Business Solutions – The Business Owner and the Internet

Small medium sized business owners and directors always seek quick and cost effective solutions to their problems; however, from time to time some problems are encountered in achieving this goal.

Some issues may be easy to fix and may be a ‘pleasant’ experience, such as addressing business growth, where to invest excess cash and so on. Others cause much concern, perhaps because of their complexity, urgency or their potential long term adverse impact on the business.

Understandably it is not uncommon to find that small business owners are technically capable in their area of expertise, but when challenged to find solutions to business related problems outside of that area they must turn to experts or professionals in other fields.

Particularly in a start up company the accountant, solicitor or bank manager may be a source of help. However, it may be found that not all answers are available from that source. So to whom does the business owner turn? It may be trade associations, chambers of commerce, network groups, other entrepreneurs, friends and so on.

All may offer some advice but this may be an uncoordinated approach and costly in terms of time. This source of knowledge may be of significant value and should not be totally overlooked. However, start-up companies and small and medium sized business owners usually seek business solutions immediately. After all they do wish to succeed in their business venture and issues that jeopardize that success require resolution at the earliest opportunity.

Consequently any delay in securing help from independent bodies or friends may be perceived as aggravating the problem to be overcome.

Unfortunately not all problems can be resolved quickly.

Some, perhaps many, business problems may be caused through a lack of planning or maybe lack of knowledge and understanding on the part of the small medium business owner. This may require investigation into the root causes of the problem in question, before action can be taken rather than develop a solution only to counter the ‘effect’ of the problem.

Also in the business world, the level of government ‘red tape’ may be burdensome to the business owner or director, and adherence to all aspects of their legal obligations is usually mandatory. However, governmental influence may delay resolution of problems, and ignorance of the law is not be an excuse should serious consequences arise through non-compliance.

In addition should cash constraints exist within the business, it may not be possible to ‘buy in’ the required level of expertise. This may burden the small medium sized business owner with gaining knowledge or learning skills alien to himself.

Today the business owner without adequate or reliable access to, knowledge of leadership, business management, business development, marketing, accounting, financial management, IT, business planning, ecommerce, employee relations and so on is seriously disadvantaged.

What alternative sources of business advice are available?

The internet may provide the help needed to overcome some if not all of these gaps in the business owners’ knowledge. This solution may not be satisfactory to everyone; the fear, uncertainty, reluctance in using the internet may still be an overwhelming barrier to some, but without doubt access to knowledge is much easier using this medium.

Understandably the early content based websites were dedicated to providing knowledge much biased towards sharing internet technology with others. This situation continues to change with many webmasters now committed to providing content for all niche areas, including those applicable to the small business owner.

Whether the business owner is in ‘fire fighting’ mode or being proactive in planning to avoid problems help and advice can now be found on the internet.

Up to date, easy to read newsletters on specific matters of interest, such as general business matters, taxation, are freely available; together with articles and e-books are available to help solve or prevent business problems.

This fount of knowledge continues to expand and many experts and entrepreneurs within the business sector continue to offer visitors to their websites valued help and assistance.

How should the business owner react to this plethora of knowledge?

Be positive.

The owner should continually research for sites that offer the business content that is being sought and is presented in an acceptable style. Actively participate in forums if available; this will raise awareness of your concern and afford the opportunity to other site participants to offer their advice freely in the matter.

Use the content on the internet as a valued tool in resourcing solutions to your business problems. Remember it is available at all times, easy to access and very cost effective.

Online Video For Business – 3 Reasons Your Company Should Implement in 2010

The Internet started as a text-only medium of communication with largely bulletin boards and eventually e-mail. It progressed to be a more interactive experience and expanded into millions of homes, beyond college campuses and technology institutes. Websites started including pictures, navigation, music, and other enhancements to appeal to viewers. By the end of the 1990s, Internet sites still relied mostly on pictures and sleek navigation to appeal to users. As YouTube skyrocketed in popularity, the integration of online video to professional Websites started to become more common place. Now, offering a Website with only pictures is like running a rental store with only silent movies; Web users and customers expect a more interactive experience, complete with videos of products, services, or people. Websites that include videos offer users more detailed information about products and services, give businesses an opportunity to control the way information is delivered, and increase the conversion rate of visitors to customers.

Captivate Your Audience and Capture Your Customer

One of the great advantages as a Web user to Websites with videos is the ability to see in more detail what one is buying before the purchase, or to learn more about a service before inquiring further. Before purchasing a movie ticket, viewers usually watch a trailer for the movie, showing them more about what they are paying to see. With an apartment complex or hotel, rather than just see lifeless still photos, videos allow people to see the community closer to the way they would actually see it if they were to visit in person, though inevitably somewhat idealized. Seeing people enjoying amenities through a web video is a lot more interesting than seeing pictures, though, because pictures are less capable of capturing the human element or evoking emotion. Another great benefit is seeing a product demonstration video about how a technology product actually works, step by step, so that the potential customer can see how easy it is to use, allaying fears about it being overly complicated or too technical to setup properly. A long, detailed text page with a few pictures about how the product works is a nice addition to video, but not a substitute. Unlike a site with just numerous navigational sections, pictures, and text, a video allows a business to control the way information is given to potential customers.

Better Control of Your Message

On an old Website, the only way to display information was in a logical fashion where the business hopes that visitors click around the site in some sort of sequential order. If a person clicks through the pricing section first, without seeing what the product does, or what services are offered, they may just close the site and go elsewhere. But if they have a video they can see on the home page about what a great product or service the business is offering, they will be less surprised when they see the price. Whereas with a standard Website, the visitor clicks around at will without having much direction, a prominent video on the home page gives them a starting point before looking for more information. It allows the business to control the way the information in the web video is displayed and how it is presented, giving back some control while at the same time giving the site visitor a lot more information that is helpful for their decision-making process as well, which makes them more likely to purchase a product or service from the business.

Improve Sales Conversions

While tracking of such statistics across a broad swath of the Internet is difficult, numerous sites have attested to Web videos converting visitors to clients at a much greater rate than sites with just text and pictures. One of the more well-published studies, by FindLaw (LawyerMarketing.com), indicated that visitors go to an average of 4.8 Websites to find an attorney, but when lawyers added video to their sites, the number dropped to 1.8. In other words, the presence of online video made visitors likely to select a lawyer much more quickly. The Discovery Channel Store did an independent study when the company added video to their e-commerce store and experienced an increase of 78% in sales when customers viewed the product video. A company called iAds integrated their video ads for Tandberg Video Systems, which had a conversion rate of 0.75 to 1.00 percent, but with videos the conversion increased to between 1.5 and 3.0 percent. Numerous such stories are available and there is no doubt that offering video on Websites helps businesses compete more effectively and gain more customers.

With the advance in broadband Internet connections and the high penetration such technology has seen in recent years, most customers have access either at home or at work to high-speed Internet, allowing them to view online videos that give them more information about products and services, help them make decisions with greater confidence, and give businesses greater tools to demonstrate what they offer. In the years to come, companies from all industries and across the Internet will be adding videos to compete more effectively and market themselves with greater confidence. The companies that adopt last will be losing business to companies that have cutting edge videos and quality products or services to offer. Ultimately, the reputation of a company and the products or services they offer will still remain the long-term key to success, but marketing remains an important part of any company’s ability to attract new customers. The professionalism and class of the videos offered online will be the key to competing effectively for years to come.

Small Business Marketing – The Power of a Market Review

Conducting a market review is one of the most important steps in the small business marketing process as it provides together with a business review the information you need to create a dynamic marketing plan. All big businesses conduct these reviews as they know it can save time and money for their business.

A market review does not have to be complicated and a lot will depend on what information you can source. The important factor regarding a market review is to understand the key elements of your market and how these elements can affect your business now and in the future.

The key elements you need to look at when conducting a market review for your small business include:

Size of Market
Your market is simply the overall industry in which you compete. For example if you sell juice then you compete in the Beverage Market. If you sell holidays as a travel agent then you compete in the Tourism Market. Analyzing the size of your market can tell you whether it is growing or declining, help you to identify growth opportunities and for a new small business can determine if the market is large enough to compete in and operate a profitable business. There are many sources you can use to gather information on the size of your market and these include trade magazines, industry associations, search engines and local government websites and resources.

Market Segment Analysis

Segmentation is a process that looks at the total market and then divides the products or services into broad groups that have similar characteristics. In the examples above, whilst the total market is beverages, the segment that is the most important to a juice manufacturer is the Juice Segment. Looking at the total beverage market today throughout the world the leading soft drink manufacturers have entered many of the market segments such as bottled water to expand their business. Market segment analysis also helps you to determine where your small business marketing efforts should be concentrated.

Distribution Channel Analysis
A distribution channel is the way in which your product or service is made available to your customers so they can purchase it. Examples are supermarkets, personal selling (face to face selling), distributors and the internet. Analyzing the sales of each distribution channel in your market enables you to identify which channels are the most important for you to compete in to grow your business.

Market Trends
A trend is any significant change to your market that your business may need to respond to. Examples of market trends include changes to the economy, changing customer demographics, social and global factors (to name a few). If you conduct business in the USA at the moment or are intending to compete in the USA then the concerns about a possible recession and how it could affect your small business needs to be identified so action plans can be put in place to minimize the impact.

Market Seasonality
If a product or service is seasonal it means that the majority of the sales occur at one or a few times a year. Tax accountants obviously have increased sales when the end of the financial year occurs and tax returns and other government reporting are required. Understanding market seasonality factors can lead to your small business maximizing sales through this period and also may highlight opportunities to spread your sales throughout the year.

Competitor Analysis
Your key competitors need to be analyzed in order for you to identify their key strengths and weaknesses and how they compare to your own small business. Reviewing this area means that you can be smarter with your marketing efforts and be proactive against their weaknesses and of course defend against their strengths. One tip that all big businesses do is to have a competitor file with examples of their marketing activities, products or services.

Big businesses know the value of reviewing the market in which they compete and you can to. Remember you can start slowly and just review one section at a time and then put in place activities or make business decisions based on the review to grow your small business.

© Marketing for Business Success Pty Ltd 2008

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