The 30th of June marks the end of another financial year for businesses in Australia. For small businesses it is a time to assess the previous 12 months and plan their next years business strategy. So how are small businesses tracking?
According to Paul Barclay from Radio National
“Talk to people in retail and they say they can’t remember a quieter pre-Christmas period, and you hear the same story about housing and construction, manufacturing and other businesses. Yet, the official figures show the Australian economy grew much faster than expected in the past three months, up a full one per cent, meaning the economy has grown two and a half per cent in the last year.”
However, the Reserve Bank has cut interest rates several times this year underpinning a low consumer confidence in spending. While Australia seems to be holding up, what is happening to economies overseas is affecting our buying habits. So what exactly is the small business owner facing and what should we be doing about it?
1. Buying online and offshoring. There is a define trend for purchasing online. Thankfully most of this online shopping still remains in Australia but this means those businesses without an online e-commerce presence are at a disadvantage. So what should the small business do? Have an online presence is essential and using local SEO techniques to ensure that the business is found locally. The government recognise this trend and have a new website Digital Business, assisting small businesses make the transition to online.
2. Manage your cashflow. People are delaying paying any debt. Incentifying clients to pay on-time or early with a discount, providing online payment options are ways to manage your cash flow. Working out creditor terms with key suppliers is also helpful in managing relationships and cash flow.
3.Push the saving message. If your product or service saves money or time this is a message that customers are ready to hear. High value services, bulk buying and save messages have high cut through at the moment. With the carbon tax about to effect prices of our electricity you see several suppliers looking to lock us into deals that have that saving message.
4. Prepare a forecast for the next 12 months. Even if this is in an excel spreadsheet it is important to have a system to forecast business so you can predict the resources you might need and if you need to beef up your marketing. Having a estimation of what you think your business will do in 2012/2013 will help you set goals for your business pro-actively and head off potential lulls in business by putting together a lead generation model.
5. Invest in Technology. One of the key advantages of technology is that it keeps coming down in price. Small businesses now can pay for use rather than purchase software and many platforms have a free model where you can try before you buy. Looking at replacing lagging technology can make huge productivity gains for your small business. Key business technology tools include:
- Website: content management system that pay by the month
- Database: to collect customer details and send email campaigns, e.g zoho or mailchimp
- Accounting software that allow you to bill using online tools like paypal: freshbooks
- Telecommunications tools like Skype for video conferencing
- Online learning like Lynda.com to learn how to set up a Facebook page for business, use google analytics etc
6. Focus on your core value proposition to your ideal customers. It is so tempting to try and market to everyone. However it is a very diluted message you send when you try and be all things to all people. By developing a strategy that focuses on ideal customers with a solution that is made for them your will be able to attract them more easily. Narrow and deep is much more effective especially when resources are tight. Look at the most pressing problem your business solves for that ideal customer and build a marketing strategy around that core competency. Remember, try and only do a few things well.
Resources: Sensis June 2012 Small Business Index