8 tips to future proof your business
These sure are interesting times for SMEs.
On one hand, we have a leading economist, Cameron Bagrie, encouraging small business to step up and fill the void left by the dairy, petroleum and mining industries as their dominance wanes in the new world business order.
OECD estimates back this view too, stating recently that half of the growth in employment in the future is predicted to come from small and medium-sized businesses. So, no pressure then!
But on the other hand, recent business confidence surveys released in New Zealand point to challenging times with business confidence in Auckland especially taking a hit. Increased petrol prices, rising labour costs, the need for more housing and more infrastructure will certainly keep SMEs on their toes.
Thank goodness then, for Nicole Coyne’s 8 Tips For Future Proofing your Business!
Director of Tikumu Business Consulting, Nicole helps business owners and operators build solid business foundations.
“If you’re serious about building a solid business, you probably need to overcome certain challenges and kick a few bad habits into touch,” says Nicole. Take a look at her pointers below, they may just make the difference:
1) Business Plan and Vision
I speak to many small business owners and unfortunately many of them don't have a business plan. They tend to live in the here-and-now and operate in a lovely comfort zone, where they fail to think about the future of their business. Step outside of the comfort zone and start thinking about what you want your business to look like in 5 or 10 years time. Build your business vision and construct your plan to move in the right direction.
2) What’s your exit strategy?
Many small business owners give me a funny look when I ask them what their exit strategy is. Many of them answer, "I’m running my business, why would I want to exit it?" Well, it’s not about exiting straight away; it’s about future planning. If you had to put yourself into the position of looking to buy an existing business, what would catch your eye and make you put in an offer for your own business? So the point of an exit strategy is two-fold. Building a reputable business that is well structured with a solid foundation, which will be worth selling one day.
3) Listen to the customer
Such a simple thing, but yet can be completely missed, especially for larger businesses who somehow move further away from their customers the larger they grow. Here again, small businesses have an amazing opportunity to really listen to their customers and can be quick off the mark to react and adapt to feedback. What is your customer engagement plan?
4) Financial literacy
Know your numbers. Yes, you may have an accountant to guide you, but make sure you are aware of what is going on in your business from a financial point of view. Schedule regular reviews and be aware of what your expenses are, where the money is going and ensuring that you are sticking to your budgets. A false move or bad decision can really hurt your business.
5) Understand your strengths, but also your weaknesses
We live in a country with a good old “I can do it” attitude. This is a brilliant mindset to have, especially in a small business, where you are the chief cook and bottle washer, as well as the CEO. However it can also be your downfall. There will be tasks that you quite frankly will be rubbish at, or just not like. Figure out a way of delegating it, automating it or mastering it. Think about the wasted time and energy if you do not.
6) Learn to work on your business, not just in your business
This is a huge adjustment for many small business owners. Most small businesses are established on the back of the owner’s specific skills. Servicing the customers directly and working on the tools is what they do best. In order to grow the business, this mindset needs to change. As a business owner your position will change into a management and leadership role and you will find yourself not working on the tools as often as before. How will you shift into your new role without leaving a gap in your previous position?
7) Learn to sell your business and yourself
If I had a dollar for every time I heard a small business owner say “No, I’m not a sales person” I would be a billionaire. Reality-check, as a business owner you are constantly on stage representing your business and brand. Learn to get comfortable with this and if required, equip yourself with selling skills. Whether you love it or hate it, you are selling your businesses every time you talk to someone, so make sure you do it right!
The concept of work-life balance is tricky for many business owners. However, it does need to be said that if you don’t find a good balance between work and rest then guaranteed you will be paying for your lack of balance in some shape or form. Start early and get into the habit of building this balance into your daily and weekly routine.
It’s always worth taking time out to focus on where you’re heading with your business. If one aspect of your operation in the too-hard basket involves how you communicate with your customers and promote your business online – your website content – it’s time to dust off the file and make some changes. And it’s easier than you think. CONTACT US or call 027 537 4017 and we’ll do the rest. Affordable rates are the icing on the cake.
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I’ve got the Retail Blues, People. They generally come on when I’m shopping and especially when I’m buying shoes and am asked a footwear version of the add-on phrase, ‘Would you like fries with that?’
But I’m not buying a side order to accompany my burger here, I’m in shoe store buying a pair of shoes. This strikes me as disingenuous marketing – sales pitch retail jargon really; a form commerce-style ‘smoke n mirrors’ marketing if you will, all disguising the ploy to charge more for a product after a purchase.
Here’s the scenario: I walk into a shoe store and do the usual; look at shoes, try on a pair, take another look, think yeah-nah. Look again, try on again and think YES: I like, I buy.
Up at the counter, intending to make the purchase for the amount written on the sticker, I’m then asked, Would I like to buy a pair of sole grips as well? At $14 a pair, they’ll apparently give better traction while I’m out walking.
Sorry, what’s that again? The shoes aren’t safe to wear as they are? Surely they’re fit-for-purpose, I ask, like safe enough to walk in? Rubber soles are safe as, I’m assured, but resin soles – which mine were – generally need another product added to give better grip.
The assistant was so friendly and enthusiastic I couldn’t get annoyed. I laughed instead. Because it was, well, laughable, then annoying. Her justification for why I should hand over more money if I wanted to feel safe in my new shoes worth $200 (without sole grips), was strong on passion but scant on sound reasoning.
I felt like I was in a McDonalds burger and fries selling course, with the focus firmly on the add-on philosophy. Taking it back to basics though, new shoes shouldn’t need extra products to make them fit for purpose; surely safe design should be included in the stated purchase price.
I contacted Consumer NZ, the font of consumer rights, and enquired whether a pair of shoes should be fit-for-purchase at the point-of-purchase. Directed to the Consumer Guarantees Act, and under the heading ‘Goods’ were listed seven points, relevant to Retailers and other suppliers. Here are the two most relevant, giving reasonable expectation that: Retailers are other suppliers guarantee their goods will be of ‘acceptable quality’ and be ‘fit for a particular purpose’.
Now, fit for purpose: I take that to mean they’re good to take walking at the time of purchase and at the indicated price on the product.
Wouldn’t it be great if retail marketers spent less on disingenuous training and delivered the old school, genuine kind instead? That would be refreshing, and perhaps the savings could offset the extra cost of selling safe shoes, with not a whiff of an add-on in sight.
Need help with your brand story? Want to create genuine messages that resonate with your audience? CONTACT US or call Jes on 027 537 4017 and Boost Your Business Story With WebWriters + I Blog For You.
here A lot of websites have weak, outdated content and nothing turns away potential customers faster.
Websites are often put together in a hurry. If they’re part of a business start-up, the owners are usually frantic, pulling together everything else which needs to be up and functioning for the first day of trade.
However, one of the most important marketing tools for any business, an effective website with quality content, can be overlooked in the rush.
With a huge amount of marketing now done online, nearly every first experience that potential customers have of any business, is via its website. And if that makes business owners feel uncomfortable, they need to contact WebWriters.
When technology started to make a real impact in the business world, we saw the arrival of websites, via the worldwide web. Initially it was thought it didn’t really matter what content a business posted online, so long as ‘something’ went up.
Thankfully that’s no longer the case. When a website has just a few seconds to influence online visitors, it’s a no-brainer that the content – which in essence is the story of a business and what it does – needs to have impact and appeal.
Today, there’s an entire industry around guiding content writers and web designers to follow best practice search engine optimisation, or SEO, to ensure relevant words are used and websites are effective.
That’s where I come in. I’ve had years of writing experience – as a regular contributor to magazines including NZ House & Garden, Hospitality Business and East Life. I also edited a supplement for five years called Our Homes TODAY, with responsibility for writing hundreds of stories and advertorials.
These days I help owners promote their business in more compelling and effective ways online and in print. As well as writing blogs, I write and refresh website content, create copy for e-newsletters, and for print; anything from brochures, press releases and publicity for my clients in newspapers and magazines.
Gathering testimonials from satisfied customers is another great way to boost business stories, as well as sourcing or creating content and images for commercial Facebook pages.
With a broad range of skills and experience across journalism, PR, marketing and sales, I provide business development services too, and running a lean business model keeps my rates affordable.
Let’s talk soon and start boosting your business story.
CONTACT US or call Jes on 027 537 4017
www.webwriters.co.nz + I Blog For You
I have to admit he’s funny, but I do find British broadcaster Jeremy Clarkson a bit of an over-grown larrikin. I’m talking about his TV program Top Gear especially. Along with the less scally-waggish but still-up-for-laughs characters James May and Richard Hammond, these grown men race expensive or clapped out cars at various locations around the world, crash or blow up other cars and indulge in a whole lot of other questionable gags all in the name of ratings and entertainment.
I did enjoy his car reviews though that used to run in a local Sunday newspaper. Clarkson can spin as good a yarn as he can cars and not surprisingly the format for his articles was unconventional. He would launch into his spiel – on anything other than cars and mostly about life in general – stay with that three quarters of the way through, then finally bring in the topic he was paid to write about.
I’m not sure serious car lovers would appreciate his story model. They’d probably want more detail on the vehicle of the week, but being non-plussed about steel on wheels myself, the format suited me just fine.
Why? Because like just about everybody else, I love a good story, especially about people. Discovering the human interest angle, what makes others tick, basically what spins their wheels. Maybe it’s something to do with being a perennial student of life.
When I started blogging for other business owners, I realised I’d have to blog for myself too. Crickey! What on earth would I write about and how would I write it? Thanks Jeremy, I’m borrowing your style. Then realising that a blog on blogging could be boring, I went back to basics and pondered their purpose.
Essentially, they’re an effective, popular means of communication between business owners and customers; they strengthen that relationship, inform and entertain. Kind of like a friendly fireside chat without the fireside. And taking it broader, successful communication is key to running a successful business.
I’ve witnessed a couple of incidents lately where communication – or lack of it – has gone badly wrong for a couple of businesses; involving two customers buying wine by the glass in gastro pubs. In both cases, the customers didn’t check the price list and when it came time to pay, they were so angry about being charged what they thought were phenomenally ridiculous prices for one glass of vino, that they both spat the cork in front of other customers at both of the venues. Not a good look.
In one East Auckland bar a large glass of quality Central Otago Rosé cost one of these punters $23. The customer didn’t check the price before ordering, and when he went to pay the dinner bill at the counter and looked over the charges, he nearly had a heart attack. I do not jest – this guy already has a bad heart.
And he was really grumpy. “That’s ridiculous,” he said, when the manager explained the bill. His parting shot in front of about 10 other customers: “You won’t see me back here.”
Not wanting to sound like I do this all the time, but in another bar up north a couple of months back a similar thing happened. Another friend walked up to the bar and asked for a “glass of red”. (Sounds like the start of a joke, doesn’t it, but no.)
I did think my buddy was pretty relaxed, leaving it to the bar staff to select his wine but having just bought a nice (small) glass of chilled rosé myself, I left him to it and joined our group.
When he arrived at the table with a huge pour of pinot noir, his face nearly matched the colour of his top shelf bevvy. “26 bucks for a glass of red! I wouldn’t even buy a bottle for that!” We commiserated, then one friend suggested he should have specified glass size and wine variety when he ordered. True.
Despite the buyer beware motto though, I think in both cases the question of ethics comes in, plus good old common sense and customer service. If bar staff suspect that a customer might splutter at paying $26 for one glass of wine, that it might leave a bad taste on the palate, wouldn’t it be wise to check that before pouring?
That’s better than having grumpy customers swear they’ll never be back to your café, in front of an audience, or having them vent on the local Facebook page about feeling duped by their neighbourhood bar.
Better communication could have avoided these scenes. Surely café owners and hospitality staff want repeat business. Annoying customers and fuelling potential negative word-of-mouth dramas that can damage a business long after the initial incident, just isn’t smart thinking.
Perhaps business owners could check out similar potential hot spots in their own business; whether any aspects of their business offering and especially its delivery by staff, could annoy customers. Annoyed customers are costly in more ways than one and might even drive some business owners to drink, from very large glasses too, and that’s a sobering thought.
It’s much better to have positive stories swirling around your business, and remember, research reveals that companies that blog are not only more successful, they're happier too.
Time to get your blog finally under way?
CONTACT US or give Jes a call on 027 537 4017
We're keen to help you boost your business story.
Part of what I do at WebWriters is ghost-write blogs for clients, and I absolutely love it because blogs are a beautiful thing.
They’re like the sweet spot in the business world, a chance for business owners or those with a voice for the business, to sit down and e-chat with their customers about what’s happening in their work world, perhaps industry trends and how they see them. Blogs can also be a personal take on what the ‘writer’ feels strongly about at any particular time.
The most important thing about blogs is that they transmit on a personal wavelength and that’s important today, because it’s all about telling the stories behind the brand, the stories about people, and as a journalist, that’s really exciting.
My writing passion has always been for telling people’s stories, for finding and revealing their essence, their inspirations, their dreams, passions and their purpose.
I love writing stories that inspire others, that draw the reader into a space where time suspends, where everything else falls away just for a while, as we’re immersed in another world – one of new possibilities and fresh perspectives. And when we’ve finished the story, we feel a sense of renewed energy and excitement for our own world.
Luckily for me, not everyone wants to or can write in blog form. They know what they want to say but for whatever reason can’t write it. They do see the value of blogs though, as important communication tools, and that’s where I come in.
As a ghost blogger, there’s also the topic of integrity and transparency to cover here. If blogs are personal messages, how can someone else write them for you? Easy. If writing clearly and compellingly isn’t your thing, let go of the angst and let someone else do it who will get your message across. A good blogger will write exactly what you would write, if you could.
Delegating means you actually get your message out there, instead of procrastinating endlessley. Delegating is clever, because it leaves you free to focus on your own fabulous skill set and do other great things in your business.
Blogging for Interior Designers
I write a blog for an Auckland firm called Amazing Interiors Home Staging & Interior Design. View their blogs here. Interior design is one passion of mine. I’ve written for interior design magazines for years, so blogging about inspiring interiors is just one big delicious thrill. My client and I gel and she’s loving my work.
That led me think, how can I do more of this; blog for other designers without compromising the work I do for existing clients. Go forth and multiply, my inner voice was telling me.
That’s where being a member of the Venus Network has been incredibly helpful. It’s a supportive nationwide businesswomen’s group that offers focused networking opportunities through regular fortnightly meetings. Venus has over 1000 members, with 52 groups nationwide. We attend workshops and seminars, tap into great resources and there are plenty of chances to grow your knowledge and expand opportunities in a limitless forum.
One Venus service provides an online member directory that’s segmented into business categories. I looked up Interior Designers and scrolling through, noticed Jodie Robertson in Napier and her business Smoke N Mirrors Interior Design & Home Staging Force.
I’d already heard of the name so I emailed Jodie, explained how my blogging packages work and how I could help promote her business in fresh, new ways. Jodie would get more stories out there about the beautiful, creative work she does and fire up her fan customer base even further.
Bingo. Perfect timing, Jodie said. She’d recently sold her gorgeous 100-year-old two storey villa in semi-rural Hawkes Bay; a home that had featured in the NZ House & Garden magazine and the NZ House & Garden Home Tours.
So, yes, the locals were wondering what Jodie was up to. Gone out of business? Sold up and heading out of town? No way. While it broke Jodie and husband Jason Lachmund’s hearts to sell the home (their twins were pretty disappointed too), the couple saw a property 400m down the road, large enough for Jodie’s business dreams.
She wanted one property that would accommodate every facet of her business, and the land plus the ramshackle collection of buildings they bought will eventually allow that; there's a big shed to store all her home staging furniture, and another building for a combined showroom, office and garage.
There was also a cottage on site which they renovated and listed on Air B & B just before Christmas. They'd only bought the property in October! There’s also room for Jodie’s renovated container called The Box. This is a mobile showroom she positions around the area to promote Smoke N Mirrors plus the gorgeous homewares they sell.
There’s only one downside to the venture and luckily it’s temporary: the place where the family of four now lives is a mere two bedroom bach and quoting Jodie, “It’s a s^*+#*r”. Renovating the bach will be the last task for this dynamo couple and you know that when they get to it, the transformation will be sublime.
The biggest upside: Jodie doesn’t have to haul her reluctant children out to the former storage space in Hastings when she needs to organise a project. Everyone can stay at home.
Jodie and I have completed one blog, and we’re working on two more. I’ve also scored more promotion for Smoke N Mirrors, writing a story for the Venus Facebook page explaining how a writer in Auckland and an interior designer in Napier came to work together.
This is one example of the sort of thing WebWriter’s & I Blog For You, can do for your business. CONTACT US or call Jes on 027 537 4017 and let's make some magic around your brand too.
Who needs a business blog?
It always seems there’s a ‘latest thing’ that business needs to embrace to stay up with the game.
And it’s the same for blogs. But that wasn’t the intention of the first ‘web-log’ back in December 1997 when American Jorn Barger created the original term, or when Peter Merholz in 1999 further refined the concept when he typed the first ‘blog’.
Back then, blogs were intended more for personal use, as a way to keep a digital diary. Then the more sociable bloggers started to share their creations and lo and behold, they had an audience. Blog-sharing then went viral, the blogosphere was created and there hasn’t been a backward glance since.
The scent of opportunity, that there was a chance to monetise blogs emerged and before you could say Silicon Valley, another compelling business communication tool was born.
The blog story is similar to that of Facebook; what was intended as a personal way for people to connect online has become a communication channel between many businesses and their customers in today’s world of commerce.
As with Facebook, business blogs show a company’s more personal side. They offer the chance to reveal the stories of the people, products and services behind the brands, the stories about what makes products or services special and why the customer needs to buy what you create.
People quickly spot the dodgy, inauthentic blogs, those created via cut and paste, or when the ‘writer’ hasn’t communicated with the businesses’ main players to find out their views and inspirations, which really are the essence of what blogs do so well.
Doing good business today is all about having a story to share, and as a result, blogs have become genuine touchstones that bring us back to what’s fundamental and important in today’s business world – who and what is behind the business you might do business with.
So why are blogs good for business?
For many business operators, blogs are a platform that build credibility and connection with their customers and these are the underlying reasons why people make purchases – because people believe in your product and they believe in you.
Done well, blogs are driven and inspired by integrity. This isn’t just woolly stuff either because like any good business tool, blogs’ effectiveness can be measured. And here’s the holy grail for validating business backing: good blogs generate sales.
The simplicity of a blog makes them alluring. They’re unpretentious typed messages that require little design work; they’re often humourous and inspiring, which adds to their popularity as ongoing messages that customers want to reconnect with time and again.
A vital part of your Content Marketing Strategy
Blogging for your business simply makes good sense, as a vital component of your content marketing strategy. So what’s that about?
Essentially, content marketing is creating and/or sharing content that is relevant to your brand. It pleases, informs and inspires your existing customers and reaches out to those you’d like to bring on board as well.
Blogs are about inspiring customer behaviour that validates your marketing strategy, because at the end of the day if sales aren’t coming through it could be time to shut up shop, or quickly make some changes.
Mapping out blog topics, say for the next 6 to 12 months, helps set your marketing strategy in place. For best practice, your blog topics need to be part of a plan, not just random word doodle creations that someone with the fastest typing speed in the company can knock out before morning tea.
Focusing on content marketing strategy keeps you sharp and when your blogs tick all the boxes, those all-seeing, all-powerful search engines – the cyber-bogies that can give business owners bad sleeps at night – will be well pleased.
Blogs are a vital link between the trifecta that defines a company’s online image: your website, e-newsletters to your clients, and social media channels like Facebook.
When blogs are posted to the website, they can then be selected for your EDMs (electronic direct mail, or e-newsletters), which go out to your database, usually as weekly or monthly bulletins, that let your customers know what you’re up to. Links back to your website are displayed throughout the text, where readers can ‘find out more’ ‘book here’ ‘call us here’ – those powerful, call to action messages.
Blogs can also be linked to your Facebook business page, where you stay in touch you’re your valued customers with exciting new offers and messages.
And here’s the clincher: The benefits of blogging can be tracked, reader behaviour can be tracked and click throughs analysed. You can also see which blog topics are the most popular and adjust your content to meet demand.
Blogs are about sharing the business love, really. More than that, you can discover what makes the love special and how you can make those relationships last, because we know the lasting ones are gold.
To answer the question, who needs a business blog: WebWriters says any business with something to sell, a business that has a story to tell, and wants to communicate more broadly with its customers. We reckon that’s pretty much most businesses – how cool is that?
CONTACT US for more information.