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Small Business

The great tech divide

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For a lot of business owners, technology is a scary concept. They would prefer to leave it in the too-hard basket. And this includes having a website. For regional small businesses, and not just those limited to tourist destinations, not having a website could mean missing out on customers from Australia and around the world.

Think of it this way. When people want to book a holiday, usually the first thing they do is jump on the internet and start surfing. They type in the name of the place they’re visiting, say Port Macquarie, and start looking for things to do while on holiday, whether it be hiring a boat for the day, fishing or visiting museums or wineries.

From town to the globe

Many small businesses are also looking for cost-effective ways to reach a broader audience and social networking sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter are proving to be the perfect solution.

According to US-based comScore, almost nine million people in Australia visited a social networking site in June last year.

“Social networking continues to grow in popularity both across Australia and throughout the world,” said Will Hodgman, comScore executive vice president for the Asia-Pacific region. “Social networking is now an essential part of peoples’ daily online routine, providing a level of engagement and reach that far exceeds most other content categories. Understanding how to leverage this audience successfully is both a challenge and significant opportunity for most digital marketers today.”

Social networking provides a competitive edge for regional businesses to be able to advertise nationally and globally for free.

You know your region best

According to Anne Bartlett-Bragg, general manager of social media consultancy Headshift, for a person new to the social media game, the best place to start is a blog.

“Business people consider themselves experts in their fields,” she says. “I would expect a lot of mortgage and finance brokers … have got opinions on issues. [With a blog], they can position themselves as experts, and develop a readership; a committed audience who values their opinion.”

Blogs not only allow you to engage with current and potential clients, says Bartlett-Bragg, they are also great marketing and market research tools. You could ask visitors to your site why they are visiting your particular town or region, and try to tap into that market in your business. Another advantage is blogs are fast and cheap to implement.

Bartlett-Bragg explains that at a seminar on social media, one attendee, a gift buyer, said she would like to start a blog to build a profile and explain to customers what she does at trade fairs.

Bartlett-Bragg said to her: “Why not say to your customers or the readers of your blog, ‘I’m going off to a trade fair, tell me what you’re interested in and I’ll report back and tell you if it’s there’? Get your customers to that engagement side of it. Talk to them as equals rather than at them.”

You should also allow the blog audience to post comments. Allow them to ask questions, clarify things and give their input.

“Think of it as a conversation,” says Bartlett-Bragg. “Ask, ‘How can I engage and interact with customers and potential customers?’ Not all people who read your blog will be your direct customers, but they, or someone they know, may be in the future. That’s another way of setting yourself up as the expert.”

Nobody knows the area like a local business, so it might be an idea to promote the reasons to visit on your website.

Keeping your blog up-to-date and informing customers of what’s happening in the business can help in forming a relationship with them. This goes for a Twitter or Facebook account too.

Also, don’t forget to advertise your website on business cards, documents and communications. If customers are always up-to-speed with what special events you are holding, or what discounts you may have, or what new products are in store, you never know, they may be back for a holiday sooner than you expect.

Four steps to boost business from home and abroad

  1. Don’t be frightened of technology. Sure, it can be daunting at first, but used correctly it can enhance your business.
  2. Ensure your website is kept up to date.
  3. Consider setting up a blog as well as a Twitter and Facebook account. This is a great way to keep in contact with your customers, and for them to find out what’s happening with your business.
  4. Make sure you put your website on all pamphlets and documents you send to clients.

So, if you’re looking to work on your business rather than being stuck in it, book in for a complimentary business assessment today with Switzer Business Coaching

Important information: This content has been prepared without taking account of the objectives, financial situation or needs of any particular individual. It does not constitute formal advice. For this reason, any individual should, before acting, consider the appropriateness of the information, having regard to the individual’s objectives, financial situation and needs and, if necessary, seek appropriate professional advice.

Published on: Wednesday, June 09, 2010

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