather than solely from the device they are working on.  

‘Cloud’ based services allow you to create and edit files from any device, such as Google’s G Suite or Microsoft’s Office 365, or use software as a service (SAAS) from any device, such as online accounting services Xero, MYOB Essentials or QuickBooks.

A number of these Cloud based services are also easily accessed through apps on your mobile phone or tablet, making it easy to do anything, anywhere.

Learn how you can do it in the Cloud: cheaply, safely and cleverly:

Do it cheaply

CC-BY image from Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Project-triangle.svg
CC-BY image from Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Project-triangle.svg

A number of Cloud based services are either free or inexpensive, and easy to use.  Often the business model for Cloud based services is to provide you with the service for free up to a certain limit (eg free for a limited number of users, days, storage space etc), however, once you discover what a great service it provides, you are willing to pay the often low-cost monthly subscription costs.

Services such as Gmail (Google) open a whole new world of freely available Cloud-based services such as Google Calendar and Google Hangouts (online meeting room).  It also has Google Drive which not only allows you to store your files in the Cloud, but also to do online word processing and spreadsheets through GDocs/GSpreadsheets, and collect online information through GForms.  

Other cheap or free Cloud based services or SAAS include:

  • Dropbox or iCloud – automatically sync and backup your files to the Cloud
  • Hootsuite – manage your social media posts and interactions
  • Endnote – make digital notes, and set actions and reminders

Do it safely

CC-BY Image from Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Road_Block_Driving_Safety.jpg
CC-BY Image from Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Road_Block_Driving_Safety.jpg

There has been a lot of media coverage lately about computer viruses hacking into the computer systems and making file and system access impossible.  To avoid this ensure you:

  • Have up-to-date anti-virus software on your computer
  • Ensure that you allow system and web browser updates to happen when prompted
  • Never open an attachment or click on a link in an email or in social media from someone you do not know or have not heard from in awhile (this means they may have been hacked, and the virus is sending out bogus but infected emails/posts)
  • Watch out for ‘fake’ emails where it looks like they are from your bank, credit card company or PayPal – none of these companies will ask you to open a document or click on a link in an email but rather ask you to log into their secure online site to communicate with them regarding your money
  • If you are not sure, check it on your mobile phone as there is a much lower chance that the virus will attach this device
  • Have strong passwords which have a minimum of 8 characters made up of letters, numbers and symbols
  • Do not use the same password across multiple Cloud-based services

A great way to stay up to date with doing it safely online is through the Australian Government’s Stay Smart Online Website, email alerts and Facebook page.

Do it cleverly

CC0 Public Domain image by OpenIcons - https://pixabay.com/en/glasses-smart-clever-intelligent-98452/
CC0 Public Domain image by OpenIcons – https://pixabay.com/en/glasses-smart-clever-intelligent-98452/

While there are many benefits to doing it in the Cloud, it does require good digital literacy.  Deakin University describes three elements of digital literacy:

  1. Finding information online by searching and navigating around the internet by using key search terms
  2. Using information found online by critically assessing whether the information which you find is useful to your needs, as well as accurate
  3. Disseminating information online by communicating and connecting with others without breaching copyright or intellectual property rights, or spreading ‘fake news’ or offending others

In business, other elements of digital literacy include:

  • sourcing and selecting the right Cloud based service which meets your business needs
  • legally and ethically managing information collected about your staff, suppliers and customers to ensure you correctly maintain people’s privacy
  • managing your business’s intellectual property and copyright

Here are some ways to improve your digital literacy:

  • Attending computing workshops at your local business enterprise centre or community centre, library or educational organisation, or
  • Doing an online course (free or paid) such as Microsoft’s The Internet, Cloud Services and the World Wide Web online course which covers topics like computer security and privacy

Cloud based services will continue to grow as their ease of use offer many benefits so make sure you are making the most of these services to manage your life and your business – cheaply, safely, cleverly.

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Contact us now (email or [+61] 0400 732 270) to discuss how we can help you do it in the Cloud: cheaply, safely, cleverly.

Stay up to date with the latest in being successful online by subscribing to our Digital Capability eUpdate or connecting with us online through Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

New knowledge = new ideas = new business

Knowledge is key to the on-going success of your business because knowledge is embedded in everything that you do, and how you use that knowledge can clearly differentiate you from your competitors.

Knowledge was once considered ‘power’ because it was scarce and expensive to obtain. However, the internet, globalisation and mass migration is seeing knowledge becoming more and more dispersed, and easier to access. This means that you can quickly and easily access new knowledge which can lead to new ideas which gives you an advantage in your industry to grow your business.

In order to remain competitive, your organisation must be able to continually seek out and absorb three types of organisational knowledge in new and innovative ways to improve your products/services and processes (Wilson & Doz, 2011).

These include:

  • Explicit knowledge – this is knowledge which is easily transferred from one person to another, eg procedures on how to effectively service customers
  • Embedded knowledgethis is knowledge learned by observing how other people apply their knowledge in a given context, eg the explicit body language used when servicing customers
  • Existential knowledge – this is knowledge which exists in the behaviour and norms of people, and is only learned by doing eg the culture of an organisation which dictates how customers are attracted, serviced and looked after

In order to be proactive about accessing new knowledge, it is important to have processes in place which allow you to cost-effectively stay informed about how your sector, and the economy in general, is functioning and changing.  Accessing knowledge from a variety of locations then needs to be filtered and absorbed into your existing systems and processes of your organisation.

Three ways to do this are:

  1. Attracting: being a knowledge magnet

    CC0 Public Domain image from Pixabay - https://pixabay.com/en/photos/magnet/
    CC0 Public Domain image from Pixabay – https://pixabay.com/en/photos/magnet/

The most cost effective way to access new knowledge is to encourage people to actively seek you out and share it with you.  This requires that you let people know that you are interested in new ways of doing things.

Some of the ways to do this is:

  • Provide ways for customers to easily provide you feedback eg customer surveys or through having a ‘feedback’ or Q&A page on your website,
  • Be open and transparent and let your customers know what you don’t know yet but you would like to improve on to give them a better customer experience eg write a blog/social media post or a white paper which highlights where there are gaps in your marketplace which you are looking for help to solve

Knowledge holders will only be attracted to provide your organisation with their knowledge if they respect and trust your brand, so being professional in everything you do is very important.  Being a knowledge magnet often attracts explicit knowledge, so it is easy to filter useful knowledge and then absorb it by building an ongoing relationship with the knowledge holder. However, this relationship may involve licensing or contracting the knowledge, and it may receive some resistance from your existing staff in using it as they feel that they have little ownership over this new knowledge.

  1. Foraging: going on field trips 

    CC-BY image from Pexel - https://www.pexels.com/search/travel/
    CC-BY image from Pexel – https://www.pexels.com/search/travel/https://www.pexels.com/search/travel/

Some knowledge can only be obtained by just being there to see how the knowledge is used in its original setting, and to then having the time to consider how it can then be reused in a different situation or location.

Some of the ways to do this is:

  • Plan holidays and conferences which allow you to observe and interact with others in different locations to discover new business models
  • Join a business mission to an overseas country – these are usually organised by a government department looking to grow exports

This methods helps to uncover embedded knowledge through explicit observation and questioning, so interacting with local knowledge holders is needed help determine the factors which enable the innovative activity to take place in the first place.  Strategies to enable ongoing contact with local knowledge holders and your team will be needed so to enable them to appreciate the context of the original setting when applying the new knowledge.

  1. Experiencing: living like a local

    CC0 Public Domain - https://pixabay.com/en/photos/crowd/
    CC0 Public Domain – https://pixabay.com/en/photos/crowd/https://pixabay.com/en/photos/crowd/

Some new knowledge can only be discovered by actually being immersed over a longer period of time in the daily activity of an environment to see the norms, social networks and culture which only exists through longer term relationship building.  This type of knowledge gathering also allows you to discover the legal and ethical aspects of how things are done.

Some of the ways to do this is:

  • Strategically partnering with another organisation in a different location which you can visit for extended periods of time
  • Working in another location for an extended period of time

This method of knowledge gathering helps to discover existential knowledge which is harder to replicate by your competitors, however, it is the most expensive method to obtain so it requires a clear strategic direction, possibly discovered through the attracting and foraging knowledge gathering methods mentioned above. Integrating this type of knowledge will require an appreciation of cultural differences by those staff still located in home base who are trying to apply this new knowledge.

 

Note, that these methods are not mutually exclusive and do require carefully thought out goals and reasons for doing any or all of them, however, in a fast paced and changing world, the need to implement new knowledge gathering strategies cannot be overlooked to remain competitive and attract new business.

 

This post was based on the work of Wilson & Doz (2011) called Agile Innovation: A Footprint Balancing Distance and Immersion.

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Contact us now (email or [+61] 0400 732 270) to discuss how we can help you discover new knowledge to inspire new ideas to grow your business.

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5 ways to think and work like an entrepreneur

Entrepreneurs are driven by the possibility of starting a new venture or business to create something new or novel from an innovative idea with the likelihood of making a lot of money or helping others.  

CC0 Public domain by geralt - https://pixabay.com/en/entrepreneur-stock-exchange-pay-1428452/
CC0 Public domain by geralt – https://pixabay.com/en/entrepreneur-stock-exchange-pay-1428452/

There are many examples of entrepreneurs, from Bill Gates to Oprah Winfrey, who have recognised when an opportunity existed which allowed them to harvest substantial financial or personal rewards.  However, the harvesting only comes through having the right attitude, attributes, research and resources.

Here are 5 ways you can think and work like an entrepreneur:

  1. Think “outside the square” and have a “can do” attitude

Entrepreneur are opportunity obsessed.  This means that they have an “always on” radar for good opportunities to enter into new markets or industries. Their “can do” attitude provides them with the will power to build something from nothing.  This attitude also enables them to think “outside the square” when steering their new venture through ever present threats by planning, be prepared and being able to mitigate risk in unpredictable circumstances.

  1. Work hard and watch the pennies

Entrepreneurs are renowned for being passionate, hard-working individuals. These traits ensure that their new venture gets off the ground, often with limited resources.  This means that entrepreneurs are very resourceful by doing more with less, usually by using other people’s resources, and with little external financial support.  This means being frugal with cash and other resources even when they get early wins, as they need to remain self-disciplined by remaining focussed on the long term value of their venture.

  1. Think quick but think smart

At the start of the opportunity, the entrepreneur needs to make a quick assessment to determine whether the potential opportunity is worth investing their time and money. The characteristics of a good opportunity include determining whether the opportunity has a high return with good cash flow, and that it can be established with limited resources.  The assessment also needs to also take into account whether the opportunity is happening at a window of time where change or discontinuity is ripe or chaos is happening, or where there are inconsistencies or gaps in the existing level of service or quality of the product which can be capitalised.

  1. Work with others and share the success

Entrepreneurs knows they cannot realise an opportunity of their own.  They need to form and lead a team which is results focussed.  Entrepreneurs are also willing to reward success by sharing the wealth that the venture brings and promises with the team who has helped them to create this success, usually through share allocation or recognition.  They also need to support honest failure and help their team learn quickly from that failure.  This process comes through effective leadership skills and new business concepts such as creating a flat organisation built on a culture of change and chaos, and which is managed by semi-autonomous teams.  The entrepreneur also builds heroes within their team to help them realise their vision.

  1. Think organised, sustainably and be iterative

Entrepreneurs mitigates risk and communicate their mission or opportunity through a well researched business plan which explains the fits and gaps of the opportunity. The entrepreneur always ensures that their new venture is sustainable in terms of the environment, their community and societal impacts to ensure the long term sustainability of their venture. While described in a linear way, an entrepreneur’s actions are actually iterative in nature, where they are constantly and quickly learning and improving from mistakes and failures to ensure not too many resources are used if the opportunity does not work out.  

Work and think like entrepreneur, Elon Musk of Space X, Tesla, SolarCity and OpenAI:

CC-BY image from JA.Wikipedia - https://ja.wikipedia.or
CC-BY image from JA.Wikipedia – https://ja.wikipedia.or

Elon Musk is a well-known entrepreneur who has accumulated US$14 Billion as a business magnate, investor, engineer and inventor.  Elon is currently the CEO and CTO of SpaceX, CEO and product architect of Tesla, Inc, Chairman of SolarCity and Co-chairman of OpenAI.

Towards the start of the accumulation of Elon’s wealth, Elon co-founded X.com in 1999, an online financial services and e-mail payment company.  In partnership with his brother, Elon recognised that there was a window of opportunity to provide these types of services as the internet has growing exponentially.

X.com then merged with Confinity which had the money transfer service, Paypal. Elon and his brother then spent their time and resources building a team to grow the PayPal service using viral marketing.  To ensure they used limited resources, Elon rewarded his team through PayPal shares.  Elon and his brother were able to communicate their vision for PayPal to their team and shareholders through their business plan.  Elon and his brother also took into account PayPal’s impact on the environment, their community and society in general.

When eBay acquired PayPal in 2002 for US$1.5 billion in stock. Elon’s 10% share in PayPal netted him US$165 million.  Throughout this entrepreneurial process, Elon was faced with many risks, including being ousted of his CEO role (but remained on the Board) when the PayPal Board did not want Elon to take the risk of moving PayPal’s Unix-based infrastructure to Microsoft Windows (Wikipedia, 2017).

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Contact us now (email or [+61] 0400 732 270) to discuss how we can help you think and work more like an entrepreneur.

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Make your social media marketing a screaming success

Social media marketing is by far the most cost effective way that any business can promote their products/services.  Social media numbers continue to grow steadily each year, with Facebook still being the most popular site in Australia, and newer social media sites like Snapchat growing exponentially (Australian Social Media Stats – February 2017).

Here’s how you can make your social media marketing a screaming success:

The first step to successfully using social media to promote your products/services is to:

  1. Know why your customers hire your business to get their job done
  2. Own that point of difference, and make it your business’s mission for success
  3. Communicate this point of difference effectively via social media
  4. Ensure you have a ‘call to action’ on your social media profile eg buy now, call now, click now

The next step is to determine why you will be using social media to market your business, such as:

  • To be front of mind when people need the type of product/service you offer
  • To build a loyal fan base who love what you do and become your brand advocates
  • To educate your marketplace to improve their lives or businesses
  • To be known as an industry expert who people flock to

There are a number of Australian businesses who are very successfully making their social media marketing a screaming success with millions of followers and improved revenue generation.  They do this by using one or more of the following four ways to use social media effectively:  

1. Share your own original content

CC-BY image from Wikimedia Commons - Mine is yours - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Mineisyours_logo.jpg
CC-BY image from Wikimedia Commons – Mine is yours – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Mineisyours_logo.jpg

There was a time before the internet when information was scarce and only large organisations were able to effectively distribute this information. Nowadays, information is everywhere and available anytime, so holding onto what you know doesn’t make sense anymore as it has little value on its own.

By sharing what you know via your social media profiles, however, helps to attract people’s attention.  It also helps them understand what you can do and how effectively you can do it.  These perceptions are important when people are in the research and decision making stages of their buying journey.

When you understand what your business’s point of difference is, you will then realise that you have lots of content that others will find useful. You can then share this information through:

  • blog, video or audio posts
  • photo and infographics
  • reports and research papers
  • checklist and how tos etc

Case study 1:

Consider Australian fitness instructor Emily Skye.  She regularly educates her market and creates loyal fans via social media by freely sharing her fitness videos which people love.  Emily’s loyal fans then share these videos via their own networks.  This activity has attracted her:

  • 10.5 million likes on her Facebook page
  • 1.9 million Instagram followers
  • 114,000 Twitter followers
  • 57,300 YouTube Subscribers

Emily’s social media exposure has also attracted her a contract with Reebok. Emily’s call to action is for followers to ‘buy now’ – that is, buy into her fitness programs.  

2. Share other people’s content

CC-BY image from Wikimedia Commons - We Me Co - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Me_we_co.jpg
CC-BY image from Wikimedia Commons – We Me Co – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Me_we_co.jpg

As mentioned above, the internet is chock full of content.  While this can create a lot of white noise, it also presents a fantastic opportunity for you to curate and share content related to your point of difference via your social media profiles.

Doing this allows busy people to access useful information or readily have content to share on their own social media profiles.  The curation of this content is also very simple to do by gathering information from Google Alerts and by subscribing to email updates related to your point of difference.

Use your business’s point of difference to determine the type of information you should be sourcing and curating, for example:

  • Being front of mind – heart warming or thought provoking stories similar to your business
  • Creating loyal fans – fun or sophisticated information which links to your business
  • Educating your market – how tos or research related to your industry
  • Being an industry expert – cutting edge information from your industry which is hard to find elsewhere

Case study 2:

Consider Australian business, Street FX Motorsports & Graphics, who share other people’s motor sport videos which are either funny or dare-devilish. This activity has attracted them:

  • 9.9 million likes on their Facebook page
  • 400,000 Instagram followers

Street FX’s call is action is for these followers to “Shop now” – ie encouraging people to either buy their racing graphics, parts and accessories or a combination of all three.  These loyal fans are not just Australians, as Street FX’s has USA customers and beyond.

3. Interact with others in social media

CC0 Public Domain image by Clker Free Vectorly Images https://pixabay.com/en/group-interaction-social-networking-35423/
CC0 Public Domain image by Clker Free Vectorly Images https://pixabay.com/en/group-interaction-social-networking-35423/

People use social media more for the social than the media so it is important that you interact with others using your business social media profile.  This includes:

  • Liking or reacting (smile, shock, anger etc) to other people’s posts and comments
  • Tagging or @people in posts so your posts come up in their stream, and/or they are alerted to the interactivity and interact back with you
  • Replying to, sharing and retweeting other people’s posts and comments
  • Using #hashtags related to trending terms which link you to others in your field

This activity demonstrates that you are not just in social media to ‘push’ your business and its products/services but that you are interested in what others are doing.  This activity is particularly important if you are using social media to build a loyal fan base.  Powerful collaborative partnerships can also be formed by interacting with others in social media.

Case study 3:

Consider Australian strategic advisor and mentor of other leaders, Holly Ransome, from Emergent Solutions.  Holly interacts with others around things she is passionate about such as being on the Board of the Port Adelaide Football Club, meeting other inspiring leaders and sharing her political views.  This activity has seen her attract:

  • 92,000 Twitter followers
  • 7,700 Instagram followers
  • 3,800 Likes on her Facebook page

Holly’s call to action is to visit her website which showcases her services and the blue chip clients who utilise them.  Holly’s activity also helps to educate her marketplace while being seen as an expert in her industry.

4. Show you care about your customers

CC0 Public Domain image by OpenClipArt Vectors - https://pixabay.com/en/boy-caring-cartoon-characters-1296625/
CC0 Public Domain image by OpenClipArt Vectors – https://pixabay.com/en/boy-caring-cartoon-characters-1296625/

The best way to improve your business and its products/services or to determine whether a new idea is viable is to ask other people for their opinion about this.  Social media is the perfect platform to do this, and this activity makes customers feel like you care about what they have to say.

Others ways of showing you care about your customers is by asking them to share their content with you or creating / being involved in memes or trending themes which people find funny or entertaining.  Encouraging people to tag others into their comments to win a prize or get a discount also helps to builds excitement among your customers.

Responding to your customers’ social media comments about your business, whether they are positive or constructive, also shows your transparent customer-focussed approach to your business.  However, do not get into a rant with a customer online.  If you need to reply more than once to a comment, then take the conversation offline and communicate with the person via direct messaging, or acknowledge that the person is right.

All of these activities show the ‘human side’ of your business which helps your customers feel they know you and can trust you.

Case study 4:

Consider Australian family-run business, Appliances Online, who sell top-brand appliances.   Appliances Online post great ‘win’ offers by asking customers to interact with these posts.  They also have their loyal fans who share their personal experiences and reasons why they buy certain products that Appliances Online sell as comments on Appliance Online’s posts.  This activity has attracted them:

  • 385,000 likes on their Facebook page
  • 24,600 Twitter followers
  • 9,600 YouTube Subscribers
  • 1,600 Instagram followers

Appliances Online’s call to action is to ‘buy now’ by directing people to their online website.  They also use social media to be front of mind when people need appliances, as well as, to build loyal brand advocates. This interactivity with brand advocates then pushes Appliance Online’s posts into the social media streams of these fans so all of their network sees them.  This earned marketing is very powerful and cannot be bought.

Making your social media marketing a screaming success

Remember, social media marketing is not the “silver bullet” to your business’s success.  This come with:

  • Having a killer product/service which is in demand
  • Being customer focussed and providing a great customer experience, then
  • Effectively communicating the first two points with a strong call to action

Consistency in your approach to social media marketing is also very important as this creates the impression in people’s minds that your business is reliable.  Reliability instills trust.  

To ensure you are not spending all of your time in social media, use a tool like Hootsuite to regularly schedule posts which are then released over a period of time.

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Contact us now (email or [+61] 0400 732 270) to discuss how we can help you succeed online by making your social media marketing a screaming success.

Stay up to date with the latest in being successful online by subscribing to our Digital Capability eUpdate or connecting with us online through FacebookLinkedIn and Twitter.

It’s not selling, it providing the right solutions

Lots of people go into business because they are passionate about something. They soon discover, however, that simply starting a business doesn’t guarantee people will flock to it and love it as much as they do.  They then struggle with the idea that they have to ‘sell’ their goods/services. This is something they are often not comfortable about.  Sound familiar?

Well, if you are one of these people who doesn’t like ‘selling’ you need to realise is that you cannot sell something to someone who doesn’t need or desire what you have to offer regardless of how fancy your marketing is.  Knowing this fact helps shift your mind from the fact that you are not selling but rather providing the right solutions to right people who need your type of goods and services.  

Review the following steps to find out how your business can really benefit from this different way of thinking:

  1. Get a solution mindset 

    CC-BY photo by Reedz Malik - https://www.flickr.com/photos/anakbrunei/23505503690
    CC-BY photo by Reedz Malik – https://www.flickr.com/photos/anakbrunei/23505503690

This all happens when you know and understand how your goods/services provide the right solution to your customers’ pain or gain point.  Then you make it easy for people to find and use your solution to rectify this pain or gain point.

The first step is adopting a solutions mindset is moving from a “We sell x” to “We help people do Y”, for example:

Selling mindset Solutions mindset
We provide aged care services We help people get the most
out of their twilight years
We sell specialist gift ideas We help people spoil other people
We provide accounting services We give people back their time
and their peace of mind
We sell clothes and accessories We make people look and feel great

Publicly stating your solutions mindset statement on your website and social media profiles as part of your branding is really important, as it helps to highlight your business’s point of difference.  Also use this statement as a way of filtering every business decision related to your customers eg how does this help our customers solve their pain/gain point.

  1. Determine what solutions your business offers

    CC0 Public Domain image by geralt - https://pixabay.com/en/board-font-problem-solution-chalk-953155/
    CC0 Public Domain image by geralt – https://pixabay.com/en/board-font-problem-solution-chalk-953155/

You can do this by really understanding why people use your product/service. Answer the question: “What job is that customer trying get done when they buy that product or hire that service?” If you’re not sure, ask your customers or potential customers.  

To entice people to give you this information to you can offer them ‘freebies’ or incentive prizes.  Do this by making it easy for them to give you their opinion through using an online and free survey tool like Google Forms.

Then post the link to this survey into your social media profile or you could set up a tablet at your front counter which existing customers can complete while they are onsite. Alternatively, you could add the survey link to the receipt or invoice you give your customers, and through an email campaign.

  1. Create the right solution driven customer experience

    CC-BY image from Blue Diamond Gallery http://www.thebluediamondgallery.com/tablet/c/customer-loyalty.html
    CC-BY image from Blue Diamond Gallery http://www.thebluediamondgallery.com/tablet/c/customer-loyalty.html

Research shows that customers are more attracted and are much more loyal to those businesses which offer a great customer experience.  A great customer experience happens when a customer’s experience with your business matches their expectations to have their pain/gain point solved.

A great customer experience occurs when your product or service is:

  • Easy to learn to use,
  • Efficient to use as it takes the least amount of time to accomplish the job they need to get done, and
  • More satisfying to use compared to other similar products and services.

Consider how your the product or service meets this criteria.  Ask existing customers whether they feel your product or service meets this criteria, and how you can improve on achieving this criteria.

  1. More is less in solution provision

    CC-BY image by SevenSeventyFive - https://www.flickr.com/photos/mooglr/22893467404
    CC-BY image by SevenSeventyFive – https://www.flickr.com/photos/mooglr/22893467404

Research also shows that reducing the touch points that a customer has to do to access your goods/services to get their job done, the happier the customer is.  Automating processes and services so the customer can get their job done quicker is the way to go. This also helps to reduce any chances of human error from the business perspective.

For example, consider the airline industry where you can book your flights online, print your own tickets, and do your own ‘bag drop’. This saves the customer lots of time and it also makes it more cost effective for the airline as well.

Without customers, your business won’t survive so placing customers and their needs at the centre is paramount. To ensure that you are achieving what you are setting out to do with your solutions mindset, measure what you say you are going to do against how well you are doing it.

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Contact us now (email or [+61] 0400 732 270) to discuss how we can help you get the right solutions mindset so you can help your customers get their job done.

Stay up to date with the latest in being successful online by subscribing to our Digital Capability eUpdate or connecting with us online through FacebookLinkedIn and Twitter.

Secure your competitive advantage in 2017

Really successful businesses don’t just happen.  They come about because they know why their customers hire them to get a job done well. This deep understanding of their customers’ ‘jobs to be done’ provides the business with an competitive advantage which is difficult to copy by their competitors. Businesses like Amazon, Ikea and Google are testament to this approach.

Successful businesses do this by understanding what their customer needs doing and then putting processes in place that allows the customer to get the job done beyond what the customer expected

So instead of focussing on the products/services their business offers, they focus on the job their customer needs doing.  This job centric approach is then used to devise systems and processes, marketing approaches, as well as their company mission statement and messages, and base all of their their business decisions, around this approach. They then measure the success of their business by the success of their customers’ jobs being done.

Follow these steps to develop a job-centric approach in your business and secure your competitive advantage in 2017:

Know the job your customer is hiring you to do

Free image from Pixabay https://pixabay.com/en/photos/employer/?cat=industry
Free image from Pixabay https://pixabay.com/en/photos/employer/?cat=industry

Instead of thinking of your business from the perspective of the products/services that it offers, consider what job your customer is hiring you to do to solve their pain or gain point. 

Let’s use a bookkeeper to illustrate this.  A bookkeeper is not just getting a business’s finances ready for monthly, quarterly or annual tax reporting.  The job they are doing for their clients is:

  • Giving their clients’ lives back by allowing them to spend more time with their family (or on their business)
  • Providing their clients peace of mind as they clients know that they are only paying the tax they have to pay, and on time, and/or
  • Improving their clients’ business by increasing their cash flow by invoicing promptly and only paying bills when they are due

Know what stops your customers from hiring your products/services

Getting the right message out to your potential customers about why they should hire your products/services will be driven by your understanding of what stops your potential customers hiring your products/services in the first place.  

CC0 Public Domain image by geralt - https://pixabay.com/en/stop-containing-road-sign-95477/
CC0 Public Domain image by geralt – https://pixabay.com/en/stop-containing-road-sign-95477/

Take our bookkeeper.  They need to know that potential clients may not ‘hire’ their bookkeeping services because:

  • They are embarrassed to let another person know they don’t understand business financials
  • They they don’t know whether they can trust another person with their business financials
  • They would need to expose their business performance to a stranger who may judge them
  • They would become accountable to another person about how they send their business’s money

Capturing testimonials from existing customers about how your business provides the perfect solution for the job they need done, as well as asking existing customers to write a ‘review’ on your business’s “Google my business” listing, will help your potential customers more easily make the final ‘hire’ decision.

Know who and what you are really competing against

Understanding what other options your potential customers have when making a decision to hire something to get their job done, or if they are compensating in some other way as a ‘quick fix’ to get their job done, is really important. Also, if the potential client already hires a product/service to get the job done, what are your competing against so the potential client will fire this product/service so they can hire your product/service?

CC0 Public Domain image by 3dman_eu - https://pixabay.com/en/competition-race-sport-run-1019774/
CC0 Public Domain image by 3dman_eu – https://pixabay.com/en/competition-race-sport-run-1019774/

For our bookkeeper, they need to know that they are not only competing with other bookkeepers, but they are also competing with the following as alternative options for getting the clients’ job done:

  • Accountants or Tax agents
  • Casual/in-house employees or family members who will do their finances
  • Accounting software with automated services such as matching bank entries to cash in / cash out entries
  • Organisations which allow automated direct debiting of bills

Potential customers may also have obstacles which makes the buying process difficult.  For our bookkeeper potential clients, this could be:

  • The anxiety of knowing which bookkeeper to ‘hire’
  • The thought of having to change what their already do now, or taking the time to set up new processes
  • Knowing what to do with their old systems or knowing how to fire other solutions
  • Finding the money to pay a bookkeeper

Establish the processes which will secure your competitive advantage

Once you really understand the job that your customers is hiring you to do, as well as the obstacles and other competing options which are available, you can now establish your competitive advantage through end to end job centric processes.  

CC0 Public Domain image by 3dman_eu - https://pixabay.com/en/direction-arrow-away-note-right-1014056/
CC0 Public Domain image by 3dman_eu – https://pixabay.com/en/direction-arrow-away-note-right-1014056/

You do this be determining what your business offers (or should be offering):

  • that is different to these competing/compensating options
  • which helps overcome any obstacles your potential customer faces in hiring your product/service (as well as maybe having to ‘fire’ something else), and
  • which will mean your potential customer will be more successful or will find it easier to get their job done.

For our bookkeeper these could be providing an ‘enquire to hiresolution:

  • Providing easy to customise template business finance policies and processes
  • Setting up ‘I have my life back’ or ‘Money saving’ folder or shared Dropbox folder for their client to easily share and file documentation
  • Setting up a mobile app on their client’s mobile phone which allows the clients to:
    • collect payment or invoice for products/services on the go
    • photograph all their receipts as they receive them and then share them through Showboxed
  • Providing easy to understand and action financial reports
  • Sending regular (and automated) SMS/email reminders about key dates / actions

To help the potential client make the transition, the bookkeeper should offer a one month Acquire before you hire trial period.  During this time, the bookkeeper calculates how much money/time they have saved their client by hiring them to get their job done, and done really well.

These end to end processes then become the ‘job you are solving’ blueprint for the bookkeeper to follow and keep improving on, and which is very difficult for your competitors to copy.

Acknowledgement: This post was based on the concept of ‘Jobs to be done’ or ‘Jobs theory’, a theory developed by Clayton M. Christensen, Taddy Hall, Karen Dillon, David S. Duncan.  For more information about this theory read Competing against Luck.

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Contact us now (email or [+61] 0400 732 270) to discuss how we can help you secure your competitive advantage in 2017 through establishing a job centric approach in your business.

Stay up to date with the latest in being successful online by subscribing to our Digital Capability eUpdate or connecting with us online through FacebookLinkedIn and Twitter.

Six simple steps to creating your 2017 Digital Marketing Plan

Many small businesses really struggle with the concept of using digitally marketing for their business.  Most of them think it is going to be a quick fix or the silver bullet which will shot their business to the top, with little or no planning or vision in sight.  However, the truth is that it involves planning and action to make digital marketing work for your business.

CC-BY image by Sprott Money https://www.flickr.com/photos/105572614@N04/10304333036
CC-BY image by Sprott Money https://www.flickr.com/photos/105572614@N04/10304333036

So to ensure that your business grows and shines using digital marketing, follow these six simple steps to create your 2017 Digital Marketing Plan:

Step 1: Know your marketing message

Digital marketing is not a separate activity from what you do in your business.  Everything you do in your business is part of your marketing, from the way your present your office/shop front or website, to how you package your products / services, to the way you communicate with your customers.

In order to ensure that your digital marketing message is ‘on brand’ in everything that you do, you need to set the benchmark about what it is that your business does and how it does it.  Think about ‘Google’ – it aims is to make finding and using information on the internet simple – and don’t they live up to it.  

CC0 Public Domain from https://pixabay.com/en/photos/brand/?image_type=illustration
CC0 Public Domain from https://pixabay.com/en/photos/brand/?image_type=illustration

They do this by having a clear vision and mission about what they want to achieve, and then they share this with their customers and staff.  Then, everything they do and any decision they make is through this lens of thinking … That they make finding and using information on the internet simple.  

Step 2: Know your customers really well

Once you have determined the clear vision and mission for your business, you then need to focus on knowing how your product/services satisfies your customers’ gain or pain points.  

Consider the following to determine whether your product/service meets your customers’ gain or pain point:

Gain points

Pain points

Gain points happen when someone is looking to satisfy a desire or be altruistic, such as:

  • Human desire
  • Personal interest
  • Socialise / network

Think – holidays, hobbies, leisure activities or high end brands like Apple or Harley Davidson

Pain points happen when someone really needs to do something, such as:

  • Human need
  • Solve a problem
  • Meet compliance / mandated

Think – every day living, meeting regulation or legal requirements, or being  unwell

Once you understand this, you then need to know the language your customers use when they think about trying to satisfy their gain or pain point. You then use this language to target your main marketing message.

Consider the following to determine your product/service’s targeted marketing message:

Gain points

Pain points

I really want the iPhone 7 so I’m seen as being cool and hip I really need a mobile phone so I can communicate with my children when they travel home from school on the bus
 

Targeted marketing message:

Chic, forefront of technology, premium

 

Targeted marketing message:

Reliable, easy to use, cost effective

You then need to determine at what point of the customer buying journey you will be targeting with your marketing message.  

Will it be to:

  1. build brand awareness
  2. enable people to become familiar with what you do
  3. allow people consider if yours is the right product/service
  4. help people to purchase from you
  5. maintain customer loyalty 

Which part of the customer buying journey you are targeting will change depending on what you would like your customers to focus on at different times of the year or as your business develops eg brand awareness to purchasing your products/services to providing special deals/offers to existing customers.

Step 3: Know when your customers really needs you

Your customers will often need your products/services at different times of the year or at different times or stages of their lives.  These can also be the peak times for your business.  

For example, in retail, these peak times can be Valentine’s Day, Easter, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and/or Christmas.  Retailers know that they need to be well stocked with the right type of product for each of these peak times. They also know that they will have to ensure that their key marketing messages (inline with their overall marketing message) are spot on for these different times eg ‘Spoil your mum this Mother’s day’.

CC-BY Image by Dan4th Nicholas https://www.flickr.com/photos/dan4th/2312622098
CC-BY Image by Dan4th Nicholas https://www.flickr.com/photos/dan4th/2312622098

So determine when it is that your customers is looking for your type of product/service. Then put your time and budget into funnelling people into purchasing based on these times.

Step 4: Know where your customers hang out online

You then need to know where your customers frequent online and what they do online.  This will help you work out what digital marketing you should be doing.

The following are some examples of the types of digital marketing presences you should consider depending on your customers’ online activities and/or where they are at in their buying journey:

Your customer’s online activity

Your digital marketing  presence

Research Google Adwords / Adsense

YouTube

Your website / blog

Read blogs and online articles Your blog

Google Adsense

Twitter

eNewsletter

Socialise / Share their lives / Follow  others Instagram

Facebook

Snapchat

Tumblr

Network LinkedIn

Online groups – Google Groups or LinkedIn and Facebook

Twitter

Step 5: Know how to get your customers’ attention

The internet and social media are very busy places, with lots of white noise which people need to trawl through.  So what is it that catches your customer’s eye when they are trying to satisfy their pain or gain point?

This is usually a combination of text and visual (images/video) or audio.  As people filter through thousands upon thousands of messages every day, they are usually looking for keywords which link to satisfying their gain or pain point.  

Consider the following:

Gain points

Pain points

I really want the iPhone 7 so I’m seen as being cool and hip I really need a mobile phone so I can communicate with my children when they travel home from school on the bus
 

Targeted marketing message:

Chic, forefront of technology, premium

 

Targeted marketing message:

Reliable, easy to use, cost effective

Key or filter words:

Latest, stylish, bleeding edge, like no other

Key or filter words:

Simple, affordable, dependable

Step 6: Know your plan of action

It’s important that you plan the what, when, how and who of your digital marketing.  To help this, download this digital marketing plan template to create your 2017 Digital Marketing Plan.

Also, consider who will do this work.  Will your business’s digital marketing be something that you do yourself, or will you have someone on your team do it, or will you outsource it.  Whichever you choose, remember to stick to your business vision and marketing message, oversee the process and measure the impact.

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If you would like to learn about being successful online contact us now (email or 0400 732 270) to find out more about how you can take these six simple steps to creating 2017 your Digital Marketing Plan.

Stay up to date with the latest in being successful online by subscribing to our Digital Capability eUpdate or connecting with us online through FacebookLinkedIn and Twitter.

Advertise online using Google Adwords

There has never been a better time for small business to increase their customer leads through online advertising. One of the most popular forms of online advertising is placing paid advertisements which appear on search engine results such as Google. This type of online advertising is also known as search engine marketing (SEM).

So how does SEM work?

SEM means that your online advertisement appears on the search engine results of organic web searches by individuals. Your online advertisement is either placed at the top and/or side column of the search result, as shown on the image below.

CC-BY Image by Digital Capability
CC-BY Image by Digital Capability

The placement of your online ad by the search engine is determined by its relevance to the organic search based on keywords, as well as the “Pay per click” (PPC) or “Cost per Click” (CPC) amount that you have selected to have your online advertisement placed. That is, the search engine will place those online advertisements which bid the most for a keyword in a more prominent position.

So how can you get started?

One of the most popular web search engine advertising providers is Google Adwords. Google AdWords allows you to reach new customers when they are searching for your type of product and/or service on Google.

CC0 Public Domain image from Pixabay https://pixabay.com/en/photos/keyword/
CC0 Public Domain image from Pixabay https://pixabay.com/en/photos/keyword/

Google Adwords determines the placement of your online advertisement on web search results based by the CPC rate that you are willing to pay for each keyword. The position of the online ad is also determined by its ‘Click-through rate (CTR)’ , that is, how often are the people doing a web search containing your keywords actually clicking on your Google Ad.

If people are clicking on your Google Ad often, then Google is more likely to place your ad higher up on the results page. If the your ad’s CTR is low then Google considers that your ad isn’t relevant to the online search, and therefore removes your ad for the relevant keyword.

So how do you prepare your Google Ad?’

To get started with your Google Ad you will need:

  • a clear and measurable advertising campaign eg to increase sales, increase enquiries, or build brand awareness etc
  • a daily budget of how much you can spend on the online advertising campaign
  • a website or landing page which you can send people to which contains a strong ‘call to action’ when people arrive such as Buy now or Call now.
CC-BY Image from Joe the Goat Farmer - https://www.flickr.com/photos/132604339@N03/23480274281
CC-BY Image from Joe the Goat Farmer – https://www.flickr.com/photos/132604339@N03/23480274281

Then it’s time to design your Google Ad, which consists of:

  • An eye-catching headline
  • A two line description
  • A display link or URL, and
  • A destination URL.

Your Google Ad needs to be very succinct to express your campaign’s unique selling point (USP) because you only have 70 characters per online ad. This means you need to make sure your Google Ad message is clear and relevant to your “ideal customer” or target market to increase the likelihood that they will click on your Google Ad.

You then need to create a Google Adwords account so take a few minutes to investigate the Google Guide about placing online ads with Google at http://www.googleguide.com/ads.html.

So what else do you need to think about?

Keep your Google Ad’s display URL simple even if the landing page which you will be directing people to has a longer URL eg your display URL could be cheapcabinets.com.au even though your website URL is cheekcharliescheapcabinets.com.au/onlinestore.

CC0 Public Domain Image by mkweb2 - https://pixabay.com/en/website-url-go-button-www-web-454460/
CC0 Public Domain Image by mkweb2 – https://pixabay.com/en/website-url-go-button-www-web-454460/

Ensure that your actual online advert is keyword rich (more about keywords in the next section), and that your online advert message is consistent with the information which will appears on the landing page that you will be directing people to. It is the landing page where your call to action will help achieve your advertising campaign’s goal.

Also, think about your target market’s characteristics and behaviours to narrow the audience to which your online ad is placed by setting the types of devices your target market uses to search online eg mobile phones vs computers, as well as their location, language, etc, to really help ensure that the people who are most likely to engage with your online ad are the ones who receive your online ad when they do a web search. Also ensure that you set an end date for your campaign so that you do not go over budget.

So what are keywords?

Keywords are words which clearly describe what an online advertisement is about. For example, if you are selling Australian-made ladies leather boots, then some of the keywords could include ‘ladies shoes’, ‘ladies leather shoes’, ‘Australian leather shoes’, etc.

CC-By Image from J Photo Style http://jphotostyle.com/handwriting/k/keywords.html
CC-By Image from J Photo Style http://jphotostyle.com/handwriting/k/keywords.html

Keywords are the major trigger of when your online advertisement appears in a Google search result. When creating your online advertising campaign stick to between five to twenty keywords which best describe your online ad.

Sort your Google Ads into small ad groupings to ensure that your keywords are as relevant as possible to your advertisement. This will allow you to set a CPC bid rate at the ad group level which applies to all keywords housed within that ad group.

Google Ad’s Keyword Planner can help you determine the best keywords for your online advertising campaign. Take a few minutes to read this article on how to use Keyword Planner – http://backlinko.com/google-keyword-planner.

Online advertising done well can be a very powerful way of promoting your business to your target market, however, paid online advertising can be costly if you do not design the correct marketing campaign and ensure that you deploy it to the correct targeted marketing, so do your research and take the time to test your approach.

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If you would like to learn about being successful online contact us now (email or 0400 732 270) to find out more about how you can take these simple steps to online success to advertise online using Google Adwords.

Stay up to date with the latest in being successful online by subscribing to our Digital Capability eUpdate or connecting with us online through FacebookLinkedIn and Twitter.

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