It doesn’t matter if you’re selling Egyptian-inspired eyeliner or festival tickets — these days, having a razor-sharp online presence can make a big difference for your business.
Ariel Gonzalez is the owner and director of Motivate You — Fitness and Personal Training – and winner of the Micro-Business Award at the 2011 Telstra Business Awards. Motivate You operates in south-west Sydney,
the NSW Central Coast and the Hunter region, with plans to expand interstate: www.motivateyou.com.au
“In my case, I left it way too long to have a decent site developed. My first website used a DIY software package with templates and didn’t look or feel ‘right’. I also couldn’t expand it as my needs grew. I learnt from that mistake.
“Be clear on what you want to communicate to the world, spend the money and get it right. Your website is often your first impression on the customer. A cheap site mirrors a cheap business.”
TIPS from Ariel Gonzalez
- “Before you even start, it’s vitally important to have a clear idea or concept about want you want the site to do. Know your unique selling points. Clearly define your target audience. Understand their pain points and how your offering solves them.”
- “While you should have a general idea of how your site should look, leave the design to the experts. For my current site I had a graphic artist look at
- our brand and what we wanted to communicate. Once I was happy with the results, it went to the web designer to build and add functionality.”
- “Understand how you want the site to function, how it will be updated, how much you want to do yourself and what should be left to other people. We wanted a content management system (CMS) that allowed us to make simple changes like adding or modifying text, images and video in-house. And this saves time and money in the future.”
- “Make sure the colours, layout and other visual elements are consistent with all other marketing material. People expect to see more of the same, wherever they encounter your brand.”
Melanie Summer is director of Flash Fotos on the Sunshine Coast, a glamour photography studio and winner of the Queensland MYOB Small Business Award at the 2011 Telstra Business Awards: www.flashfotos.com.au
“If you don’t have the expertise, rather than spending lots of time learning and experimenting, outsource and get it done professionally. It’s quicker and you’re more likely to get it right first time.
“I think you need to find your own approach that works for your business. Doing something which stands out from the crowd works better than doing what everybody does.”
TIPS from Melanie Summer
- “Put lots of research into selecting the right domain name so customers find you and not a competitor with a similar name. For example, in retrospect Flash Fotos was not the best choice as people naturally spell it with a ‘ph’ and another photographer uses that domain name.”
- “Visit as many other websites as possible. Show your web designer what you like and what you don’t like. Keep up the communication and stay involved throughout the whole process. Nobody knows your business and needs better than you.”
- “Who has time to read newsletters? I receive so many and delete most of them unread. The biggest problem I see is that people try to sell with newsletters rather than simply offering value. Find something newsworthy and of interest to your customers, relate it to your business and only then demonstrate how your business can help with a special offer.”
- “We did the search engine marketing (SEM) ourselves, but didn’t have much success. So get the professionals to help you. SEM needs constant attention and tweaking in order to work well. This is time most small business owners don’t have.”
Anthony Janssen runs Gnarabar and the White Elephant Beach Cafe at Gnarabup Beach near Margaret River, WA, and took out the Western Australian MYOB Small Business Award at the 2011 Telstra Business Awards: www.whiteelephantcafe.com.au and www.gnarabar.com.au
“Facebook is a really important part of our business communications. We actively use our public Facebook page to update fans/customers/suppliers on all things Gnarabar.
“We upload pictures, new menus or anything exciting that we have happening. It really is a great communication tool. It’s all about communicating to people the way they like to communicate. Building a community – both on- and offline – can benefit you in so many ways. We added The White Board to our White Elephant Cafe website as a place for customers and others to leave comments. It was used by the local community to post messages of support and helped us save the White Elephant from almost certain demolition. The support was overwhelming and ultimately saved the cafe!”
TIPS from Anthony Janssen
- Assign a percentage of your budgeted revenue to marketing your business, including online. We set aside approximately 5 per cent for all marketing. This way, as revenue grows, so does your marketing, allowing further growth.”
- “Create a private Facebook page for your staff as well as a public one for customers. Our crew can keep up to date and engage in conversation about Gnarabar and the White Elephant Cafe, contribute and discuss ideas, exchange knowledge and experience, or simply share photos of staff parties etc.”
- “We handle most of the communications such as email marketing and social media ourselves. Have the same people writing the copy in emails and elsewhere, so the same tone is communicated across all channels.”
- “We often run promotions through our Facebook pages in an effort to grow and expand our social networks. Staying constantly active online also encourages interest as there is always news, pictures and updates, and our fans like to stay in the loop.”
Zahrina Robertson of Sydney-based Zahrina Photography specialises in digital branding for entrepreneurs, capturing what she describes as their “X-Factor” to best represent their business in the social media and online world: www.zahrinaphotography.com
“I regularly get calls from someone after they have had shots done for their business by calling in a favour from a friend. Often the hair and make-up is drab, the images are dark and without professional lighting. The shots are simply unusable for a professional business website. A branding shoot should consist of professional make-up and hair, a stylist and a brilliantly talented and patient photographer capable of guiding you every step of the way.”
TIPS from Zahrina Robertson
- “Business images should not be as casual as the social media images we put on our personal profiles. Your business is you, not your logo. So please don’t be holding a beer can if you’re not in the beer industry.”
- “If you plan to include an image gallery or portfolio on your website, be ruthless. Don’t simply add every image you have. Is it relevant? Will it cause an emotive reaction? Will it make people pick up the phone and book me? Think quality not quantity!”
- “A little more outlay for quality results now can save money and precious time later. A professional image — for you and your products — has more chance of attracting your ideal clients. And always make sure you receive high-resolution (300 dpi) and low-resolution formats of all images from the photographer. The low-res shots can be used on websites. The high-res images can be used for printed material.”
- “Choose a photographer with results you can see! Ask what the package includes; ideally a stylist, make-up, the studio, a professional photographer and an assistant. Let them explain how they see your brand. Within two minutes, you’ll know if they can capture your brand’s X-Factor.”
Annie Abbott is the entrepreneur and designer behind Habbot Studios, a Melbourne footwear brand. Since launching www.habbotstudios.com, the business has received a 385 per cent increase in sales.
“I would allow a budget of about $6000 for a stand-alone [retail] site – with automated back-office functions relating to stock control, orders, etc. But since setting up mine, I’ve discovered many good providers who charge a monthly fee and so the website always has the most up-to-date functionality, etc. If I had my time again I would definitely consider this, as some aspects of my site already feel cumbersome and outdated.
“Two months should be enough time to start it up. How much time you then devote to ongoing maintenance depends on what you’re doing. Personally, I spend two days per week updating my site with new products each
season, and then about 20 minutes a day for general adjustments.”
TIPS from Annie Abbott
“The second you come up with a domain name idea, register it. I was messing around with mine for months and when I finally tried to register it I was seven hours too late. Now the current owner will only sell it to me for $16,000, forcing me to settle for my second choice.”
- “Anything that is technically advanced should be outsourced. I found developers by clicking on their links from websites I thought worked really well — even if the website was not relevant to my business.”
- “Find examples of websites you like, with functions you want, and send the links to your web developer. That’s far easier than trying to explain or describe.”
- “If you start a blog, make sure you keep going. The only thing worse than not having a blog is having one where the last entry is from two years ago! Set up a weekly schedule with content ideas to ensure you don’t fall off the radar.”
Kate Conroy is an AdWords specialist at Google Australia and has worked in the search marketing industry since 2006, frequently advising small and medium businesses on making the most of a limited budget: adwords.google.com.au
“A common misconception is that only big businesses can appear at the top of the search results. Google uses two factors to decide which search engine ads to show at the top of the results page. One is the cost-per-click you are prepared to bid (eg, $1/click). The second is ‘Quality Score’ which measures how relevant the ad is to the keyword searched for. This 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 Bondi fruit store 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.”
TIPS from Kate Conroy
- “If Search Marketing is part of your overall strategy, separate your search marketing plan into free listings (SEO) and pay-per-click ads (SEM). For SEO, check that you are ranking well on searches for your business name and that your website follows the search engine’s webmaster guidelines.”
- “If your website is old, slow to load, built entirely in Flash, or is full of broken links, talk to your webmaster about an upgrade in 2012. These can make it harder for your website to rank highly in the search engines, leading to fewer website visitors.”
“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. If not, talk to your web designer.”
- Write down a goal for your SEM campaigns. For example, you could have a goal to get 100 clicks to your website per month at under $1/click, or to get 40 online enquiries (conversions) per month for under $200. Set up Conversion Tracking or Google Analytics so you can measure whether you have reached your goal.”
We love the net
Large retailers may be concerned about online shopping, but smaller businesses can’t get enough of the net, according to research commissioned for Telstra Business and the Council of Small Business of Australia. A survey of 321 business owners by StollzNow Research found:
- Up to 81 per cent of small to medium enterprises (SMEs) now have a website, and many are planning to increase their online presence.
- Just over one in five SMEs (21 per cent) now use social media.
- Some 74 per cent of SMEs use email to connect with their customers.
- Almost seven in 10 (68 per cent) of SMEs say they aren’t concerned about the impact of the internet.