How to make your small business effective online

These days, most of your potential customers will whip out their smartphones and suss out your business before walking through the front door and spending their dollars. But what happens if they can’t find anything about you online?

They might give you a miss or, worse still, take their business to your competitor.

Yet, as recently as 2016, almost one in two Kiwi businesses had no online presence.

“Nowadays, every single one of your customers is online. So if you’re still not online, you’re missing out on new customers. You’re also missing out on a chance to maintain your relationship with current customers,” says Matt McNeil, Managing Director of digital marketing agency The Digital Cafe.

John Kettle, an apartment specialist for Tommy’s Real Estate in Wellington, agrees, saying increasing his online presence has helped him become the number one apartment agent in Wellington on Google (try googling: ‘apartment specialist Wellington’).

“In my market, visibility is really important. As real estate agents, we’ve got to be seen,” Kettle says.

“It’s all about getting my name out there to raise awareness in my core market.”

The basics of creating an online presence

At a minimum, McNeil says your business should have a Google My Business listing, a basic website and a Facebook and/or Instagram page.

“You don’t need to have a bespoke, super-snazzy website developed. There are a lot of very cost-effective options such as Squarespace or Shopify, which can provide a slick-looking site at a minimal cost,” he says.

Kettle adds that if your line of work has a go-to third-party web portal – such as www.realestate.co.nz or www.trademe.co.nz – then you should provide a professional online profile there, too.

“Think about where your customers go, and then make sure you have a digital presence at every potential customer touchpoint,” Kettle says.

Online strategy dos and don’ts

Your next step is to work out what you’re trying to achieve so that you can set up focused marketing strategies, McNeil advises.

“If your end goal is selling online you might want to put out content that’s engaging and brings your audience to your website. Then you can retarget them with remarketing ad strategies or email campaigns,” he says.

Whatever marketing strategy you choose, McNeil says, you need to make sure you’re consistent and disciplined.

“There’s nothing worse than a business that says, ‘Look at our monthly blog’. And then there’s nothing since July 2016. The customer starts to think, ‘Hang on, what’s going on here? Are these guys still in business?’” he says.

Yet it’s equally important not to spread yourself too thin. For example, you don’t necessarily need to be on Facebook and Instagram and LinkedIn.

“You don’t need to be everywhere. You’re better off going to where your audience is and doing it well,” says McNeil.

And while it’s easy to post the same content across all channels, that doesn’t mean you should.

“One big mistake businesses make is not thinking about context. Don’t just splash everything across every social media channel,” says McNeil.

“If you’re a real estate agent, you might publish a market analysis on LinkedIn, but your Instagram post might instead be a lifestyle picture of yourself with a comment about how you’re absolutely loving living in the suburb of Parnell.”

Boost your content

It may be free to post on social media but don’t expect a free run. Organic reach (i.e. having your post seen by your followers without paying for your post to be amplified) is effectively over for small businesses looking to leverage social media channels, says McNeil.

“You have to put dollars into it. Even if you only put in $10 a week, you’ll still reach a couple of thousand people. But if you don’t put any money into them, nobody will see your posts,” he warns.

Use the data

The other key advantage of this brave new digital world is that you can analyse the effectiveness of campaigns in real-time, McNeil says.

“Data is one of the most useful things your business can now harness. For example, with newspaper ads back in the day it was hard to tell if they were effective or not,” he says.

“Now, you can see that an ad reached 2000 people, and they clicked on that ad far more than the previous one. So, if you ignore the data, you’re missing half the point of going digital.”

Don’t be intimidated by online marketing

Finally, adds McNeil, don’t be daunted. If you run a small business you’ve most likely got the skills, initiative and resilience required to research and implement an effective online strategy.

That said, you don’t have to go it alone, Kettle says.

“If you get a specialist in, that can free you up to continue to focus on what you do best, which for me is getting out there, getting listings, meeting clients and selling real estate,” he says.

Thinking of investing in your online presence in 2020? Talk to a Prospa business lending specialist about how a small business loan could help you reach more potential customers than ever before.

The information on this website is provided for general information only and does not take into account your personal situation. You should consider whether the information is appropriate to your needs, and where appropriate, seek professional advice from financial, legal and taxation advisors. Although every effort has been made to verify the accuracy of the information, Prospa, its officers, employees and agents disclaim all liability (except for any liability which by law cannot be excluded), for any error, inaccuracy, or omission from the information or any loss or damage suffered by any person directly or indirectly through relying on this information.

How tourism operators can attract international visitors

It wasn’t all too long ago that a simple one-paragraph mention in the Lonely Planet guidebook could be all it took to attract a healthy stream of international visitors to your tourism business. Now, things are a little more complicated.

These days you need to interact on Facebook, market on Instagram, regularly review your Google listing, upload flashy promos on YouTube, respond on TripAdvisor – oh, and actually run your tourism business.

It’s enough to make you want to take a holiday yourself.

So, how can you connect with would-be international visitors in 2020?

Nail the tourism marketing basics

Letitia Stevenson, Director at Yonder, which manages chatbots for tourism providers, says establishing a strong online presence is essential.

“The best tourism operators that we work with have got an extremely strong digital presence, via their website and social media pages,” she says.

“Make sure you’re on the newzealand.com website, your Regional Tourism Organisation’s website and that your page is search engine optimised.”

Stevenson also stresses the importance of having well-developed Google My Business and TripAdvisor listings.

“Ensure that these are up-to-date and that reviews are responded to,” Stevenson says.

Know your audience

A one-size-fits-all approach to attracting international visitors is probably not going to cut it in today’s highly competitive landscape.

Instead, tailor your marketing messaging to different international audiences and demographics, says Trent Yeo, founder of Ziptrek Ecotours in Queenstown.

For example, a marketing strategy that appeals to a Millennial in Europe may not necessarily appeal to a Boomer in Asia.

Yeo, who won the PATA New Zealand Trust Emerging Tourism Leader Award at the 2019 NZ Tourism Awards, says depending on the audience, their marketing messages sometimes centre on demonstrating Ziptrek’s values and ethos, while at other times they focus more heavily on the product itself, and what visitors can expect.

“Typically, when we’re marketing to Europe it’s more of a deeper eco-tourism story, whereas in the Asian context that’s not so much a decision driver.”

Embrace social media

Knowing your audience is also important when it comes to social media, says Stevenson.

“Some operators with products which have strong appeal to the Chinese market have had great success with WeChat marketing and using influencers,” says Stevenson.

“The use of social influencers to disperse content is starting to take off in NZ but is still very much in its infancy. Operators could take advantage of it a lot more.”

Another social media tip is to use video to show-off New Zealand’s natural beauty, says Yeo.

“Video has always been quite strong [as a tourism marketing channel] and lately we have been trying 360° video content,” he says.

Yeo says marketing in the tourism business is not set and forget – instead, it needs to be regularly tweaked to match the tastes of your target markets.

Build industry relationships – online and off

It may seem counterintuitive to team up with the competition, but building relationships with other tourism operators can be good for your own business, says Stevenson.

“In Taupo, they’ve got combo products where operators bundle and resell each others’ products,” she says.

Online travel agents (OTAs) also present a huge opportunity to attract international visitors.

“Make sure your product is bookable on third-party online travel agents such as Book Me, Get Your Guide and Viator,” Stevenson says.

Yeo adds, “OTAs are taking increasing volumes and having an increasing influence on the way in which tourism is moving forward.”

Need a boost for your next big tourism marketing push? Talk to Prospa about how a small business loan could give you the capital to help reach bigger audiences.

Image credit: Ziptrek Ecotours

The information on this website is provided for general information only and does not take into account your personal situation. You should consider whether the information is appropriate to your needs, and where appropriate, seek professional advice from financial, legal and taxation advisors. Although every effort has been made to verify the accuracy of the information, Prospa, its officers, employees and agents disclaim all liability (except for any liability which by law cannot be excluded), for any error, inaccuracy, or omission from the information or any loss or damage suffered by any person directly or indirectly through relying on this information.

9 things you can invest in to speed up small business growth

No small business has money to burn, so when it comes to funneling capital back into the operation it can be a daunting prospect. But you shouldn’t be afraid of investing in your venture (beyond just sweat and tears).

Sometimes you need to spend a little to gain a lot. Just make sure you’re spending money where it counts. Here are some suggestions of things you may want to invest in to help your small business grow.

1. An online booking platform

By investing in an online booking and payment solution for your small business, you can spend less time taking bookings and chasing payments, and instead use those spare hours to ensure your customers get the best service possible. It’s more convenient for them, saves you time and cuts down on cancellations and bad debts. That’s a triple win.

2. Improve your website

If you’ve built up your business mostly based on word of mouth, you may not think a polished, ultra-professional website is all that necessary. But in our technology-obsessed world, it’s important to keep your website modern and fresh.

If you don’t have the time, inclination or technical knowledge to do it yourself, a small investment in a professional team can take care of everything for you. Engage a web developer and designer with experience of what works for your type of business, and a content writer who can craft words that will not only entice people to connect with you, but help you be found organically online, too.

3. Outsource the things you don’t enjoy

In the early days, you do almost everything as a small business owner. But surely one of the perks of being your own boss is you get to decide what you do and what you delegate. So whether you outsource your social media management to a specialist or your admin to a virtual assistant, consider freeing up your time to grow the business by investing in some additional help.

4. Partner with a financial expert

Investing in a good accountant who understands your small business and your industry is worth its weight in gold. Smart accountants who know how to maximise deductions and manage cash flow are often a big part of a thriving business, and they can advise you on the best structure for your business too. Many accountants will also give you access to their accounting software, which will enable you to manage your business’s finances a lot easier.

5. Buy more efficient equipment

It doesn’t matter whether you run a pub, dry cleaning service or burger shop, getting popular means more customers – and inevitably longer wait times. But there are ways to stop customers from turning away disgruntled. Can you invest in better, faster equipment? Do you need to hire more casual staff at popular times? In most cases, a minor investment today can lead to bigger rewards tomorrow.

6. Market your small business

You’ve done everything possible to get your small business up and running – now you just need more customers. It might be time to invest in a more sophisticated marketing strategy, incorporating a mix of modern tactics such as Google Ads, SEO improvements, content marketing, social media targeting and email campaigns. If you operate locally, a good old letterbox drop can also keep your business front of mind.

7. Order more stock of what’s popular

Sounds simple enough – but investing in what’s popular can be a smart strategy. If you consistently run out of a product that customers adore, increase your order. An improved wholesale rate can boost your margin too. You may want to consider investing in a three-month trial of the larger wholesale order and see if it’s worth it.

8. Your own professional development

Running a busy small business with lots of customers to impress and staff to manage means people management should be one of your best skills. But investing in some HR training and business management seminars may be the next step to help you grow.

9. Protect yourself with business insurance

As your small business grows, you will likely take on new jobs, expand to new locations and deal with suppliers you never anticipated at the startup phase. Now’s the time to check your business insurance covers you if anything goes wrong. For example, if you’re expanding to a new premise be sure to check if your policy also covers earthquake damage.

So, you’ve done your due diligence and want to invest in your small business, but you don’t have the capital to do so? Prospa might be able to help. Get in touch to find out how.

The information on this website is provided for general information only and does not take into account your personal situation. You should consider whether the information is appropriate to your needs, and where appropriate, seek professional advice from financial, legal and taxation advisors. Although every effort has been made to verify the accuracy of the information, Prospa, its officers, employees and agents disclaim all liability (except for any liability which by law cannot be excluded), for any error, inaccuracy, or omission from the information or any loss or damage suffered by any person directly or indirectly through relying on this information.

6 times you might need a small business loan

Running a small business comes with many ups and downs, as well as many occasions that may require a bit more cash than you have at your fingertips.

Here are six scenarios where a small business loan may be just what you need to keep your small business moving.

1. You need more space

If your employees are using the table in the kitchen as a workstation, or your office is now doubling up as a stock room, you could probably do with a little more space. But just because you’re ready for expansion doesn’t mean you necessarily have the cash on hand to make it happen. Whether the answer is a refit, full-on renovation or even a move to new business premises, a small business loan could provide quick funds to expand the operation.

Remember to calculate the financial benefit when deciding whether to go ahead or not. For example, will the renovation or refit enable you to sell more stock or take on more clients? Or will it just make room for Molly the office dog’s bed? Speak to your financial advisor who can help you crunch the numbers.

2. You need more stock

Buying products that will enable you to provide a service and improve your offering is a crucial part of doing business. Every business needs an up-to-date inventory, and if you’re a seasonal business, you’ll want all your stock in place before peak sales periods. If your turnover is dependent on the stock you’re carrying, but you don’t have the capital to invest, then a small business loan could be worth considering to bridge the gap.

3. Opportunity knocks

Many opportunities emerge for small businesses, and knowing which ones to chase, and which ones to pass by, is a skill in itself. If you have completed your due diligence and believe an opportunity is worth grabbing, but you don’t have the cash flow on-hand to do so, a small business loan could be the answer. It provides a simple cash lump sum that puts business owners in control of how they respond to opportunities.

4. You need to recruit to grow

Small business owners often wear many hats, but sooner or later juggling your supply channel, bookkeeping, marketing, customer service and tea-making all by yourself can take its toll. Ultimately, if you’re going to grow your business, you will need time to give the operation the attention it deserves. Employing staff can free you up to do just that. If there’s a clear connection between the hiring decision and an increase in revenue, then a small business loan could make good business sense.

5. Your premises need a makeover

First impressions count a lot in business, and if you’re a cafe with shabby furniture, you may be losing customers based purely on your interiors. Alternatively, if you’re an office-based operation, your poor ergonomic set up may be negatively affecting your employees’ productivity and/or your ability to attract star candidates. A small business loan could help give your small business the face-lift it needs.

6. You need more customers

Build it and they will come? Not quite. You could have the best product and service in the world, but if no one knows about it, you’ll not sell a bean. An investment in marketing is critical to attract customers. A small business loan could help you fund a promotion or marketing campaign to acquire new customers.

If your business needs funds for opportunity, growth or cash flow support, get in touch with one of our small business lending specialists on 0800 005 797 to discuss your options, or find out more.

The information on this website is provided for general information only and does not take into account your personal situation. You should consider whether the information is appropriate to your needs, and where appropriate, seek professional advice from financial, legal and taxation advisors. Although every effort has been made to verify the accuracy of the information, Prospa, its officers, employees and agents disclaim all liability (except for any liability which by law cannot be excluded), for any error, inaccuracy, or omission from the information or any loss or damage suffered by any person directly or indirectly through relying on this information.