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.

The SoUE learning curve

We thank Jess Tyler for contributing this blog to Business Tasmania.

Jess TylerNo, ‘SoUE’ is not a new marketing term. It’s something we’ve all experienced, a ‘Series of Unfortunate Events’. While SoUEs might make you feel as though you’ve failed, they actually carry important lessons for survival.

The book A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket is a must-read, not only because it’s a jolly good laugh, but because it contains valuable lessons on coping with and learning from adversity. 

Everybody has one or several SoUEs in the course of running their business – even the most successful business owners. SoUEs are there to help us learn from our mistakes and refocus our goals. 

In Snickett’s book, the evil protagonist Count Olaf assumes various disguises and causes all kinds of hardship. Business owners are no strangers to their own metaphorical Count Olafs. He can appear in many guises – an unhappy customer, someone who pips us at the post with the ‘Next Big Thing’ or even an economic downturn. Sometimes the Count is our own tired ideas and stale products. And sometimes you can feel that Count Olaf has become a permanent family member!

But does having a SoUE mean that you’re a serial failure? On the contrary, weathering your SoUE can make you more determined and focused, by forcing you to address important questions. Any SoUE that brings learning, new awareness and development is not the same as making mistakes repeatedly. Rather, surviving a SoUE can make you more determined than ever. 

For me, my SoUE saw me questioning whether I was cut out for a solo career. But after emerging from my SoUE I concluded that I am actually destined to work by myself, for myself. There’s no other way I want to live. I might make mistakes, but this is my passion and without that I might as well shut the doors. 

I can’t think of very many businesses or people who were instant successes. There’s no reality TV show for working hard in business, because it’s long, often gritty work. But the reward is self-determination. So count me in. 

In all business advice books and blogs, you’ll hear that you need to adapt, improvise and overcome adversity to succeed. Roughly translated – stuff happens.

The lessons you learn will be unique to you, but I’ve found at the times when I’ve needed to brace for another SoUE, reflecting on how I came through the last lot is edifying. It helps me to not only survive, but to come out on top. 

What lessons did you learn from your SoUE?

Jess is a business owner of Synapsium and an invited founding member of the Tasmanian Science & Technology Council and of the Australian Science Communicators . She has worked with some of Australia’s leading innovators and research agencies including the Australian Commission for the Future, the Australian Antarctic Division and many divisions of CSIRO.

Jess is a three-times finalist in the Telstra Business Women’s Awards.

au.linkedin.com/in/jesstyler/

 

How not to be in small business

Written by Dr Polly McGee.
There are many paths to becoming a business person. Sometimes it’s solving a problem that has irritated us enough to step in and fix a market issue. Other times we find an opportunity so compelling that we simply have to be part of it. We might be social entrepreneurs, righting inequities. And occasionally we are accidental entrepreneurs, who are often the best. 

Getting into business and the motivation to start up is one thing; staying up is another. The motivation that propels you to market is not a guarantee of success.  Start-ups and small businesses are susceptible to market pressures. If there hasn’t been a thorough interrogation of the business’s strategic planning and risk management prior to going ahead, the pitfalls that can undo a business will be hidden in the start-up phase. 

Here are the top five phrases that strike fear into my heart. 

  1. “I’m making lots of money on my [insert input for product] but I haven’t charged for my time.” This is the classic mistake of artisans who turn their hobby into a business. When properly costed, the time spent making their product puts it into a stratospheric price range. A $300 bottle of cider or baby bib anyone?
  2. “I’ve applied for a patent myself, my mum did some research on the internet, then sent the [insert unprotected item] to some friends.” Intellectual property is a critical consideration for any product heading to market. For a small business, rarely does that protection involve patenting. The obvious protections such as keeping the idea secret, securing domains and trademarks, brand protection if necessary and, more importantly, securing market share, are often not considered strategically. Seeking expert advice from a quality patent attorney is the key.
  3. “I’ve got a great product, but I can only make [insert small number] a week and I’ve just had an order for 500!” The difference between a hobby and a business is the ability to service the market, which is by nature scalable. While many entrepreneurs don’t start out to be ‘massive’, being able to sustainably increase revenue, and make your family and lifestyle more secure, is a good aspiration. If you know your artisan product is limited by production time, think about ways to outsource or allowing others to create it, without compromising the quality.
  4.  “I don’t use [insert online payment or social media website] it’s a waste of time and you can’t trust the internet.” If it’s a waste of time putting yourself in front of customers you would never normally access, or forming relationships with people who could be essential in your supply chain, then you’re right.
  5. “I just know that it will be a massive success, my [insert family member or partner] says it’s awesome.” A valid test market consists of as many people as possible – who aren’t directly related to you – giving honest feedback about the product, preferably before it hits the market. Let customers be your copilots in the usability and market acceptance of your idea.

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.

Five good reasons why investing in employee training is worth it

 

Business Tasmania thanks Kelly Smith from Careers FAQs for today’s blog

Kelly SmithWhen it comes to small companies, training is vital. It improves the efficiency of your workforce, boosts your business’s profits and positively impacts staff morale. 

Here are some potential perks of employee training to show you why it’s worth investing in the knowledge and skills of your staff. 

1.     Building company identity 

A well-defined training strategy will make your company look attractive to prospective employees. Additionally, it will help to build your reputation with all kinds of talented people: recent graduates and mid-career professionals alike. 

2.     Workforce improvement 

Investing in your workforce shows your staff that you value them. This improves loyalty, commitment and staff retention. The skills acquired through training will allow your employees to perform a greater variety of tasks. The end result is an enhanced ability to actively respond to changes in the company business strategy. So your workers will be better equipped to meet both the present and future requirements of your business. This makes your operations smoother and more productive, and your employees will boost their self esteem by expanding their contribution to the business – a win-win situation! 

3.     Practical reductions 

Training can help to reduce inefficient use of time and resources. This includes curbing the number of workplace incidents stemming from insufficient workplace health and safety training. 

4.     Important increases 

Training has the potential to boost the company’s profitability and customer satisfaction, which provides good grounds for the future implementation and realisation of specific goals, as outlined in your company’s business plan. 

5.     Company atmosphere 

It might seem obvious, but fostering a positive workplace culture is vital to any business’s continued success. By improving the overall atmosphere of your workplace, you’ll avoid problems like absenteeism and high staff turnover, which inevitably add to expenses. Demonstrating a commitment to ongoing workplace training will have a great effect on morale, promoting job satisfaction and making your employees truly engaged in working towards your goals. 

As you can see, providing your employees with ongoing training has multiple benefits. Each of these help to create a foundation for improving a company’s overall performance and to boost your brand.

Kelly Smith works at Career FAQs – http://www.careerfaqs.com.au/, an Australian online education resource. She also provides career advice for students and job seekers and works as a freelance writer.

 

Do you want to export?

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 Rediness 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 at  Business Tasmania thank our colleagues at Brand Development and Marketing for writing this blog. It’s great!

 

 

It’s all in the timing

I’m confused. How do you know who to believe?

I’m talking about how often a blog should be published. Once a day? Once a week? Once a month? There’s compelling ‘evidence’ from so-called experts for all of these. The one thing they all agree on is consistency.

When we first launched Business Tasmania, it was recommended that we post blogs at least twice but preferably three times a week. Being new to the game we agreed. We realised very quickly that unless we had a staff member dedicated to blogging – and that just wasn’t going to happen – more than once a week was totally unrealistic.

So for over a year now, we’ve posted articles on all things business once a week. We’ve encouraged guest bloggers and we’ve been very fortunate to get great stories and advice.

With a year’s worth of statistics (courtesy of Google), we’ve done some analysis and concluded that we would like to give you longer to read our posts. So we’ll be publishing once a fortnight from now on, unless there’s a groundswell of objections. We will listen, I promise!

Also, please let us know if you have a business-related blog you’d like to share (sorry, no advertising allowed!) or if there are any topics you’d like us to cover.

Looking forward to hearing from you.

This post was written by Rosemary, one of the BT crew. She likes having heaps of interesting blog ideas to work on.

Are You Ready to Risk it All?

Dr Polly McGee is our guest blogger this week.

I recently had a strategic advisory session with an aspiring business person – let’s call her ‘Ms X’. She had an opportunity to lease a small venue for her dream café. Ms X loved to bake and wanted to establish a venue with a community feeling, where mothers and locals gathered over beautiful cakes and coffee. 

She was working for a large institution with good pay and flexible conditions, but was deeply unfulfilled. Her partner was fully occupied with his work and not keen on the café business, and Ms X was still the primary carer for two young kids. She had excellent marketing, communication and social media skills, and could mobilise her networks and friends to support her business, although most of them were not in her local jurisdiction. The rent on the space was about $5 000 a year. It was close to home and a blank canvas for her potential business. At first glance it sounded great and she was all fired up to sign the lease. 

Many people make decisions based on the romance of starting their dream business, rather than sound market and risk analysis. My risk assessment of her café was broken into the three basic questions: what is the demand, what are the risks and what do the numbers say? 

As the venue was empty, there was no established demand as a café, but the capacity to establish demand was quite achievable, with an investment in marketing. It was on a route to a bus stop, so foot traffic was good, as was the opportunity to establish a community-style brand and a following for her cakes and high teas. There was the usual competition with established venues in the area. More critically, the market would be limited by the size of the venue, about 30 seats, making a quick turnover and high-value spend per head essential for sufficient profit.  

When calculated, the risks looked nasty. Ms X had no experience in commercial cooking or café management, no savings and no connections into the supplier and input side. The space was empty, so even a minimal second-hand fit out would nudge $20 000 by the time fridges, appliances and furniture were included, not to mention certifying the space for food production. The biggest sticking point was the actual running of the shop. It was too big for one person, but paying wages meant an immediate drain on income and another level of management and compliance. Then there was the opportunity cost of Ms X forgoing her actual income for the earnings of the café, and a significant risk as a ‘solo-preneur’ of how to keep things running if she or one of the kids got sick, etc. 

As for the numbers, with the upfront borrowings, the establishment costs and the unknown period of turning a profit, the break-even point was a distant spot on the horizon. Whilst the margin on coffee is great and cakes can be a good money spinner, the margin on perishable food in niche quantities gets smaller and smaller, especially when anticipating uncertain demand at the outset. That super-cheap $5 000 of rent suddenly gets a lot more expensive when laid out in this way, and the dream café can turn into a nightmare. 

Happily, Ms X is a smart and pragmatic gal. She could see the risks to her family and the rising stress levels if she went ahead. But she could also see a model forming, where this type of business would be achievable and that by biding her time, and focusing on the good things about her current job and security, she could build a skill, support and cash war chest to take on another opportunity with gusto.

We at Business Tasmania would like to thank Polly for her contribution. If you have any queries about starting a business please contact us.

Dr Polly McGee has worked as a digital strategist and business consultant, freelance writer in entrepreneurship and commercialisation and 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. Now devoted full time to the executive team of freight rail company TasRail as their Corporate Relations Manager, Polly remains a keen observer of the business and startup environment in Tasmania.