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Reviewing the products and services your business uses in 2012

Are you one of those business owners who uses the holiday period to take a bit of time outside of your business to review what works and what doesn’t? We asked some experts for their advice on reviewing your business products and services at this time of year.

Kate Conroy, AdWords Product Specialist, Google

How should a small business go about reviewing its search marketing needs for the year ahead?
Start by reviewing your marketing strategy as a whole (both online and offline). Is there anything new you would like to try this year? (e.g. AdWords Remarketing, special offers for Mothers Day or email marketing to existing customers). Maybe there is something you did last year that didn’t work and you want to stop doing this year. Make a commitment to only spend marketing dollars on what works in 2012!

If search marketing is part of your overall strategy, separate your search marketing plan into SEO (free listings) and SEM (pay-per-click ads)

For SEO, check that you are ranking well on searches for your business name (at a minimum), and that your website follows the Google Webmaster Guidelines. If your website is old, slow to load, entirely Flash-based or full of broken links, talk to your webmaster about an upgrade in 2012. Try searching for your business on a smartphone. Check that it is easy to find your phone number even when browsing on a small screen.
For Search Engine Marketing (SEM), write down a goal for your campaigns. For example, you could have a goal to get 100 clicks to your website per month at <$1/click, or to get 40 online enquiries (sometimes called ‘conversions’) per month for under $200. Set up conversion tracking or Google Analytics so you can measure whether you have reached your goal. If you are a local business, add a location extension to your ad, so that your address and phone number show with your ad.

What are the common misconceptions about spending money on Google AdWords and how would you answer them?
The first misconception is that only big businesses can appear at the top of the page. Google uses two factors to decide which ads to show at the top of the search results page. One is the cost-per-click you are prepared to bid (e.g. $1/click). The second is something called ‘Quality Score’ which measures how relevant the ad is to the keyword searched for. This second factor allows small businesses to compete with big businesses despite having a smaller marketing budget. For example, if someone searches for ‘fruit shop bondi’, an ad for a small local fruit store in Bondi would be more relevant than an ad for a big supermarket in Bondi. So even if the fruit shop has a much lower cost-per-click bid, they can still show above the supermarket ad. AdWords allows you to set your own budget and just pay for clicks to your website, so small businesses can still use AdWords even with a small marketing budget.

The second misconception is that online advertising is only for online businesses. A lot of small businesses assume that if most of their business comes from foot traffic, then no potential customers would be searching for them online and they do not need a website or online marketing strategy. However, Google gets thousands of searches each day for exactly these kinds of businesses (for example, over 350,000 Australian Google searches are done each month for ‘bakery’, about the same as searches for Lady Gaga). New customers may move into the area and search, or old customers may look for a number to call for a delivery or more information. More than half of Australians now own a smartphone, and a third of all the searches they do from their phones are for something in the local area, such as a bakery. So even if you are a local business, potential customers are still looking for you online.

Simon Uzunovski, Product Portfolio Manager, Yellow Pages.

How should a small business go about reviewing their marketing spend for the year ahead?
Small business owners should take the opportunity at the end of the year to take a step back from their business and assess the markets they’re operating in. Have they changed? If so, how? Is your marketing plan still relevant? A company’s marketing activity should constantly evolve to meet the needs of the changing market and expectations of their customers. There’s a saying that 50 percent of your marketing works, but you don’t know which 50 percent it is – that doesn’t have to be the case any longer. Remember you can manage what you can measure.

Why is Yellow Pages still relevant in today’s online world?

The team at Yellow Pages understands that today, Australians like to search for information in a number of different ways and from many different places. That’s why Yellow Pages’ increasingly diverse multi-channel network spans across print, online, mobile, iPad, iPhone, Android, T-Hub, satellite navigation devices, social networking sites and search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo! Importantly, businesses also have transparency on how their Yellow Pages marketing is working with detailed reporting. Advertising in Yellow Pages is a way to ensure your business can be found by consumers wherever they are and however they prefer to search

Mike Pleasants, Director of Marketing Communications, Epson Australia.

What’s the easiest way to waste money on your business’ printing?
I challenge every small business owner to take this test: if they could cut the cost of document printing by 50 percent or more, make document management faster and more efficient, and they could do it for a capital outlay of less than $400, how long would it take them to act? The common mistake small businesses make is to accept without question the 40 year-old paradigm that lasers are the right machines for office printing. They once were but not anymore. That paradigm is as outdated as the brick-sized mobile phones that were launched about the same time as the first laser printers.

How can SME owners do things smarter when it comes to printing and document management?
Office inkjets offer considerable savings in printing costs over comparable lasers, substantial savings on electricity costs and advanced document management functions like auto double-sided scan, fax, copy and print, printing from smartphones and tablets, remote and cloud printing, and more.

William Willems, Regional Vice President Australia, New Zealand and South East Asia, Regus.

What are the benefits of using a virtual/serviced office over a home office?
All our global research indicates that only around 12 percent of people want to work from home full-time. With a host of distractions from pets and kids to the TV, the benefits of using a serviced workspace are clear: a professional environment in which to concentrate and get down to work. Also, a huge advantage of using a business centre is the professional admin support, meeting rooms and the host of other services available.

What are the benefits of using a serviced office over renting your own office?
Far too often companies make the mistake of needlessly tying up their capital in real estate. The long-term commitment of leasing your own space is a millstone around the neck of any business owner. We give businesses the flexibility to grow, and the ability to rapidly scale their workplace to fit their needs.

What misconceptions do people have about serviced offices and why should small business owners consider using them?
People sometimes don’t know that there are a whole host of options, from business lounges, day offices and shared space to virtual offices and corporate campuses. What you get is a pay-as-you-go solution that allows you to use only what you need. Most importantly you can concentrate on managing your business, not your office.

Seamus King, Country Manager, Citrix Online Australia and New Zealand

How can a business go about working out which meetings they need to make in person and which they could use web conferencing for?
It really depends on the context of the meeting, where the attendees are located and what the overall cost will be to the business of attending that meeting in person. However, the latest developments in web collaboration tools, particularly with high definition video, mean that web conferencing now provides a near in-person meeting experience. For those that need to regularly collaborate from multiple countries, web conferencing really is a no-brainer.

What puts people off using web conferencing and how would you respond to those fears/misconceptions?
We actually asked this question in our latest ANZ Online Training Trends Research, and the top two inhibitors of the use of web conferencing were an “inability or unwillingness to use new technology” (42 percent) and “entrenchment of the current way we do things” (36 percent). In our experience, those who initially had reservations about using new technology have been surprised at how easy it is to use, and we have seen an increasing adoption rate. Like any new way of working, it takes that initial leap of faith to try something new, but it really does bring people closer together and improve the way we collaborate.

Why is this a good time to review your business’ software needs and what you currently have?
The end of the calendar year is always a great evaluation and reflective period, both in our business and personal lives. For the majority of small business owners, these are one and the same and it’s an ideal time to clear the deck and reassess the business processes and tools that are in place, ready for next year.

Oriel Bastalic, marketing manager, Kmart Tyre and Auto

How can small businesses look to manage their fleet better in 2012?
Vehicle running costs are usually the second biggest expense after wages and salaries for a business. Many small businesses don’t realise that by consolidating their tyres, servicing and fuel costs can, significantly reduce their fleet running costs and the administration associated with managing their fleet. Businesses should always look for a national provider who is able to provide great national coverage, opening times that support today’s busy lifestyles and pricing that is competitive.

What are some of the mistakes they may be making in running their fleet currently?
Not having a policy or any guidelines means businesses may be paying too much for their fleet maintenance with drivers taking the vehicle to any outlet. Using a national repairer also means your drivers don’t always have to come back to a central location, which may be inconvenient and result in excessive employee downtime.

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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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