Monthly Archives: January 2014

Tutorial 6: Merging the Online and Offline

Over the last few tutorials we’ve talked about online tools for business. Matching what you do in the online world with what you are doing in the offline world is very important for business success. Businesses need to avoid viewing online tools as a separate process to normal business practices. The businesses who are able to compliment both the physical and online aspects of their business with each other are those who derive its real value.

This isn’t always something that will happen overnight. It will take time, trial and error, involvement of other members of your business and it may take your customers a while to get used to your new ways of doing business.

But there are some other practical tools that can help your customers’ transition easily between your physical and virtual stores.

Google Offers

Google Offers allows businesses who are using Google Places (see tutorial two) to create online coupons that are redeemable in store. This provides a great way to create a link between your online traffic and in-store foot traffic.*

Google make setting up the offer and customer redemption easy and adaptable, meaning the process is easy to use whether your business is tech-savvy or not. In the following video Google show how easy offers can be to redeem for your business.

QR Codes

Google Offers will help turn online visitors into physical visitors. How do we reverse the process and get your physical visitors talking about you and sharing your business online? One easy way is the use of QR codes.

QR codes are square barcodes that can be scanned with a mobile device that will automatically direct the user to a webpage about your business. Creating a QR code takes very little time and effort, and there are plenty of free online generators (such as goqr). Simply choose where you would like the code to direct the user, and select a size for the QR code and then apply to your medium.

In its most basic form, you might like to have the QR code displayed on a counter sign or in your shop window, taking visitors to a page of your website with more information or to your Facebook page where they can share with friends. You might tie the code in with an in-store offer, for example “like our Facebook page for a free upgrade”.

Experiment and try new things with this low cost tool. It’s a great chance to start generating more online discussion about your business.

Loyalty Apps

If you’re not yet confident to start managing your own offers and QR codes, there are now solutions that are ready made to apply to your business.

Rewardle are a Melbourne based company offering loyalty and coupon digital programs in a solution that is created and implemented for you. Customers receive a free card and keyring with a QR code and simply scan when they’re in your store to accumulate points and rewards. They can track their progress online and on the Rewardle iPhone and Android apps. For those who need a little more help getting  a program running, this may be the option for you!

*Do note that these offers are very different to the online coupon websites which have been generating negative press in recent years. You are in full control of your offers and for how long they are valid.

Tutorial 5: Five Ways to Build Knowledge Online

The web provides an enormous body of information and learning at your fingertips. Increasingly, more and more of this information is being made available for free. Quite often, the hardest part is knowing where to find it, so we’ve listed five ways you can build knowledge for your business online.

1. Coursera

Coursera is an education company that partners with the top universities and organizations in the world to offer courses online for anyone to take, for free.Technology now allows you to access classes and lectures from around the world that are delivered in an interactive manner.

Simply go to www.coursera.com and type in a topic you’d like to learn about to see what courses are available. For example, if you wanted to learn more about how to market your business, you might type in “marketing” and be presented with this introduction to marketing from the University of Pennsylvania.

2. Business Victoria

The Business Victoria website provides a great body of information for all businesses. Whether you just need to find forms for a permit or want to learn how to grow your business, there will be resources to meet your needs. Of particular note are the workshops, seminars and events.

Business Victoria run plenty of workshops and seminars for small business, and also a Victorian Small Business Festival and Support Small Business Day. Keep an eye on their website to find out when you can go along to build your knowledge and network your business.

3. LinkedIn Groups

LinkedIn has quickly grown into an enormous collection of professionals and business owners. If you’re not already on LinkedIn, it is definitely worth considering setting up an account.

With so many people in one place, it naturally follows that the community has become a very valuable bank of knowledge and information. LinkedIn groups allow like-minded people to network, discuss problems and help each other find answers. There are LinkedIn groups for almost everything, but if you can’t find what you’re looking for why not create one yourself? Someone else out there is bound to be facing similar problems to yours, and two heads are better than one!

This Introduction to LinkedIn webinar will help get you started:

 

4. ABS Data

The Australian Bureau of Statistics publicly release large amounts of data from each census which can be used to develop strong insights into the demographic and behaviour of customers in your area. If you were thinking of opening a new retail store in Shepparton, wouldn’t you want to know about the average age of your customer, how many students are in the area and what the average income is?

Even the simple QuickStats tool is a quick and simple way to get some basic information about the people in your geographic location. Have a look now and see what you can learn about your customer.

 

5. Delicious

Ever read a wonderful article or found a great website but forgot how to locate it when you want to go back to reread it?  Delicious solves this issue. It allows you to bookmark any online content from your computer, laptop, tablet or phone and save it into one account. Better yet, you can tag every bookmark with topics and keywords so you can find it later without having to remember where it was or what it was called.

Using tags you will also be able to search for other peoples’ bookmarks that might just have that answer you’ve been looking for.

Tutorial 4: Three Ways to Cut Costs Online

The internet can help you make your business more efficient and simpler to run. Everyday processes including accounting, file storage, and customer communications have never been easier using online services. We’ve listed three ways for you to start cutting costs for your business now.

Accounting on the Cloud

For many small businesses, it is always a challenge trying to find time to get the accounts done. Do you work from multiple sites? Do you have multiple people who need to input information into your accounting software? Would life be a lot easier if you could work on the accounts from home as well as the office? Do you wish you could invoice your customers on the run?

Accounting on the cloud solves these issues. Xero is one of the most widely used cloud accounting packages offering a comprehensive solution for small business. Your accounts can be managed from any location and by multiple people. The software is compatible for mobile and tablet, adding a whole new range of functionality to your bookkeeping. Being on the cloud, Xero is able to connect with your other financial entities to create a synergy for processes that previously required more labourious reconciliation.

An overview of Xero features can be found below:

Online Meetings

Online calls, meetings and webinars have greatly improved flexibility for businesses. Conducting meetings online can save hours and days of travel time for meetings that in some instances can be concluded in an hour. You no longer need to be restricted to meetings with those within your own area, nor are meetings delayed while key parties are out of town.

There are now a range of tools available for you to connect with your customers, business partners and co-workers at anytime from anywhere. This is not to say it is not still important to build personal relationships with stakeholders; the technology simply expands your ability to facilitate effective and timely communication with them.

Meetings and webinars can also be recorded and saved. This means anyone who missed the meeting can catch up at a later time.

Here are three tools your business can use to save time and money by conducting online meetings.

1. Skype

One of the oldest and best known, Skype is still a fantastic tool for a number of reasons and especially for one-on-one calls. One of the greatest advantages of Skype is that it’s very widely used, this means you’ll encounter little trouble finding people who are familiar with using the tool. It works for desktop, tablet and mobile and it’s free. If you need to call an actual phone number with Skype, this can be done for a very reasonable rate, also making Skype an affordable option when making calls to or from overseas. Skype also has easy compatibility with most smart phones, allowing you to synchronise your existing contacts.

Skype group calls are available on paid accounts. More details on features are available here.

2. Google Hangouts

Google have developed their own version of Skype a communication platform called Google Hangouts. Hangouts is particularly handy for those who are already using Google Mail and Gmail, as the tool is already built into your email interface.

Hangouts provides functionality for chat, voice and video calls, group calls and also screenshare (the ability to show participants the activity on your own screen in real time). As with Skype, Google Hangouts is available for desktop, iPhone and Android so you can use it in the office and on the run.

3. Go To Meeting

Go to meeting is a fantastic tool for those who want to share with multiple people at once and don’t want to worry about compatibility options. It is especially effective if you need to demonstrate your actions with screen capture – allowing you to share your screen with up to 25 participants.

Go To Meeting is a paid service, but only the creator of the meeting requires a subscription. Other people participating in the meeting or webinar can be given the details of the session and log in for free.  It’s compatible with mobile and tablet and users can also dial in from landline, which is handy  for those who don’t have a reliable broadband connection.

Go To Meeting is available on a 30 day free trial.

Recruiting & Outsourcing

The internet has radically changed the recruiting industry and also how we find business partners and contractors. Below are tools that can help you.

LinkedIn was one of the first prominent tools to begin changing the employment market, allowing users to create their own online profiles which recruiters are able to use to track down the perfect employee. LinkedIn now has over 259 million members in over 200 countries. Advanced search algorithms allow LinkedIn to target down the employees you need and cut out much of the field work.

Many small business would prefer to outsource work to contractors. Finding people with the skills you need has never been easier. You can now find graphic and web designers, book-keepers, copywriters, and many more professionals online. Websites like Elance and OneShift make it possible to advertise work online to people all over the world.

These sites, among others, allow recruitment of individuals for specific, flexible projects. This allows businesses to meet their needs on a short-term horizon or cover one-off and short-term skill or labour deficiencies. This may save your business a lot of time and money in recruitment costs and help finish that job you’ve been thinking about for months.

Tutorial 3: Four Tools to Help You Get New Customers

Increasing your business’ visibility online is critical to getting new customers. A customer’s first step when choosing a product, a place to eat, or a place to sleep will be an online search. Google state that 97% of consumers search for local businesses online. Of searches happening on Google over 50% now happen on smartphones and tablets.

There are a number of quick and easy ways you can help increase your business’ visibility online. The following examples are all free and mobile compatible and may be applicable to your business.

Google Places

Registering your business for Google Places is a free process that can significantly help your get found by customers. It allows your business to appear on Google Maps searches, display details (including open hours and address) on Google searches and receive Google Reviews to encourage more business and improve your service. It also helps you track basic analytics on your customers. Every local business should be on Google Places. Google have provided a detailed summary of how to add your basic information here.

 

Yelp

Yelp is an online tool designed to help customers find great local businesses through peer review. It’s free to register your business and increase your visibility, read your reviews and respond to customer feedback. For a summary of why you should consider using Yelp for your business and instructions on setting up your business page, see the videos below. More resources and educational videos are available at the Yelp YouTube Channel.

Trip Advisor

One of the first ports of call for the modern traveller is Trip Advisor. When you’ve just arrived in a new location, you need advice on which local businesses you can trust to meet your needs. Trip Advisor will help you get found and bring in visitors from around the globe. Be sure to register your business if you are in hospitality, tourism or related sectors.  A range of video resources are available from Trip Advisor’s YouTube Channel.

Urban Spoon

If you’re serving food and drinks, Urban Spoon is the site for you. Complete with mobile app, the service will allow you to be found and reviewed by punters. Especially of value, is the mobile app that allows users to search for near-by venues based on their geographic location. You can get started by going to https://www.urbanspoon.com/u/create .

Tutorial 2: Registering a Domain & Setting Up Company Email

An essential part of getting your business online is registering your domain name, and setting up a business email address. This simple task will give your business credibility and make it easier for customers to find you. Don’t worry if you have never registered a domain name – it’s really easy and we’ll show you how.

What is a domain name?

Simply put a domain name is what appears as the website address (URL) of your business website. For example, this website has the domain www.digitalhume.com.au.

What do you mean by company email?

When purchasing a domain, it is possible to also purchase an email service that provides you with company branded email addresses. For example, if you register the domain  examplebusiness.com, you would want a matching email address such as john@examplebusiness.com. This provides unity for your company name (and brand) across all contact with customers.

Where do I register?

There are many domain name providers online, who also offer a range of other services including email. Prices and services will vary with the provider and it is best to look around and see which provider is most suited to your business. Some of the most common domain name providers are listed below:

What makes a good domain name?

A good domain name is relevant to your business, not too long, easily remembered and not over-complicated. Your first preference might not be available, but there are still many domains available.

How do I purchase a domain name and email?

Using crazydomains.com.au, the below slideshow will step you through the process of purchasing your business domain and email address. Easy as that!

 

Tutorial 1: Getting Started Online

Getting Started

Getting started online doesn’t have to be daunting or expensive. The first step to getting online is to set up a basic web presence. Many small businesses think getting online is expensive and difficult. In today’s environment this simply isn’t true. In fact it is relatively easy.

There are many free (or reasonably priced) and easy to use website tools online. These tools allow you to build a simple web presence for your business. You just need to know where to look!

Every business should at minimum have a simple website. This will allow you to be found online and to promote your business to customers and prospects.

You cannot afford to wait any longer to get online. No matter what industry you are in, the chances are your competitors are already using the web to attract your customers.

Free online web building tools:

Below is a list of some of the best known website tools.

  • WordPress: One of the most commonly used tools, WordPress has a large support community, a wide range of templates to choose from and a user-friendly interface. Users can get started for free, and it is an open source tool meaning the code is free. This is important if you decide to build a more comprehensive site in the future.
  • Shopify: A useful tool for those businesses who wish to facilitate eCommerce (the ability to process online shopping).
  • Squarespace: A low cost, easy to use website builder, it leads the field in the proprietary web tools space.
  • Tumblr: Where websites and social media merge. Tumblr can be a particularly useful tool for those businesses who pride themselves on aesthetics and imagery and would like their content to be easily shared.
  • Wix: Another free website builder with a range of templates and user support.
  • Weebly: Free website builder with no need to sign up if you already have a Facebook account.

Our choice:

We generally recommend WordPress for a number of reasons.

  • There is a huge range of free and paid templates to choose from
  • Getting started is quick and easy
  • The interface is user-friendly, and
  • Because it is Open Source, there are a large number of users providing a comprehensive support network online when you get stuck.

That said, each business should investigate its options and choose the solution that is most suited to its own needs. There is no right or wrong answer and any of the tools mentioned above will get you online quickly and easily.

Getting started in under 20 minutes:

We’ve recorded a 20 minute webinar stepping you through the process of setting up a free basic website with WordPress. This is just a basic framework, and those who want a more comprehensive website can spend much more time expanding and perfecting their presence according to their needs.

Set aside 20 minutes to watch the recording after which you will have the knowledge to get your business online.

The Digital Economy Glossary

The Digital Economy, digital technologies, the digital divide and digital strategy – we’re well aware it can be easy to get lost in all the jargon and tech-speak. We’ve put together a simple glossary to help you make sense of the terminology and get to the bottom of how to use the internet.

Digital Economy: The Australian Government defines the digital economy as: “The global network of economic and social activities that are enabled by information and communications technologies, such as the internet, mobile and sensor networks.” Another way to think of it is as the internet enabled economy

National Broadband Network (NBN): The Department of Communications defines the NBN as a next-generation broadband network designed for Australia’s future needs. It will provide faster, more reliable broadband access to all Australian homes and businesses through a mix of three technologies: optic fibre, fixed wireless and next-generation satellite. The NBN is also the biggest telecommunications reform in Australia’s history. The NBN is currently under government review to determine details of the future rollout.

Digital Technology: The term ‘digital technology’ for our purposes refers to the entire digital eco-system. This includes the NBN, mobile connectivity, the world wide web, cloud computing applications, apps, and all other digital and computing hardware, software or data.

Cloud Computing: This term according to TechTerms refers to applications and services offered over the Internet. These services are offered from data centers all over the world, which collectively are referred to as the “cloud.” This metaphor represents the intangible, yet universal nature of the Internet. If you use an email service such as Gmail or Hotmail you are already using the cloud.

Digital Divide: Digital divide refers to a gap between different groups and demographics, defined by their access to knowledge and resources surrounding new information and communication tools such as the internet and associated technologies. An often cited digital divide, is the divide between senior citizens and teenagers’ familiarity with social media platforms. The digital divide is also used to describe the divide that will open up between those with high speed broadband access and those without it.

Digital Disruption: Deloitte define digital disruption as a measure of how much the arrival of new digital technologies will drive change for business, the economy and society as a whole. The music and newspaper industries are among the industries most deeply disrupted by digital technologies as people now access music and news services and products online often free of charge.

e-Commerce: TechTarget define e-Commerce as the buying and selling of goods and services on the Internet, especially the World Wide Web. In practice, this term and a newer term, e-business, are often used interchangeably. For online retail selling, the term e-tailing is sometimes used.

e-Health: e-Health refers to the use of digital technologies in the delivery of health information for professionals and consumers, the use of IT to improve public health services and education, and the use of e-commerce practices in health systems management.

Open Data: Open Data Handbook defines open data as “data that can be freely used, reused and redistributed by anyone –subject only, at most, to the requirement to attribute and share alike”.

3D Printing: The making of parts and products using a computer-driven, additive process, one layer at a time. 3D printing builds plastic and metal parts directly from CAD drawings that have been cross sectioned into thousands of layers. It provides a faster and less costly alternative to machining (cutting, turning, grinding and drilling solid materials). (from PC Mag)

For more information on internet basics, terminology and getting started, see the Department of Communications’ Internet Basics web resources. The Internet Basics website also has its own extensive glossary of internet terms, which can be found here.