Is Your Website Generating New Business?
It wasn’t that long ago that most websites were simply electronic brochures. They listed the who, what and where of the business but times have certainly changed.
Back then, converting your corporate brochure into an online brochure was a logical progression. The internet and search engine optimization were in their infancy and the most important thing was to have a web presence. Unfortunately, these types of websites no longer cut the mustard and with the evolution of the internet we have also seen a change in consumer behaviour. People now buy goods and services online including cars, holidays and whitegoods and to capitalise on this behavioural shift you need to upgrade your website from an ‘electronic brochure’ to a lead generation website.
Your prospective customers now turn to Google, your website and social media for answers. They start their buying journey browsing websites and gathering information, looking for educational content to help them make an informed buying decision. If your website content includes e-books, whitepapers, videos, infographics, cheat sheets, checklists, research or presentations you’re on the right track. By educating your prospects you’re effectively building trust in your brand and also positioning your website as a valuable resource centre. In the process you’re moving your prospects closer to a sale.
If your website is still an electronic brochure full of bullet points that list your products and services here’s an important message – the next generation of customers and clients expect more. They don’t care about when you started the business, your promise of great service or your convenient location. They only care about whether you understand their pain and how you can solve their problem. Ideally, they want proof that you’ve helped people with similar issues and your solution is simpler and more effective than your competitors. The features, benefits and finer details of your business, your services and your products are really just ‘fillers’.
Today’s consumers are impatient. You only have a few seconds to prove that your business has the answers, the solution or the fix they are looking for. You want the standout website in your industry and it needs to send a clear message, be easy to navigate and provide calls to action so you guide the prospect to the next stage of the buying process. Have a look at your home page right now, does it tell your prospects what to do next? Call for a free consultation? Click here to download our free guide? Fill in the box for a free sample?
Content is king and you need to understand what your prospects are searching for in your industry. Tailor your content to their search terms, provide relevant information in your blogs, videos and FAQs. Identify the questions that your prospects are asking during the research stage and then create pages on your website that answer those questions. It’s strategic and you’ll probably find you include the important keywords in the process. Make sure you embed calls to action on those pages as well so should they be ‘sold’ on your information or answers they are only a click away from your cash register. Google craves fresh, original content so you need to keep adding content to your site. The truth is, your website is never ‘done’ and it will always be a work in progress.
Here are some signs that your website is still an electronic brochure and possibly in need of a makeover, repair or replacement:
- Outdated Appearance – this should be pretty obvious and if the skin or layout hasn’t changed much in the last three or four years then it could be time for a facelift. Web trends keep changing and modern sites have a clean design and easy navigation. If your site is a cluttered mess that looks old and tired it could be time.
- It’s Slow – the majority of consumers expect your web pages to load in less than 2 seconds and most people will abandon your website if it takes more than 3 seconds to load. Not only that, a slow loading site will impact on your search engine ranking. Having a fast-loading website will keep customers on your site and provide a positive experience.
- Your Competitors Look Better – while the cosmetics aren’t everything, if your competitor’s websites are more attractive, easier to navigate and have some extra features then that could influence your prospects. In the digital age you need to keep up with the Jones’.
- If your website doesn’t work on mobile devices it’s almost extinct! Test it by typing your URL into this link https://search.google.com/search-console/mobile-friendly Most searches are now done on mobile devices and if your website isn’t responsive to them you are invisible to the search engines which defeats the whole purpose of investing in a website.
- Low Traffic and Search Engine Rankings – search engine algorithms have changed considerably over the years and if you don’t stay on trend you could slip down the page rankings. No traffic means no sales so a rebuild could be on the agenda.
- Visitors Leaving or Not Converting – If your web analytics show a high bounce rate where visitors click away from your site or they spend minimal time on your site then that’s a pretty strong indicator that your visitors don’t find your current site useful for one reason or another.
- It’s Just Not You Anymore – Businesses evolve and if your message isn’t clear or the website doesn’t spell out precisely who you are and your point of difference then it could be time for an update. A website that worked well in 2013 may not work so well today. If it’s missing calls to action or your visitors can’t find what their looking for, chances are you’ve outgrown your current website.
The primary purpose of your website is to generate leads and convert them into sales and revenue for your business. If it’s not performing it’s time to put your website under the microscope.
Business Start Up Corner – How To Get Off To a Flying Start
Starting a business can be a maze of research, registrations and red tape. No amount of passion can guarantee your business success but the proverb, ‘failing to plan is planning to fail’ serves as both great advice and a warning for new entrepreneurs.
Preparing a business plan is an important step and the plan should provide an overview of your current business position, where you plan to go and how you intend to get there. Within the plan, you need to demonstrate your current financial position and how it will change over the next few years. To fund your business start-up (or expansion) you’re almost certainly going to need a business plan to convince the bank or investors that your business is a good financial risk. Accordingly, your business plan should demonstrate how much money you need, why you need it and when your investor is likely to get repaid.
It should instil confidence in your business and management skills to persuade your bank, financier or investors to lend you the necessary funds. To raise substantial capital your business plan must be clear, complete and realistic. While a poorly prepared business plan will impact on your chances of receiving the funding, your business plan can deliver more than just a document to satisfy your financiers. It can serve as a roadmap for your business that both business owners and staff can refer to for guidance and direction. Without a business plan you can’t measure your progress or establish your priorities.
Most business owners fail to make a start on their business plan because they are either too busy or don’t understand what is required in the plan. Too often they are working IN the business dealing with day to day issues instead of working ON the business with strategic planning. Devoting some time to work on your business is an investment that can pay substantial dividends. You need a clear vision for your business that outlines where you want to take the business in the medium to long term and can be expressed as a series of objectives. So many business owners fail to put pen to paper because they are waiting for more certainty regarding their funding, financials or sales. Your business plan should steer your activity, not the other way around.
Most business plans contain these 5 key components:
❶ Business Description – You need to provide an overview of your business operations and keep it simple. Assume the reader has virtually no knowledge of your industry or operations. Outline your products and services and describe your ideal type of customers.
❷ Competition – Clearly describe who your competitors are and why they have the lion’s share of the market. You should also explain how they achieved their status and how you intend to win your share of the market. Be realistic but conservative with your estimates and paint the picture based on best, worst and likely scenarios.
❸ Marketing – Provide a detailed description of the marketing strategies, techniques and tools you plan to use to achieve your market share. Highlight your key points of difference, your focus on niche markets and provide an insight into the unique features in your website, the search engine optimisation techniques and marketing collateral you plan to create.
Cover off on your branding, launch and ongoing marketing activities given it could be the difference between boom and gloom. Convince prospective investors that you are not only confident and serious about increasing your sales but you also have the skills and marketing collateral to achieve your targets.
❹ Personnel – Success in business can boil down to 3 key variables – strategy, tools and people. Without pro-active people on the management team the best ideas and products can fail. Describe your management team and include resumes of all your key personnel. You should also list people in other employment categories like production, sales, finance and administration together with an organisational chart to illustrate total employment numbers.
❺ Financial Data – Illustrate your current financial position (balance sheet) as well as your other income sources including salaries. You then need to prepare projections for start-up costs, your first year’s trading results and a cash flow budget. They are designed to illustrate where you are going financially and ideally your projections should span several years.
Cash flow budgets are obviously critical to the lender to highlight the inflow and outflow of cash in your business and project bank balances at certain points in time. All of your projections should be supported by realistic assumptions that form part of the financial statements.
7 Ways to Increase Your Email Marketing Success Rate
Most small to medium sized enterprises operate on a tight marketing budget. Typically, there would be only one or two people handling email marketing activities as part of their roles but to get the best return on your investment you need clean and current email lists, relevant email content and some sort of tracking system to monitor the results of the campaigns. Here are seven tips to help you efficiently create, send and track email campaigns that deliver results:
❶ Commence with Clean-List Building Methods
Build your contact list from people that have expressed an interest in hearing about your product or service, either via opt-in boxes on your website or previous purchases. Having prior consent or permission to send an email to someone obviously helps the deliverable success rate and ideally you want the receiver to recognise you as the sender. Segmenting your customer or client list allows you to target different markets with tailored offers so you get better results.
❷ Ensure Your Contact List is Current
If your contact list is outdated you are at risk of getting blacklisted or blocked which will make it hard for your future emails to be delivered. If you are concerned that you might already be blacklisted, check your domain name and IP address at sites like mxtoolbox.com or whatismyipaddress.com
❸ Address the Needs of Your Key Customers
Where possible, personalise your emails. While it’s almost impossible to write an email that works for your entire contact list, by focusing your message on your key customers you will get better results and keep your top customers happy. Make sure you include a clear call-to-action that tells your customers what to do next – click here for a free copy, register here, read more, get a free sample etc.
❹ Write a Clear and Compelling Subject Line
Once you have established who you are sending your email to you need to work on the subject line. In a sense, it’s the headline or advertisement for your email so you need to make it appealing to your target market. With subject lines, often less is best. For example, “Limited Time Only” is more compelling than “Amazing Once-In-A-Lifetime Deal!” Keywords are critical and the right headline will have a better chance of getting through your prospect’s spam filters.
❺ Establish and Use Your Online Presence
By using your own website, domain name and email address with your domain name in the address, your emails are more likely to be recognised and opened than if you used a Gmail, Yahoo or Hotmail address. At the beginning of each email ask your email recipients to add your address to their address book to improve future deliverability. Include an email submission form on your website to help build your list.
❻ Text Tells – Images Sell
❼ Continual Testing
Trial and error is a proven way to test email campaigns. If possible, divide your contact list into sections and send half one email and the other half a different message. This is ‘split testing’ and you need to monitor the open rate and response rate to the respective emails. This lets you then select a winner and next time create a new email to go up against the winner. It’s all about continual improvement. By checking your campaign’s open and click-through rates you will gain an insight into what content and subject lines work best.
In summary, you need to monitor and measure your email marketing results. Understand your email marketing metrics including the open rates, unique clicks, conversions and unsubscribes. Use the statistics to create benchmarks that you can measure future email campaigns against.
Buying or Selling A Business? Make sure it’s a “Going Concern”
In the excitement of negotiating a sale or purchase of a business it is easy to overlook whether the price negotiated is inclusive or exclusive of GST. Often both parties assume that business sales are GST-free without examining the ingredients of a GST-free transaction. It is obviously desirable for both parties to have a GST-free transaction as it provides certainty over the negotiated price and there is no need to ‘clawback’ GST from a subsequent BAS.
The Australian Taxation Office created an exemption for the sales of businesses to be exempt from GST as long as the business is being sold as a ‘going concern’. Broadly speaking, this requires the business is actually sold for consideration, that it is operational up until the day of sale and that the sale includes everything necessary for the buyer to continue operations.
The essential aspects of a sale being ruled as a ‘going concern’ include:
- The sale is for consideration.
- Both parties must be registered for GST.
- The sale contract specifies that the business is being sold as a going concern.
- The seller must include everything that is required for the running of the business and any exclusions could mean that the sale fails the going concern test. This does not require that everything owned by the business must be included in the sale, only the things necessary for the business to function in the hands of the new owner. Generally this would include the premises (see below), plant and equipment, customer and other contracts such as ongoing advertising, etc.
- The premises from where the seller operates must be included in the sale (except for home-based or mobile businesses, both of which fall under strict ATO rules in these circumstances), therefore leased premises must be assigned or surrendered so that a new lease can start for the buyer.
- If the business closes in the lead up to the sale this will nullify going concern – something to watch for if there are plans to renovate on handover. The seller must trade up until the ‘day of sale’, generally meaning settlement date, however in some circumstances the deemed ‘day of sale’ can occur before or after settlement date.
- Sellers with different entities owning different parts of the business should investigate their ownership structure well before sales negotiations commence. These different entities may cause the sale to not satisfy the above rules.
A sale between two registered entities has a tax neutral outcome as the purchaser pays the 10% GST and receives it back from the Tax Office. The seller receives the 10% of the purchase price and remits in back to the ATO. From a cash flow point of view the purchaser is not going to want to have to find the additional money on top of the purchase price which they then have to wait to recoup with their next Business Activity Statement. The seller also does not want to receive less than the negotiated purchase price.
The purchase price should be negotiated and written into the sales contract as GST exclusive so both parties know exactly where they stand. Contracts that are silent are deemed to be GST inclusive. It is worth including a clause in the contract that if you are selling, if for any reason the Tax Office deems the sale to not be a going concern, then the seller can require the buyer to pay the GST.
If you have any concerns about selling or buying a business as a ‘going concern’ contact us today.
Get To Know Your Profit Margins
A substantial increase in your sales is not the only way to make more profit in your business. For example, business owners often focus on increasing sales to new customers but if you can improve your ‘conversion rate’ so you convert more prospects into customers, you will also see a boost in your bottom line.
Another way to increase profits is to increase your profit margins. By maintaining your level of sales, using your existing systems and without adding to overhead costs or increasing staff levels you can grow your profits. Here are some tips to help you increase your profit margins:
1. Do You Know Your Gross Profit Margin?
Firstly, start by knowing your current gross profit margin. Relying on estimated inventory figures or last year’s financials isn’t good enough. Prepare some interim financial statements and do a physical stock take. Use industry benchmark figures to see how you compare to the industry average and adjust your prices accordingly.
2. Investigate Your Profit Margin Further
Now that you know your overall gross profit margin you need to break it down for each of your products. Additionally, analyse your gross margins over different business divisions and product categories. By doing this, you can identify your low margin items and also identify the profitable activities or products. This can be challenging if you discover some of your favourite products just aren’t contributing to your bottom line and are soaking up resources. You might need to stop selling low margin lines and promote the ones that drive your profit.
3. Analyse Your Pricing
As business owners we find this difficult because we are often more worried about price than our customers. Overheads do increase over time and you might lose the odd customer, but these may be your D grade customers. If your margin is 50%, a 10% increase in prices means you can lose 17% of your customers yet be no worse off! Have you increased your prices to match supplier price rises and kept up with the competition?
4. Don’t Offer Discounts
Discounting destroys your margins. At that same margin of 50%, if you cut your prices by 10%, you will need a 25% increase in sales just to maintain your bottom line. It might be a strategy you only use for slow moving or obsolete stock items.
5. Don’t Use Price as Your Differentiator
By offering superior value, going the extra mile or reducing paperwork or other time consuming aspects of doing business with you will be more effective than competing on price.
6. Subject to Cash Flow, Always Take Cash Discounts From Suppliers
If cash flow permits, taking cash discounts from suppliers is better than trying to delay payment, even if you are using borrowings.
7. Prevent Theft
Losing cash or stock is costly. Do you have anti-shoplifting or theft prevention systems in place, even for staff? Do you balance your tills? Who does your banking? Theft erodes your bottom line.
8. Watch Supplier Bills
Check your supplier bills carefully. After a while you’ll get a ‘feel’ for things which aren’t quite right. Don’t be surprised to find that you’ve been overcharged for goods or services you haven’t received or been billed at the wrong prices. Monitor price increases carefully as you may need to pass these on with your prices.
9. Use Inventory Systems
Knowing and controlling your inventory levels will mean less working capital tied up in inventory, less theft and stock obsolescence. Being on top of stock running low for products selling well is critical. You need to know exactly how many of each product you have on hand and their cost without having to wade through old purchase invoices.