The SEO Reality of Brand Authenticity

Written by Dr Polly McGee

Competitive reality TV has had to evolve and change to keep viewers engaged. Along the way it has given us many principles to live by, as well as numerous sayings and taglines. For that, and many hours of entertainment, I’m sure we are all thankful. Two formats that always resonate with me when thinking about the parallels of small business are The Voice Australia and Recipe to Riches. 

In the early stages of the competitions, the judges have to make a call on which contestants would go through and which would be abandoned back into anonymity. Consumers have the same experience when interacting with your brand

On The Voice, success is determined by how well the contestant ‘authentically’ spoke to the audience. Recipe to Riches not only looks at the capacity for a brand to resonate in the market place, but asks the other critical question – can you scale? Brand values can work well in a micro setting, but can the product and your delivery of it move from a hands-on controlled environment, and be replicated for a larger market? 

There is a powerful business truth in these interrogations. We don’t succeed because we are the best, although we must have a measure of competence [insert market demand or engagement] to be part of the selection process. When our brands are competing in a big, noisy, crowded market, there has to be an outstanding quality that makes people choose us and our products over our competitors. 

Most initial interactions consumers have with our products and brands is online, via a website, blogs, social media or a combination of all three. So ask yourself, how do you and your product represent? Do you speak authentically to your audience, walk the stage and perform in a natural, believable way especially when the performance is being mediated by technology? Can you scale to speak to hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands and still have a voice in the market? 

Even search engine optimisation (SEO) is getting its lines from reality TV. Google and Bing love ‘truth and authenticity’ in content and ‘scale’ in interactions. You are ‘incentivized’ by higher search engine ranking when your content is fresh, authentic and endorsed by a quantum of reputable backlinks to your site. The mysterious, ever-changing Google algorithm is now attuned to site content being ‘real’, as in by a ‘real person,’ and to the most intangible of machine measurements, ‘passion.’ 

If there was ever a deus ex machina to convey us to business success through being found online, it would surely be replacing endless key words with clear market communication that represents the real. All very fluffy and non-evidence based, I know. But this is the point. We don’t make purchase decisions based on evidence, perfection or competence. We make them largely on emotional behaviour, triggered by a connection on some real, human, emotional level. 

SEO is based on popularity, as is social media and competitive reality TV. Look at your content, digital collateral and social media interactions and make sure that it speaks to your audience and customer in a way that stirs emotion, builds trust and ultimately keeps you centre stage.

Dr Polly McGee has worked as a digital strategist and business consultant, freelance writer in entrepreneurship and commercialisation and has been published in Start-up Smart. She is regularly featured as an expert on Startups and women in entrepreneurship. Polly is the current Chair of Tasmanian literary magazine Island, occasional media commentator, wannabe novelist and sporadic food blogger.

Do you want to export?

Doing business with China has been big news lately so we thought it timely to
re-run our tips on being export ready. 

Exporting can be a profitable way of expanding your business, spreading your risks and reducing your dependence on the local market.  Like any business decision, the key to a successful exporting venture is planning.  There are no quick ways to do it.  Before you look too deeply into what markets your business could export to, you should consider the following points.

Is your business ready to export?

Commitment

  • Does your business have staff that can dedicate time to undertake this new activity? Do they have the skills, expertise and commitment?
  • Do you have an export business plan?  Or have you become an exporter by accident, after an internet enquiry? 

Capability

Does your business have the funds to:

  • spend on new marketing activities
  • visit the market to meet distributors and/or consumers
  • make product modifications or packaging changes
  • gain certification, pay insurance, and get protection for your intellectual property?

Capacity

  • Does anyone in your business have market development experience, negotiation skills or international marketing experience?  Will you need to recruit or hire a consultant?
  • Does your business have the funds to increase stock holding, or to increase payment terms?
  • Is your workforce casual or full time?

Competition

  • Do you know who your competition is in the export market?  How many are there? What is their market share? Why do customers buy their brand? Are they cheaper?
  • What will they do if your product is launched in their market?

The Australian Trade Commission’s  Austrade website has a great International Readiness Indicator, that can help determine if your business is ready for export.

Once you can truthfully say that your business is ready and capable of exporting, you are ready to look at the next steps.

12 Steps to Successful Exporting

  1. Export for the right reasons.
  2. Assess your capability and readiness.
  3. Select your markets.
  4. Collect information.
  5. Understand documentation and finance.
  6. Prepare an export plan.
  7. Establish your market entry method.
  8. Use the right promotion.
  9. Finalise pricing.
  10. Prepare to visit the market.
  11. Prepare your sales pitch.
  12. Visit the market and follow up.

Determining whether you are ready to enter the international business arena requires both an examination of your commitment in terms of resources, as well as your ability to compete with international competition. Once you have done this initial review of your capabilities and feel confident, you should visit our Business Tasmania website to learn what are your next steps. 

We thank our colleagues at Brand Development and Marketing for writing this blog which was first published in June 2014. We like it a lot.

Tendering for Government business…why do it?

Warren Moore

It’s not just for the big boys anymore. Small business can win government business. 

What does your perfect customer look like? Something like this perhaps?

  •  A large – if not the largest – customer in a small market.
  • A good repeat customer.
  • Clear as to what is required.
  • Generally pays enough and on time.
  • Often provides an opportunity to grow your business.

And what does the government want from your business?

  • Low risk, peace of mind and value for money.
  • Transparency of transactions, as the public sector is accountable to the public.
  • The opportunity for generating a positive image to the public.
  • No ‘botheration’ or difficult people.

Sounds good, doesn’t it?

So how do you get this elusive government work? Here’s a few tips from those that know.

Make your approach personal. Request a meeting with the relevant people and ask them questions. Contrary to opinion, public servants are not robots! So try to develop a relationship prior to the tender.

A couple of no-nos. Don’t try political pressure or manipulation, and don’t submit a tender assuming you’re entitled to get the job.

Now for that pesky tender submission.

  • Read the tender documents carefully and seek clarification (that’s a great meeting opportunity).
  • A detailed, thoughtful project plan is the best way to start.
  • Don’t assume the assessment panel will know the job as well as you do. Explain your approach and don’t leave them in any doubt as to whether you can do the job.
  • Address all merit criteria. Get help if you need it. Don’t just write the same stuff over and over again.
  • You need to prove your case, not just state it.
  • Making ‘pick me’ claims such as, ‘we’re Tasmanian’, ‘we’re local’ or ‘we deserve a chance’ doesn’t mean anything. You need to show how the government will benefit from it.

Personal spin is important, but only if you can back it up. This is no time to be a shrinking violet!

Be clear about what is unique or different about your business from your competitors. Demonstrate your project experience and show off your knowledge of industry trends. Point out how what you are offering is:

  • valuable (the same as everyone else)
  • rare (a bit better than your competitors)
  • hard to copy (a lot better than your competitors)
  • non-substitutable (no one else can offer what you can).

And in the end?

If you’re successful – brilliant! Do the best job you can. If not, don’t go down the ‘we was robbed’ route. It takes too much time, money and energy. Instead, ask for a debrief, take it on board and start looking for the next job.

All government tenders are advertised, so keep an eye open on www.tenders.tas.gov.au. We’ve recently run statewide workshops called Tendering Basics. You’ll find the presentation notes on Business Tasmania and there will be more workshops next year. We’ll send you an email when we have the dates, if you give us your details here.

Warren Moore’s presentation ‘How to win Government Tenders and Influence People’ was the inspiration for this blog. Warren has Moore Consulting in Burnie and is one of our Enterprise Centre Tasmania small business advisors. Thank you Warren!

Five cups of coffee

Polly McGee is our contributor this week

For one of my colleagues, five cups of coffee is the measurement between looking for new business and finding it. He explains it this way: the five cups weren’t with the same person, but they represented the average number of conversations it took to convert talk into action. 

It makes sense in this socially networked era that business comes from conversation, not advertising or hard sell. If you consider what business-to-business relations are all about, it means an open-ended conversation with your peers, customers and potential clients. You are inviting them to experience your brand, via you, in an authentic and transparent way. Much as you would over coffee. 

I like this social beverage-driven metric. It evokes an open dialogue that is truly two-way, rather than meetings based on outcomes. Over a coffee, you’re not giving a monologue about how great you are. You’re learning about the person you’re with, what they like, their values and their needs. 

There are parallels here with the way that Asian cultures do business. In a world based on trust, rather than the capacity to enforce contracts, the preamble to a deal is about building the trust that overlays the deal’s actual nuts and bolts. 

We often approach networking as some kind of gladiatorial contest, where the most business cards exchanged wins. This feels hard because it is. Conquering a room of strangers with limited focus is never a great way to make friends and influence people. It is however, a good way to get an instant gut reaction for who you may want to do business with. Then you can instigate your first cup of coffee.

My personal approach to business has always been to do it with friends. I want to work and deal with people who share my values and goals. They are going to represent me, and my products and services as an authentic evangelist, because my business becomes an extension of our relationship. 

If interactions are hard and communication is a chore, it stands to reason that the whole transaction will be like that, and probably the relationship. The time spent trying to resolve your issues could be better spent, cultivating a relationship with someone you really want to have a cup of coffee or five with.

Dr Polly McGee has worked as a digital strategist and business consultant, freelance writer in entrepreneurship and commercialisation and has been published in Start-up Smart. She is regularly featured as an expert on Startups and women in entrepreneurship. Polly is the current Chair of Tasmanian literary magazine Island, occasional media commentator, wannabe novelist and sporadic food blogger.

Dress to impress? Think about it

Men in suitsMost employers recognise it’s essential to maintain the right professional image for their business, but there are several considerations to make when creating a dress code. 

You want it to reflect your business’s image and conform to safety regulations. At the same time, you need to respect your employees’ rights. It pays to be careful as mistakes can lead to legal issues. 

Consider these three questions. 

  1. Does your policy enforce gender stereotypes? 

Remember that we humans are a diverse bunch. Avoid a dress code that promote stereotypes, or categorise an employee’s expected behaviour or appearance according to their sex. 

If you target workers because they don’t conform to a specific societal view, they may have grounds to take legal action. 

  1. Have you taken religious beliefs into account? 

If you prevent an employee from wearing a spiritual headdress, showing religious tattoos or even from piercing certain parts of their body, you may be infringing their rights. But there are also exceptions to this rule, like requiring staff to wear safety helmets even if it conflicts with religious beliefs. 

There have been court cases brought about by employees in relation to this. So if you’re in doubt, call a lawyer. 

  1. What about weight or grooming? 

Generally speaking, weight issues should be left out of a dress code. You should deal with all body types indiscriminately. It’s an easy path to future difficulties. 

Appropriate hair style is another tricky question. You are within your rights to impose regulations for hygiene and grooming, but think carefully about your policy. It shouldn’t enforce gender stereotypes, or risk allegations of discrimination by banning specific hairstyles. However, there are again some obvious exceptions to this, like requiring hair to be netted in a food preparation area. 

If you take some time to set these rules, you will avoid potential legal hassles in the future.

Our contributor this week is freelance writer Lauren Downey. who writes on behalf of Total Image Group,  an Australian owned and operated company dedicated to designing, sourcing and coordinating uniforms and branding solutions.

Are Tasmanians giving away valuable intellectual property rights?

Is Tasmania under-represented in patent and trade mark filing statistics?

Ben MottThe Australian Government’s Australian Intellectual Property Report 2014 suggests that Tasmanians filed just 22 patent applications in 2013. To put it another way, Tasmanians filed just 43 patent applications per million people. Compare this to Victorians, who filed 134 patent applications per million people. The figures are similar for filing trade marks. Tasmanians filed just 714 per million people, compared to 2021 per million Victorians.

Are Tasmanians missing out on profits?

Underinvesting in intellectual property rights means that Tasmanians may be losing sales, or missing out on revenue streams arising from licensing the intellectual property (IP) rights. Worse, they may be lowering their pricing in the face of unnecessary competition, or even counterfeiting.

The owner of a patent (or a registered design) has the right to stop others making, using, selling or importing the products or processes covered by the patent. This means IP owners can limit competition and charge a premium for their products.

But patent and design rights can also be licensed. For example, while a patent owner may continue to sell their product (at a premium) in their own industry, they can also collect royalties by licensing someone else to produce versions of the product that suit a different industry.

The owner of a trade mark can stop competitors from using deceptively similar trade marks to draw away customers. Registering your trade mark simplifies action against these competitors.

Like patents, trade mark registrations can also be licensed. Imagine you’ve been running ‘Lexus Pool Maintenance’ for several years and have built a great reputation. Allowing another company to call themselves ‘Lexus Pool Chemicals’ means you could charge royalties.

Other less tangible benefits include marketing advantages. Many see the term ‘patented’ as a benefit in the marketplace. It may also help to promote an innovative business culture, as employees are often proud to be listed as an inventor on their employer’s patent.

So what’s holding you back?

We suspect that Tasmanian’s under-representation in the statistics is due partly to Tasmania’s particular industrial and commercial environment, and partly to some false assumptions about the IP system. Many business people incorrectly believe that others are not allowed to copy their products, or that their products would not qualify for patent protection, or that IP protection costs more than it does.

That’s not to say that all products should be patented or all trade marks registered. Both actions require an investment. So deciding whether to proceed should involve a comparison of the likely costs and benefits.

So what’s the next step?

We suggest simply being alert to the issues. When you develop a new brand, take a moment to think, ‘am I allowed to use this trade mark?’ Is it worth being able to easily stop others using a similar trade mark? When you develop a new product or process, keep it secret until you have at least considered patent or design protection.

If you decide that these, or any other IP-related, questions warrant further consideration, make contact with an experienced patent or trade mark attorney. Most professionals do not charge for a brief initial telephone discussion and this will help you to weigh up the costs and benefits of proceeding further.

Ben Mott is a Principal at wadesonIP.com.au. He’s also a patent attorney and mechanical engineer.

We at Business Tasmania would like to thank Ben for his contribution  

 

 

Service and value versus growth and revenue

Julie Foster

 

Though customers and businesses are closely linked, they often have conflicting needs. 

 Customers want:

  • to receive excellent service
  • to be treated consistently and feel as if they are known
  • problems resolved in a timely fashion 
  • the best products and services
  • convenience
  • to feel like they’re valued by the business
  • a great and, if possible, unique shopping experience 
  • choices on how, when and where they buy. 

Businesses want:

  • growth and revenue
  • to be efficient and reduce costs
  • to increase the lifetime value of their customer. 

These needs may seem diametrically opposed, but businesses can fulfil customers’ needs while satisfying their own. In order to deliver great personalised customer experiences, retailers must understand their customers: who they are, why they buy, what they buy, when they buy and how they make contact. 

The old retail landscape is disappearing rapidly. Nowadays, customers are informed, tech-savvy and their expectations for service have changed dramatically. The generational shift, as baby boomers move into retirement and Generations X and Y become the major force in the economy, is apparent in the use of technology. Smartphones, tablets and social media have changed the face of customer service and increased the customer’s ability to engage in public conversation with business. 

So in this new environment, how can businesses strike this balance? 

1)  Make it easy for your customer to do business with you 

It’s all about embracing and integrating new and existing channels of communication for your business and brand, which can be converted into sales. 

Today’s customer is time poor and wants choice on how and when to shop. You should embrace as many delivery channels as are suited to your business. Not every retail business must have an online store, but every business can use an online presence to provide information. This could be through channels such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google+ or, for professional services, LinkedIn. 

Statistics show that potential customers prefer to use businesses and brands they know, including these online channels. If your business is not in these spaces, customers may go elsewhere. 

2)  Customer relationship management 

Know your customer: their age, where they’re from, how often they buy from you and their average spend. Know what brand and products they prefer.  

A good point of sale will provide all this information. There are plenty of affordable cloud-based platforms that have excellent customer relationship management tools. Some also provide valuable management reporting tools and integrate with various e-commerce and accounting platforms. This can save time, resources and money. 

3) Invest in your people 

They are your brand ambassadors. Arm them with the product knowledge and sales skills to identify customer’s needs and appropriate solutions. Give constructive feedback and reward outstanding results. Allow them to be part of the solution and make it easy for them to engage with customers. 

In the past, the cost of training and upskilling frontline staff was prohibitive for some, but in a digital world there are no excuses. Businesses and their staff now have affordable and time-efficient access to online training tools for all things retail, sales and service.  

Customer experience is a key factor determining how much customers spend and how loyal they are to a brand. We all know from experience that the quality of a single contact with a business can shape perception of that business and its brand forever. 

For retailers to remain competitive, it’s more important than ever to consistently provide a unique customer experience, both in-store and online.  

In summary:

  • get in people’s consciousness
  • give them a reason to buy, now
  • make it easy for them
  • give them a reason to come back
  • provide them with the tools, in-store and online.

We’d like to thank Julie Foster for writing this blog for Digital Ready. Julie is a director in her family retail business, Passport Surf, in Devonport. She also has her own consulting business and can be contacted at julie@juliefoster.com.au

 

Tasmanian Free Public Wi-Fi

Beck KingThe Tasmanian Government is seeking public comment on its vision to provide free public Wi-Fi (wireless internet) services, targeted at tourists in towns and cities across Tasmania. So what does this mean for your business? 

From a traveller’s perspective: 

Last year I was lucky enough be in Europe. As I’m a tourism online marketing consultant, I was keen to discover how I could use the internet to enhance the overall experience. 

When using your phone away from home, the options for getting online are often not great. I’ve been stung by international roaming fees previously, so after a few attempts using both travel and local SIM cards. I gave up and went on a relentless hunt for Wi-Fi. Not surprisingly, I often chose accommodation and cafes that had free Wi-Fi. 

Some regions were great, others not so. When I did find a Wi-Fi network, I was able to choose the perfect restaurant for the evening, find the best shopping, choose my must do activities, check the weather, book the next leg of the journey, see exactly where I was on a map and learn the local way to say thank you. 

I then got onto my own housekeeping. Typically this included some emails for work, internet banking and social media. I used Facebook to keep up with happenings at home and to show friends and family what I was up to – some would call it bragging! 

How does this relate to your business? 

This so-called ‘bragging’ is an opportunity that can be leveraged by all types of businesses. A simple check-in on your business’ Facebook page could be seen by hundreds, possibly thousands, of people. Photos shared on Instagram with the right hashtags could reach state and national tourism offices (they are always searching for beautiful photos to promote their destinations). And a good review on Tripadvisor can bring many people to your door. 

Social media combined with immediate internet access means content can be shared in the moment. If we rely on customers to remember to check-in to your establishment when they’ve found Wi-Fi hours later– well, it’s unlikely to happen. 

You could be forgiven for thinking that Tasmania’s large percentage of domestic tourists all have ready internet access through their phones. They don’t and many only have coverage in Australia’s big cities, and not regional Tasmania. Free Wi-Fi could be a perfect solution. 

How could your business make the most of free public Wi-Fi? 

  • Ensure your business has amazing experiences that people will want to share.
  • Be supportive of getting Wi-Fi in your area
  • Signs and brochures explaining how patrons can get on the free public Wi-Fi.
  • Put signs up in your business encouraging participation, like Facebook check-ins or using hashtags on Instagram and Twitter.
  • Consider offering a bonus if people show you they’ve shared your business on social media. For example, some cafes offer a little biscuit with a coffee purchase for those who have checked-in.
  • Hold photo competitions for your patrons. Have a hashtag for the competition and show results in real time on a tablet screen on the front counter.
  • If you own a café, be prepared for customers to stay longer. It’s a great opportunity for staff to upsell that second coffee!
  • Any information you can get about who is using the free Wi-Fi and what content they’re looking at will help inform your online marketing activities in the future. 

We should be enabling our tourists to help Tasmania showcase itself as a leader in national and international tourism. 

How do you think Wi-Fi services could enhance visitor experiences?

What could your business do to make the most of these services? 

Click here to read the Tasmanian Free Public Wi-Fi consultation paper.

The blog was written by Rebecca King of Kingthing Marketing, her national tourism marketing consultancy.  Rebecca has previously worked in small business, state government, the airline industry and media. She’s a multi – award winner - nine for her Launceston-based cruise company, Tourism Tasmania awards, the Telstra Business Award for Innovation, and the 2006 Telstra Tasmanian Corporate Business Woman of the Year.

 

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Business advisors and mentors – what’s the difference?

Rosemary JonesThe Tasmanian Government offers free business mentoring and advisory services to small business owners, through the Enterprise Centre Tasmania network and Mentoring Service Tasmania.

These statewide services are designed for you in every stage of your business life, whether you’re starting, growing or, when you’re ready, planning your exit.

So what do they do?

Business advisors focus on your business.

Enterprise Centres Tasmania are run by small business experts who will listen to your ideas, look carefully at your business plans, help you set goals and develop strategies for your success. They’ll also point out any areas of concern. They can be consulted for a specific need or on an ongoing basis.

The advisors were chosen for their resourcefulness and know-how. They understand all types of business, are financially savvy (a crucial skill) and understand key business drivers, like:

  • product and service development
  • marketing and sales
  • operations and finance
  • human resources
  • customer service.

A good business advisor can become a very important member of your team.

Mentors focus on you.

A mentor will steer your personal growth and development as a business leader, motivating and encouraging you to achieve your goals. Mentors provide guidance, support, introductions and even the proverbial kick in the pants when warranted.

Mentoring Service Tasmania’s mentors come from all over the state, with skills and qualifications in a wide range of industries and disciplines.

Why do they do it? Some were mentored themselves in the past and want to help others the same way. Others just sincerely want to help or give to the community. Whatever the reason, they are of enormous benefit to small business.

So that’s why you should use these free and confidential services!

Get in touch with Business Tasmania and we’ll connect you with these services. Contact us on 1800 440 026 or ask@business.tas.gov.au

This post was written by Rosemary, one of the BT crew (and cat lady). who thinks life is just a bowl of cherries.

Protect your intellectual property – How to avoid these five start-up mistakes

The right approach to intellectual property (IP) can protect your profit margins and even provide access to new revenue streams or finance. Equally, a lack of careful IP planning can lead to high costs with no prospect of return. Avoiding some common IP-related mistakes can make a real difference to your business’s long-term success.

1.      Not recognising that you have an idea to protect  

Australian business creates new products and processes every day. Not everyone realises that even a small change to a product may constitute an invention. If it provides a commercial advantage, it should be protected. 

2.      Not recognising that patents, trademarks and designs can put money in your pocket

If a new idea is making money, competitors will look to imitate that success. IP protection prevents low-cost imitators. Without it, having the lowest price can become the major point of competition. 

Remember, a patent, trade mark or design is an asset which can be licensed or sold to third parties, or used to help secure finance. 

3.      Disclosing your idea before filing for IP protection

The race to get a product to the marketplace may cause your idea to be publically disclosed before a patent or design application can be filed. For the sake of a two week delay, you can preserve your potential IP rights at home and overseas.

4.      Confusing your ambition with your capability 

It’s easy to believe that your hard-won invention will be a long-term, global market-changer and must be protected. Truth is, many inventions confer little or only short-term advantage. Make sure that you’re not wasting money on IP protection for inventions or in countries that you do not have the capacity to exploit. 

 5.      Re-inventing the wheel

Why sink valuable dollars into research and development on problems that are already solved? There is an incredible amount of innovative technology that is searchable online, using services like Google Patents. Patent applications are public and must provide technical information that skilled people can use. When the patent term has expired or lapsed, the technology is there for anyone to use. Equally, many overseas patents are never filed in Australia, so the technology is free to use inside our borders.

Many patent and trademark attorneys can provide a free consultation to help you identify what IP you may use, or what could be valuable to protect and how. You can find a patent attorney through the Institute of Patent and Trade Mark Attorneys of Australia.

Paul Davis, Principal and Head of Engineering at Fisher Adams Kelly, is a Fellow of the Institute of Patent and Trade Marks Attorneys, with 20 years of experience working with intellectual property in the field of manufacturing and engineering.