Small Business Tips

Another Year Done

Another Year Done! What Will You Change Next Year?Another year done! What will you change next year?

As we approach the end to yet another calendar year, it is useful for us to use the upcoming months to reflect on our successes or opportunities. What will your reflections reveal this year of you and your business?

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Could "Confidence" Be The Most Important Word In Business?

Could Confidence Be The Most Important Word In Business?We’ve all heard of Business Confidence. The Business Confidence Index (1) is a tool that is used to assess the strength of businesses in Australia.

The most recent NAB report states “business confidence strengthened in October, bolstering the sharp pick up in sentiment in September. The improvement in confidence in the month was consistent with increased speculation that the RBA would cut rates ...... while European Finance Ministers appeared to be taking more decisive steps to try to resolve European sovereign debt problems and more favourable activity data out of the US appeared to have allayed fears of a double dip recession."

Then there’s Consumer Confidence. Consumer confidence is the degree of optimism that consumers feel about the overall state of the economy and their personal financial situation. Across Australia, consumer confidence rose 6.3% in November to 103.4 points from 97.2 points in October of 2011. (2)

So, based on these reports, as business owners, we should all be feeling a little more confident about our business prospects, right? Well maybe.

There are other forms of confidence which to me are far more important to the success of your business. What are they?

Well, first there’s confidence in your product. Are you confident that you have a product or service people want, and will this continue to be the case in the future? Do customers have confidence in your product or service?

Second, there’s confidence in your systems. Are you confident you have the systems in place that will deliver the best solutions for your customers? Are customers confident you can meet their needs?

Third, there’s confidence in your people. Do you have confidence that your people are able to deliver products and services in a way that will keep your customers coming back? Have you ensured your people have the confidence they need to be good at their job?

And fourth, there’s your own confidence. Do you have the confidence to drive your own business success? Do you have confidence in your own skills and abilities – enough to take control and make the important decisions?

Some businesses will thrive while others will struggle, no matter what the broad indicators are showing. But your business will always perform better if you pay attention to your products, your systems and your people, including yourself. I am confident about that.

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Things About Life I Learned From Santa

  1. Encourage people to believe in you.
  2. Always remember who's naughty and who's nice.
  3. Don’t pout.
  4. It’s as much fun to give as it is to receive.
  5. Some days it’s OK to feel a little chubby.
  6. Make your presents known.
  7. Bright red can make anyone look good.
  8. Wear a wide belt and no-one will notice how many kilos you’ve gained.
  9. If you only show up once a year, everyone will think you’re very important.
  10. Whenever you’re at a loss for words, say: “Ho, Ho, Ho!”
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Exclusivity - What Does It Mean For Your Business?

Exclusivity-What Does It Mean For Your Business?I’m sitting in a café across from a jewellery business in Chatswood - Hardy Brothers. Have you been there? Have you stood out the front and ogled the beautifully stunning, very expensive jewellery and or watches? Have you noticed that you can’t get into the store without a store employee pushing the secret button to unlock the door? Once the button is pressed the expansive glass doors open wide and welcome you into a treasure trove of luxury beyond most dreams.

Interestingly there hasn’t been one customer go into the store in the first hour of trading. Given they exist in one of Australia’s most expansive retail precincts, I feel troubled by the lack of clientele. On reflection I probably don’t need to worry. I know and they know that at any point during the day someone looking for an exclusive shopping experience will come into the store. They know all to well that the brand, the look and feel, the locked doors, the desire for exclusivity, the want, and the need for an emotional connection to a purchase from this store is the key to making money.

The vision of exclusivity is clear. It is there for us all to see in black and white just above their name…..’BY APPOINTMENT TO HER MAJESTY THE QUEEN’, a statement allowed to be used as a result of holding the Queen’s Royal Warrant. There is no confusion about what you can expect when you walk through the front doors if you dare. You are buying quality, you are buying very expensive product and you are buying into a world of prestige that has an effect on your perceived self amongst family, friends and peers. The exclusivity of the experience in itself is enough to ensure the brand is held to its high standard.

So the big question does your business communicate your clear, defined and simple message? Are your customers buying an experience? Are they buying a feeling? Are they willing to pay more for it? Do they pay more for it and feel better about themselves? Or, do they have a higher perceived value because of that emotional connection?

Lets be clear, exclusivity is not for everyone. It can rule out a large piece of a target market. It can mean you need to sell less volume at a much higher margin. It can mean working harder at developing a long-term loyal following. It could mean a longer sales cycle. It could even mean culling products and services that don’t meet the grade.

On the flip side, exclusivity could mean the difference between being one of the crowd or standing out and being recognised as THE brand in your niche experience. Imagine being sought after by a client base that was willing to pay more, even in times of economic uncertainty.

What next? Go forth and determine whether you are in a market whereby exclusivity could be your unique value proposition and then plan to drive your vision through your brand, your customer experience and your products and services. Oh yes, and one last thing……don’t forget to deliver on EVERY promise your business makes verbally, philosophically and unintentionally. Break your customers expectation and passion for the experience and you wont live up to the exclusive status for long.

Simon Thomas
Small Fish Business Coaching Sydney
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Google+ What's The Fuss?

On 28th June 2011 Internet giant Google launched their very own social networking site, Google +. Google+ is Google’s latest attempt to get on the social bandwagon after failed services such as Wave, Buzz and Orkut. This time around they may just have a stayer.

Originally launched as an “invite only” service, the platform has grown from 10 millions users (it’s initial user base after two weeks) to 40 millions users (current at October 2011). It’s only early days for Google+ however at the moment, it’s far behind it’s main competitors Facebook, LinkedIn & Twitter, who boast over 1 billions users between them, with Facebook out in front with 800 million users.

Google+ provides a clean, fresh, uncluttered user interface which is best described as a mixture between Twitter & Facebook. Users are grouped into Circles which can be a one way relationship based on Twitters Follow/Following model, however the content sharing platform has more Facebook features such as integrated photos, videos, links and the ability to share paragraphs in updates.

Google+ have brought some cool features to the table, however I’m not sure they are enough to get the masses on board and it’s not until that happens that the site will get some traction. The main benefit for Google+ is it’s integrated search feature, which shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone, and is one of the main reason I’m encouraging business owners to look more closely at getting on Google+.

Some of the features include:

Circles: Similar to Facebook’s Friends List, where you can group contacts into different circles and hence control the content you view and share. However, just like Facebook’s Friends Lists, it’s a underused feature with most users sharing content to everyone.

: A free video chat conference feature which allows groups of up to 10 people to communicate at one time. Can be ideal for internal business conferences or as an alternative to Skype.

Instant Upload: When snapping pictures on your smartphone, Google will store a copy in their ‘cloud’ available for you to access at a later date, without the need to post them to the Google + site.

: In early November Google+ introduced Pages for business. Previously the only the option was for personal accounts in your own personal name, which caused a media frenzy. Currently your business page can only be linked to one personal account making it difficult for corporates to get started, but ideal for the small business owner who can link it directly with their personal Google+ account. Check out my Google+ page and if you want to set up your own here are some instructions.

I’m sure you are asking yourself now, do I really need another social networking site? My answer for this is - It depends - but here are five elements you should consider when making your decision.

1.) Target Market: The Google+ current user base is over 70% males with the largest age group 25 - 34. They are made up of mainly US users, followed by India. Currently there are 1.45% Australians which is roughly 362,000 users. If this demographic is your target market, then YES, you should set up a Google+ account. If not, read on.

2.) Search Engine Optimisation: It’s still early days, however all reports indicate an increased Google ranking for Google+ Profile and Page. Therefore if ranking at the top of the search engine is important for your business, then Google+ may be an option for you.

3.) Page & Profile Link: As mentioned previously, pages can only be set up and manged by one personal profile which can make it difficult for larger companies with community managers and marketing teams. Pages have only been released in the last month and I would assume this would change in the future.

4.) Time: In business time is money and do you really have time to maintain another social media account. I find that many of my clients are struggling to understand Facebook, LinkedIn & Twitter and get time to manage them. Before you create your account, determine who your target market is and then find out where they are online. If they are on Google+ then yes, create and manage an account.

5.) Integration with other google services: Are you using Gmail or maybe Google Docs? It’s handy to have only one Google login to control all your accounts and I believe in the future these will all be integrated together.

6.) ‘Average People’: One of the reason why Facebook is so benefitical for business owners is that they have over 800 millions users who are ‘average people,’ such as your mum and dad. And these are the people who are their consumers. It wasn’t until all age groups where represented on Facebook that it truly became a powerful marketing platform. Google+ won’t get this same traction until more ‘average people’ are on board.

So what do you think... Is Google+ worth the fuss?

Natalie Alaimo is a Social Media Expert, Trainer and Speaker. Natalie provides business owners, women and entrepreneurs with straight forward advice on how to build their business using the power of social media and online marketing via a series of live workshops, webinars, online training and do-it-yourself products. Natalie is an International Speaker, a published author and an avid blogger. For more information visit her website Natalie Alaimo and get your copy of her 9 Tips to Social Media Success. Valued at $29.95 but for you, it's FREE.
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Using Social Media In Your Business (A Business Coach Tries To Make Sense Of It)

The Small Fish Social Media MeshIt’s OK, I know I’m a business coach and not a social media expert but we’ve been learning a little lately and I thought you might find it interesting. I’ll defer to the experts and I acknowledge the input of a few experts in this field. Mark Barrett from CI Marketing (our Internet marketing adviser and website custodian), Natalie Alaimo, coaching client of Melanie Miller and Social Media specialist, Seth Godin (who I’ve never met but who writes and speaks with considerable authority), that guy who wrote “The New Rules of Marketing and PR” and Michael Stovin-Bradford of Tactical Resources.

No-one knows all the answers, everything is changing so quickly that there are no answers in the way we used to think of them – that there’s a right way to do things that will give you guaranteed results. There’s not and it’s likely that that old certainty is gone forever, at least where the Internet is concerned.

This article tries to share what we’re doing when it comes to social media and how it meshes with our online strategies. I’ve been thinking about why people use social media (it’s not because they want to hear how good you are or why they should buy your stuff); the social (media) contract; relationships and the mesh (thanks
Lisa Gansky).

The Social (Media) Contract

Why do we use social media and the Internet (I’ve lumped them together here). As I said, it’s not so that we can be advertised to, we use it when we want to find things out or when we want to find out about things (including where we can buy them and how much they cost; we use it to be entertained, interested, informed – in a sort of lazy, passive way.

I’m not sure where this assertion came from but it rings true – we use the web (Google mostly) to look for things. We expect to find them quickly and, if we don’t, we’re back to the search results looking for a more useful site before you can say “click here to find out more”.

We use social media like
Facebook and Google+ (watch for this one – it promises to be huge) to be mindlessly entertained, to see what our friends ate for lunch and to see what they’ve shared – because we’ll probably be interested in some of the stuff they’re interested in.

I know from my own habits that overt sales messages or someone talking about themselves too much gets boring. I’ll read posts or articles or click through tweets or subscribe for emails if I think they’ll be interesting.

And our tolerance is low, too. I only read about 10% of the regular emails that come my way (and I know that only about 20% of the people who receive our Fish Tales open it to read it). We scan the heading and make a very quick decision about whether we read on or not – there’s so much stuff out there, we’re not interested in checking to make sure we don’t miss something interesting. If it’s really god, someone will share it again, anyway.

So, the social media contract – be interesting, useful, entertaining. Reveal something of yourself, share what you’ve learnt recently, pass on interesting and useful titbits (but not too many, that’s boring, too). It’s ephemeral – what you share or write is soon lost.
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