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11 Tools That Will Make Your Small Business Run Smoothly

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When it comes to the success of your small business, planning, being organised and having simple repeatable systems and processes in place will make your life so much easier.

Not only will systems save you a lot of time, but will save you money because you’ll be able to be more focused on actually doing the work your business is built for instead of running around like a headless chicken trying to take care of everything manually.

Below we’ve listed our favourite 11 tools that will make your business run smoothly – although this may seem like a lot of tools, your business won’t need all of them, and once you’ve spent a little time setting them up, they’ll help your business run behind the scenes.

Internal messaging tool:

Ensuring good communication is something that’s vital for the success of your small business, whether this is with your clients, suppliers, or your own team. Having a way to keep everyone on the same page is really important.

Although email is still used for many areas of business and certainly isn’t going anywhere, when it comes to communicating back and forth with team members and clients, then it can get quite chaotic and time consuming if you’re using email as the way of keeping everyone updated on things.

Nowadays, more and more business owners are opting instead for internal messaging tools and apps.

Project management tool:

How you run and manage your projects will really depend on your own preferences. Some people prefer the traditional pen and paper approach, whilst others wouldn’t dream of using anything other than a digital calendar.

With this, there’s simply no right or wrong way to do things, it’s just a matter of what you find easiest to manage.

There are truly no shortage of project management and tools on the market to choose from, so having a look around and even testing out a few to find the right fit for you will give you an idea of what features you find useful.

Project management tools are great to have because they help you get a clear overview of what projects you’re currently working on, who’s assigned what tasks, and what the current status is. It keeps you organised and in the loop at all times, so nothing will be overlooked and there’s no need to chase up via email for status updates.

Accounting tool:

As a business owner, you need to be staying on top of your accounts – and the sooner you get into this habit, the better.

Whether you have an accountant at the moment or aren’t quite ready to outsource this area of your business yet doesn’t really matter, but having an accounting tool to help you get a clear picture of what’s happening will ensure you’re prepared and not hit with any unexpected tax bills or scrambling looking for receipts that you’ve scribbled down on pieces of paper.

Accounting tools are very popular with small businesses because they’re typically very low cost and allow you to keep everything in one place and will even automate things like invoices and calculate your taxes for you, so when it comes time to submit your tax return all you have to do is either send your invoices off to your accountant, let them have access to your accounting tool, or do your submission yourself – all the information will be there right in front of you, so nothing will be overlooked.

CRM tool:

CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management, and is crucial in the smooth running of any small business. These tools help you stay up to date with where exactly your customers are in their journey of working with you.

Many have features such as automatic emails that are triggered after a customer takes a specific action, such as going from a lead to a paying customer, or when they purchase another product from you.

Even if you don’t use this for sales, it’s just a good way of tracking who your customers are and what their activity is with your company.

Social media automation tool:

Whilst social media is pretty much a must for any business these days, it’s something that has to be approached very carefully and strategically. If you don’t have tools in place to help you manage your social media, you can often find yourself spending hours per day posting content and engaging with your audience whilst seeing very little financial ROI.

Being able to automate your social media means that you’re still able to create the same levels of engagement with your audience, but that you don’t need to physically be present and posting every 10 minutes to do it.

The best way to use social media from an automation perspective is to batch-create your content for a certain amount of time. This can be weekly or monthly depending on your preference, and then upload your posts to go out at certain days and times over that period.

Simply allow yourself or your social media team a certain amount of time per day to go in and manually reply to comments and engage with your audience. This is a far more effective and efficient use of your time when it comes to social media.

Email marketing tool:

Any small business with an online presence should have some kind of email marketing tool to use. Firstly because it’s against the law to email people who haven’t specifically given you permission to email them, so you need an email marketing tool that allows people to give you this consent.

Secondly, if you want to sell products and services or even just keep your customers and potential customers in the loop about what’s going on with your business, then manually emailing them through a normal service like Gmail or Hotmail simply isn’t sustainable, and will also get you flagged for spam and potentially blacklisted.

Customer support tool:

Happy customers are at the very foundation of your business, so ensuring that you have a way to deal with any issues that arise – or even before they arise will really go a long way in setting you apart from other businesses in your industry.

How you choose to implement and manage your customer support is up to you, but many tools now offer email support, and even live chat or Messenger chat as a way to let customers get in touch with you at all stages of their buying journey.

Appointment scheduling tool:

Gone are the days of missed appointments or hours of back and forth emails when trying to arrange a time for a meeting, interview or general appointment.

Appointment scheduling tools are a huge time-saver and give you complete control over your time.

You simply choose the times you’re available for appointments, link the tool to your calendar so that when someone wishes to book an appointment with you, they simply choose the time that works for them and this is automatically booked in your calendar.

The great thing about some scheduling tools is that you can still use a business card for in-person meetings in conjunction with your scheduling tool simply by scanning a code on your card, so you don’t have to worry about handing over a business card that later gets forgotten about among a sea of many.

Go here for info on the different ways you can use business and plastic cards creatively to get the attention of potential customers.

Meeting tool:

Thanks to the internet and improvements in technology, online meeting tools are more popular than ever. Having a meeting tool allows your business to have more reach because now you can meet with someone over your phone or computer and see each other face to face without ever leaving your house or office.

Not only does this give you more opportunities to grow, but means that you’re not out any extra expenses on traveling to meet with potential customers.

Content collation tool:

If your business relies heavily on online marketing strategies, such as blogging and social media, then as much as you want to create your own unique content, it’s also good practice to share other people’s valuable content with your audience. Using tools for collating content, even if it’s just for your own research and inspiration is recommended because you’ll want to keep it organised in one place for when you need it.

Most tools like this are cloud based, which is good because then you’re not using up space on your computer.

Payment tool:

If you’re not getting paid, then you don’t have a business. Having tools in place to help you get paid is not only a good idea when ensuring that you’re actually getting paid without any issues, but they’re a great time-saver because you can set up things like subscription payments and generate invoices to go out on a recurring basis and generate reminder emails when a client hasn’t paid when they’re supposed to.

Hopefully this list will help you identify which tools you could be using within your business to ensure it runs more smoothly.

Posted in Business & Finance, PR & Marketing, Small Business3 Comments

Retail Survival

Retail Survival

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Mr Salakas – The Party People

It is not the biggest that survive, it’s the most Continue Reading

Posted in Business & Finance, Featured, PR & Marketing, Technology1 Comment

What You Need To Film Your Own Video Advertisement

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Did you know that companies will spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on their video advertisements that will never be shown on TV? The new median is the only video sharing platforms but their audiences demand something new. You have probably already seen this at work as YouTube ads can sometimes be skipped after just 5 seconds. Other advertisements can last anywhere from 10 to 30 seconds long. However, these don’t have a skip button so they better be worth it to sit through or else, the user will click away. YouTube tracks this so an ineffective advertisement will less likely to be shown. But, hiring companies out to do filming is very expensive so how can a small business make the most of what funds are available? Film it yourself!

All creative minds on deck!

Let the battle of ideas commence! As aforementioned your advertisement will only last a maximum of 30 seconds if that is your intention of a longer play. However, most ads need to be great for the first few seconds in order to grab the attention of the viewer. Therefore you need to make a two-part idea in the same ad. The first few seconds have to be something that is thought-provoking, challenging, scary, exciting or something of this nature to make sure the viewer doesn’t ‘skip’. All your creative minds need to assemble of think of the perfect ideas for this.

Start sending early

Start sending out advertisements for actors early! One cannot imagine the absolute pain it is to find the right actors for your production. Specifically reach out on online job search engines such as Indeed and LinkedIn. Professional actors is what you should aim for, but if you don’t mind working with students then include them in the possible choices also. The key is to get your idea formed and begin sending out notices that you’re looking for actors as quick as you can. Some actors may need to read for the part, others have the exact look you want and thus you may rely on their previous work as a reference point.

Introduce your business

If you are going to give the audience something real, how about filming your business? Show the inside of your warehouse and how it operates. Supply your business with the best equipment you can afford first so you make a good first impression. Check out the forklifts for sale Melbourne at Auslift which are modern and perfect for lifting pallets from storage. Introduce the audience to your business by showing the genuine ways in which you operate day to day.

Business advertisements have really been given a new lease of life with online video sharing platforms. Indeed there is a skip button but if you can do just enough to hold the attention of just 5% of the audience for more than 5 seconds, you stand a large chance of making sales by drawing attention to your business.

Posted in Business & Finance, PR & Marketing0 Comments

How to triple the number of people who read your Press Release using Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

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This story looks at search engine optimisation and public relations (and generally all creative writing) and how you can achieve significantly better results with what I consider to be minimal input. It can apply to any creative writing that may one day end up online. It most definitely applies to journalists, even speech writers and I bet you that smart newspapers and online agencies around the world are training their staff on exactly this topic.

increase-press-release-traffic

Simple SEO applied to your writing can significantly improve the number of visitors to your article
Think about the lifetime of online articles – potentially years!

What is Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and Public Relations (PR) doing in the same sentence?

If we take the extreme view that Journalists simply copy and paste press releases as stories then it figures that the text being published (online) should be optimised for a search engine (ie Search Engine Optimisation). The logic is that an optimised piece of text will rank much higher on a search engine, and will allow your target audience to find that particular piece of text through a search engine such as Google.

In the example above it assumes press releases are simply copied or pasted, but in general this isn’t how the system works. Usually PR firms send their press releases and journalists look for newsworthy content that they can either add to, or change to fit their publication or angle. This example is much closer to the truth, so in this next example let’s assume that an optimised press release receives editorial changes of +/-30% to the original. This means that 70% of your optimised release is still being published, again you’re probably still sitting on a search engine optimised winner.

Following the rules of SEO while writing a press release in this example is a sure fired way to ensure you maximise the number of eyeballs on your carefully crafted message. This translates to more of whatever your object was when you wrote the press release, be it more enquiries, sales, awareness etc.

search-engine-optimisation

http://www.flickr.com/photos/mattsearles/ / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Isn’t SEO just for IT geeks?

This is where I think the topic gets really interesting. SEO has primarily been the domain of IT professionals who optimise websites to improve your ranking in Google, and also a bunch of dodgy email spammers who promise the world for only $12.95 a month.

However with standardisation of websites through things like templates much of the html (the framework for a website) has been optimised for you straight out of the box. In our example we are focusing on the content on sites that you have no direct power, so SEO for the frame work of HTML is pointless. So the only thing left for PR firms, Journalists and creative writers to focus on is what is actually being written. If you could look at all the information written on SEO in one sitting (which is impossible) you’d find that well over 40% of the suggestions made can be directly or indirectly applied to your creative writing, the hardest part is trying to find the information to apply directly to your own work. I look at SEO as a simple process, you spend a few minutes thinking about what you’re about to do, what you think will work and you begin the creative writing with this in mind. During the editing phase you spend a few minutes thinking over the guiding principles and again with the bigger picture/end result in full view you review your content and apply any finishing SEO touches to it.

How important is SEO to PR?

Very! The difference could be over 100,000 visitors(1)

This is a question of measurement, better put, what is the measurable performance benefit for the additional effort required? For the most part this has been unmeasurable, you generally do not  get a chance at writing two pieces of text, one optimised the other not and being able to measure the pairs of eyes that have read the article. Compounding the problem is that you don’t have the website statistics for your particular article on the newspaper website, and lastly what elements of SEO apply to writing a press release (this definitely isn’t taught in Universities that I know of – and if you can find a University that is willing, I’ll give a two hour lecture on how to optimise your writing for an online universe!).

Technology and measurement have come a long way in the last five years, for instance with a few clicks and a bit of cut and paste code you can measure the online performance of any text on your website. I am sure that Google Analytics has made a great many of people richer, and has helped an even greater many more deliver information to an audience that requires it.

What specifically do I need to understand about SEO and how I can apply it to PR?

You can optimise optimisation! Use the 80/20 rule to focus on the 20% of SEO that will deliver you 80% of the gain. The hardcore IT professionals spend their life refining their SEO techniques, but at the top end of SEO a 5% improvement can win them more business and a reputation. At the creative writing level if you have the beginners tricks under your hat then you’re 80% ahead of the pack.

Writing an optimised press release requires a slight change in how you think about crafting your message, although the actual change to the press release or text is generally so subtle that to the general reader there is no difference at all.

Here are some really basic points on SEO that most creative writers do not consider, and at their own peril!

Step 1. Complete before you begin writing. In defining your message and target audience, have you defined what they’ll be searching for to find this information? Create a list of five or so keywords/phrases that you think sum up your press release, think about what people will be searching for both sets of keywords/phrases should be the same/similar (if you need to decide which ones to use go with your gut about what people will be searching for – if you don’t know, simply sit down at Google and try and find the information yourself, look at what your searching and how you refine your search – get creative!). Rank them in order of importance.

Step 2. When reviewing your title of the press release, does it contain the top two keywords/phrases you selected from step 1?

Step 3. Does the first paragraph contain the top five keywords, with at least one of them repeated once.

Step 4. Your keywords and phrases can be reworded – imagine a keyword was ‘search engine optimisation’ repeat it throughout the first few paragraphs but reword it like ‘search engine optimise’

Step 5. You should be bolding a few of the keywords, not all of them, but at least one or two in the first two paragraphs.

Step 6. You should always always include an image. Again using the SEO example, make sure you have an image with a name like ‘search-engine-optimisation.jpg’, give it a caption with similar wording.

Step 7. Include (where relevant) a few relevant links to websites that Google ranks higly – this is simple, Google search the keyword, and look at the first page of results, these are obviously what Google considers search engine optimised for your selected keyword/phrase. If Google sees you’re linking out to those sites then the chances are they’ll think you’re more of an authority as well.

Step 8. Review your creative writing, look for new opportunities. As you wrote the press release you may have included new ideas, thoughts, products etc that have a whole new set of keywords, maybe this should be in another press release – Search engine optimisation is all about focusing on a few keywords (also known as keyword density)

Step 9. This is the last step – once you get published, send the link to any websites that came up when searching your keywords. If they link to that article then chances are Google will look at you and think that if the current authority on that keyword is linking to your article then you too must also be an authority and worth putting on the front page of Google.

Step 10. Include your list of keywords (also known as tags) at the bottom of your creative writing. This will assist Journalists and any online publication to tag your writing for you, using the intended keywords. If you leave them out then they’ll make them up for you and you’re at their mercy.

If you’re enjoying this article please take a few seconds to Digg this article so more people can find it! It’ll take 5 seconds and it’s part of social karma 😉 Click here

Is there a way to tell if my writing is SEO optimised for online publication?

With websites like www.ReversePR.com.au you can simply add your press releases, let it do the magic, and at the bottom of the press release you can review how many people have read the article, the higher the number of views the more successful it can be considered as being an optimised press release.

Experiment! Write a few different press releases, and release them to online sites and see how they go, does one go better than another?

One of the best examples I can find is this press release – http://www.reversepr.com.au/2009/09/21/1397/alex-fevola-in-temelli-jewellery-for-2009-brownlow-awards/

It was released right before the Brownlow Awards (this means there is going to be lots of search traffic about ‘brownlow awards’, ‘alex fevola’), it’s about a celebrity and I think the title of the press release, along with the image and the first few paragraphs nailed this one home as an SEO winner! What keywords do you think the writer used? The writer of this should receive a pat on the back but I think the sheer number of hits is reward enough!

I (Matt Schmidt) will be writing more on this topic over the coming weeks, however if you want a hand, have a question or need some advice feel free to drop me an email matt@mylifemynews.com.au.

Lastly, did you notice this article has been search engine optimised? If done well you shouldn’t have noticed!


(1) Depending on what site it runs on, how well you’ve optimised it and what you’ve optimised it for (topic, keyword, audience, time of day, event driven, and timeliness). Obviously there are a lot of other contributing factors but the point is you have the power to significantly improve the number of people who read what you want them to read.

Posted in Business & Finance, PR & Marketing, Small Business0 Comments

How to choose a business name

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Which business name is best?

Which business name is best?

Regularly I hear people discussing business names and what they should choose, the ensuing debates can become comical as people slander each other’s choices, but I digress. It’s not easy and it affects a lot of things, from website domain names, search engine optimisation, recall ability, how to spell it, business name registration and availability – the list goes on.

Well, what I’m about to write isn’t earth shattering and I know I’ve heard it before, however I think this technique is brilliant and really shows your willingness to let the customers and the data make the decision for you. Continue Reading

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Young entrepreneur Clint Salter chases the dream

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Young entrepreneur Clint Salter was born and raised in Camden (Sydney’s Western Suburbs) where his relationship with the world of entrepreneurship began at an early age. At age 16 Clint opened up a dance studio where he taught after school while completing his Year 10 Certificate. Continue Reading

Posted in Business & Finance, Health & Lifestyle, PR & Marketing0 Comments

Start blogging today!

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With an increasing number of people reading, writing, and commenting on blogs, the way we use the web is shifting in a fundamental way. Instead of being passive consumers of information, more and more Internet users are becoming active participants.

Blogs allow you to increase the number of readers and followers, increase your profile and show people that you are current. Once you have the followers, a blog can easily help you network between the groups and build relationships that you never had before. Having a link from your website to your blog, simplifies the process for clients and fans to connect with you. Continue Reading

Posted in PR & Marketing, Small Business1 Comment

Push your competitors out of the spotlight

Push your competitors out of the spotlight

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Don’t you just hate it when you open a magazine and one of your competitors is featured and you just know that they will get customers from the publicity. You ask why were they featured and not me? The answer is a public relations program. Continue Reading

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