Posts Tagged ‘small business’

tips on branding and design canberra

We’re still disseminating some of our knowledge to prospective and current clients through email campaigns at the moment. Those on our lists will be getting regular emails with tips on design and branding issues pertinent to small and medium business.

You can find the latest from the Luxgraphicus website.

So that Canberra Small Business Blog readers don’t miss out, I’ll be posting bundled sets of tips here in my regular spot.

Please make comment or feedback on anything you find interesting, confusing, in need of more detail or otherwise worthy of comment. I look forward to developing a dialogue over the coming weeks and months.

7 tips on website management

  1. If design is not your profession, hire a professional.
  2. Make sure your website looks like all your other marketing material (follow your brand rules).
  3. Make regular updates to your site. (clients and search engines like this)
  4. Check your statistics and title tags. (some easy SEO here. That’s Search Engine Optimisation!)
  5. Use a local (Australian) and reliable host.
  6. Learn how to use the sites CMS. (Content Management System)
  7. Use your key marketing messages to direct your visitors to where you want them to go.

7 tips on taming your designer (or getting the most from your designer)

  1. Brief your design professional on your audience and messages.
  2. Let them offer options and ask them why these options will work.
  3. Provide real deadlines. (not just asap, or before lunch!)
  4. Provide feedback and amendments promptly. (so they still remember the job. It may even still be up on their screen!)
  5. Define the scope of your task in the briefing. (this will allow for costs to be estimated up-front)
  6. Provide feedback based on the original briefing scope and direction.
  7. Don’t rely on them to spell correctly! (proof read carefully)

5 tips on electronic publishing

  1. Save on print costs with on-demand printing from PDF.
  2. Apply your brand to everything inc. emails, blogs, PDF downloads, etc…
  3. Make your reports available as PDF downloads from your website.
  4. Send your brochures or fliers to clients as PDF’s by email.
  5. Ask your design professional to make them interactive too!


See you next time, and remember, the best businesses are watching their branding!

Brian Miller
Creative Director
Luxgraphicus Design Agency

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By Jean Mc (Marketing Angels)

Jean Mc talks about how the secret to business success is being different.  But being different is only a valuable asset if it’s in a way that’s meaningful to your target market.

I had a preliminary meeting a couple of weeks ago with an eager gentleman who is wanting to break into the ACT Solar Power market.  He was bemoaning the fact that the NSW Government canned the solar feed in tariff.  No doubt he would now be cursing Minister Corbell for doing the same thing here.

The problem I see with this market (and many others that are fad based) is that they all want to claim a major share of the market through offering cheaper prices.  “Ah but we offer a quality product” he said.  “That’s what makes us different”!

There are two really big problems with this approach:

  1. Quality costs money and so you can’t be cheap.  Everything that we equate with quality: better materials, improved service, speedy resolution – all cost either time or money that – if you want to stay in business – you’ll have to pass on to your customers.  The fascinating thing is that consumers who want quality understand this and are prepared to pay for it.  So why then would they opt for a campaign around being cheap?  In the absence of any other way to tell the difference between providers, customers will just ring aroung for a few quotes and go with the cheapest.
  2. THAT’S WHAT EVERYBODY SAYS!!!  Truly – when the market is hot like this – the easiest thing to do is to find out what your competitors charge and just charge less.  If you’ve got a big bucket of money behind you and can stick it out – this is a sure-fire way to get rid of the ‘fly-by-nighters’ and reduce your competition.  In this case the only people who win are the consumers that pay much less money. But at what cost?

Step 1 – Polling is Essential

Business is Like Politics

Political parties win elections by appealing (more than the opposition) to the masses but (with some parties moreso than others) there are some lines they won’t cross to get elected.  To do this they poll endlessly to find out what’s important in the electorate and what they can do (within their beliefs and value systems) to satisfy electors.

Being in business is not unlike this.

Before you even start in business you should conduct lots of research about your target market.  Things like what is important to them (eg: family, wealth, the environment); what activities do they engage in (eg: community and sporting groups, social activities); what media do they consume (eg: internet, print, television, radio); what are they really looking for in life?

The more you know about your target market the better you’ll be at creating products that really meet their needs (or policies if you are in Government).  You’ll know how best to communicate with them and how you can build a long term meaningful relationship with them that benefits both them and you.

We usually choose a business to be in that we have special skills in or that interests us or suits our value systems.  So what we are prepared to do to meet customers’ needs is bound by these parameters.

Step 2 – Educate your Market

Sometimes, what we offer customers is more likely to meet (what we call in marketing) “latent needs”.  That is, needs that they don’t yet know they  have.  It means that they haven’t yet thought that they have a problem that you can resolve.

Using the solar power example – there are still people who haven’t really engaged in thinking about putting solar panels on their rooves.  So what is the point in telling them that you do it cheaper than everybody else?

Like politicians , we can do a lot to educate the market on how what we can offer, meets their needs better than our opposition.

Understanding your market and how it thinks can help you describe your offering in a way that connects with them and their personal goals.

Imagine for a moment that you have found out through research that your market is concerned with the rising cost of living.  Do you think they would be more interested in a low cost installation or a solution that invests in lowering the costs of power for their family well into the future.

Step 3 – Tell Your Story

You educate your market through using language that appeals to their values and describes your product as clearly meeting their needs.

Communicate your key messages based on what you know of your market and its needs and your unique selling proposition to meet these needs.  The market will decide all by itself to buy your products (goods and services).

I’d be interested to hear what it is that makes your business different from your competition and why that’s important to your market.

Jean Mc

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By Jean McIntyre (Marketing Angels)

Is competition something to be feared, ignored or confronted full on.  Jean Mc talks about the nature of business competition and ways that marketers can help businesses deal with this inevitable consequence of success.

I was reading in the Canberra Times on 28th February about the demise of Brand Depot and DFO. Both it seems are in danger of closing and certainly both have seen a mass closedown of tennant stores.  They put it down to both the GFC and development and upgrading of other shopping centres in the region.

Wikipedia defines competiton in economics as: ” the notion of individuals and firms striving for a greater share of a market to sell or buy goods and services.” Surely with words like “individuals”, “striving” and “share” this can only be considered a good thing.

Certainly Wikipedia goes on to say that economist consider competition to be a healthy thing (as did my economics lecturer at UC) because it promotes “consumer soverienty”.  This means that the greater the competition – the more choice and control that consumers have.

Competition is a good thing – really!

It usually means that prices come down which (in a narrow way of thinking) is less good for businesses than it is for consumers.  The good thing for businesses about competition is that it tends to keep us focused on our brand and continually innovating new products and ways of promoting them to keep our place at the top of the market.

In short – when the customer is king then it makes sense for businesses to think about newer and better ways to meet their needs.  That folks is the essence of marketing.

Dealing With Competition

I talk about competition a lot when I go around the Capital Region talking about marketing.  It’s not that easy to understand.

In some ways, your business is in competition with my business and every other business that people might spend money in.  If we agree that consumers (business, Government or household) have a limited amount of money in their pockets to spend – and even less discretionary money to spend – then in this way each business competes with every other for this money.

Plumbers compete with gymnasiums, with supermarkets, with financial planners and with charities for all the money that households have to spend.  This is probably how accountants see it.

How to Have No Competitors

Marketers see it a different way.  Marketers start with fully understanding the needs of the target market (through research) and how your business could best meet them.

A marketing savvy business works out how their unique resources (skills, knowledge, people, technology, experience etc) can be packaged together to meet the needs of the target market in a way that no other business can match.  Promotion of the business then becomes about building a desire in the market to have their needs met in this way.

An example

Mary has a shoe store.  She conducts some research about how her market feels about shoe shopping.  She discovers that her potential customers look forward to shoe shopping as a way to relax and make them feel special.  With a bit more research, staff input and some customer feedback – she develops a ‘Valet Shoe Fitting Experience’ where customers can come and relax, mingle, drink and eat and have a customer care specialist give them individual attention.

Mary found that women in her market were prepared to pay a premium price to have their special needs met in this way.

You might say “but not every woman would find that appealing”.  That is the whole point.  Mary has specifically targeted a small section of women with specific tastes and values and put all her resources into serving them better than every other shoe store.  Of course she did sufficient research to identify whether there were enough women fitting in to this niche group to be able to support her business.

In this way – having created a need for this valet service among her market – Mary  has removed all the other shoe stores from her competition.  She simply has no competitors in this market.

Research is the Key to Removing Competition

If you would like to be like Mary and remove the competition then the place to start is with research.  You need to research these things:

  1. Characteristics of your target market (size, income, location, age, spending habits etc)
  2. Values of your target market (what’s important to them, what do they put a premium on?)
  3. What they need (needs and desires – fears they want to allay)
  4. Where are the gaps in the market?  (Who is meeting these needs and who is not – how are they positioning themselves?)

Once you have a good understanding on what the market needs you can then start to develop products (goods and services) that meet their needs better than other businesses and start to eliminate your competition.

Marketing Angels can Help with Research

If you need help to understand what makes your target market tick – contact Marketing Angels for expert help on marketing research.

I’d be interested to hear about your experiences with competition and how you have managed it successfully.

Jean Mc

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Brian Miller, Creative Director, Luxgraphicus Design Agency

Brian Miller, Creative Director, Luxgraphicus Design Agency

I’m a do it yourself type of person.

I like to have a go at lots of things, and don’t mind learning and experimenting with projects as a hobby. Most of these projects aren’t critical however, and most are just that, hobbies.

Sometimes I really apply myself and work on a project with a discipline and a degree of learned skill. In these cases I can do a good job, as good as the professional might do. It takes longer of course, but it costs less!

And sometimes this project fits in with my business operations. It means I can control my expenses as a small business owner by not having to pay the full costs of hiring a professional, and I still get a result which is good enough to drive the success of my business. I need to have the time available of course, and weigh up the benefits of missing out on time I could have spent on something I am an expert in. But in small business, sometimes, these compromises can mean the difference between getting the job done, or not doing it at all.

So how do you decide what to do, and what to leave for the professionals? Early on in your business development, you may find yourself with a longer list of tasks to handle in-house. Then as the business grows, the list can be reduced as you  manage towards success.

Think about the tasks that you actually do have a degree of skill, expertise, experience and knowledge in, and those that you honestly don’t! Some reality check may be appropriate here. A business coach or mentor might help. And think about the time it will take you to do a really good job. Could this time be better spent?

What do you value as a small business person? Getting things right first time. Satisfaction in doing a good job yourself. The bottom line on your business accounts. Your spare time. Doing what you think others think you should do?

We all need to make these value judgements. In small business you will make many of them, and it’s often a case of balancing what works for you when it comes to what to do for yourself. After all, that is one of the main reasons to start a business, to do it for yourself.

Brian Miller
Creative Director
Luxgraphicus Design Agency

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Hold on!

If you want to give a presentation at Rhythmic Business – The Small Business Unconference then just CLICK HERE.


Canberra Business Blog Celebrates Turning Two with a Novel ‘Unconference’

The intrepid bloggers of the http://www.canberrabusiness.com web log are celebrating 2 years of counsel, conviction and sometimes controversy by planning Canberra’s first small business ‘unconference’.

Blog Manager Jean McIntyre of Marketing Angels says it’s been a great ride so far. “All our bloggers really enjoy sharing their knowledge to help Canberra’s business people, to give and get opinions on local issues and sometimes add some fun to our daily business lives. We’re hoping to take that further by getting our supporters together for a fantastic ‘unconference’ on Friday 29th October this year”.

The blog started on 8th August 2008 with two posts titled ‘Airbags for Computers’ and ‘Networking isn’t really low cost marketing’. Since then there have been 120 posts, around 7,000 views and over 200 comments. “We even have a few subscribers which is great,” says Jean Mc.

“Our busiest day,” says Jean Mc, “was 7th December 2009 with 255 page views. It was probably also our most controversial day with a blog post on ‘Women on Boards – the Business Benefits’. We had such diverse opinions from commentors on whether or not women have distinct valuable skills to bring to boards. It was scary but very exciting.”

Blog Co-Manager John Phillips of Infinite Personnel Development says it’s not easy to find the right people to contribute to the blog. “We’ve managed a core team of 7 expert bloggers most of the time but people come and go as their businesses demand more of their time. We’d like to get more bloggers so we can have more posts for our community but we need to get the right people with useful knowledge who are committed to delivering valuable content.”

At the moment the contributors are: Jean McIntyre (‘Canberraangel’ – Marketing Angels), John Phillips (Infinite Personnel Development), Brian Miller (Luxgraphicus – graphic design), Trevor Bransden (Praecius Financial Consultants), Donna Cox (Mantra Training), Peter Campbell (Counselling Canberra) and Craig Munns (Sales Innovation).

Jean Mc recalls that over 2 years the blog has had a number of ‘guest’ bloggers including a life coach, business coach, insurance broker, trucking company owner, recruiter, fitness instructor, NLP practitioner and one cynical accountant. Guests have waxed lyrical on topics ranging from reducing stress to child care challenges, to the vagaries of Twitter and how to handle Christmas overeating.

To celebrate the first two years and look forward to the third, the http://www.canberrabusiness.com team is organising what they believe is Canberra’s first small business ‘Unconference’ on Friday 19th November.

John Phillips says that it’s easy to participate: “Just log on to our unconference wiki, say what you’d like to present or to see presented and schedule your involvement on the calendar”.

“The thing we love most at http://www.canberrabusienss.com is comments,” says Jean Mc. “So we urge the business people of Canberra to just get on the blog or go to the wiki and just participate. It’s so much fun and who knows, you might just discover something new for your business”.

For Interview or comment please contact Jean McIntyre via the Wiki

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John Phillips

Author: John Phillips (Ocean Computing Soltions)

Good passwords form the basis of secure computer systems, but what is a good password?  In this short video, John Phillips, Managing Director of Ocean Computing Solutions, defines a strong password and provides a simple technique for choosing a memorable, secure password.

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By Peter Campbell (Counselling Canberra)

Having the right amount of stress is the key to success.

Stress seems to be everywhere in our daily lives, doesn’t it? Actually, it isn’t. Today I’ll show you why.

What is stress? Stress is our unique reaction to stressors. For example I don’t care about news reports of threatening events because I’ve worked as a news journalist, but bills stress me out because I grew up in a culture of scarcity. Another person might react to news of threatening events, but not care much about bills.

When we’re running our businesses, we set up performance indicators for the business that tell us when we’re doing well, and we can do it for our stress levels.

There is a zone where stress and performance meet. Too little stress (the bottom left of the graph below) promotes complacency and poor performance. Too much stress and our health and relationships suffer. We’re irritable, make poor decisions, change seems overwhelming, and our performance is also poor. This is on the right side of the graph.

Performance-Stress Relationship Curve
Copyright © 1997-2009 Raymond Lloyd Richmond, Ph.D

But the right amount of stress for us, the peak in the middle of the graph, produces great performances. We’re focussed on the tasks at hand, we’re alert, move quickly and well, see opportunities and adapt well to change.

So how do you spend more time in that middle zone? First we have to learn what stresses us and why – remember, our reaction to stressors is unique. So we map our reactions to stressors, and practice responding differently. Expect to work fairly hard to achieve this, even with professional help.

Next, good diet and exercise does reduce our stress levels. Even deciding to change our diet and exercise helps us believe we’re gaining control of our health, and that lowers our stress levels. Better food and exercise physically improves our body and mind. Exercise in natural light is best.

Last, socialise. Keep company with people who are optimistic and sociable, and do it habitually.

Keep track of how you’re doing. Keep a record of what you eat and when you exercise. You can get a professional to help you and motivate you, just as you would for your business. Go through your diary and see when you’ve been socialising and who you met. Set basic goals about socialising.

If you do these things, you’ll be amazed how seemingly overwhelming tasks become ordinary tasks, change reveals opportunities, and people around you are working with you, not against you.

Peter Campbell

Peter Campbell is a counsellor in private practice in Ainslie. His practice specialises in stress, anxiety depression, loss and grief and men’s issues. See more about stress and anxiety at Peter’s website:

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John Phillips

Author: John Phillips (Ocean Computing Solutions)

John Phillips, Managing Director of Ocean Computing Solutions uses his Tiger Repelling Rock to demonstrate why business owners shouldn’t assume their backups are working in the absence of information to the contrary.

To ensure your backups are working, why not sign up for a free Network Problem Prevention Audit from Ocean Computing Solutions?  To arrange your audit, if you are a Canberra based business with five or more computers, visit http://www.oceancs.com.au/?q=node/8 or phone 1300 558 121.

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John Phillips

John Phillips

Author: John Phillips (Ocean Computing Solutions)

Microsoft released Windows 7, the latest version of its Windows operating system on October the 22nd.  Since then, a lot of our customers have been asking if the upgrade to Windows 7 is worthwhile, and that will be the focus of this article.

There are a number of reasons why a Windows 7 upgrade might be appealing including:

• Improved system performance
• More user friendly than Vista
• Less intrusive security mechanisms

Conflicting evidence and advice abounds concerning Windows 7 performance, particularly on older or lower specified hardware, such as Netbooks.  The general consensus is that Windows 7 will improve performance as well as reducing boot up times.  In the real world, upgrading to Windows 7 should allow you to start and switch between your applications, such as Outlook, Internet Explorer and MYOB with fewer delays than you would experience on the same computer with Windows Vista installed.

The Windows 7 interface, while quite similar to Vista is less cluttered.  From a business perspective, upgrading to Windows 7 from Vista shouldn’t require a great deal of training, and the support burden should be minimal.  However, if you are moving to Windows 7 from Windows XP, expect a significant learning curve with the new interface.

Most users of Windows Vista would be familiar with User Account Control (UAC) warnings appearing whenever we try to make even minor system changes.  As a result, a lot of vista users disable this functionality, reducing overall system security.  Microsoft has addressed this issue by streamlining UAC in Windows 7 and making it less intrusive.

If you decide to upgrade, there are a few things you should be aware of.  First and foremost is to confirm that any line of business applications you have, such as ACT! Or MYOB are compatible with Windows 7.  I recommend checking with the software vendors.  This step is especially critical where you have custom written or bespoke applications.
There are a number of ways to purchase Windows 7 including the various Microsoft volume license programs, purchasing a new computer with Windows 7 pre-installed and buying boxed copies.  Your IT support provider will be able to recommend the best approach for your business

 Keep in mind that Windows Vista can be upgraded to Windows 7 without needing to wipe the hard drive in what is known as an in-place upgrade.  This isn’t possible when upgrading from XP, so be careful to ensure you have a full backup of anything that is being stored on the computer, and you have the installation disks and license codes for any software you use.

So, should you upgrade?  The answer to this question depends on your specific requirements.  If you feel the benefits of running Windows 7 would outweigh the cost, both time and financial, then it is worth doing.  In the near future, it will get very difficult to buy computers with Vista or XP pre-loaded, and outside some Microsoft licensing agreements, it will become impossible to run anything but Windows 7.  I expect to see most small businesses upgrading on an attrition basis, as computers reach the end of their usable life, they are replaced with new computers running Windows 7.

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