Category Archives: News

9 steps to make your social media get noticed

9Steps_picSocial media is becoming more important in building a brand’s identity, and it is becoming harder to get organic reach. But businesses don’t need to despair; there are steps that can help to get noticed. These 9 steps is a system I use with many of my clients to building their social media presence while increasing their sales. These steps are supported by the trends presented by digital experts at the recent Digital Marketing Conference in Santa Monica, USA, I attended on 29 May.

Step 1: Create your niche

In today’s world most markets are full, so it is beneficial to create a niche for your products so you are differentiated from your competitors and stand out from the crowd. Every business should have at least one niche as it allows your business to specialise in an area. You don’t want to recreate the wheel, you want to see what your competitors and others are doing, personalise it for your business and then create everything around your niche.  A niche is narrowing down your target market to those who you can really approach and those who are your ideal customers. Really associating with a niche and creating a relationship is going to be easier than broadcasting generic messages to a large audience.

Step 2: Know your audience

In following from step 1, the more you know about the audience – the better! People are being bombarded daily with communication messages. Facebook has advised that the average stories people can view when they log on is about 1500 posts – that’s far too many to pay attention to. Therefore the more you write a message that your audience would be interested in and will pay attention to, the better your message will be read, understood and remembered. The best way to do that, is to find out about your audience: what they do, what they believe in, what their interests are, etc. Anything that will enable you to write posts that that associate with. Facebook for instance has Graph search which enables you to find out what the interests are of people who like your page. This is a great start as any information that can help you start to know your audience more, the better for you delivering social media that will stand out.

Step 3: Find your key influencers

Purchase decision making has changed. People are now going to social media for reviews, recommendations and to search for information about businesses and brands. It is important for each business to discover who their audiences’ key influencers are. That way, you can start engaging with these ‘information hubs’ on a personal level, providing an avenue for them to become ambassadors for your business. It’s a key step in the new digital age and still many influencers are being ignored. Unplanned messages are always something an organisation needs to monitor but if the key influencers are on your side, their unplanned messages can be positive for your business not a public relations nightmare. There are a few tools that will enable you to find your influencers quickly, for instance: followerwonk.com, klout.com, twtrland.com – these are just some amongst the large array of tools that are showing up all the time. It’s worthwhile investigating them and work out which one is best for your business.

Step 4: Build a community

Building a community enables your audience member to become ambassadors for your brand which is definitely what every business wants. It has become a regular occurrence for businesses that have engaged communities that if negative comments occur on social media, the community defends the businesses they trust.  But it is vital that your business is transparent and engaging in your social media. All businesses are about increasing sales, and although the desire is to promote your business 100% of the time. It doesn’t work on social media. If the community feels you are all about ‘you’ then they will dislike/unfollow you very quickly. You want to abide by the 80:20 rule most of the time. That is 80% of the time you provide content that is customer centric – what your audience wants to hear and since you know them (step 2) that will be easy. The remaining, 20% of the time you can do promotional posts. By concentrating on the customer centric posts, you deliver messages that your audience wants to hear and are more willing to pay attention to. Therefore creating a positive association with your brand for when they want to purchase within your product category.

Step 5: Tell your unique story

People today want to know the background of businesses, know how they perform and whether they are trustworthy. If you show your audience how your do things, it allows them to get to know you and who your business really is. This in turn builds trust and credibility which is what all businesses want to establish and what consumers are seeking. Consumers today do not trust advertising, but they do trust real stories from businesses that have been endorsed by their friends, reference groups and influencers. The morale of this step is: tell your story! Even if you think it is boring or no one would be interested, it is one more thing that helps the consumer find out about you and want to purchase from you in the future. The aim is to show your business as significant, human and contributes to the community.

Step 6: Consistent communication

All the communication your business delivers needs to build on the synergy of each message, and the best way to do that is have consistent messages. These messages are showcasing who and what your business is and what you stand for. Consistency allows your target audience to know what you are about, what they can expect from your service and products, while enabling trust to be built.  This doesn’t mean that all messages are the same. It means that your communication delivers a consistent experience for the consumer. Your social media messages needs to be consistent with the face to face communication people receive as well as your advertising.

Step 7: Know your voice and personality

Building on from being consistent, your business needs to know your voice and personality. Knowing how you actually want to be portrayed allows you to create messages around those parameters. Each message/post should reinforce the personality, increasing the probability of your brand being front of mind for consumers. As a business, you need to establish what you want to be: is it fun, cheeky and adventurous? Or savvy, friendly and outgoing? Sitting down to work out what your voice and personality are is paramount for establish a great social media presence. It will ensure you are not wishy washy is your messages. If you don’t know your brand, how do you expect your consumer to? Worst case scenarios, the consumers might establish their own voice for you and it might not be what you are after. The more people know who you are and what you stand for, it will help your business stand out from the crowd.

Step 8: Follow trends

This step might seem a little strange. But being aware of what is trending or what is important in people’s lives will help you write posts that are relevant to your target market. Having posts that have the potential to go viral is a huge bonus too. If a topic is trending and it is relevant to your business, that hop on the band wagon and try to be one of the first to ride that trend. For example: In 2014, security guard Greg Heaslip’s email requesting time off was accidentally sent to the whole Arcadia Group where he worked. A hilarious email chain ensued and the emails swiftly became a Twitter trend when a colleague started a campaign with the hashtag #GiveGregTheHoliday. It became one of the highest-trending stories in 2014. Some clever organisations picked up on the trend with travel company TrekAmerica offering Greg the trip of a lifetime to Las Vegas and America’s West Coast. That offer went viral around the internet because it was relevant to the trend allowing TrekAmerica to receive enormous brand exposure for being up-to-date, relevant as well as caring. Other companies tried to get on the trend but if they weren’t relevant to the topic: they were ignored or attacked.  Keeping an eye on what is trending allows you to create messages/posts that have the potential to ride the viral train, so it is worth keeping an eye on the trending topics.

Step 9: Engage

Last but not least is to engage! For me, social media is all about engagement and the more you engage with your audience, the more you get to know them, you build a community and you get noticed. Facebook has changed its logarithm so that having engaging posts where people like, comment or share posts is more important than how many fans/followers you have. If people have not liked, commented or shared your posts, the chances of them seeing your posts in the future diminish. To keep your target market viewing your messages you need to have engaging content that is relevant to them. Remember is it not about you, it is about them. Ask engaging questions, seek their input, get them involved – all these will assist in engaging with your audience and build an engaged community, and in social media that is what you want.

Business’ aims should be to deliver customer-centric content that the consumer associates with so that your brand goes front of mind and when they next go to purchase within your product category, they automatically think of your business/brand. That is what social media can assist with. Social media can give a direct avenue to the consumer through a PC, Smartphone or Tablet. You want to make the most of these two-way communication channels by standing out from the crowd and delivering messages that are directed to your target audience in a way that will build trust. Consumers have more power than ever before, so deliver content that will enable your brand power to be transmitted via social media. Good luck and have fun engaging. #itsallaboutengagement.

Growing Women-led Businesses

path to funded

 

The evidence of the value of women-led businesses is overwhelming.  Women-led businesses perform better in terms of profit, return on equity, and productivity.  They have greater growth potential, and they grow faster than their male-led equivalents.  And they are more likely to operate efficiently.

Yet when it comes to big business, there are fewer Australian companies that are run by women than by men named Peter.  And women-led businesses of any size still find it tough to get funded to grow.

In Australia, women led-businesses represent around a third of SMEs yet only around 10% of applications for funding.  While there is evidence that VCs are less likely to fund women led-businesses than men, there are substantive bursaries available to women-led businesses, and there are ongoing attempts from business groups and working spaces to help support women in business.

But these grants and business growth services for women-led businesses are often undersubscribed or even ignored.  When Business Connector ran an event on getting women-led businesses funded in June 2015, the interest in the event was high, but actual attendance at the event was poor.

So what’s going on?  Why, if the women-led business funnel is so robust, why are so few women business leaders seeking to grow their business.

The answer to these questions still need to be tested in research, but there are a number of hypotheses  about the disconnect between women business leaders and funding sources.

  1. Women prioritise lifestyle and family

This is possibly accurate for women who wish to raise a family and are concerned that growing a business may keep them away from their families.  But it’s a perspective that needs to be challenged.  It’s not just that there is clear evidence of the benefits of men taking on greater responsibility for parenting, but that it can be possible to balance family and lifestyle with managing a business.

And there is increasing evidence that children who spend time in formal childcare from a young age are better adjusted socially, and perform better academically than those children who are cared for at home only by their parents.  The guilt which female carers feel for ‘abandoning’ their children to childcare is almost entirely unjustified

  1. Women are risk averse, and prefer to bootstrap their businesses

The financial risk of borrowing money or losing equity in a business could be seen as factor in disinclining women from seeking funding. Funding may be seen as a shortcut, even a lazier method of business growth than that which is based on sales.

But again, this is an unnecessarily conservative perspective.  While all debt involves some risk, it can be possible to pursue funding which does not require security in the form of family property or assets.  And equity investment actually spreads risk, and can enable women leaders to tap into the expertise a
and connections of equity-oriented investors.

  1. Women are treated poorly by funding sources

This perspective is clearly evidentially based.  There are several studies on the prejudicial manner in which VCs, angel/private equity investors and traditional funding bodies have treated women seeking investment.

But the way to change behaviours of funding organisations and investors is not to avoid the domain. Instead, greater involvement of women is more likely to shift behaviours sooner than avoiding the market.

  1. Women don’t want to run enterprise-sized businesses

This is perhaps a reason based on ambitions for power rather than concerns over time and complexities of staff management within a large enterprise.

But again it’s a perception which deserves interrogation.  While the complexities of running a business expand as a business grows, it does not necessarily follow that a women business leader has to deal with that complexity. Delegation of responsibility for various business operations enables a woman business leader to maintain control of a company, and continue to perform preferred functions while also developing an enterprise-sized business.

  1. Women are more inclined to focus on quality of production than scale

Again, this perception is based in evidence; the strong performance of women-led businesses is strongly correlated with quality of products and services.  But again, a focus on quality does not negate the potential for scaling a business. Indeed, scalability of a business is more likely to be dependent on timeliness and uniqueness of product experiences rather than quality.

This is not an exhasutive list of reasons for women-led businesses avoiding funding, but in our discussions on the matter at the Path to Funded event, each of these ideas was presented as a possible explanation.  But, each of these hypotheses should be robustly challenged.  At best they are excuses, and they are often premised on misconceptions about the possibilities for women-led businesses.

Clearly there is an education challenge that needs to be overcome in driving women to advance their careers and grow their businesses.  Ideally at the next Business Connector event on funding women-led businesses we’ll have a room full of great business leaders, all willing to take the next step.  If you are, or you know a woman out there who deserves a leg up to drive business growth, do us all a favour and encourage her to consider funding.  It could be Australia’s next business superstar.

Further Reading: The Value of Women, Infinitas Asset Management: http://www.infinitasmgt.com.au/value-women/

path to funded

Are you allergic to cowboy advisors?

Cowboy - DSC04511-B-200pxI think it’s fair to say most entrepreneurs and business owners do not like advisors. Particularly the cowboys that come in and tell them what to do in a “paint-by-numbers” fashion, then disappear leaving the founder to do all the hard work without much real guidance.

Whether those advisors are called coaches, consultants or just advisors they’re unfortunately not exactly ‘Mr Popular’ around the traps. But it didn’t have to be that way.

Then there are advisory board members. They still have that ‘advisor’ word attached to them, so are they any different? And what role do they fill relative to normal board of directors?

Board advisor and coach James Cowie says: “people should expect their advisory board member or their non-executive directors to make the company significantly more money than your investment in them ”

“If they can’t do that, they should fire themselves”, continues James.

So what happens with advisory boards? Is that really a board or not?

Business Connector’s Joanne Jacobs says “advisory boards provide the owner more flexibility than a formal board of directors, and it’s often a good stepping stone along the way to establishing a formal board of directors.”

“However directors should be aware that under the law you don’t lessen your responsibility or liability just because it’s called an advisory board,” continued Ms Jacobs.

Why are advisory boards the best solution for a rapidly growing business? Because at the early stage you often need to change direction more often.

David Close, Professional Director and Management Consultant in Brisbane says  “Advisory boards are admittedly a hybrid – they can act as a board but can also act as individual advisers. It’s a powerful combination that is helpful for international expansion, capital raises and many other significant events in the growth of a business”

“As you nurture a business from concept to rapidly growing success, it is important to go beyond just recruiting the best talent. Scalable structures, processes and workflows have to be created to support the business and its growth. Establishing what may initially be just a small advisory board is a great way for a company to start developing such mechanisms making it ready to rapidly scale to a much bigger game,” says international management consultant Jai Gill. “Expertise is required to guide the business, particularly when funds are limited.”

Drawing on top expertise and at the same time having people with you on your journey who care beyond the next invoice or pay check is essential to growing a truly successful business – many consultants don’t want to bite the hand that feeds them so they aren’t necessarily telling it like it is to the business owners whereas a board member has a vested interest in doing just that.

Drew Young, a top telco CFO and advisory board member reminds us “the purpose of a business is to generate a return for shareholders and other stakeholders. Establishing a board is an essential part in the process of ensuring this return is generated and there is a body overseeing the decisions of the founder and CEO — not to mention being there to provide guidance and support towards success for all.”

PS. And no, there’s nothing wrong with most advisors/consultants and the work they do—however, the effects of a few cowboys are…. lingering.

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Are you thinking about how to structure your board or advisory board? Join the conversation here, or, if you want a more confidential discussion, connect with me direct (mikebp@businessconnector.com.au).

The failure of getting funded

I’ve had enough! Over the last six weeks the number of horror stories about companies not achieving the funding they should reasonably expect has led me to grab the pen on this early Sunday morning. Below you’ll see the top FIVE mistakes that commonly trips up the best laid plans of mice and men!

 

Mistake #1: Working with the wrong perspective

Last week I was forwarded a business plan and IM for a brilliant company. They’re on the cusp of an exemplary global expansion. They have made significant local sales over the last 18 months, and somebody wrote all the ‘right’ documents for them, to get the funded. An these advisors were supposedly ‘professionals’. The documents look amazing. They went to market.

Then nothing!

Many months later it is now clear that the documents will never raise a cent. They tell the wrong story. So what happens is that potential investors simply get the wrong perspective. And that’s either confusing or unattractive, in either case it doesn’t release funds. And it casts doubt on the ‘professionalism’ of the firm of advisors.

 

Mistake #2: Go–to–market strategy is wrong

I see this all too often. Which is why when we at Business Connector work with companies looking to raise funds we start here. If you get the go–to–market wrong everything else falls apart.

Ironically there are two scenarios

If you get funded on the wrong strategy (many have) you get the money and start burning it. And given the plan has been validated by the fact people invested most entrepreneurs would (understandably) not change the plan in a hurry.

However, if the investors spot the strategy is wrong, guess what? You don’t even get the money!

How wrong does wrong get? Recently I sat with a founders team who were planning to take a new product (unknown) into a new (unknown) market, instead of taking the same product into the market they already have a stellar reputation in. Go figure!

 

Mistake #3 Looking for the money in all the wrong places

Gold-List2-150By listening to a lot of business owners we discovered the best strategy for a large majority of businesses is a combination of funding sources. What I mean by that is;

Grants: Most companies can claim some level of R&D Tax Rebate. It may not be much but isn’t $10K better in your pocket than in the government’s? How about export support when you go global? How about all the bigger programs!

Lending: Over the last 12 months I have interviewed a number of business owners who have had great success with lenders. And put up no security. If your business is cash flow rich and produces a high level of profits you should check in with the banks and other lenders. You’ll be surprised. (And if your business does not produce cashflow and profits, maybe you need to take a closer look at that first.) More and more people are also seeing there are many other forms of lending available; cash-flow, leasing, credit cards, and more

Investors: This is for many the only place that is being checked out. Yes, getting investor money is a great step up, but what if there was a ladder you could use to scale the mountain that getting investor funding often is?

Most investors would gain increased confidence in your business if the government and the bank has already backed it, don’t you think?

 

Mistake #4 Not bringing the right advisors on to your team

So you want to build a fast-growing global company? Great! But look around you and see how many on your team have already worked internationally or scaled a business fast. If the answer is ‘none’ then probably time to quickly rethink your team.

Advisors come in many flavours. My favourite are members of the board. Why? Because when people join your board they’re most likely very passionate about you and your business. When you hire a random advisor (and my observation is that most are hired on a rather random basis) they’ll do the job and then move on. After all that is what you pay them to do.

You hire a board member and, guess what, they become your advocate—24/7! Even better if you’re smart about hiring that board member they can help you hire that advisor as they will have your best interest at heart (doesn’t look good that a company you’re on the board of is tanking).

 

Mistake #5 Thinking one solution or person is a cure-all

Which brings us right into this point. Chimeras in the mind of the entrepreneurs! Just a few days ago I heard it again: “Just go and find the board member who can be our front line BDM and will also bring the first portion of investment capital in.” Really? If such a creature exists I would like to hire an army of them!

While there may be a person out there who could match all this they’re few and far in between. Instead here’s a better scenario: Find a great board member with a strong commercial acumen. Depending on what specifically you need this could match all sorts of people from CFO’s to marketing experts to coaches, but they have to have a strong commercial sensibility.

With the board member on your side you then go hunting for team members like a BDM and for investors. Not to mention collaboration partners, JV s and other such fun. Business, contrary to common folklore, is not a solitary pursuit (“It’s lonely at the top”) but a team sport.

 

Mistake #6 Not spotting the answers

Yes they were right there in front of you. In this article. But more importantly in your business journey. The question is: Are you truly ready for success? If you are then avoiding the five core mistakes above will serve you well, instead look for the opposite of each:

  • Make the perspective of the business clear cut, keep evaluating, and keep enhancing it
  • Make sure everybody supports that. If they don’t, it’s probably best to switch advisors or team members (as painful as that may be)
  • Prove your go to market strategy (sell something!), and always base it on known quantities if at all possible
  • Be open to funding from all corners. And expect if you have a large project the funding will come together from a combination of sources. Not just multiple investors but through collaborations, loans and more
  • Expand your team with people who care about you, your business and what it will bring to market
  • Look to build an army of super-experts each doing their bit instead of finding the person who is supposed to do it all.
  • Keep learning and growing.
  • And last but not least: It’s a beauty contest! The more attractive your business is to investors, to customers, to potential team members, the easier it all becomes. Thankfully beauty is more than skin-deep!

Funding–the lifeblood of growing a business fast

Want to grow your business rapidly AND safely?

Through working with a series of diverse businesses in the last year it has become clear there are just a few key factors that, when observed, ensures rapid and successful growth. Below you will find the four you need to keep your eye on:

Profit margin

Growing a business fast on a skinny margin is very tough. Years ago I consulted briefly to a rapidly expanding fashion business. Things were going well. Every season’s collection was twice the size of the previous one. Because the margin was around 50% the profit from the previous season was used to buy production for the next season.

In essence the revenue doubled every season but the take-home pay remained… Very close to nil. And even worse, with each season the risk grew. Not a healthy picture at all.

Cash Cycle

You really have just three choices: Get your money before you deliver, at the time of delivery, or some time after. Whenever you receive your money will not affect your profitability, but it will dramatically impact how fast you can expand.

In order to successfully and safely grow your business you need to find a way to get paid no later than the time of delivery of your service or product. Here’s a simple piece of maths: According to Christian Luckow, CEO of Omniveta Australia, the average Aussie business gets paid on 72-day terms. That’s almost 2.5 months! Assuming an average rate at the bank for an overdraft of 16% it makes a 5% COD discount seem a small price to pay.

But the cash cycle is really what stops the business in its tracks. Let’s say you’re expanding rapidly, and the bank extends you an overdraft. However, the 2-3 months of revenue that most banks will at most extend will run out like water in the desert. Then what?

So make sure you design your business such that you get your money now. It’s safe. Even if it means lower income.

Funding

Yes, money does make the world go around… You need to ensure there is adequate cash in the bank for your daily, weekly and monthly operational requirements

So how do you do it?

Today’s answer is to truly draw on all available sources of funding. Government grants like the much-misunderstood R&D Tax Rebate, loans from friends and family, credit cards. But don’t be afraid to approach a bank or alternate funders like FIFO Capital.

If you’re aiming to build a big business look for investors, angels, private individuals or funding platforms like ASSOB in Queensland. Private investors, while they may feel ‘hard to get’ will often the most obvious solution to early stage capital funding.

Use the cash for the right purpose

You can of course argue that cash is cash… But here’s the caution, that have sent many companies down the drain: When you start siphoning operational cash off to start new strategic initiatives. Say you open a new interstate office and fund it using operational cash. But you hit a few delays.

It takes another month before the lease is sorted out, then there is a delay with the people doing your fit-out, then a fault in the air-con delays your move-in by three weeks. Now your first hire, your sales person in the office turned out to be a dud, you have to find a new one. Before you know it you have six months of expenses on lease, fit-out, legals, hiring costs, but you’re yet to turn a dollar in the new part of the business. In the meantime you as the owner have spent time away from the existing core business…. Cash flow is draining everywhere you look. You didn’t have a strategic reserve? Things are looking critical…

Making events purposeful

Event - from wikimediaI attended a promotional event last week for a major technology brand, where a couple of Australian business leaders stood along side a US celebrity to talk about the progress of technology and their business experiences.

At least I think that’s what it was for.

Actually I have very little understanding what the event was about, why I received an invitation (other than as a technology influencer) and what the return on investment must have been for the tech brand running the event.  There were some great moments in the 2 hour event, and it was very well-attended (around 500 people were there).  But as for direct influence over the buying habits of the attendees, or their advocacy in the market, I suspect the event had next to zero impact.  And it all comes down to purpose.

I’m often amazed that business events don’t seem to have a purpose.  While there may be some great draw-cards that attract bottoms on seats, unless there is an explicit purpose that is clear in all messaging, in the structure and engagement with the event, and in the outputs from the event, it’s often extremely difficult to gauge success. In most cases, the problem of communicating event purpose comes down to the reason why an event is held in the first place.

Is it a launch?  Then the company/product needs to be the focus of the event, and messaging should talk about the company and its products.
Is it an industry discussion?  Then the messaging should be about educating the industry, and providing a platform for debate on issues arising.

Is it an event to support the development of up-and-coming businesses? Then the messaging should be around fostering future talent or celebrating new successes.

Is it a networking event?  Then the messaging should emphasise the opportunities to be derived from meeting people at the event, and profiling a few invited participants and acknowledging their expertise.

It’s not rocket science.  Tell your potential and invited attendees what to expect, and give them an idea of what’s expected from them.  And it’s not enough for event organisers to tell attendees that they want them to tweet and blog about their events.  They should instead be clear about what they are going to do with information shared about any specific event.  How will that feedback help support the future of the business?  Why do they want to read posts about the event?  How will they engage with that content over time? What kind of relationship will be forged from participation with the firm?

Stop measuring the number of posts you received, or the number of instagram pictures (100 pictures of the same view of a stage provides precisely zero value).  Instead measure what you are trying to achieve, and engage your audience in collaborative development of outcomes and outputs from your events.

Events can be powerful vehicles for engaging audiences, but running events is a skill.  You need time management, guest management and you need to look after your attendees before, during and after the event.  But most importantly, people need to know why they are there, and what value their presence contributes.  Only then will organisations truly understand the success of their events.

Why Company Directors Need to be ‘Out, Loud and Proud’ on Social Media

Do you know who should be a company’s biggest champions?

company directors social mediaEmployees, I hear you say. And you’re probably right, but that’s only going to happen if a company has a super-engaged workforce and its employees are actually empowered to spread the love via social channels, as well in offline forums (public events, with friends over the backyard barbecue). Actually, not only empowered, but motivated to do so.

This is particularly important today as social media can help spread positive vibes about a brand far and wide, and if these ‘social vibes’ emanate authentically from passionately engaged employees, then it’s a massive win for the organisation in question.

But as research tells us time and time again, employees are not engaged.

Indeed, according to a Gallup study in the US, many employees are confused as to what the company they work for stands for:

Too few “brand ambassadors” – According to the report, “Only 41% of employees felt that they know what their company stands for and what makes its brand different from its competitors’ brands.”  As always, such findings point to the need for more and clearer communication from senior management to all organizational levels. (SOURCE)

And herein lies the problem, and it’s not the fault of employees but more so a lack of passionate external communication (not to mention clarity internally) from senior executives and company directors.

I’ve always maintained the ‘C’ Suite, including company directors, should be at the forefront of a brand’s communication with the public. In the past that would mostly have meant being front and centre of dealings with the media (preferably sans stilted messaging and media-trained slickness).

Actively engaged

But today communications leadership also means being actively engaged on social channels.

If a company’s board is not out there championing the business they’re directors of, if they’re not leading conversation or generating debate around issues affecting their industry or trends relevant to the company they represent, then who will?

You certainly can’t expect your employees to embrace social media and become unofficial ambassadors for your organisation if you’re not prepared to do it yourself.

Nuances of new media

There’s also a second very important reason why company directors need to be active on social media.

They need to understand, with depth, how it works. They need to develop an intuitive feeling for the nuances of the new media landscape. They need to ‘get’ how consumers today are connecting with brands and with each other using social technologies. In short, company directors need to be fully ‘socialised’.

If you haven’t got first-hand knowledge and experience of the technologies that are disrupting the way businesses market to consumers (indeed, an understanding of how social media can impact upon the operation of a business positively or negatively), you will be at a distinct disadvantage in the boardroom.

Companies need directors who are not only passionate about social media but also willing (and keen) to use their social networks and online publishing platforms to create content on behalf of the brand and interact with customers and influencers.

Having directors who are part of a company’s social PR efforts, who are ‘out, loud and proud’ on social media, will speak volumes about your brand in a positive way.

6 questions—the answers may determine your success in 2015

It’s just a few days to the New Year will begin. There is nothing like the start of a new year to take stock and re–plan for a whole fresh year. Having worked closely with a number of business owners and entrepreneurs in the last 2 years here’s what I have seen again and again that makes the difference between wild success… and not quite so

6 simple questions that you need to ask yourself, not just NYE but every day when you get out of bed in 2015. Or even better get somebody else to ask you. Time and time again.

 

1. Passion

Many people express this as you have to love what you do. My view is that when you get to do what you love (the other way around!) a special kind of magic unfolds. The trick here is of course to find a passion that also makes a profit.

And once you find that passion you just never stop going. It’s that endless fuel that will set you apart from others. Going that extra 10%, working that extra hour, reinvesting that extra 10%, will, over the years, make a huge difference. And 2015 is going to be the same for that.

So check in, have you found the profit within your passion?

 

Alice Which Way to Go Quote2. Plan

Simon Sinek famously stated “Start With Why”. Whether you are pitching to capital investors or selling to a large new customer they all want to know… Why?

Once you know Why, it’s time to make a plan for how to get where you’re going. Without a plan you’ll be like Alice in Wonderland taking advice from the Cheshire cat.

What I see a lot of people forget is that the moment you have completed your plan you need to start monitoring it. Are you on the right track? If not, time to course correct. And the monitoring needs to be a lot more than the accountant’s P&L.

Remember that your revenue is a consequence of your business activities (not the other way around), so it’s often more useful to track the real activities (meetings, phone calls, etc) than just revenue.

Do yourself the favour and check in, is your plan in line with Your Why” or are you just walking the long road?

 

3. Leverage

Almost every business has three main leverage points; Systems, Team and Capital.

The sequence here is important. Once you’re up and running well, invest in systems before people. Or you may end up hiring people who drag you down because they don’t have proper structures within which to work. It’s not fair on them and it will set you back.

It’s also lot easier to convince the bank to give you money once you have a team and have great systems in place.

Take a look at your business as it is; are you using all the leverage you can?

 

4. Team

Yes, team is so important it requires its own mention. Because there are so many great choices. You can collaborate. Start a joint venture. Hire an off-shore contractor. Get an intern. Look for a co-founder (if you don’t already have one). Or simply hire a team.

Make sure that whatever you do, share your vision. Explain Your Why. Make it clear what is your passion. And select your future team member foremost on their passion, on their personality traits, on their background. Not on whether they fulfill a specific set of technical skills. Most people can quickly learn skills they’re weak in, but changing somebody’s personality can take a lifetime—or more.

There is no right or wrong in this regard, but sit back and take stock; are you clear on which are the best way(s) to grow your team?

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5. Revenue

While revenue may not be the first thing you need to measure it’s possibly the most important.

While you need to grow profitably and preferably only take on profitable revenue in some businesses you go through a phase of unprofitable revenue growth to get to a state of profit.

Should you totally focus on doing one thing really well? Yes! Should you put all your eggs in one basket? No!

The above are both common bits of advice from well-meaning people and even business experts. How do you balance that? At the early stages of a business you need to experiment, test 2 – 5 different revenue streams over a few months. See what takes off. Then cut what doesn’t seem to show much promise.

Focus on growing that one revenue stream so it becomes strong, self-sufficient to the point where it supports you, not the other way around.

Then it’s most often time to look for the next ‘big’ thing. You need to create another pillar of revenue, build that up while maintaining the first one; it’s often a much easier way to double the size of your business than to try and double the existing line of revenue.

And look for something recurring. Where you bill every client every month. Even if it means you simply change your sales model. If you sell something for $20,000 can you sell the same thing for $2,000 per month and give people a reason to continue year after year?

How does your business stack up?

 

6. Attraction

Business is like the dating game. You have to be attractive.

But when in business it’s the business, not just you, that needs to be attractive. Is the business easy to get along with? Does it hang with great people? Will it turn heads when it walks down the street? Is it a great conversationalist so it’s always invited to parties? Is it genuine and honest? Does it cook up something mouthwatering that people come and visit for?

Think of the qualities that attracts people to each other. Then think of how you can apply them to your business. You will achieve remarkable results.

In this game attraction certainly runs more than skin deep!

 

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Accelerated Business Growth – the four stage model

As I have been explaining growth to a number of business owners lately it’s occurred to me that our way of accelerated business growth can been collapsed into a really simple model;

  1. Revenue growth. We have to start with revenue growth because, while profits are important, without revenue nothing much else can grow;
  2. Establishing a board of directors or an advisory board. It’s important this step is commenced much earlier than what most do, in order to build trust and credibility for later stages;
  3. Creating / adjusting the financial model and the business plan. So am I suggesting you start the business without a plan? For most businesses a rough sketch is far more powerful than a detailed plan when it comes to building revenue. What most founders  find is where they thought the gold was is not where it turns out to be, so after getting revenue under control, there is a new appreciation of the business, leading to an adjustment of targets, markets, methods and more.
  4. Raising growth funding. Whether you’re gunning for a big capital raise, money from the bank or cash flow funding from an alternate lender now is the time to strike. With a proven revenue model and business plan to match

Revenue Growth

From revenue you can pay the bills, yourself, your future business plan, your advisers and your long suffering spouse/partner, if you have one. Importantly, from revenue growth you rapidly learn if the business works – or not. Which I suspect is why many don’t embrace it; it reveals the truth.

And that’s why you need to start right here.

What I find with most clients is that while the definition of the customer is roughly right, we often need to start with

  • Change of messaging
  • Change of conversion tactics
  • Setting up with new joint venture relationships

And more… However, once revenue growth gets under way things can start going really fast.

Establishing a Board

A board is important not just for capital raise purposes. And they’re certainly not just for making your business look more bright and shiny. They, generally speaking, come In three shades:

  • Sounding Board (aka Bouncing Board; they’re great to bounce ideas off)
  • Advisory Board
  • Board of Directors

Within a week after starting Business Connector I started putting together a sounding board. And many of those people are still around to be a sounding board two years later. Don’t expect formal advice, but do ask for unfiltered opinion and insight; nobody gains from being ‘nice’

The more formal you make it, the more you’ll get out of it. It’s the same difference as getting a family member to help in the business, vs hiring a full time staff member.

Revenue Model / Business Plan

All the great cash flow and revenue models I have seen starts with the basics: How is every dollar made at the level of the individual transaction. From there it builds up, aggregates. Takes in expenses, shows the staff growth. But you have to start with the basics; how is every sales dollar transacted.

When you write the business plan focus on proving just two things:

  • Why everybody who is a potential core customer will absolutely love what you sell and therefore want to transact with you.
  • Why the investor money is safer with you and has a higher potential payback than anywhere else.

Don’t worry nearly as much about mission, vision and fluff, don’t pain over whether your illustrations are perfect. There will be no illustration more beautiful than the one showing your revenue growth over the last three months next to the list of great advisors or board members you have supporting and believing in the business.

 

Capital Raise

In this context I mean capital raise very broadly. Convertible note, equity, bank loan, crowd-fund; whatever floats, as long as it fills your coffers. The aim of the game is to fill up on cash, to build a war chest so that as you roll out your marketing machine you have lots of juice available to run that machine for as long as is required to win the battle.

If you’re going to the bank, expect it’s all done in two weeks. If you’re raising equity capital expect 6 – 8 weeks. But expect that it will really only work if you have it all prepared.

In the world of social media, there is the good, the bad and the ugly.

Panic_buttonA crisis can strike at any time, from anywhere and most organisations are not prepared for the unexpected. In most situations, social media can be fantastic in building communities, in getting your message to your customers/clients/stakeholders, and in adding value to your brand. But when a crisis hits, negative unplanned messages can go out-of-control in seconds which can ruin an organisation’s reputation. In today’s society, anyone’s voice in social media can be heard and bad news travels faster and further than good news. But it is not the end of the world when a crisis hits, as most of society understands that we are all human and mistakes happen. It is how an organisation manages the situation that will determine the extent of damage the crisis causes and of course what the crisis is from. Here are some examples of recent crises that all organisations can learn from.

Lesson 1: Don’t be disrespectful. A crisis that is taking place currently is the ABC’s error in their tweet when, South Australian batsman, Phil Hughes was being carried from the field after being hit on the back of the head with a bouncer. ABC tweeted “@abcnews: Cricket NSW could not confirm if Phil Hughes was alive when he left the SCG“.  This is an example of ABC trying to break news before confirming the situation and not taking into account the family, friends and supporters of the cricketer. The community responded in outrage due to the disrespect of this tweet, especially considering the actual situation of Hughes being in critical condition not dead. Over an hour later, to ABC’s credit, they tweeted an apology, but it did not curb the reaction. It will take until more information is known about Phil Hughes’ condition before the public will calm down. The social media nightmare is being played out in the media and at the time of writing, Phil Hughes is in critical condition in the intensive care ward at St Vincent’s Hospital. (Edit: Unfortunately, Phil Hughes died on Thursday 27 November 2014, two days after the incident – My thoughts are with him, his family and friends, and as well, with the bowler, Sean Abbott in this terrible accident).

Lesson 2: Don’t block people or delete all negative comments. Kate vanderVoort from Social Mediology reported on the 3 November 2014, in her blog, Don’t be Quirky! 7 Tips to Avoid a Social Media Crisis in Your Small Business, of an incident that was taking place about Quirky Bubba, where a recently purchased product fell apart – not something you would want in a cot. So the mother contacted the organisation to which they said they would replace the faulty parts, but the mother said she wanted a refund to which the organisation refused  and then fell silent. The mother posted on their Facebook page, to which they responded by deleting the post and blocking her. The mother then told her mother’s group, resulting in nearly 300 mothers posting on Quirky Bubba’s page and again the organisation just deleted and blocked. Blocking that many of your target market is never a good option. In addition, today people are social media savy enough that if a Facebook page looks one-sided, it will never be considered truthful. Don’t delete all negative comments – turn them around for your benefit. It is worthwhile to note, if the organisation offered a refund in the first place, the story would not have gone viral and it could have saved their reputation.

Lesson 3: Don’t be defensive and do apologise immediately if necessary. In October 2014, Women’s Health Magazine Australia  was the lead sponsor and organiser of the Women’s Heath I Support Women In Sport Awards night, where they organised 3 models to be body painted in Australian sporting uniforms as part of the entertainment. Some of the public felt that having 3 semi-naked models was sexist and objectified women in an industry already considered to be sexist to women. The Editor initially responded on Wednesday 15 October 2014, by being defensive in saying: “Dear Readers, Women’s Health I Support Women in sport is about celebrating the achievements of Australian sportswomen. It is disappointing that this is now the focus rather than the phenomenal sporting talents of our Australian female athletes”. This response just added fuel to the fire by blaming the public for their views. They did then apologise on the 17 October 2014, in stating: “We apologise for any offence caused by what was supposed to be an artistic execution on the night of our I Support Women in Sport Awards. It was in no way the intention. We got it wrong and we wholeheartedly apologise.

We have since been contacting the guests who attended the awards to apologise and express our sincere disappointment that this has taken the spotlight away from the phenomenal sporting talents of our female athletes.

Women’s Health I Support Women in Sport has always been about celebrating and recognising Australian sportswomen and we hope the focus can now return to the achievements of these incredible athletes.”

If they apologised from the instant people starting reacting, then it might have calmed the situation. But apologising for ‘offence caused’ 2 days after their initial defensive response was not considered genuine and inflamed the situation further. People posted on Women’s Health’s Facebook page that there were never buying the magazine again or cancelling their subscription. The crisis did not last long, as the public can move on to the next crisis quickly, depending on the severity of the crisis. But they can also cause long term effects for an organisation if people do boycott the organisation due to a crisis.

There are numerous examples throughout the world of bad handling of social media by organisations. But don’t panic, it is not all doom and gloom, organisations can handle it before it gets out of control or at the very least can over come a crisis.

Do-n-DontsSteps to defend your reputation

  1. Be Proactive – build an audience before you really need them.
  2. Have a Crisis Communication Plan – so you know what to do when something happens.
  3. Act quickly – monitor your social media so you can respond immediately so the crisis doesn’t go out of control.
  4. Engage with the nay-sayers (where appropriate) – this gives the opportunity to turn them into customers.
  5. Encourage dialogue – depending on the situation, you might want to take the conversation with the key person off-line and resolve the incident.
  6. Deliver on your work – if you promise something, make sure you deliver on it.
  7. Resolve the crisis – when the incident has been resolved, make sure you go back and post that the incident has been resolved.

Social media can be fantastic for organisations, as it is a great way of engaging with your clients/customers/stakeholders. Yes being in social media can be risky but there is a greater risk not being in social media than there is in being in it. You just need to plan – know what your mission and objectives are, and be flexible and agile in your tactics. If you tell it all, tell is fast and tell the truth: you will build confidence and trust in your organisation, which will hopefully lead to having people on your side.