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Taking your business onlineDon’t ‘get’ how online can help your business in the new financial year ahead? The new board members of the Australian Interactive Media Industry Association (AIMIA), the country’s peak internet body, share their thoughts on the digital landscape and the SME.

1. Guy Gadney
President, AIMIA National Committee

Advertising dollars traditionally go where the audience goes. At the top end of town, most multinational companies still spend the majority of their marketing dollars with offline media outlets. Yet while the commentators are focused on this behavior, the real revolution is coming from the small business spend.

The internet is a very powerful information and transactional medium. Punters can find what they want and buy it more efficiently than from any print publication or directory. As a result, small and medium-sized businesses are transferring their marketing spends to digital wholesale. As well as the much lauded accountability (the results of a Google Ad Words campaign can be seen on a daily basis, and can show exactly the resulting number of visitors and revenue), for many businesses, online is simply more effective.

On a local scale, a homemade food delivery service near me spends all of its $40,000 marketing budget online as the return on investment is better than advertising in the local paper. On a global scale, newspaper classified ad revenue in the US has plummeted from almost $20billion in 2000 to just under $10billion in 2008. In the UK, revenue from online advertising surpassed TV revenue last year (it had surpassed radio and print a few years previously). The bulk of this revenue is generated by Google through businesses using it as a marketing platform. It is not difficult to step in at the shallow end of online marketing. AIMIA members benefit from frequent events around online marketing, but a first step could be as simple as setting up a Google AdWords account.

2. Jennifer Wilson
Secretary, AIMIA National Committee

As a guide, it would be good to cover creativity, business models, revenue streams, project funding, traditional versus digital companies, education… whatever takes your fancy.

Over the next 18 months, the digital industry will start to think about expanding its frontier (and hopefully, language!) beyond ‘the internet’ to think of all the places and all the screens that we’re looking at for content, messages and information. While mobile is slowly being talked about as more than just a small internet screen (and about time, too), we need to think of screens and worlds such as social media, games, virtual worlds and even augmented reality. We take a big brand identity, build it, and hope they’ll come. Or one can start to think about inserting relevance into everyday life by meeting people where they are, hanging out with them in lots of different places (often at the same time) and being relevant, not just noisy.

Over the next year, we need to encourage our clients to take risks; we need to make mistakes, and make them quickly; and we need to be willing to learn and learn from experts. The digital industry is likely to be in for a year of huge growth, from outsourcing to a recognition that digital delivers more bang for buck. Let’s all step up to the challenge and really start pushing the creative envelopes.

3. Lauren McLaughlin
Member, AIMIA National Committee

Are social media networks the answer to growing your SME? We have witnessed the exponential growth of social media networks in the last 12 months. Facebook has grown 93.4 percent, and now has over 5.6m registered users in Australia (26 percent of the population), and Twitter has increased its unique audience by almost 700,000 users over the same period. LinkedIn, a professional social network, has more than 40million members worldwide.

There is an incredible, low-cost opportunity for SMEs to leverage this phenomenon to increase their sales and brand awareness. The customers are already there, with large networks of friends and colleagues to tap into. These sites offer small businesses the chance to interact with potential clients without the constraints of location or exorbitant costs. The entry cost is low, there is no need to create complicated websites and their own online community can be up and running in minutes. SMEs can utilise this avenue to issue announcements and updates to clients, offering discounts and introducing new products. There is also greater customer engagement, as it facilitates an open dialogue with consumers, which allows SMEs to better service their needs and to gauge client sentiment through voting polls. SMEs can build their businesses through LinkedIn, which facilitates connections to an extended network of people, helping them to stay informed about industry developments and to exchange information.

To avoid being swept up in the hype surrounding social media networks, it is important to remain focussed on strategy and desired outcomes. Online seminars are available to help SMEs harness the power of Web 2.0 marketing, and there is an abundance of resources focussing on how to best make this media work for your business.

4. Molly Reynolds
Member, AIMIA National Committee

Everyone wants the next big thing to be as cosmological as the internet itself. Transforming technologies are few and far between. Only a small percentage of all that is designed, invented or created is revolutionary. Although many of the remaining new technologies may make a contribution to the revolution, they are not, in and of themselves, revolutionary.

So beware the lure of shiny things. It got the financial industry, and the rest of us, into a lot of trouble. Work the internet so it works for you. Embrace technologies, trends and tools because they suit your very precise, informed needs. For example Twitter would be the undoing of a drug-dealer and his crew but is the making of Ashton Kutcher. Second Life is primed for play and so does not a good virtual meeting room make. Cloud computing makes sense for an architectural firm but is overkill for most landscape gardeners. Facebook is excellent for investigating prospective employees but somewhat wanting as a client database. YouTube has its application for disgruntled employees and advertising agencies but is of limited value to tax accountants. Wireless connectivity is essential for those in IT Support but not so critical for cosmetic surgeons.

The internet should and can serve your business in meaningful, productive ways, to create greater efficiencies, higher profits and better workplaces. Ideally it will also allow for more leisure time in which to indulge much else the internet has to offer.

5. Karson Stimson
Member, AIMIA National Committee

Like it or not, with only a very small percentage of consumers not having access to the internet or a mobile phone, an SME’s customer is seriously connected and as time moves on is only becoming more so. With this and the continued evolution of the digital media space and social technologies, businesses are no longer in control of their brands. This is a scary thought for most businesses but provides a very powerful proposition if managed correctly. Today’s connected customer will and already is sharing their experiences (good and bad), they voice their opinions and absorb the experiences of others as verbatim. SMEs need to be aware of this, embrace it and concentrate on some basic principles of openness, honesty and transparency.

Looking forward to next financial year and beyond (regardless of the economic climate) the internet and more broadly the digital space cannot be ignored and must be integrated into an SME’s business model, if not become core to the model.

Whether it’s the SME’s product, the service, communications (internal and external), distribution, visibility, customer relationships or even a process, the digital media space is creating a plethora of challenges and opportunities for business big and small to become more efficient, reduce costs, create deeper more meaningful relationships, move into new markets and scale faster—all before someone else does.

6. Peter Bray
NSW AIMIA President

The internet should be a business owner’s best friend during the next 12 months. It offers the chance to reach more potential customers than ever before, as well as reducing operational costs. Wise use of the web will allow businesses to grow from a lower cost base.

Despite the mainstream acceptance of the internet as a place for doing business, most SMEs still don’t utilise online marketing in a smart way. The web allows SMEs to create a large ’niche‘ market. Focus on being the best at providing just one good or service and the web allows people to find you more easily than ever. Avoid being a jack of all trades and be known for doing one thing brilliantly. This is how you get web famous.

Operational costs can also be reduced through using web services for many of your day-to-day tasks. One example is the online accounting solution Xero, which you pay a monthly fee for instead of having to buy software.There are also tools that are great for collaboration on the web, which reduces your communication costs, such as internet messenger programs.

7. Sandra Davey
Member, AIMIA National Committee

In the 1980s and 1990s, Telecom Australia (now Telstra) recognised it ran a recession-proof business.  The reason, quite simply, was that as the economy hit hard times, organisations put more effort into sales and relationship building and had to do more of it over the phone. And that meant revenue for Telecom!

The current recession is our first in the post-internet era, and small and medium enterprises should to reflect on how the internet improves their marketing and sales performance. This includes the traditional avenues of ensuring the reliability and security of the email platform together with the quality and functionality of the web presence. The latter specifically includes the ability for your customers and prospects to transact securely and efficiently online.

Two key adjuncts to the use of the web are the investment in search engine optimisation and the investment in website analytics. Making sure your prospects can find you and then understanding how it is they do find you, are effective ways of getting the most value out of your online presence.

While there is a current tendency to focus on Web 2.0, the first question to ask is whether you are optimising the use of internet technologies for fundamentals such internal collaboration; enabling instant messaging for real-time communication, Wikis to drive knowledge bases and wider use of a variety of conferencing technologies, especially if the business is spread over multiple sites. And now is a good time to focus on your customer relationship management (CRM) systems and enterprise resource management (ERM) systems and ensure you’re getting the best out of them.

8. Mick Stanic
Member, AIMIA National Committee

Through a lack of comparable services, businesses in rural and regional Australia have often been left out in the rush to secure an online presence for themselves and to utilise the power of the internet for their business. With recent upgrades to wireless, ADSL and satellite broadband services, faster and cheaper access to the internet has provided an opportunity for non-metro based businesses to finally join the online world successfully.

The ability to utilise business-related internet services, including better and cheaper online data storage and communications tools, such as webhosting, hosted email, video and audio conferencing, Voice Over IP (VOIP), internet fax, online mapping and IP-based remote data acquisition systems can not only increase productivity, but also decrease operational costs.

Being able to provide an online presence in the form of information websites, online sales, booking tools, online advertising and mailing lists will also prove to be a vital part of retaining and attracting new customers and tourists from not only Australia but from around the world by increasing your marketing reach.

How do I know all of this? My business’ head office, located about 100km east of Melbourne in the mountains, only got access to decent broadband in the last few months and I’ve already launched two new companies and attracted customers from around the country, and it beats working in the city.

9. Colin Griffith
Member, AIMIA National Committee

Realising business value from social networking and how this integrates with other types of customer engagement is key for SMEs this year.

The longer term challenge concerns the proposed $43billion investment by the Federal Government in the National Broadband Network. While the construction may take several years, the nature of this investment is game-changing not only for the telecommunications but most other industries. With most households connected to high capacity broadband, entire new services and business models will need to be developed to justify the scale of this investment.

Small business needs to think through how this may change their business operations and customer base, as well as present exciting new opportunities for new services. The construction of the network will throw up opportunities in terms of new business for home networking, management of devices and home media applications. Home-based working and telepresence will be given a new momentum with the next generation of cloud computing, collaboration tools and high quality video.


Founded in 1992, AIMIA is the peak industry body for interactive content and digital media in Australia.

AIMIA’s membership represents the full spectrum of the digital media industry in the country. Its members range from top digital media powerhouses, including the ABC, Sensis, Yahoo!, Google, BigPond, Foxtel, Disney, ninemsn and Fairfax Digital, to the country’s best known interactive advertising, mobile content, web development, games design, and special effects companies. Members include developers, creators, producers, investors, service providers, educational institutions and students.

AIMIA exists to:

  • Deliver services and initiatives that help members grow their businesses in the digital media industry.
  • Develop and grow the markets for AIMIA members’ services and products.
  • Identify and develop export opportunities in digital media for members.
  • Represent members and the digital media industry nationally and internationally with government, education, media and the broader business community.

For further information visit www.aimia.com.au

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Jen Bishop

Jen Bishop

Jen was the publisher at Loyalty Media and editor of Dynamic Business, Australia's largest circulating small business magazine, from 2008 until 2012. She is now a full-time blogger at The Interiors Addict.

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