08/10/11 - Posting to my business Facebook page
24/09/11 - Effective business networking
10/09/11 - Best business blog sites
19/08/11 - Business blogging
08/08/11 - Benefits of Internet economy - Google
20/07/11 - Lessons learnt - Distribute.IT hosting disaster
06/07/11 - 6 ways to motivate in a home-office business
09/06/11 - 4 Tips to maximise your Twitter marketing
19/05/11 - Dealing with clients who do not want to pay
29/03/11 - Online payment of bills soars
News, updates, business and technology articles presented in this section are in accordance with Astute's disclosure and disclaimer policies.
Posting to my business Facebook page
You have setup a Facebook business page; you have a way to easily communicate your business products and services with your customers, suppliers and business partners.
What content should you post? At Astute we have compiled a list of ideas and topics you can use in your Facebook postings:
- Post regularly. Make sure your audience knows your business is still operating.
- Include links to your web site in your postings.
- Encourage your business contacts to "friend" your page. Think about offering rewards or discounts to contacts that become friends of your page.
- Postings should be interesting to your audience so they are aware of yuor business when it comes to buy. Do not push sales and products.
- Use the postings to offer help, advice and frequently asked questions (FAQ) for your products and other areas of common interest to your audience.
- Use the postings to advise changes to your business - again reference your business web site.
- Encourage feedback on the postings. Try to get a "community" going around the page.
Facebook provides an opportunity for people to get to know you and your business. Keep this in mind when you are using posts; consider carefully the content and the implications of what you post.
Effective business networking
- Is an activity by which groups of like-minded business people recognise, create, or act upon business opportunities.
- Is about using social opportunities to build relationships with potential customers, suppliers and business partners.
- Can provide you with a support network of like minded business owners who can help with advice and provide customer and opportunity referrals.
- Does not cost much (as with other forms of marketing) but does require significant planning and preparation.
Most small business organisations, regional business groups and councils hold regular business networking events. A simple Google search on the phrase "business networking" will help you locate networking events close to you.
To be a effective at business networking:
- Regularly attend business network events; increasing your visibility and product and brand awareness increases your opportunity.
- To keep informed of network events (e.g setup a Google alert for networking).
- When attending be open, friendly, honest and patient.
- Plan, set yourself goals and monitor and be honest with your success. Over time use your contacts and relationships to get feedback and suggestions on your sales approaches and techniques.
- Think in terms of your potential customers. Ask (and have answers) for how your products and services help your customers achieve their business goals and potential.
And remember enjoy the challenge and have fun.
Best business blog sites
At Astute we have had a look around the web and compiled a list of business blog sites1; we hope the help you think about blogs for your business.
- NZ Business Blogs is a service designed to help your business get noticed on the Internet.
- Start Up Blog provides insight into entrepreneurship, customer service and media for business start-ups.
- Tristan White's Culture is Everything talks in depth about the importance of building a strong business culture and happy teams and the impact this will have on your business, along with pointers on how to do so.
- Global Copywriting features the thoughts of numerous guest contributors who provide a broad range of perspectives on everything from the dangers of bad copywriting and the importance of consistency in the writing.
- The Age Management Line specialises in management issues, ethics and corporate governance. Many of the posts relate to personal performance and recruitment, posing questions about career development strategies and planning and how to get ahead as a manager.
- New Retail Blog charts the changing retail landscape, both online and across the counter retail outlets as well as providing advice for businesses that are retailers feeling the pinch of the global economic down turn.
- Small Business Young Gun was a resource for business owners of all ages. The posts contain information on the lessons on the value of recruiting an advisory board, how to get by without capital and the impending exit of many baby boomers from the business environment.
1Astute Technology Solutions does not have a business nor financial relationship with any of the business blog sites listed.
A blog is a frequently updated publication on the web. Blogging is the practice of adding, updating and responding to comments on a blog. Blogging lets your customers get to know you, your business and your products and services.
So is blogging for your business? At Astute we came across Nuffnang1; an online platform that allows advertisers to serve video based advertisements onto more than 100,000 blogs.
According to the results of the July 2011 Nuffnang online survey of blog readers, 89% of respondents are swayed by a blogger's review of a product or service; this means that blogging can be a powerful marketing tool for your business.
Other results from the 2011 Nuffnang survey include:
- 89% are swayed by a blogger's review of a product or service and would like to try it for themselves.
- 87% have learnt about a new product or service via a blog.
- 81% notice banner advertisements displayed next to the blogs they read.
- 90% pass on blog information to family and friends.
- 92% have used a search engine to find out more about a brand after reading about it on a blog post.
- 78% agree that blogs are a better source of information than traditional and mainstream media.
Astute's opinion. Blogging can help connect you with your customers. Some hints for your blog:
- Make it easy for your customers to use and access.
- Make sure your blog is linked with your online presence (web site).
- Blog regularly. You do not want your audience to think your company is not operating because your blogging has stopped.
- Be honest and truthful. Your reputation is being represented in your blog.
1Astute Technology Solutions does not have a business nor financial relationship with Nuffnang
Benefits of Internet economy - Google
According to Google Australia's managing director Nick Leeder, small and medium businesses will benefit from the rise of the internet economy, as more customers and buyers move away from the traditional bricks-and-mortar approach to retailing.
Astute has been watching the progression of retailing for a number of years. We have watched as internet giants such as Amazon, Yahoo and even New Zealand's TradeME have made great in-roads into the internet economy; introducing internet shopping to more and more of us.
We have also seen companies totally focused on the internet economy fail even to generate revenue in their local economy.
Our advice to business is to first consider and then plan the move to the internet economy. Ask yourself the fundamental questions.
- Who are the customers of my products and services? and
- What is the best way for customers to get access to my products and services?
It has been Astute's experience that a combination of brick and mortar and internet presence works for most small businesses. Start with a simple web site that introduces potential new clients to you. Extend your online presence as the demand grows; make sure you sustain that growth with adequate internet marketing.
Lessons learnt - Distribute.IT hosting disaster
The attack on Distribute.IT in June 2011 has disrupted thousands of businesses and (in some cases) has lead to the unrecoverable loss of organisations web site and customer data.
While we may never know the full extent of the attack or how it was done it is timely reminder for business and organisations to review and update their storage and backup systems. Astute's advice:
- Make sure you have a information backup strategy in place, you are responsible for maintaining a backup of your data.
- Make sure you regularly check and test the data to ensure the backup is correct and accurate. Look for the latest invoices or customer updates in the backup data.
- Use multiple backup strategies; a mix on online and local storage backups (you need the online in the event your local backups are lost or destroyed. E.g. Office theft or fire).
- Look at the various options in the market today. A simple Google search for "online backup" returned products1 such as Acronis Online Backup and NETGEAR ReadyNAS Vault to name a few.
Please do not hesitate to contact one of Astute's information and technology consultants if you need assistance with your backup and recovery options.
1Astute Technology Solutions does not have a business nor financial relationship with any of the products or vendors listed above.
6 ways to motivate in a home-office business
Small business owners enjoy the benefits of working from home; the freedom to work when and where you want, no setup costs are one of the advantages of starting a small business. With all these advantages, why aren't more of us starting our own business and why do so many small businesses struggle to stay active after a couple of years?
It has been proposed that one of the reasons that home-based small businesses struggle is due to the owner feeling isolated and unmotivated due to a lack of social interaction.
To address this lack of social isolation Astute proposes the following methods to self-motivate a home operated small business:
- Plan for it. Have a strategy to deal with the lack of social interaction; develop a routine that gets you out of the home office and mixing with customers, business-partners and even old associates.
- Get a business mentor. Find someone who can help you grow your business as well as connecting you to potential customers and business partners.
- Consider a business coach. Again get some external assistance keeping you focused and on track to grow your business and your contacts.
- Allocate a couple of nights a week to a relevant business or technology course. Attending and achieving the course increases your self confidence and provides you with the opportunity to meet like-minded people.
- Form a small group of like-minded business owners. Increase your business social circle by joining and attending a local business association or club.
- Maintain a regular exercise routine; 45 minutes per day. Walk instead of drive, join a gym, take regular classes that encourage you to get out of the home and meet other people.
4 Tips to maximise your Twitter marketing
Thinking about using Twitter for your business marketing? To help you focus your Twitter efforts the folks at the Social Media Examiner have posted the article - 4 Tips to Maximise Your Twitter Marketing.
Astute's opinion. This is a very interesting and helpful article. Some things to consider:
- As per the first tip in the article, before you do any form of online advertising you must define your business goals and objectives.
- Marketing and social media success require dedicated time and effort. Make sure you set aside dedicated time in your business day or week to establish (and then keep) the marketing momentum going.
Good luck! We hope your Twitter marketing goes viral.
Dealing with clients who do not want to pay
Having clients that do not pay is a problem that all businesses will have to deal with. At Astute we found Wiki How tips; considering the following:
- Start calls to non-payers on the day the account is due and repeat every 2 days.
- Send an account statement a week later. Incorporate interest charges in the updated account statement.
- Follow-up subsequent calls in writing giving notice of action on the cost recovery (including interest) clause.
- Follow-up with notice of engagement of debt collector.
Remember, think about when to go "soft" and when to go "hard" with your clients, consider all aspects and options with your approach carefully. There is the on-going client relationship to consider.
Online payment of bills soars
Sixty percent of Australians are now paying their bills online reports Reserve Bank of Australia in an article published recently in the The Australian news web site.
As a result more traditional payment techniques, such as cheques, are being phased out as they are becoming a more costly instrument (of payment) as they are used less often.
The article also comments that one item limiting use of online payments is the risk of fraud (i.e. misuse and theft of credit card details).
Astute's opinion. Businesses on both sides of the Tasman have to seriously consider offering their clients online payment facilities.
Things to consider when setting up an online payment facility:
- Make sure you use a reputable online service payment provider.
- Use a product that does not collect your customers credit card or payment account details.
- Online payment provider access should be secure (e.g. encrypted using https).
- Online payment service should also include payment and invoice reconciliation, tax (GST), customer inquiries and technical support.
- Make it easy for your customers to access and use your online payment facility.
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