Why use LinkedIn? Here’s why..

Polly Venning, Managing Director of CEO Tasmania, is our guest blogger this week.

This article and our latest Digital Directions video show how CEO Tasmania uses LinkedIn to its best advantage. They also highlight how choosing the right social media platform for your business can make an enormous difference.

Since the inception of our business, CEO Tasmania has used LinkedIn as a way of reaching our audience. Using LinkedIn means that we always hit our target audience. It is the place to reach professionals every time.

LinkedIn lets us reach an audience that is not bound by geography, culture or language. We reach people we never even dreamt of. Connecting with the right audience means not wasting our time, by getting direct to those who are interested in us and what we can do for them.

But we’ve not always got it right. In the past, we tried loading up several weeks content in advance and automatically sending it out. Sounds like a good idea on paper and certainly saves time. However, as we always say, social media is about being social. That is, a conversation between people. You must stay on topic and be prepared to be challenged, enlightened, questioned, supported, but most of all connected with.

LinkedIn? Love It.

We at Business Tasmania would like to thank Polly for her contribution.

Tips from a chatty friend

Rosemary JonesI admit it – I hate networking. Some people do it with ease, but I cringe at the thought of a crowded business function. Many people think I’m a chatty extrovert, but inside I’m just a shrinking violet. I find it almost impossible to walk up to a group of strangers and loiter on the edge of their conversation until some kind soul takes pity on me. I generally hug the walls and pray for invisibility until enough time has passed and I can leave.

But networking is a must these days, so I’ve decided to get better at it. I’ve taken the advice of a dear friend who can (and does) talk to anybody in any circumstance. He once got an invitation to a smart lunch just by chatting to the host in a deli. So I thought I’d share his tips with you.

  1. Take a deep breath and remember you are interesting and have something to give. Don’t think about what you need to get from the event.
  2. Take every opportunity. Talk to everyone you meet and don’t discount people too quickly. There’s no point in looking around the room for someone more interesting as you never know where a conversation might lead.
  3. Don’t fall into the trap of using buzz words and jargon – they don’t mean anything. Speak in plain English and ask questions that can be easily answered.
  4. Keep it short. If the person you want to speak to is surrounded by others and you can’t bring yourself to join the group, then politely butt in, introduce yourself, ask for a business card and follow up later.
  5. Practice makes perfect. Networking is a professional skill and it needs work. Rehearse answers to common questions. Practise your opening line when joining a group. Go to every event you can. It does get easier.

Or so I’m told.

 This post was written by Rosemary, one of the BT crew who will, one day, be good at networking.

Does your business need an app?

 We think this blog written by tourism expert Rebecca King is particularly apt as this week’s Digital Directions video is all about developing a smartphone app. It was first published on the Coachestuff blog

If you are thinking about developing a smartphone app for your tourism business, ask yourself this simple question – what do you want your potential customers to do? Having a clear answer can help you make the right business decision.

Typically, the answers are:

  • ‘I want them to know we exist’
  • ‘We want more people to choose our property instead of the guy down the road’
  • ‘I want them to book our attraction as soon as they see it online’.

In short, getting more customers booked and paid up. Given that, there are online marketing ‘must haves’ that should be in place before building an app.

  • Is your website found at the top of relevant Google searches?
  • Is your website easily read on various screen sizes?
  • Is your business listed on Google Places so it appears on search engine maps?
  • Is your product able to be booked on your website?
  • Is your product able to be booked on other distributors’ websites?
  • When someone first views your website, does it look good enough to retain interest?
  • Are you posting engaging content across various social media channels?

It makes sense to build an app once your other online marketing activities are in order. Then an app can be an effective additional tool to interact with your audience.

What are some of the advantages of building an app for your business?

  • Captive audience.
  • Good way to enhance branding.
  • Can be very interactive.
  • Can use smartphone features such as torch, camera and GPS
  • Can be used without an internet connection.

Of course, there are also disadvantages.

  • Can be costly to develop.
  • They need to be developed across different platforms.
  • Require updating to maintain currency.
  • Require promoting on the web and within the app store.
  • Require user ratings and reviews to be valued.
  • Some people may be reluctant to download over 3G/4G networks because of data costs.

Now it’s time to think like a customer and consider what need your app is going to fulfill.

In general, there are two types of apps that tourism businesses should consider.

  1. An ‘interpretation app that helps consumers find their way around your property, tour, attraction or restaurant. It should be full of information on what makes your product unique. It may include features like GPS or ‘augmented reality’, where people can look though the phone screen and see an extra layer of information. It can save on signage and printed brochures. A great example of an interpretation app is the O app at MONA.
  2. A sales tool that allows people to get information and book your experience. There are thousands of distributor site booking apps available.  It would take an innovative tourism operator-owned app to cut though this busy market.

An example of a smaller business app which combines the interpretation and booking features comes from Josef Chromy Wines Tasmania. It’s available at both Apple and Google stores.

 Blog written by Rebecca King from Kingthing Marketing

Rebecca is a multi-award winning tourism marketing consultant who has worked in small business, state government, the airline industry, media and now as a director of her own national tourism marketing consultancy, Kingthing. In the five years that Rebecca was marketing manager at her Launceston-based cruise company they won nine awards, including Tasmanian Tourism Awards and the Telstra Business Award for Innovation, and Rebecca was awarded the 2006 Telstra Tasmanian Corporate Business Woman of the Year.

 

 

Scoopon went a soupcon too far

Lisa Sweeney, director of Going Concern, warns about misleading your customers online…

A ‘soupcon’ is originally a French culinary term for just a tiny amount. A clever headline? Maybe…

Online businesses are treated the same as any business under Australian Consumer Law.  You are not special, you are not different and you are not above the law.  It does not matter that you don’t have a shop front or any physical presence in the market place.  The virtual world is an arena where consumers and businesses transact and that’s all that matters to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).

So when an internet-based company makes some representations which are – well – questionable, the ACCC investigates.  This was the case with Scoopon, a website that offers discount vouchers for businesses throughout Australia.  The ACCC’s investigations of Scoopon led to a case in the Federal Court against the company which the court later upheld.

The court found that Scoopon contravened the law by making false and misleading representations to consumers in relation to their refund rights and the price of products.  Additionally, the court found that Scoopon made false and misleading representations to businesses by indicating there was no risk or cost involved in running a deal with Scoopon, when this was not the case.  The court also declared that a business was told 30 per cent of its vouchers would not be redeemed, when there was no reasonable evidence to support this claim.

Here’s the bottom line. In all matters relating to business, be careful what you say.

In headline writing it’s not so important.

 

Lisa Sweeney is the director and retail consultant of Going Concern,  a business consultancy for retailers and suppliers.

Business Tasmania would like to thank Lisa for her contribution.

Does your digital strategy fit your business plan?

This weeks blog was written by Chris Davis for the Digital Ready Program and first posted on Business Tasmania on 13 May 2013. We thought it relevant to the new Digital Directions video collection.

What do most small-to-medium businesses do when they try something new?

Generally, they fail to set clear objectives for reaching their goals. They fail to plan and as Winston Churchill said “failing to plan is planning to fail”.

As a business owner, you should start by understanding what it is you’re trying to achieve and why. It’s important to ask yourself whether everything you do moves you closer to your goals. If not, why do it? Some things we can’t avoid (like bookwork), but it’s vital to think critically about everything we do.

Your digital activity is no different. A clear objective is essential to the success of the digital strategy.

Before you decide what your digital objectives are, look at your business plan (you do have one, don’t you?). What goals have you set? Are you achieving your current objectives?

A business plan is a reminder of why you are in business and what you are trying to achieve. Without one, you’ll play hit and miss with anything you do, including your digital activity.

The classic example I hear as a digital coach is, “My business has to be on Facebook”. Why? For some businesses Facebook is a relevant and important tool but for many, it’s not. This is particularly true for anyone operating in the business-to-business space.

Here are some questions business owners need to consider when designing and building their digital strategy.

Why are you in business? What do you want to achieve? Does each digital activity relate to these objectives?

Will all or just part of your services and products be represented?

Is it costly? What resources will you invest? Don’t kid yourself that digital activity is free. The cost is your time.

Are you trying to:

  • inform
  • educate
  • excite
  • keep in touch with customers (or others)
  • sell
  • all of the above.

What can you learn from your competitors?

  • How do they operate and engage in the digital world?
  • What do they do well?
  • What don’t they do well? There might be opportunity for you.

What type of information do you want to provide about your business and service offerings?

Are you after international, national, regional or local customers, or a combination of all?

What is the most critical market segment to attract through your digital strategy?

When you have answered the above (and other questions like these), look back at your business plan. Do the answers help you achieve your business goals?

If the answer is yes, then you are on the way to having a digital strategy.

Chris Davies is the managing director and senior advisor for Business Advice Tasmania. He was a digital coach for the 2013 Digital Ready program.

Growing business awareness

Island Curries Lamb CurryRob Molross’ love of good Indian curry inspired his business, Island Curries. In May 2006 Rob started his Taroona-based business and he’s been creating curry pastes ever since. Island Curries is one of the featured businesses in the Digital Directions collection of videos.

Business Tasmania asked Rob to give us a snapshot of his business growth.

Initially, I spoke to the owners of my local corner stores, delis and butchers shops and asked them to stock my pastes. Gradually, the word spread and business grew, so I secured a Tasmanian-wide distributor. 

Increasing the product awareness was important. I found conventional advertising – television, food magazines and newspapers – did not work for me, as I had to rely on a large number of small sales to fund them. 

What did work was advertising on Facebook. By only paying a small fee every time someone clicked on the ad, Facebook gave me the most value for my advertising dollar and launched me into the digital space. 

I’ve always had an Island Curries website, which allowed me to share my stories on the philosophy behind the paste ingredients, and provide advice on how to use them. Two years ago, I achieved what I set out to do and opened an online shop. 

This was a whole new ballgame. In order to drive potential customers to the website, I had to be very active in the digital world. We all know it takes time to manage Facebook, a website, newsletters, comments and questions from customers. But believe me, it’s worth all the effort. 

Over the years of trial and error, I’ve found that a well-designed website, constant attention to social media and careful planning has paid off. The business has continued to grow. I now have a distributor in the Northern Territory and every state throughout Australia and I’m exporting to New Zealand and Dubai.

We at Business Tasmania thank Rob for his contribution and hope the Digital Direction video also helps with his product awareness!

 

Need help with hiring staff for small business?

This week’s guest blogger is Robert Hortle, the director of small business strategy for the Fair Work Ombudsman

Rob HortleSuccessful small business owners need to become experts in a range of specialities like finance, HR, marketing – even law. With so many things to consider, it can be overwhelming to think about the legal rights and responsibilities that surround hiring staff.

The Fair Work Ombudsman is here to help. Visit www.fairwork.gov.au/smallbusiness for dedicated information, tools and resources to help you keep on top of your workplace relations obligations.

We’ve also launched a new helpline.

Small business people can contact 13 13 94 between 8:30 am and 5:30 pm weekdays, and access free advice and assistance from a team of experts.

Fairwork.gov.au has detailed information and free, practical tools for small business. Look for these helpful resources:

  • online pay tools to help calculate minimum pay and penalty rates
  • award finder to find out if there is a modern award that could apply to your business
  • best practice guides and factsheets that provide guidance on important workplace issues for happier, more productive workplaces
  • industry pages that offer specific information tailored to key industries, such as retail, hospitality, cleaning and many others
  • FAQs
  • an online learning centre with free courses on workplace skills and strategies, like handling difficult conversations. They’re interactive and allow self-paced learning.

Free templates can be downloaded straight to your PC from fairwork.gov.au, which can simplify the work of keeping employment records. These templates include the following:

Just like your business, workplace requirements will change with time. Here are three ways to access updates to keep track of new information as it emerges:

  • sign up to our eNewsletter for bi-monthly updates on employment issues
  • like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter for the latest information

We at Business Tasmania would like to thank Rob for his contribution.

Five ways to eat your way to good business

Erin SmallbonIt’s almost impossible to give good service to your clients when you feel like rubbish yourself. There is no doubt that when you are feeling healthy and happy, your business output goes through the roof. You wake up eager to get out of bed, move your body and eat good food, and you treat your colleagues and clients the way you should.

We are all time poor. There are a million things to do, places to be and people to please. But by making yourself a priority, your clients will benefit and so will your family and friends.

So, if you are ready to commit to looking after yourself, I have some great tips for you!

1. Be prepared

Write a weekly healthy menu plan, including breakfast, and shop for all the ingredients on the weekend. Knowing exactly what’s for dinner and having everything on hand means much less stress. You’ll find that you save money and reduce food wastage too.

2. Take your own lunch to work

This is one of the best ways to ensure your body is getting the fuel it needs. Leftovers are great and other easy ideas are:

  • while making the evening salad, make an extra one for lunch
  • boil half a dozen eggs on Sunday evening and take two for a snack
  • make a big pot of soup on the weekend and take some each day to work.

  3. Crowd out

This is one of my favourite techniques. Eat so much good food that you don’t have any room left to eat dodgy food. Take extra food to work. More healthy snacks, more salad, more soup, more tins of tuna. Then when the munchies strike, head for your bag of goodies. Fill up on nourishing good food, which will keep you away from the chocolate bar at 4:00 pm. Sugar will make you less productive, cloud your head and you’ll feel miserable.

4. Schedule your exercise

Moving your body on a daily basis is essential and it often gets forgotten. I don’t suggest that you run 10 km every morning, but jumping out of bed and walking for 20 minutes is all you need to drench your body in positive endorphins.

5. Move away from your computer

It’s so easy to eat lunch at your computer, most people consider it normal. Taking 10 minutes to sit in the sun or to chat to a co-worker is much better for you. It breaks the monotony of the day and allows you to refocus. It also improves your digestion and prevents bloating.  

Try following these tips – you will feel awesome!

We at Business Tasmania would like to thank Erin for her contribution and we’ll try very hard to follow her tips!

Erin Smallbon is a holistic health coach and Registered Nurse. You can find Erin at: www.eswellness.com.au or email: eswellness@outlook.com

Why use a registered BAS agent?

by William Cowie

Tax image courtesy smhI’ve seen firsthand the consequences of misreporting on a business activity statement (BAS). A friend who operated his own small business for many years was a good businessman, but not a good bookkeeper. Despite many painstaking hours managing his own books, he made mistakes and ultimately underreported his GST and other BAS obligations. On top of a big tax bill, the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) fined him – the last thing he needed! 

What is BAS?

This is the pink form used to report a number of business tax obligations such as GST, pay as you go tax, fringe benefits tax, luxury car tax and wine equalisation tax. 

Every GST-registered Australian business must regularly prepare and lodge BAS statements with the ATO. They are serious legal documents – you want a trained, certified professional handling that task. 

What is a BAS agent?

BAS agents are a new type of financial services professional created in the Tax Agent Services Act 2009. They are bookkeepers qualified to prepare BAS statements. 

Agent registration requirements include having one of several recognised qualifications and at least 1400 hours of work experience. Agents also need to have professional indemnity insurance, undergo continuous education and fulfil a range of other conditions. Registrations can be quickly verified using the Tax Practitioner Board’s online register

What are the benefits of using a BAS agent?

My friend, like many others, found his BAS too complicated to prepare on his own, yet his business wasn’t big enough to employ a bookkeeper. Fortunately, BAS agents can help with:

  • preparing and lodging BAS documents accurately and on time
  • their extended BAS lodgement schedule gives you extra time to lodge the BAS and make payments
  • maximising your benefits within the law
  • handling day-to-day bookkeeping tasks
  • correctly setting up GST codes and tax invoices in accounting software
  • talking to the ATO about BAS provisions for you
  • their professional indemnity insurance offers some financial protection if they make a mistake
  • if you’re late with BAS reporting and payments already, hiring an agent shows the ATO you’re serious about catching up. 

My friend finally hired a BAS-certified bookkeeper, who sorted out his books and helped him get back on track. The cost was minor compared to the prospect of more fines.

And the best part? It freed him from work he hated to spend more time with his business and family. Think about hiring an agent to do your BAS!

We at Business Tasmania would like to thank William for his contribution.

William Cowie is a blogger and content creation specialist for Inspire Education, a leading Australian provider of vocational education and training courses in bookkeeping, health and safety, training, childcare and many other fields

 

Crowdfund Your Business Dreams to Reality

One of the most significant positives of running a business in Tasmania is the way our community supports its own. 

When my family and I relocated here in 2010, I was nervous about how my established business, Strawberry Communications, would fare. A lot of preparation went into making sure the transition was smooth, but I quickly discovered there was no need to worry, because the Launceston and wider Tasmanian business communities welcomed me with open arms. 

A perfect example of this community spirit at work was the success of the crowdfunding campaign I ran via Pozible, to raise the funds to publish my book Business & Baby on Board. If you glance at the project supporters list, a significant proportion of those who pledged are Tasmanian. 

I wrote about my crowdfunding campaign on a previous Business Tasmania post. Crowdfunding worked well for my project, because of the networks I had built up over time, mainly via social media. 

Pozible has recently launched a new initiative allowing crowdfunders to host their project themselves, making it even easier to run a campaign. Self-hosted crowdfunding means users can host the campaign on their own website, and their community can pledge support without having to register on Pozible. 

My crowdfunding project was a success, but some people were unfamiliar with Pozible and unsure about registering to give support. The self-hosted model takes that problem out of the equation, and allows users more control over things like the colour scheme and how the project looks to visitors. 

It’s so exciting to explain how I used crowdfunding to bring my book dream to life. I watch people’s eyes brighten as they start to consider how their goals could become a successful crowdfunded project too. 

Futurist Thomas Frey from the da Vinci Institute said, “Crowdfunding is on the verge of taking on the banking industry.” I think this is true. Look at all the businesses – from micro operations to multinationals – using it to turn great ideas into something viable.

Johanna’s story features as the first of the new video series, Digital Directions.