New Ideas in a Smaller World

September 10, 2014

Trying to think of a new business idea these days is difficult. We are so connected, so border-less and so informed – to the extent of information overload.

We can check in 30 seconds if someone else in the world has already implemented an idea. We can research competitors like never before, and across the whole globe.  It is a common joke amongst my friends that every good idea for an app has already been done.

The quest for a unique idea or implementation is harder than ever. The world is smaller, but competition is fierce.

Pre-Internet days, starting a business had to be much more local. I envisage new business founders researching their local area, perhaps city and if particularly ambitious, looking around the country before launching a business.

Local service based business offered some protection as they allow geographically targeting. But even in these industries, things are changing. I am pretty sure Noosa Accom never expected to be competing directly against home owners and potential clients. However with collaborative consumption and a global platform and facilitator in AirBnb there is suddenly a global giant in their midst.

When researching new ideas the level of information now is unprecedented, and in all honesty is a little off-putting.  It certainly makes you realise that your ideas, approach and thoughts are no where near as unique as you might have hoped! The amount of content online is overwhelming and it is difficult to ascertain where an individual or business could possibly stand out.

What is the right level of consideration to give to other players when determining your path forward? If someone else on the other side of the world offers a similar product, service or content to you, does that mean you should reconsider, differentiate or plough on? Are they simply a potential competitor or is it “copying”? On the other hand, I’ve heard of some awesome successes when companies reproduce a popular platform and customize it to a different market.

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Yes, I’m an “attention to detail” client

May 17, 2011

Attention to detail can be a good thing, and sometimes it can be bad. It means I have high expectations of everyone and expect people to notice the same detail that I would. Sometimes it can mean that I have to make an effort not to stress the details that don’t matter, and I’m definitely getting better at that. Sometimes I can’t understand people’s lack of detail though. Take this example…

I recently asked our website developers to make a small change to our website to make it possible for our non-technical content editors to make changes on which retailers serviced which states (previously something only our developers could edit). So they did the job and came back to me with this interface:

It’s pretty straight forward – you simply tick the box next to each state that that retailer services and bam – an easily editable interface. But there is a problem. I’m bothered by the lack of order of these tick boxes. If this was a front end interface I would say this isn’t user friendly as it has no defined order. If we were listing American states, this would be a more major problem! It’s not ordered by alphabetical order, not geographical, not even population size. Just completely random. So at the risk of being a difficult client, I have asked them to change it. Every other list on the website is alphabetical and whilst I know that this is just a small admin-only interface I’d rather get it changed now than set a precedent for random things on our website. Yes, I’m a difficult customer!

April – A tough month to achieve?

April 16, 2011

I don’t know about you but April is sneaking away on me. I have set some reasonably tough goals for this month and it seems that all of a sudden it’s only half way through the month but yet I feel like my time to meet these goals is almost up.

The next two weeks both have public holidays for Easter but they are only a few days all up, do they really slow things down? Perhaps I should just keep calling and getting in touch with people I need to regardless of the long weekend coming up. Maybe it’s just a reason to procrastinate on my cold calls? (Really, who does like cold calls!)

What about you? Do the Easter public holidays cut your month short too?

The Internet Dream – Making Money While You Sleep

April 8, 2011

Isn’t it every entrepreneur’s dream that they create a really successful business that makes money literally while they sleep? I know when I was considering starting a new online business and came up with the idea of Skimp that one of the attractions was that it was an automated service (at least from my perspective) that could operate 24/7 without me needing to personally be hands on with each sale.

Of course I am some way off living the “Internet dream” at this stage, but it is nice when I wake up in the morning and see that a few orders have come through overnight while I have been asleep!

Despite this, I’m very aware that sales never happen by themselves. They are always the result of the work we are constantly doing to make it easier for people to buy using our service and we have found that customers whom we personally make contact with after their quote request (via phone or email) are more likely to convert into a order. This is something I’d like to collect more data on as we go but anecdotally it does seem to be making a difference at this point.

Is anyone reading this who has been successful in making money while you sleep? How have you done it and how long did it take to get to that point?

How We Doubled Sales In a Month!

April 1, 2011

As a start-up with limited resources and literally hundred things on my to-do list, one of my recent concerns was that we could get so stuck in the day-to-day that months could pass without major milestones being hit.

I know, I know. It’s an obvious thing to set targets for any business and I have plenty. But they haven’t been revisited in full since launch and can often get lost when there are customers to service, partners to keep happy and business development to be done. Plus with no one to report to but myself I needed to assign some accountability in the short term.

So last month I took a few minutes to sit down and work out some key goals for the month. I decided that March would be all about improving conversion and sales and I set the target of doubling sales in the month. (An ambitious target, but we are working from a reasonably small base and I knew it was possible).

I’m pleased to say that as we have now come to the conclusion of March that we just scraped in to meet our target!

So how did we do this? A few simple things:

  • We called customers to see if we could help them to convert to a sale. We already had their details from the quote request and we know they are wanting to buy. Not only did a reasonable amount convert but it also gave us an opportunity to get their feedback on the service.
  • We created more opportunities for customers to buy. We added a new section to our website called Instant Prices, which is basically a small catalogue products with pre-negotiated prices. So when customers aren’t sure of the model they want or they don’t have the 24 hours to wait for a quote, they can chose to buy an Instant Price item.
  • We are now working more closely with partners. We have some great partners and this month we made sure we got in contact with all of them, offered them some exclusive specials and gave them a reason to tell their members about Skimp. Hopefully we can keep this going.
  • We created test pages and setup some website optimiser campaigns in Google. This is a longer term process that is still a work in progress. More updates on that coming soon.

So we managed to meet the target set in March. Not only did we double the value of products sold but we doubled our revenue and also our traffic. Best yet, some of our hard work is still yet to pay off. Now the challenge will be to try and maintain this sales level whilst achieving my new April target!

A Revival

March 31, 2011

For some time now I have been contemplating getting back into blogging – so here I am, dusting off

I have been very inspired by a blog I have recently found called which shares stories about start up business Shoes of Prey. I met Mike Knapp recently when he spoke at one of my Interactive Minds events and I love how the founders of Shoes of Prey share details, diagrams, graphs and questions on their blog. All real life information that helps me to run my business and provides solid benchmarks and reality checks along the way.

I have been thinking that as a small business owner of an internet start up perhaps I could share my experiences in a similar way and help others whilst at the same time getting feedback and input from an online community. My start up business is in its infancy and we have lots of things on the go and lots still to come.

So stay tuned as the sharing begins. Optimisation campaigns, growth strategies, zero budget marketing and lots of questions too!

Online Marketing Planning

November 5, 2009

I recently organised and attended our Interactive Minds internet marketing seminar on the topic of Planning Your Digital Marketing Strategy for 2010. We had some great speakers along: Rob Hudson of GPYR, Matt Varley of Wotif Group and Yvette Adams of The Creative Collective. You can take a look at the presentations from the day on the Interactive Minds website.

I also wanted to contribute to this topic by sharing my overarching approach to planning a digital strategy.  I would summarise my approach in the following steps:

  1. Identify & define your objectives, target audience and competitors.
  2. Define your budget.
  3. Identify the tactics which are most suitable to the organisation/brand/budget/audience and map out which months they will be undertaken in.
  4. Calculate a reasonable budget for each tactic per month.
  5. Using industry standards and previous experience refine the ROI for each tactic for each month based on the allocated budget. This may involve calculating the numbers of unique website visitors,  revenue forecast or subscribers. (Relate it back to your marketing and website objectives and make sure it is tangible and meaningful).
  6. As I plug in the budgets, timing and ROI it is often valuable to do a bit of juggling at this point to make sure it fits within the budget and that the overall ROI is where it needs to be.
  7. Keep the plan fluid. Things change and you may need to redirect funds quickly based on response rates, market changes or technology innovation.

I often implement steps 4, 5 & 6 using an excel spreadsheet which has a few worksheets sharing relevant numbers. If you are interested in a starting template for this, please have a look at my sample online marketing spreadsheet, available as a PDF download. It shows a few sample tactics together with some assumptions and calculations. Please note some of the data has been removed however some sample data is still shown.

I hope that you find this useful. If you have any questions, please leave a comment and I’ll get back to you.

One way to generate clicks

February 25, 2009

Have you seen this campaign recently run by Last Minute Travel? Their World for $1 campaign allows people to book hotel accommodation for only $1 a night for 15 minutes a day. The catch is that they don’t tell you which 15 minutes so users have to keep checking back and then racing the clock!

Pretty clever and a fairly neat way to raise awareness and get people visiting the site. Apparently they had 955 registrations in the first 6 days and obviously their visits would have been quite significant.

Unfortunately this sale is no longer available but a good strategy to keep in mind…

Credit: I heard about this campaign from emitch.

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