25 Jun 2013

10 Tips & Digital Marketing tools for every small business

Marketing can make or break a business. Like a thoroughly and thoughtfully organised dinner party, a well considered and executed marketing campaign can be the difference between satisfied guests that can't wait to come again, or guests that can't throw the next invitation in the bin quickly enough. It's the difference between your company dominating and thriving against competition, or just constantly treading water; or worse still, failing.

There are many simple tools designed to make marketing for business owners as easy and time efficient as possible. Utilised correctly these tools are your best friends, think of them as your royal armoury. The problem is that there are so many tools and opinions on the market it's sometimes difficult and time-consuming for you to find the best ones amongst the quagmire.

This short post is an interview I conducted with a good friend Oliver Mistry; part business owner of the very successful Personal and Corporate Chef company At Your Table, and currently Strategy Director at Leo Burnett, Sydney.

What better way to get some useful insights of a small business beyond the many purely theoretical posts I often read than from a successful, blooming, and fast expanding company that prides itself on service and marketing excellence.

This post follows on from a couple of recent posts I wrote that are also well worth checking out 'Digital Marketing & Social Media Tools' & '10 Marketing & Social Media Blogs you should read'.


At Your Table

What is At Your Table ?

At Your Table Personal Chefs & Catering is one of Australia’s fastest growing and most respected catering companies. Their passion for food is reflected in the quality, creativity and attention to detail they bring to their services. At Your Table offer a boutique and personal service with one on one consultation right the way through to your event. Catering for Sydney & Melbourne locations.

Hungry? I am now!

10 Tips & Digital Marketing tools for every small business

1. Get Your Business Plan sorted

How important is a Business Plan?

In today’s digital world setting up a business has never been easier, well in theory at least.

The fundamentals still remain paramount and with such a high failure rate of new businesses ranging between 50% and 95% you want to make sure you have those locked down and watertight before you part with your hard earned cash setting anything up.

Having a thoroughly researched and well thought through business plan is fundamental before you even start. There are hundreds of free online resources for business plan creation, simply Google it but also check out bplans.com .

Your business plan needs to encompass your idea and business model: i.e. how you plan to make a profit, without this you don’t have a business.

At a bare minimum your plan needs to also include:
  • A snapshot of your industry or category including trends and future predictions for the size and growth of the market you are planning to enter. 
  • A broad understanding of the competition, the barriers to entry, and legalities like licensing or insurance needed. 
  • You need to carefully research and plan the fixed and variable costs to set up and run your business, the revenue streams you plan to drive, your margins on them, and the timeframe for breaking even on your investment; future growth and profit. 
  • You need a thorough marketing plan that will create demand for your product or service to achieve the sales forecast, and know how much this will cost to execute. 
  • If all the above stacks up and the plan is worth following then you need a bank account, a URL, and you need to register your business name - make sure both the business name and URL are available before doing either!
Once you have all of the above in place and you’re ready to go.

2. Website Builder Tools

What website building tools do you recommend and why?

You don’t need to be a developer to build a professional website. These days there are many free tools available and they are easy enough for almost anyone to use and get a great outcome.

Weebly and Wix are two of my favorites, I have tested them both and both are excellent, read some online reviews and decide which is best for your business. They both also create mobile versions of your site which is essential.

Example of a Weebly built site
Example of a Wix built site

3. Google Analytics

How important are website analytics?

Setting up site analytics is essential for any business website and easy to do. Analytics will tell you how your site is performing whatever the role it plays in your business - from services store front to e-commerce platform. Google’s offering is not only free but very easy to use yet has some quite advanced functionality and solid capabilities. The support is great and there are hundreds of video and web tutorials to help you on your way.

4. Social Media Pages and plugins

Should businesses embrace Social Media channels?

Most businesses need a social presence in todays market place. Social media is an everyday part of the lives of millions of consumers - they spend more time on these platforms than almost any other.

Having a presence is one thing, growing an engaged following of fans or followers is another. It's free and quick to set up most pages but takes time to build a following and engage with them with relevant content. Be prepared to pay to really drive reach on these sites and apps as things are changing in social media marketing land and social networks are constantly seeking to monetize their platforms. There are also many ways to integrate social into your site using free plugins, you can use them to drive additional followers allowing your site users to seamlessly share your content to their Social Networks. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google Plus and Pinterest are all worth looking into. If you plan on generating lots of video content, a YouTube Channel is essential.

5. A business Blog

Is blogging useful for your business? If yes, how?

Business blogs are great for driving traffic to your site both from the SEO benefits they provide to the engaged subscribers they can garner. Blogs are free and easy to set up and almost any business can create one with content that would be of interest and add value to potential customers or clients. Blogger and Wordpress are great paces to start.

6. Mailchimp - Online Database and Email Management

What advice do you have for email marketing?

If you have a website and it's getting traffic then you should consider growing a database of your customers. Mailchimp is a freemium database and email marketing solution. You can build and host web forms to grow users in your database and you can manage your base and send email communications to them. It has in built reporting and testing functionality allowing you to segment the audience and target content specifically, and the email drag and drop editor is a pleasure to use. It is also very compliant when it comes to spam and operates and advocates best practice subscribe and unsubscribe management.

Try building a database and keeping them up to date with content relevant to your business or category.

7. Google Apps, Docs and Tools

Are there any other tools that you recommend?

Google has a host of great business application tools including: Gmail which you can use as your main business email service – If you are used to Outlook you may find it odd at first but you get used to it very fast, Google use it across their business and seem to be doing ok! Google docs which emulates popular Microsoft office applications. Google Drive which enables you to store, share, co-edit documents in the cloud, Webmaster Tools which is the essential basic dashboard for any site owner and sets the base essential for SEO in terms of sitemap submission and linking information, Google Places for Business which is your online business directory listing and also essential for SEO.

8. AdWords

Do you use Paid Search and what advice do you have for people new to it?

Google’s AdWords platform is a great paid driver of traffic to your site and business. The three broad advertising categories it covers are Search, Display and Video.

A word of warning - if you don’t know what you are doing here I would try and get some advice from someone that does, or try and train yourself using the large amount of available content online about this platform. It's easy to blow your budget and not achieve your desired outcomes if you don’t know what you are doing.

Consider starting slowly on search only using a relatively small test budget and low number of very relevant keywords. Make sure you have your Google analytics account and your Adwords account connected so you can see what the paid traffic did when it got to your site. Slightly more advanced but essential is to set up conversion tracking so you know what commercial return your paid advertising investment is driving.

9. Xero

What financial accounting and reporting systems do you recommend?

Xero is a cloud-based financial accounting and reporting system that is fast becoming the best in class compared to older services such as MYOB. It is an easy to use, flexible system with some great plugins that enable integration with CRM systems, mobile POS and take the hassle out of receipting and much more. It’s a subscription based service so ongoing upgrades and support are all part of the price. We just converted to it.

10. Outsourcing platforms – oDesk

Outsourcing platforms - any recommendations and advice on these?

In todays globally connected world and economy outsourcing is becoming ever easier and more accessible. There are many providers Freelancer.com and oDesk are two. I use oDesk as its platform and functionality is super easy to use, there are thousands of freelancers across many business services with a broad range of skills and pricing. There is great functionality for searching for contractors, evaluating them based on past performance and feedback, shortlisting and hiring them. It's then easy to manage them on projects with the ability to monitor their work and hours accrued. There are always functions within your business that make more commercial sense to outsource. If you don’t delegate you wont grow. Give it a try.

You can learn more about At Your Table on the following links

Want to learn more about Digital Marketing and Marketing in general then have a read of these posts.

Digital Marketing & Social Media Tools' & '10 Marketing & Social Media Blogs you should read'

About the author
Si Muddell is a Digital Strategist who has worked extensively both agency and client side. Si is fascinated about marketing, psychology & what motivates people, and loves guitar, surfing and travelling.

Get connected with Si on TwitterLinkedIn &
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