New rules every business owner must know

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From an article Ray wrote recently for Smarter Business Ideas:

We all know that death and taxes are certainties in life, but when you’re in business there’s another certainty – constantly changing regulations. And that trend is likely to continue regardless of who wins the next election.

Michael Derin, managing director of Sydney-based accountancy firm Azure Group, says businesses “don’t know whether they’re Arthur or Martha” as they try to keep up with changes to key areas such as tax rules, HR guidelines, privacy and workplace safety.

“Businesses today need to engage more actively with their accountants and specialist lawyers and business advisers – but, of course, all of that comes at a cost,” Derin observes.

The constant flow of regulatory changes makes it harder for businesses to plan and budget, too. “For years we said that when you wanted to budget for a new staff member, you just add 22 per cent for on-costs. You simply can’t do that now, it’s a movable feast,” says Lawrence Potter, a director of Incite Management Group business consultants.

There have been changes across a lot of areas, so it’s no surprise that many business owners may be unaware of some of the rule changes that affect them.

As Sydney-based workplace safety consultant Gaye Cameron points out, “The biggest problem, particularly for small businesses, is ‘not knowing the knowing’. They may have no idea that they are in breach of new rules.”

So to help keep you in the loop, here’s a heads-up on recently enacted legislation (including some that haven’t come into effect yet) and what you need to look out for.

Read the rest of the article

The hidden perils of self-promotion online

One of the most amusing (and at the same time sad) Twitter accounts I follow is@humblebrag. It retweets posts from Twitter users which are meant to be self-deprecating, but which actually scream “Aren’t I wonderful?” 

The posts range from thinly-veiled personal self-aggrandisement…
 
    “Stories are everywhere that I’m too thin. When will the media see women for their accomplishments instead of their weight and appearance?” 
    “If one more person asks to ‘take pictures of me’ I’m going to kill someone.” 
    “I gave my noodle store leftovers to a homeless lady and now I regret it so much” 
    “As if I didn’t feel uncomfortable enough, the ticket taker said ‘musclessss’ as I handed him my ticket” 

…to tweets painfully aimed at enhancing their corporate notoriety…

    “The president just called to say congrats. Caller ID was blocked, so at first I thought it was a telemarketer.” 
    “Way too much of my life is spent on airplanes.” 
    “Very humbled to be selected for TIME 100 this year! Had a nice evening at their gala, but their standards must be slipping now that they’re letting geeks like me in!” (This one was accompanied by a photo of a hipster-    ish man standing on the red carpet with his supermodel girlfriend) 
    “ARRRRRGH FML. Now I’ve got a justin bieber shoot i can’t do because i’m already shooting: what’s with these clashes? Grrr” 
    “Look, I know he invented the damn thing. But it freaks me out when I see Zuckerberg posts on my Facebook wall.” 
    “CNN interview went great! Once again, over-prepared but smarter for it I suppose.” 

There are plenty more where these came from – bring your sick bag! 

A little ego is fine, but the problem is, too many people think that ‘humble bragging’ is a good way to build a social media profile for their business. The existence of tongue in cheek satirists like @humblebrag shows that people don’t respond to that approach. It’s important to be authentic in your dealings with people, especially if you’re in small business. 

US marketing expert Jonathan Salem Baskin, who has just co-authored a book on the importance of truth in advertising and marketing (now there’s an oxymoron!), says that customers today are looking for truth from the companies they do business with. 

Read the full story at Smarter Business IdeasImage

Wawa’s the buzz on Facebook?

From my NETT blog:

When discussing social media for small business, people often tell me “a Facebook page is fine for big companies and major brands who have an army of people and something to say, but I’m a small business. What on earth do I have to say that would make my customers want to connect with me while they’re chatting with their friends?”

They’re correct that Facebook is an effective investment for brands like Coke (22 million fans – NB, their page was started by fans, not the company), Starbucks (20 million), Oreo (17 million) or Red Bull (16 million).

But smaller, localised brands can have great success, as well. eMarketer reports that local businesses make up 17.6% of Facebook pages, making it the largest category. Large companies come in 6.3%, behind general interest pages and pages for musicians. Products, meanwhile, lag behind at 3 per cent.

I was at a digital marketing conference in the US recently where they mentioned the Facebook success of Wawa, a chain of service stations based in Pennsylvania with branches across five states on the US eastern seaboard. While they’re not strictly a small business, Wawa is a bricks-and-mortar business (you can’t buy petrol online) with a specific local market, a potential customer base that would number only several million people. Their Facebook page, meanwhile, has 600,000 fans – a staggering percentage of their entire target market. How do they do it?

One thing to consider is that they’ve been doing social media for a long time. They were using social media tools like Livejournal back when Facebook was only a gleam in Mark Zuckerberg’s (or was it the Winklevoss twins’?) eye.

As a result, they have nailed the raison d’etre for Facebook pages, which applies whether you’re a multinational or a hyperlocal. As eMarketer says, “Engagement, interest and constant connection keep fans coming back to a company’s Facebook fan page.”

Read the rest of the article

Target those who need you most – NETT blog

Our politicians have shown they could learn a thing or two from small business when it comes to marketing their wares.
You can be the best at something, but if people don’t know about it, that fact won’t get you anywhere.
The federal election brought home for me the importance of positioning and promotion when you’re marketing your business. The shambolic campaign and aftermath showed that you can be running the only western economy to emerge unscathed from the global financial crisis, which should be enough to get you elected a saint, but if you can’t sell your accomplishments – and you let your competitors dictate the agenda – you will be severely spanked.

Policy waffling, backstabbing and leaks didn’t help, but history tells us that Australians give a neophyte government a second chance, even if it’s made mistakes. For the government to have so many runs on the board, the election should have been a walkover. To my mind, Labor’s biggest problems were a lack of firm positioning and an inability to sell itself to its customer base – uh, I mean the electorate.

These principles also apply to running a small business. It’s not enough to be the best-in-class for service, delivery, reliability, range or innovation; if your customers and potential customers don’t know it, you won’t survive.

The first step in this process is positioning. You need to work out what you’re best at; what your salient attribute or point of difference is, and why it’s meaningful to your customers. It’s only worth focusing on a defining attribute if:

Read the rest of Ray’s column here: http://nett.com.au/blogs/target-those-who-need-you-most/162.html

Community building: Do customers want another social network?

Reprinted from the Zazoo blog:

With the recent explosion in Facebook and Twitter use (the media hype and recent stats are backed up by anecdotal evidence such as the stream of high school and uni friends that have discovered me on Facebook and a bevy of would-be porn stars following me on Twitter), it’s inevitable that some pundits are starting to ask if we’re reaching social media overload.

Judy Shapiro, writing in Ad Age, writes that, “We use our different social networks to enrich different dimensions of our lives. Therefore, as you would expect, we want different things from our different social networks…. This is the heart of the problem. As marketers, our knee-jerk reaction to every community we create is to motivate members to create rich and robust profiles of themselves so they can connect with each other in new and powerful ways. While this approach may be desirable to us as marketers, it may not be best for consumers. We need to be mindful and respectful of the realities our customers live in and the truth is that managing all these social profiles is none too easy, the technology and tools notwithstanding.”

She suggests marketers take a close look at their community-building strategies, asking “Are we being practical about what we expect users to reveal about themselves in our communities? Is our community a hub where users will congregate regularly, where rich profiles are of value or are we creating a secondary ’spoke’ community meant to address narrow or temporary niche needs? In short, as marketers do we demand that users create too many profiles in all our community-building programs?”

The Harvard Business Review has also discussed this issue recently, recommending that companies treat communities as a high-level business strategy that is integrated across business functions, rather than just being the domain of the marketing department. A Facebook group or a Twitter account is not good enough.

The HBR authors advise that companies shouldn’t try to control communities, and should view online networks as just a tool for community building, not an entire strategy. In other words, get out there and meet people face-to-face rather than just via the Internet.

It concludes: “Although any brand can benefit from a community strategy, not every company can pull it off. Executing community requires an organization-wide commitment and a willingness to work across functional boundaries. It takes the boldness to reexamine everything from company values to organizational
design. And it takes the fortitude to meet people on their own terms, cede control, and accept conflict as part of the package”

Anyone up for the challenge?

On the HIT parade

Hurrah for us – the Welling Digital blog has now been certified as a top health technology blog by gaining a listing on HITSphere, “a network of premium weblogs that write content about the healthcare, medical, and clinical informatics and information technology (IT) industry.” Check out HITSphere for a wide listing of blogs in the health tech area.