The benefits of a shared office space

11_Shared office space

Affordability
Traditional commercial leases require many tenants to sign up to long-term leases with 24-month commitments not an uncommon condition. Such agreements are generally for more space than is required and at a cost that is more than most early stage businesses can afford or really need to pay. By sharing a space small business can cut down on their initial expenses and free up some money to increase cash flow.

Networking
Networking accounts for 87% of business in the marketplace. Shared office spaces do away with the homogeneity of a traditional office and bring together different businesses, all with networks of their own. The likelihood of getting the key introductions or strategic partnership you’ve been looking for increases significantly in a shared office space.

Flexibility
Most shared office space platforms offer bookings by the hour, day, week or month, which is ideal for business trips, short term engagements or simply for the peace of mind that comes with flexibility. Businesses only pay for the amount of desks that they need, when they use them. The flexibility that comes with the space also means you can work from different spaces and expand your network even further.

Collaboration
Innovation doesn’t happen in a bubble. Sharing office space means you always have somebody to bounce ideas off or get insights from. Don’t know your SEO from your PPC? Chances are somebody in the office, particularly those with established businesses, would have asked the same questions at some point and gone through the same challenges.

Community
Business can be tough and running one can be tougher. Sometimes all you need is to share your experience with others that are going through the same thing and the sense of community that comes with a shared office space helps to facilitate such conversations. Simply going to a common place of business puts you on the same page and makes it harder to throw in the towel when the time gets tough.

What is the difference between a website and a mini-site?

10_Website vs minisite

A mini-site is like a smaller website. They are usually used by small new businesses just to have a presence on the web and can be quite effective.Oftentimes businesses delay launching their first website because they know the money, time, and energy investment will be significant.

These delays are completely understandable—especially when you consider one of the biggest problems businesses run into after starting a website is the frustration, and delays of the amount of time/energy required to create an effective business website and then constantly needing to update and maintain it. In this sense a mini-site can be a viable and valuable alternative. A mini-site only has to be a couple of pages big, and can relay only the most important information about your company.

It can also act as a stepping-stone toward a larger website in the future. More importantly though, when done right, it tackles the core challenge that businesses without sites are facing—potential customers assuming they’re either extremely behind the times or not at all legitimate.

Plus, mini-sites can be launched with comparatively small commitments of money, time, and energy. It also allows business to ‘test the digital waters’ before committing to a full web experience.

A quick guide to Social Platforms. Which work best for what?

08_Social Platforms

It goes without saying that you business has to have some kind of online presence if it wants to survive in the 21st century. But where to begin? Let’s have a look at the biggest social platforms on the Internet and who should be using them.

Facebook
Facebook is the only social media platform that you need to be on no matter what field your business is in. Because users put their personal detail onto the platform, you can target your advertising not just by basic demographics, but by job title, the age of a user’s kids, interests etc.

Twitter
Because of its instant nature, Twitter is great for marketing companies, sports-related businesses, and news services. If your sector or business is based around things that are happening now, you need to be on Twitter.
With Twitter you can generate interest in your brand by being the go-to source for developments in your sector. Pay close attention to new technologies, case studies, reports and news events that will affect you.

Instagram
Image-friendly businesses like restaurants, clothes and fashion brands, food, architecture, technology and designers need to be on Instagram.
Consider your images carefully to ensure a better engagement rate. Also pay close attention to current events and holidays, as Instagram (like Twitter) is closely involved with what’s trending.

Pinterest
Fashion retailers, photographers, jewellers and DIY Stores work well on Pinterest. The female-dominated, image-dominated facts of Pinterest make it easy for those brands that naturally lend themselves in that direction. Remember to link the price, availability, and where you can purchase the item.

LinkedIn
All professionals should be on LinkedIn. It’s also advisable to have a business presence on LinkedIn, as the effort you need to maintain it is significantly less than other platforms. Check every now and then – but focus your valuable time and energy on the more revenue-generating or awareness-increasing platforms.

How to increase your website’s visibility through Search

07_Search visibility

Search marketing is multi-faceted. Search engine optimisation applied correctly will create better visibility online, but it’s just one part of your overall marketing strategy. Here are some things to consider when you do your search strategy:

Define your keywords
Every online search begins with someone typing words into a search box. Search engines use keywords to return the best results. Start with identifying five to ten keywords or phrases that have a high search volume and best represent your organisation, and then use these throughout your website, including in titles and top-level information. Your keywords should be included in around 5% of your online content.

Add alternative attributes to image tags
This will ensure that your images form part of your content that is able to be screened by search engines, and will also contribute to your site’s accessibility.

Title elements
Title tags tell search engines what you would like displayed for your website’s search result listing. Title tags can be more descriptive than the actual heading of the webpage and should be an accurate and brief description the page’s content, which is important for both SEO and connecting users with the right information. Update your content regularly, this not only ensures your website is fresh and useful to users but gives you a better ranking in search results. This is also a simple way to continually incorporate your keywords.

Share links and link to other reputable websites
This will show search engines that your website is trustworthy and relevant.

Use tools like Google Analytics to understand and monitor your website traffic
The statistics from Google Analytics can also help you assess whether any changes you make to your website has improved website traffic.

Host valuable and readable content
If you’ve optimised for search engines only and users don’t stick around on your website, you haven’t been successful.

The best free online short courses

06_Online learning services

According to Entrepreneur Magazine, these are the best free online business courses currently available:

1. How To Build A Start-up
Platform: Udacity
Length: This class is self-paced. You can begin whenever you like and then follow your own pace.
Time commitment/Prerequisites: Because it’s self-paced, it’s a good idea to set goals for yourself to make sure you stick with the course.
Why you should consider it: You’ll learn the key tools and steps to build a successful start-up (or at least reduce the risk of failure). Included is an introduction to the basics of Steve Blank’s famous Customer Development process, where entrepreneurs “get out of the building” to gather massive amounts of customer and marketplace feedback, and then use that feedback to continuously iterate and evolve their start-up business models, improving the chances of success at every step.

2. Model Thinking
Platform: Coursera
Length: 4 to 8 hours of work per week, over 20 weeks
Time commitment/Prerequisites: Students should be very comfortable with basic algebra. Calculus isn’t necessary but a conceptual understanding of how derivatives give the slope at a point proves useful.
Why you should consider it: You will learn how to think with models and use them to make sense of the complex world around us. Evidence shows that people who think with models consistently outperform those who don’t. And, moreover people who think with lots of models outperform people who use only one.

3. Introduction to Finance
Platform: Coursera
Length: 15 weeks
Time commitment/Prerequisites: 6 to 8 hours of work per week. Exposure to economics, accounting, and/or algebra and statistics will help. However, the course covers the fundamentals and will highlight when there is a need for you to do some further work in specific subjects.
Why you should consider it: This course will introduce you to frameworks and tools to measure value; both for corporate and personal assets. It will also help you in decision-making, again at both the corporate and personal levels. This course is primarily devoted to the fundamental principles of valuation. We will learn and apply the concepts of time value of money and risk to understand the major determinants of value creation. We will use both theory and real world examples to demonstrate how to value any asset.

4. Developing Innovative Ideas for New Companies
Platform: Coursera
Length: 6 weeks
Time commitment/Prerequisites: 5 to 7 hours of work per week. The presenters expect this course to be taken by people completely new to the topics, and have designed the content in that way.
Why you should consider it: You will explore how to identify and develop great ideas into great companies, to identify opportunities based on real customer needs, to develop solid business models, and to create successful companies. This course assists aspiring entrepreneurs in developing great ideas into great companies.

5. An Introduction to Operations Management
Platform: Coursera
Length: 8 weeks
Time commitment/Prerequisites: 5 to 7 hours of work per week. The course is designed for business school students and executives. There are no academic prerequisites for the course; this is not a math course and nothing done in this course requires more than high school math.
Why you should consider it: This course will teach you how to analyse and improve business processes, be it in services or in manufacturing. You will learn how to improve productivity, provide more choice to customers, reduce response times, and improve quality. Along the way, you will learn about topics such as Lean Operations, Six Sigma, and the Toyota production system, you will hear about bottlenecks, flows rates, and inventory levels.

Need a little pick-me-up? Here are some inspiring words from the greats

05_Motivational Quotes

1. Leadership is a potent combination of strategy and character. But if you must be without one, be without the strategy. – Norman Schwarzkopf

2. A meeting is an event at which the minutes are kept and the hours are lost. – Unknown

3. You are not your resume, you are your work. – Seth Godin

4. Beware of any enterprise requiring new clothes. – Henry Thoreau

5. One finds limits by pushing them. – Herbert Simon

6. If you see a bandwagon, it’s too late. – James Goldsmith

7. Business opportunities are like buses, there’s always another one coming. – Richard Branson

8. You must be the change you wish to see in the world. – Mahatma Gandhi

9. You only have to do a very few things right in your life so long as you don’t do too many things wrong. – Warren Buffett

10.The trick is in what one emphasizes. We either make ourselves miserable, or we make ourselves strong. The amount of work is the same. – Carlos Castaneda

11. There’s no shortage of remarkable ideas, what’s missing is the will to execute them. – Seth Godin

12. The great accomplishments of man have resulted from the transmission of ideas of enthusiasm. – Thomas J. Watson

13. Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler. – Albert Einstein

14. Far and away the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing. – Theodore Roosevelt

15. Change is not a threat, it’s an opportunity. Survival is not the goal, transformative success is. – Seth Godin

16. Even if you are on the right track, You’ll get run over if you just sit there. – Will Rogers

17. You must either modify your dreams or magnify your skills. – Jim Rohn

18. Look well to this day. Yesterday is but a dream and tomorrow is only a vision. But today well lived makes every yesterday a dream of happiness and every tomorrow a vision of hope. Look well therefore to this day. – Francis Gray

19. Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life’s coming attractions. – Albert Einstein

20. Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it. – Dwight Eisenhower

What to consider when taking your business into e-commerce

04_eCommerceWhen you have a good product it makes sense to have it available for sale online, but if you’re planning to set up an e-commerce site, here are a few things to consider:

1. Responsive Design
The use of mobile devices to access websites is growing, and eCommerce sales are a large portion of this traffic. So it is important to make sure your eCommerce website is optimised for mobile in order to provide the best experience for users no matter what device they are using.

2. Site Search
Statistics show that 30% of visitors to eCommerce sites use the site’s search function to find the products they are looking for, so it’s important to make sure the search functionality is easy to use. In addition, it’s a good idea to utilise features like autocomplete to help users find popular products or items related to their searches.

3. Security
All eCommerce sites should encrypt information that needs to remain secure. This goes for credit card and payment information, as well as customer addresses, phone numbers and emails.

4. Site Performance
Make sure your site is optimised to run as quickly as possible.
Slow loading sites will not help with sales.

5. Delivery
Free delivery has proven to be a powerful sales tool but not all businesses can afford to do it. Always take into account how your products will reach your consumers and how will you approach that added cost.

6 Simple ways to help you cope with the daily demands of small business life

1. Do one thing at a time
The quickest way to do your daily chores is to do them, and the best way to get through it is to take on one task at a time. This allows you to focus on what you’re doing and to do a good job.

2. Keep your daily to-do list very short
It’s easy to get overwhelmed with the amount of work you have to do in a day/week. Try and distribute your chores evenly by setting yourself one to three important tasks every day.

3. When you don’t know, ask
It’s impossible to read minds. You’ll have a lot less unnecessary conflicts, negativity and waste less of your and other people’s time if you keep communicating.

4. Have short work breaks throughout your day
For example, work for 45 minutes then take a 15-minute break away you’re your computer. Eat a snack or take a walk. This avoids stress building up during the day.

5. Switch off during family time/weekends
Whether it’s weekends or evenings, you need to find a good balance between work and rest from a weekly perspective. Be sure to create a concrete distinction between work time and rest time.

6. Delegate tasks
You don’t have to do everything yourself. If possible delegate and let someone else take ownership of certain tasks and projects.

Mobile App vs. mini-site

App vs Minisite

Does your business need its own mobile app or a mini-site that is optimised for mobile devices? There are great benefits with both, but it mostly comes down to what you want to achieve with your app/site.

Mobile Apps are great for organising information, navigating through your various offerings, connecting directly with your consumer base and informing them of new products or any specials that you might be running.

Mini-sites on the other hand work well for online shopping, broader searching options and delivering entertainment that is hosted on the Internet.

A mini-site can constantly be updated without any interaction from the user. To update your mobile app the user would have to download the update and install, but because it lives on your phone there is more day-to-day interaction with your consumer.
So whether to go app or site completely depends on your type of business.

Either way, your objective should always be to create a memorable and pleasurable experience. Here are some things that you should keep in mind when you are developing your mobile experience:

1. Keep It Simple
Help users find what they want in the easiest, fastest way possible

2. Prioritise Content
Show users what they want to see.

3. Make It Well
Provide an experience compelling enough that users will come back.

4. Every Device is Important
Design for Devices and Environments.

5. Don’t Make users Wait
Keep your file sizes small enough to load very quickly.

6. Avoid Heavy Graphics
Don’t lose time to buffering or loading.

The do’s and don’ts of Digital

12_Do_Dont_Digital

As with everything in life there are many ways to approach the digital part of your business. What you should and shouldn’t do mainly relies on the kind of business that you run and your own intuition.

Here are some general do’s and don’ts to keep in mind when you are marketing your business digitally:

1. Do start with your website / mobi-site

Keep it fresh by updating it regularly. Have someone on your team take ownership of the site, and make it part of their regular to-do list. Provide content that will help your audience. What problems do they have that you can help solve with your content?

2. Don’t neglect the power of search

While a good website is critical, it’s not enough. Get started by getting a free Google analytics account, to understand traffic patterns to your website.

3. Do reward the loyal

In order to drive repeat business and reward your most loyal customers, try integrating a rewards program to create enthusiasm among customers.

4. Do take it social

Establish and maintain your key social network platforms like Facebook & Twitter. Customers want to engage with brands beyond where they are being sold to, so social media is a great way to stay engaged and show your business’s personality. Remember to keep up with them, or you risk losing the momentum you had when you set them up.

5. Don’t underestimate the importance of an app

With an app, you can more easily let your customers know about discounts, deals and exclusive offers, as well as use it to track and send invoices and do business on the go.

Sure fire signs you can’t tell the difference between your business and your life

07_Business and Life

  • You threaten to fire your children for insubordination and you frequently send your employees to the corner for “time outs”.
  • You get angry with your wife for taking the ‘CEO’ parking spot in the garage.
  • You wear a power suit to a toddler’s birthday party.
  • You insist on power-pointing everything, even Christmas.
  • Everyone in your house has a business card.
  • You call play dates with your kids ‘face time’.
  • You conduct interviews with your children’s friends.
  • Nap time at work is mandatory.
  • When your son passes you an invisible ringing phone, you ask him to take a message.
  • You send meeting requests for every family meal.

The basics of Banner Advertising

06_Banner advertising

Banner advertising is a very cost-effective way to advertise your business online. It does, however, require a little bit of planning to make sure that you reach your selected target market at the right place and time.

You should also make sure your campaign is measurable, so it’s important to define what you are trying to achieve, before making sure that you can track it with analytics. Typically, when you create a banner advertising campaign, you would tag banners with tracking codes that allow you to see how many visitors come to your site via your banner ad.

Now all you have to do is design an ad that people want to interact with. There are a few design elements to keep in mind when developing banner ads:

1. Include a call-to-action button so viewers can click to find out more – for example, “buy now” or “click to learn more”.

2. Include your company logo and make sure the ad’s colour palette complements it.

3. Make sure the font size is big enough to be read in a small space; use less text for maximum impact and include an eye-catching image to go with it.

4. Consider animated components such as a GIF format to capture more attention; test out the speed of the transition to make sure the slides don’t flip too quickly for viewers to read.

The beauty of online advertising is that it’s measurable. Clicks, views, registrations and other website-based actions can all be tracked by analytics software so you can determine if the ads are effective and meeting your goals. It’s a constant process of test, adjust, and test until you find that winning formula for your business.

Social Media for your SMB: should you or shouldn’t you?

05_Social media business

Social media is critically important within your SMB marketing strategy. With huge numbers of people on Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and Facebook, ignoring social media is not just foolish, but also detrimental to your business.

Social media will help you build customer relationships. Not only will you find many of your existing customers are already on social media, but they’ll also be talking about your products or services. This gives your team a great opportunity to actively engage with your market, announce offers and address grievances. Once engaged with an audience, the feedback you receive can be a valuable tool in helping to develop your products and services.

Providing relevant content through blogging and tweets will spread your name and can increase the level of traffic to your website.
More importantly, this will be traffic that is, in one way or another, eager to find out more about the services you offer or products you supply.

By using social media to create a buzz around your brand, more people will be interested to find out more about you and your services. It helps to helps to keep you in the loop, as well as keep you informed of your competitors’ activities as well as the market in general.

In conclusion a successful social media presence can lead to better search engine rankings, more leads and ultimately more business. Being active and maintaining your social media platforms will also help you win trust and cultivate approachability.

Social media adds an informal aspect to your brand’s personality, and showing that you’re human is incredibly important for SMBs, because your customers want to know that they are doing business with real people and not corporations.

In this sense, SMBs are probably better placed to strike the right tone and take advantage of the benefits of social media, simply because they’re more flexible and adaptable.