Category Archives: Case Studies

Case Study: BIG4 Shepparton East Holiday Park

For the latest in our series of Hume region business case studies, we spoke to Kaye Bernardi - owner of the BIG4 Shepparton East Holiday Park.

Business overview

Kym & Kaye Bernardi have owned and operated the BIG4 Shepparton East Holiday Park for 14 big4-shepparton-east-logoyears. They are an independent member of BIG4 Holiday Parks franchise, which has parks all around Australia. They currently have 23 self-contained cabins, 12 ensuite  powered sites, powered caravan & tent sites and 12 mobile homes. The park predominantly caters for the family market. Both Kym & Kaye have made significant capital investment into technology and their park ensuring it has some of the best family friendly facilities like giant jumping pillow, solar heated pool, synthetic grass tennis court, pedal go-karts, recreation room and camp kitchens.

Continue reading

Craft beer, brewery trails and Bridge Road Brewers

For the latest in our series of Hume region business case studies, we spoke to Ben Kraus – owner of Beechworth’s award winning Bridge Road Brewers.

Business overview

Bridge Road Brewery started in 2004, moving to the old coach house on Ford Street and opening to the public in 2005. Today, the Beechworth brewery also operates as a bar and pizzeria, and their beer is sold around Australia. At the 2012 Australian International Beer Awards, the brewery brought home ten awards for their products.

Web and social media

  • The Bridge Road Brewers website has been a key part of the brewery marketing strategy since they opened, providing brewery and beer information, an online store, and links to the business’ social media profiles.
  • The brewery is listed on several information portals – however, Ben notes that it can be difficult keeping information current across all of them. Beechworth now has three different online directories, leading to a lot of duplicated information.
  • Staff are very active on social media, using Tweetdeck to manage their Twitter and Facebook accounts. They also receive alerts from keyword searches – listening for public discussions about Beechworth, their beers and the brewery name. The latest print run of beer labels now have the Bridge Road Twitter and Facebook accounts listed, in addition to the website.
  • The brewery has been trialling Google AdWords for around six months. They generally don’t target people who are already searching for the brewery, as Beechworth is far enough away from the major cities that it needs a special trip to come and visit. Instead, the AdWords campaign focuses on people who are looking for information about buying beer online – directing customers to the online store.
  • Currently, online direct sales are fairly low in volume, but the store infrastructure is now in place to handle higher demand for this in future.

Brewery trails

Beer tourism attracts some very serious beer fans, who plan trips based around brewery visits – much like the visitors to the region’s vineyards and wineries. These fans tend to be very active on social media – letting people know where they’re going, picking up extra cartons for friends back at home, and reviewing the places that they visit. Websites like the Crafty Pint and Brews News cater to fans of the craft beers and microbreweries.

Bridge Road Brewers are also part of the High Country Brewery Trail – a collaboration with Black Dog BreweryBright Brewery and the Sweetwater Brewing Company to encourage visitors to visit the high country and explore the four breweries.

Ratings and reviews

Like many of the businesses we’ve interviewed for the Digital Hume project, Bridge Road Brewers are listed on TripAdvisor. Generally, the brewery staff check review sites after busy periods like school holidays and long weekends, when many more customers are visiting the town. These also tend to place the most pressure on the business, when the brewery is most likely to book out their dinner tables. TripAdvisor is one of the most popular websites for restaurant and accommodation reviews, but Ben notes that the size and number of reviewers on the site can cause problems. When anyone can leave a review, there are no controls over whether those people actually visited the business – potentially letting inaccurate reviews bias potential visitors.

The review websites, blogs and forums used by the community of craft beer fans are generally seen as more valuable to the business, as they get exposure for the brewery among an audience who are more likely to travel out to the brewery, order online, or sign up for a Posse membership. As with any small business, it’s important to understand your target market and know where to find them online.

Communication and coordination at the Outdoor Education Group

For our latest Hume business case study, we spoke with Greg Caleo from OEG – the Outdoor Education Group, about how the Eildon-based company is communicating with customers and staff across the country.

Business overview

The Outdoor Education Group is one of the largest providers of journey-based outdoor education in Australia. Over the last 27 years we have delivered over 2 million student days in the outdoors. We have around 140 permanent staff in Victoria and NSW, and run school programs across Australia. These run from one-day to four-week expeditions, including dedicated Duke of Edinburgh Adventurous Journey programs. The majority of these programs are journey based and operate in public land, such as National Parks and State Forests. They typically involve activities such as bushwalking, canoeing, cycling, sea kayaking and rock climbing.

Tell us about the web technologies you are using in the business

We have a public-facing website, providing information on our programs, outdoor education resources and contact details. The site also has a clients-only area where students, staff and parents can access information about their own programs.

Behind the scenes, we run various pieces of technology to communicate between offices and staff. Landline phones using a VOIP system, a large intranet, and VPN access to the network are some of the ways we communicate internally.

What benefits have you gained from using these tools?

As OEG is managed from many different locations, communication and coordination is key for us. Having resources able to be accessed from different parts of the country is very important for us to be able to deliver outldoor education. In particular, having our scheduling and prediction systems widely available has allowed people to be more aware of the “big picture”.

How do you plan to use high speed broadband in your business when the NBN arrives?

Just having actual high speed broadband with our current systems will be a big improvement, both at the server and client ends. It will mean that users can access bigger “chunks” of data at a time. We would also be hoping to improve our videoconferencing abilities, as well as being able to have more media content available online, like videos and podcasts.

What advice do you have for other businesses who want to maximise their use of web technologies?

Running businesses from rural areas can be made easier by having good systems. These need not be enormous applications; sometimes just being able to share and view calendars is a big step up! It is important to pick the technologies and applications that suit what you are trying to achieve, then put time into them so that they work in the best way for your business. Regardless of the different needs we have, a reliable high-speed network will improve all types of use!

What’s your business up to online? If you run or work in a business in the Hume region and would like to share your story, contact us here.

GPS and real-time location data: Ron Finemore Transport on transport logistics

For our latest Hume region business case study we spoke to David Coleman, from Ron Finemore Transport: a transport company operating across the eastern states, with its headquarters in Wodonga.

Business overview

Ron Finemore Transport was founded eight years ago when Ron Finemore AO purchased the Lewingtons transport business, which had operated from its Wodonga headquarters since the 1960′s. Today we are a regional line haul transport company, recognised as a leader in the Australian trucking industry. We specialise in the Food and Energy sectors of the road transport market, and have a blue chip client base that includes food manufacturers, supermarkets, retailers, major oil companies and independent fuel distributors throughout the eastern States of Australia.

Tell us about the web technologies you are using in the business

All of our prime movers are equipped with GPS vehicle monitoring systems. These provide our operations team with detailed reports via a web interface, including:

  • Live fleet locations
  • Proof of time of delivery and pickups
  • Driver activity reports
  • Man down alarms
  • Reporting of excessive idle, speed and revs
  • Accident reports
  • Fuel economy statistics
  • Driver identification

When used in conjunction with GPS geo-fencing of customer sites, our delivery performance KPI reporting capability is enhanced considerably. Linking the GPS system to our company IT operating system further improves our reporting capability and timelines, which are increasingly valued by our customers.

What benefits have you gained from using these tools?

Vastly improved real time location data on each of our 150+ vehicles gives supervising staff critical information at their fingertips, when they need it.

  • Improves operational control and efficiency of transport services provided to customers
  • Provides enhanced capability to resolve delays and re-schedule vehicles to ensure customer requirements are met
  • Enables immediate communication with customers over delays or service issues
  • Improves the scope, integrity and timeliness of performance reporting with customers
  • Enhances safety risk management of our driver workforce who operate in remote areas, 24/7/365 days per year and on their own

How do you plan to use high speed broadband in your business when the NBN arrives?

No plans yet, but we will be investigating opportunities such as:

  • Video conferencing
  • Cloud computing
  • Video, photo and data transfer and sharing of better information for event reporting (accidents, incidents, delays), delivery performance, proof of delivery and load documentation (moving towards paperless records)
  • Using social media to enhance our customer relationships

What advice do you have for other businesses who want to maximise their use of web technologies?

All businesses need to learn about, understand, test and evaluate new technologies, in order to maintain and improve their competitiveness in a fast-changing world. By sharing knowledge and collaborating with other stakeholders, both within your own networks and in other industry sectors, more creative ideas can be found while also avoiding the pitfalls of others.

Kiewa Valley Engineering – process and systems innovation

Kiewa Valley Engineering is a family business in Wodonga, where they have been involved in the Structural Steel industry for over 35 years. We spoke to Dave Robin about the online technologies that are used in this manufacturing sector business.

Business overview

KVE are a proud Australian family business with more than 35 years experience as a Structural Steel Manufacturer. We offer advanced manufacturing capability, with domain specialisation in four industry sectors; Power (T&D), Transport & Infrastructure, Mining/Resources and Commercial/Building.

Over our long association with the Structural Steel Industry, KVE has developed many systems and processes to enable ‘best practice’ to be developed, encompassing all facets of our business including quality, manufacturing, pricing, and certification & training of our excellent staff. Our internal IT&T systems ensure transparency, high degrees of automation and manufacturing excellence. Our current pricing system has matured significantly, to the extent that it is now an end-to-end process with extremely accurate cost of manufacture. That allows us to be confident that we are offering the most competitive cost structure whilst still delivering the highest levels of quality and manufacturing, on time, every time.

Tell us about the web technologies you are using in the business

  • We regularly use cloud based sharing software to transfer information from the Administration team out into the workshop.
  • We’re about to introduce a new timekeeping system, which will involve tablet computers feeding information into a database in real time.
  • Our new communication system is in the final stages of implementation, and will rely heavily on high speed internet to enable services like video conferencing and desktop sharing.

What benefits have you gained from using these tools?

By using cloud based sharing software, we have dramatically reduced the amount of paper pushed into the workshop. We hope to continuously improve this, so that eventually the workshop will be completely paper free. Also, by using the tablets to feed information into our database we replace the need to use day cards, and can remove the lag between data entry and reporting on that information. Our new communication system will improve our ability to actively share ideas easier and demonstrate alternate approaches to our clients, particularly through desktop sharing.

How do you plan to use high speed broadband in your business when the NBN arrives?

The NBN will enhance all the web based systems we currently have in place, resulting in a more efficient workplace, and better communication with our clients.

What advice do you have for other businesses who want to maximise their use of web technologies?

Anything is possible with the use of the internet. Keep track of best practice in all aspects of your business, and continually look for ways to improve your business processes, systems and practice.

Do you work in the manufacturing sector? We’d love to hear how your business is evolving to use the range of new tools that are becoming available – leave a comment below, or contact us via our Case Study form.

Web design and regional communities online, with WWW.ART

Our latest case study looks at Beechworth’s WWW.ART web design services – winners of the Excellence in Professional Services award at the 2012 Indigo Shire Business Awards. Owner/operator Fiona Larkings has been helping businesses across the region get online since launching her business 14 years ago.

Business overview

Since 1998, WWW.ART Design Services has built a strong portfolio of clients from many different industries across the region. We specialise in building cost effective easy to navigate, well-structured web sites for businesses and organisations of all sizes. We work closely with our clients to provide a personalised service, helping them to design and maintain effective, individually tailored websites.

We provide a wide range of services for our customers, from the design and construction of new sites, through to ongoing maintenance, social media integration and email marketing solutions. One of our earliest projects, the Beechworth.com community hub now has over 110 businesses and community organisations on the site, and attracts over 8,000 visitors each month.

Tell us about the web technologies you are using in the business

  • Our website acts as a showcase for our services, and a portfolio of our current work.
  • Google Analytics provides us with detailed statistics on our website traffic.
  • We’re familiar with a range of domain management systems and hosting technologies, which we use to register and manage client domains, and provide web hosting services for our clients.
  • An email marketing system helps us manage our mailing list and contacts.
  • We also have a business presence on social media services like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.
  • Using Webinars for training enables us to keep up with the latest changes in our industry, without constantly needing to travel to metropolitan areas.

What benefits have you gained from using these tools?   

We are an internet based business, so without access to these tools our business would not exist. Where possible, we aim to educate all of our clients about the benefits of using these technologies to help them grow their own businesses.

How do you plan to use high speed broadband in your business when the NBN arrives?

The increased speed the NBN offers will help us to do better business, and provide faster delivery of speed for client websites.

What advice do you have for other businesses who want to maximise their use of web technologies? 

When setting up a website, find a professional website designer/developer that knows about Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). Rather than thinking about how the website looks and then later discovering that it doesn’t work, these two elements should work together. Your website developer should also be able to clearly explain the elements required to construct a website, so that you know what you are paying for.

Make sure that your website allows you to update your own content, or that your developer provides support if you find this too difficult. All businesses need to have an online presence so that they can be found in this fast moving world.

You can find out more about WWW.Art through their website, Facebook page or Twitter account.

Digital Economy at Moira Shire

We recently spoke with Michelle Moore and Bruce Connolly from Moira Shire Council, about regional businesses that are embracing the digital economy. We’ll be documenting Moira Shire’s new Economic Development strategy over the next 12 months – this will take the form of an interactive document, with the capactity to use technology like QR codes and online videos.

 

Michelle and Bruce discussed local case studies such as a Yarrawonga retailer that has broadened their markets by selling online. Since taking the business online two years ago, they have increased their turnover by 60%, and now sell to markets around the world. The business owners looked at their environment and saw increasing pressure on retailers, and a need to adapt. Expanding their range and selling products online allowed the business to increase their sales while still maintaining their desired lifestyle, living in a regional town. Bruce notes that many country businesses are inherently conservative, and reluctant to adopt new business models – though recent examples show that there are many benefits to doing so.

The council also sees potential to improve collaboration and networking among regional business owners. Local micro-producers work to sell value-added products at the farm gate, and have begun promoting their activities online. Websites like Sun Country Food and Wine give producers the ability to sell their products online. Call to action – when food is showcased at expos and shows.

The shift to a digital economy still has its challenges. Micro producers often don’t have much time to explore the range of new technologies that their business could be using. Marketing and promotion is another factor – it’s important to get the word out there, letting customers know that these products are now available online.

Councils are likely to have the greatest role to play in assisting local businesses to make this change, by showing them how they can use new tools to increase their market share, access new markets, and improve production and profitability.

It’s also important to note that when opening up new markets, many of the ‘old rules’ still apply. Understanding people and culture are critical when expanding into new areas, such as new export markets. Respect cultures, build relationships and embrace technology to enhance these relationships.

Case study: Watson’s Mountain Country Trail Rides

For our latest case study, we spoke to Michael Watson about how Mansfield’s Watson’s Mountain Country Trail Rides have developed an online presence for their business.

Business overview

Watson’s Trail Rides is a family business, and has operated from our property in Mansfield for the past 30 years. Most of our customers come from two sectors: domestic “free independent travellers” and school groups. We also have regular bookings from international and corporate groups. As a small business, it’s been important for us to be in control of our web presence. If our events, availability or other details change, we need to be able to change the content of our site quickly.

Which web or social media technologies are you using for your business?

  • We manage our own website. This is a central place for people to find out about our business, and we update it several times a week.
  • I also keep an eye on our website analytics roughly once a month. That lets us see how many people look at the site, and where they come from.
  • We have been using an online booking system on our website for about four years now. Around half of our bookings are made online.
  • Over time, we’ve added other tools. YouTube was one of the earliest, allowing us to show people what it’s like on our rides.
  • A more recent addition is our Facebook page – helping us to promote the business on social networks, in addition to our website. We use the page to keep people updated on what the business has been doing, and have photo galleries from some of our major events.
  • TripAdvisor had been very handy for us. It’s more commonly used for accommodation, but has a growing number of event and experience listings. I was wary about putting customer testimonials on our website, as they rarely feel authentic. TripAdvisor acts as an impartial third party – by linking to their reviews, we can show people directly what customers have said about the business.

What have been the benefits of using these?

Our online presence helps people to discover our business, provides them with a personal experience of who we are and what we do, and also takes care of around half of our bookings. It can sometimes be hard finding time to manage it all, but it’s extremely valuable for us.

Operating in an industry that traditionally doesn’t have a strong online presence has its advantages. There aren’t a lot of trail riding companies out there, compared with much more active sectors like tourist accommodation. That helps us to remain visible in search engines, without being drowned out by hundreds of other sites.

Do you have any tips for other business managers wanting to get online?

If you don’t think that your business needs a web presence, think about things from the perspective of your customers: when and where are they likely to want information about your business? For a tourism operator, much of the planning that goes into a family holiday will take place at home, after working hours – when your business won’t be able to answer enquiries directly. Your website can help people discover your business, and also helps answer a lot of questions the customers will have.

You can find out more about Watson’s Trail Rides via their website or Facebook page.

Connecting local producers with customers at Walker Events

Mansfield’s Walker Events is an events management business with an environmentally friendly ethos at its core. We spoke with business owner Alli Walker about how she uses social media and the web to promote her business. 

Business overview

We started in 2009,  and run a suite of three core events, aimed at promoting the many facets of sustainability. These are the monthly Mansfield Farmers’ Market, the twice yearly Sustainable House Tours and the newly introduced Regional Farm Gate Tours. Our customers are mostly Victorian, with a mix of locals, regional and Melbourne-based.

Which web or social media technologies are you using in your business?

  • We started off with a farmer’s market web page – this was used as the portal for all information pertaining to the market. Stallholder enquiries and applications are all handled online through the web page.
  • As the other events grew in their following and strengths, we created a second web page for Walker Events. This allowed us to introduce devotees of the farmers’ market to the other facets of our business. Both web pages are updated on average once per week and cross-promote each other.
  • Both web pages are attached to a MailChimp database, allowing people to sign up to our email newsletter. This is used for promoting all facets of the business. Using MailChimp takes away a lot of the work (subscribers/unsusbcribers, etc) involved with keeping the database up to date.
  • Twitter and Facebook also play a large part in the marketing of the business. The farmers’ market has its own Facebook business page which is used to communicate general foodie news and promotions as well as market information.  Twitter is used as a means to create relationships with producers, other markets, people interested in food as well as media contacts.
  • We are just starting to use YouTube to record different experiences – we have a business YouTube channel which is another way to showcase our experiences.
  • As a business that prides itself on being environmentally sustainable, being a part of the digital space in such a big way helps us to reduce the amount of paper and other resources that we use.

What have been the benefits of using these?

We embraced digital marketing from the very beginning, simply because it was something that could be managed in-house. The media contacts that we have made online have been of enormous assistance with PR and marketing.

Contacts made through Twitter have created some huge benefits for the business, as well as for individual producers who attend the market. In particular, one of our producers was “introduced” over Twitter. This was noticed by some high-level chefs, and as a consequence is now supplying product to several hatted restaurants.  Word of mouth recommendations are vitally important when it comes to local produce and the use of Twitter in this instance was hugely successful.

What benefits do you think the NBN will have for your business?

At the moment, slow internet and frequent drop outs that can occur through our wireless internet connection mean that something that should take half an hour ends up taking half a day. Constant and controlled broadband access will make many of our tasks much easier.

Do you have any tips for other business managers who may be looking at getting online?

Don’t be scared! There is no need to jump into everything all at once – start slowly. Ask questions. Read books and blogs. Attend workshops and professional development. Keep learning and make the most of the opportunities that are available.

You can connect with Walker Events on Twitter at @MansfieldFM, and on the Mansfield Farmer’s Market Facebook page.

Improving client communications at Lindsay Park Racing

Lindsay Park Racing operates a state of the art racehorse training facility in Euroa. The Hayes family have been training champion racehorses since 1947, but are also drawing on the latest web technologies to help staff and horse owners to communicate more efficiently. We spoke with Jason Timperley, Racing Manager at Lindsay Park.

Business overview

We provide a ‘one stop shop’ for racehorse training needs at our Euroa property, covering all breaking in, pre-training, training, veterinary and transport needs for our owners. Our staff also assist with all aspects of racehorse sales. Although the majority of Lindsay Park’s racehorse owners are based in Australia, we have a large number of owners all around the world – particularly in Asia and Europe.

Which web technologies are you using at the moment?

  • Our website acts as a central hub for current owners and prospective customers to find out about our facilities, trainers, horses and race highlights.
  • Client communication is a big focus for us. Owners all have a secure login that gives them access to up to date information on their horses through our website, allowing them to see notes from the trainer of each horse.
  • We’re also using social media services like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube to help spread the word about what we do.
  • Our staff now use a mobile app to record voice messages about the condition and performance of each horse, sending these directly from the stable to the owners. This greatly reduces the time required to update multiple owners about each animal.
  • We’ve started shooting video footage around the stables, giving the owners weekly updates from David Hayes, and showing some details from our training sessions.
  • Trainers are shifting away from paper-based systems to web-based software, using iPads to enter daily work schedules directly into the company database.

What benefits have been gained from using these tools?

By making the online experience as interactive as possible, we have been able to provide a better experience for owners who can’t come in personally to see the horses that we’re training for them. That gives us a stronger connection with the owners, and also lets us show them new horses for sale.

By providing the best possible experience for our owners, we hope that they will also spread the word about our services – bringing in new buyers from around the world.

How do you plan to use high speed broadband in your business when the NBN arrives?

We’d like to expand our capability to work with video content, as it has an important role in helping to share what happens at our properties. Live streaming of training sessions would help to showcase the work and expertise that goes into preparing horses for their races. There are also regular events, like our Yearling Parade, which we’d love to stream live footage of.

What advice do you have for other businesses who want to maximise their use of web technologies?

Embrace the social media environment – get out there and start learning how it can help your business. We’ve gradually added new tools to our business, starting with Twitter late last year, and building up our Facebook content a few months ago. They have helped us to make contacts, and generated a lot of extra publicity for us.

You can find out more about Lindsay Park Racing via their website, Facebook page or Twitter account. If you know of an innovative business in the Hume region, please get them to contact us via our contact form