Build a business that is good for you

You’re no doubt aware that marketing is about creating something that people want and convincing them to buy it from you. But in small business, do we take too narrow a view of it?

Consider the ‘official’ definition of marketing as presented by the American Marketing Association: “Marketing is the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.”

It’s easy to understand the first part about creating and delivering value to customers. But take a look at the last part of the definition: it also includes doing things in a way that creates value for our partners and society in general.

This is a part of the equation that big businesses forgot over the years, as they selected suppliers based on the lowest possible price, regardless of how those suppliers had to slash their own margins or screw their own employees to do that.

They also closed local factories and went offshore to source ever-cheaper goods, and tried not to think about conditions in those factories. In terms of affordability, this was great for the customer: think about what you pay for clothes and electronic goods compared to 10 or even 20 years ago. But it was not so good for local suppliers, or workers in those factories.

When businesses realized the damage this approach caused to their reputation, they went down the path of corporate social responsibility, investing in ‘good works’ to restore their reputation.

Read the rest of this article on NETT

You can’t do it all

From my NETT blog:

Technology can help you accomplish a wide range of business tasks without needing to engage other people to get them done. But that doesn’t mean that it’s the way you should use it.

In a past life, I worked for the 2000 Sydney Olympics writing speeches for the CEO of the Paralympic Games. Most of the speeches I wrote back then revolved around the same theme: interdependence.

The CEO would often explain to audiences that when you’re a child, you’re dependent upon your parents for all your needs. As you grow up, you learn to take control of your own life and become independent.

Most people believe independence is the end game. However, as the CEO would point out, independence is only a step along the journey of interdependence. Working with other people and developing relationships of mutual co-operation is a higher form of psychological and social development, she would say.

This philosophy was an eye-opener to me at the time. It’s what the idea of community is all about – people working together to enrich their lives and accomplish more than they each could on their own.

Despite this epiphany, when I started my small business several years later, I forgot what she’d taught me. While I engaged contractors to perform some of the work, I focused on doing as much as possible myself – client liaison, project management, invoicing, marketing and sales, even bookkeeping.

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

Now appearing in NETT magazine

I was asked to put together a workshop article on how to promote your business online using video for NETT magzine, a technology magazine for Australian small and medium businesses. The article has been published in this month’s issue (see a PDF version here).

Here are a couple of excerpts from the article:

“Online video is no longer a nice-to-have addition to your marketing mix: it’s becoming an essential tool for small businesses trying to stand out in a crowded market. Yet, often the biggest challenge for SMEs interested in creating online video is taking that first step. Your dream may be to create something that goes viral, but where do you start? How do you make it interesting enough to get people to watch – and then spread the message? The good news is, creating online video is getting cheaper and easier to do.

“….The biggest challenge for businesses, especially SMEs, is taking the first step. Video can confound people who are only familiar with traditional marketing. Developing an interesting concept is the next challenge. Viewers have been conditioned by years of television watching to expect video to be entertaining as well as informational, so that talking head presentation from your MD is an online video no-no.

“….Each video and each campaign is different, so work out ways you candetermine the success of your video in meeting your goals.How can you tell whether increased sales are due to your video? You do things like link from the video to a particular landing page on your site instead of the home page. Measure hits to this page and add a call-to-action…. As you produce more videos, you can see what type of content gives you the most business impact.”