12Jul

Should I get a .com or .com.au for my Australian Business Website?

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In this video, I’m talking about an SEO question about whether you should use a .com or a .com.au for your Australian website.

Google takes geographic information into account when ranking websites; so this is both the location of the person making the search, and also the target location of the website itself. So if you have a website and you are targeting Australia specifically, and not internationally, then you should definitely be telling Google this so that you can make sure that your website will appear more readily for Australian searches.

Now how do you do this? There’s two different ways.

One, is to set the location within Google web master tools; and the second way to do it is, to make sure you get a .com.au for your URL extension. If you have a .com then absolutely you should be using the web master tools option. But if you got a .com.au, then it’s already taken care of for you, so you don’t have to worry about it.

However, I also think a .com.au is useful for letting your customers and potential customers know that you are, in fact, an Australian business. When people see the .com.au they immediately know – hey, this is an Australian business because they are conditioned to associate .com.au in Australian businesses. If they see .com, there may be an element of doubt that gets in their mind as to whether you are, in fact, an Australian business looking out for the interest of Australian people specifically, rather than an international business, which targets a large number of locations.

So for that reason I think, absolutely, if you have a business targeting Australia specifically, you should definitely try and get a .com.au.

11Apr

Ep#35: Building & Marketing a Web Startup with Patrick Moody

Building and marketing a Web Startup: Themematcher.com, with founder Patrick Moody

Instead of the regular show this week we’re playing you an interview we did with Patrick Moody, founder of Themematcher.com as part of our Adelaide Entrepreneurs video interview series.

Get all the details about the startup at the original post over here: Patrick Moody Interview – Founder of Themematcher.com

If you’re interested in attending some Adelaide small business events such as networking, presentations or workshops then you can check all of those out at our Adelaide Small Business Events Calendar. Be sure to sign up to our mailing list as well so you don’t miss anything.

07Mar

Ep#31: Lean Methodologies for your Startup or Small Business

The basics of lean principles, how to apply them to your business and some mistakes to avoid – interview with Trevor Glen

In this episode I interview Trevor Glen, an Adelaide based software consultant from Sarugo about his experiences with lean principles and methodologies and how they can be applied to new businesses and new marketing initiatives.

We cover;

  • The ‘Lean Startup’ book and approach
  • Who can benefit from the approach
  • Some not-so-lean mistakes to avoid
  • The concept of ‘minimum viable product’?
  • How can the MVP concept be used to improve product development processes?

Mentions / Links;

Video from this interview;

 

Transcript

[spoiler title=”Click to reveal/hide the transcription”]

Nick: Welcome back to the Web marketing Adelaide Podcast. I’m your host Nick Morris and today, we are talking about Lean Start-up Methodologies. We have a special guest Trevor Glen, he’s an Adelaide based software consultant from Sorugo. Good day Trevor how you doing?

Trevor: Yeah, good day Nick, yourself.

Nick: Pretty good! It’s good to have you along for this video interview for my Podcast listeners to listen to the audio. I am now doing a lot of video interviews, so if you head to our website at www.webmarketingadelaide.com.au, you can actually see the video version of this interview, which would also be up on YouTube and I can see Trevor there ready to go so, I think we’ll just launch into this by – I’ll get you Trevor to just explain to us a little bit about yourself, what you have done to get you up to this point and what are you working on right now?

Trevor: Yeah sure, thanks, thanks for having me on today! My background has always been a software engineer at Motorola for a number of years and when they decided to shut down the software center, we had a team there that worked pretty well together, so we thought we’d start a software business. Along the way, we found a number of things that we could do well together as a team, some failings that we had as a team as well but most importantly what we’ve come across over the past few years, and specifically the outcome of the process of this lean start-up idea, and how a lot of the things that we did along the path that, perhaps at the time seemed like the right idea would have if I’d known about the lean start-up back then would have been a lot better.

Basically, we started a software company, from that, we decided to try and develop a product, and that product that we developed is an online backup solution that is distributed backup solution. So, rather than have a single server towards the back-up, they distributed around the network. So, utilizing spare how dispersed to a community of users. We made it, as a simply, made a lot of – we did a lot of great stuff, software that we made is fantastic software, then in terms of marketing tree strategy is where the lean start-up really, in my opinion, hasn’t nailed, the process that Eric Reese describes in his book as fantastic and I think a lot of it applies to what we could have done perhaps a little bit better as well.

Nick: Great! That was pretty good, just to expand on that, so the lean start-up sort of, lean start-up is a book by Eric Reese – I haven’t actually read it yet. It’s sitting over there on my dresser, that I need to read but it is a set of methodologies. Did he sort of invent them or did they exist before and he sort of popularized it? How did that fit in?

Trevor: From my understanding of the background and certainly, I’m not an expert on lean start up, it’s just my own reading of the book and my own understanding of the lean principles where I believed developed at Toyota in Japan and in relation to manufacturing. So, really what it is about it is cutting out a lot in the fat in the manufacturing process to ensure that there is minimum amount of waste and minimum amount of processing that occurs prior to them actually doing the manufacturing. So, in that regard, I think what Eric saw and what he’s applied and what others have applied even before him and didn’t perhaps give it that name, was a way of applying that to a start-up of a business and that can apply. I think it applies really, really well to software businesses and especially web start-ups. They can apply across the board as well.

Nick: Great! Let’s move on and start off the topic with, why don’t you explain a little bit about what the lean start-up approach is and what it is about?

Trevor: The way that I look at it, I guess my interpretation of the book and certainly, you say you haven’t read it and I’m sure most people haven’t to date but I definitely recommend you read it. It’s a great, it’s not a long book but it’s very well written and you can get the concepts pretty quickly. Lean start-up is really about developing what your minimum viable product is. What’s the thing that you can get out to the market as quickly as possible to start either making money ideally, but at the very least, learning what it is that your market needs before you can get to the point of selling it. So, a minimum viable product I was reminded – actually just this morning, I was watching the dropbox story, which is a great example of lean start-up, of an application of the lean start-up.

They’re actually talking in there, the founder was talking in the video about the fact that a lot of the lean start-up stuff that they did, some of it was delivered and some of it they actually just accidentally come across as well but in there, his minimum viable product was actually a video that he posted on Hacker News site, where he basically did a screen grab of him using the technology, using his product and invited comments from people and straight away he was interacting with the market and finding out from the market what it is that they would willing to buy.

So, what they bought [Inaudible 00:06:15] is getting a product out there as soon as you can and then from that, following the process of building something, measuring what you’re doing and learning from it. So, upfront you want to ask yourself some key questions. What is it that people gonna buy? What is it that people might buy that are in my space and start investigating that, and that’s not desk work, that’s actually putting something out there and getting people to, either put their email address online – another thing is having a landing page where people can actually go in and say yes, I am interested in this product when you launch it.

By doing that, you can actually see that there is an appetite for your product out there in the market. Having a landing page is where you are actually having different types of wording and finding out what it is that your market, the type of language they use as well. But at every step along the way, you want to be building something, measuring what it is that you’re building, measuring that and learning from it and in the book they talk about that, that in the early stages of a company, it’s not actually about the number of dollars that you have in but those sort of learning points that you have.

So, what is it that you have learnt along the way, obviously it all needs to turn into a business eventually where you are making money but along the way, it is actually you can be showing progress, not by how much you have sold but by how much you have learned and how closely do you rely to having something that is of interest to the market and what they are willing to pay for.

Nick: That makes good sense. Seems to be concepts that every business should follow but is it, specifically for technologies type businesses, start-up businesses? I mean, you mentioned that it can apply to other businesses too, can it apply to every business, in your opinion?

Trevor: Look, I think there are facets that can apply to every business. I think the build measure learn, sort of idea can definitely apply to probably every business in some way. The value of it to a technology start up of course is that you can get a web page up in 5 minutes. You can change the content of that web page in 30 seconds, so your time to market for and time to be able to react is a lot quicker than say, a manufacturing business, where if you were trying to get out and a build a widget and find out if people are interested in that widget, even just the idea of getting to a prototype stage where you might deliver a prototype to 20 different people and get their opinion on it.

That’s a lot costlier than getting the next Instagram created website for example. It’s a lot easier to do than software and technology. So, specifically software in the world, so our industry in that regard could be a better place to make the most of the ideas of lean start up but also – I think what they talk about in the book is that start-up doesn’t necessarily mean someone working out of their garage. The idea of this, it is really about a being a lean entrepreneur, an entrepreneur can exist within larger companies too you know.

The term entrepreneur is usually given to those sorts of people and those entrepreneurs can actually, given the right structure go out and do this process within a large company as well so if you think about start-up not necessarily in terms of a business but in terms of an idea and it’s about innovation and about applying those principles to taking that innovation to market in a way that actually gets the most customers quicker, quickest is really the end go.

Nick: That would make quite a bit of sense there as well. I guess the other thing with the web is that makes the measurement path easier.

Trevor: Exactly! That is exactly right, again going back to manufacturing example and giving someone a widget measuring that is hard. They play with it for an hour or 2 hours, they give it to their son and they play with it for 3 hours and measuring that is a lot harder with a physical device that as a whole industry around that process whereas you are exactly right on the web with tools like Google analytics and even tools like un-bounce is I’ve come across recently as a landing page tool, and there is a lot of them out just Google on the front but you can find that information.

Nick: Yep, definitely it is one of the advantages of the web. When I sort of first heard about this lean start-up approach, lean start-up methodologies, I was actually hearing about it from Podcast and things, whether talking about more from an established business who is launching a new product. I just want to get your thoughts on that, that its not just for starting a new business but it can also be used for an established business who’s launching a new product or perhaps some other new aspect.

Trevor: Definitely I think, to be honest the way that I see this and it’s sort of an innovation can be simply even a new process of how you do what you do. Following the lean start-up methodologies is a great way to do that, and it really is just about testing in a hypothesis in the market to see if it is actually gonna stick, if you want to put it another way and that can apply to any new business, to any new product, to any new process, to any new service. Any of those can take some of that lean start-up ideas and apply it to their business.

There’s probably going to be eco-system of support around that. In the book, they talk about , I think it’s Intuit is the name of the company. I might be wrong on that but basically, I think they’re pretty large software vendor in the U.S. I think it counts as a top software and they actually, they might be as big as 15,000 people. Whenever they bring a new product to market, follow this lean start-up idea or methodology because it’s a great way to bring a product to market.

So, around that, their management structure support and understand that there has got to be some give and take around dollars. It can’t be just all about next quarter’s results, excuse me because what you’re trying to do is get something out of the market and get some feedback around what it should be doing before delving too deep into product development.

Nick: Yeah, great! We will move on now. You actually recently gave a talk, I think it was at the lean start-up meet up in Adelaide and you wrote a blog post about some of the not so much mistakes you made but your business in which we want to perhaps talk about a few of them. The two I’ve sort of singled out, that I thought would be interesting were, one, listen to your market and two, expect failure. So, could you just talk to us a little a little about the listen to your market aspect.

Trevor: It comes back to the build measure learn thing. One of the things that I think the mistakes we made is that we thought we knew what our market wanted and went out and developed a fantastic piece of software that sold for that imagined market and as we got it out we realized that, there was a market for that, maybe they weren’t willing to pay as much as we needed to charge or they weren’t willing to use it in the way we thought they would use it, so, listen to your market. In my mind, it’s really about the fact that you actually need to be out there talking to the market every step along the way.

Don’t invest too much time in building this wonderful software or wonderful system that nobody’s ever gonna use. If you don’t know what the market wants and what the market’s willing to pay for, then it’s absolutely irrelevant how good your software is and really, that is the key part of that listen to your market, is to not only listen to them but actually explicitly go out there and solicit at their feedback as early as you possibly can. We did do some of this through you know betas and sure enough, but we weren’t asking the right questions.

The questions we are asking them about the market was, does this product work for you? Are there any bugs, when really what we should have been asking was would you be willing to pay money for this? And at that point what’s missing from it that would make you want to fork over your cash? That’s really, at the end of the day, for business, that’s what matters, is people paying for it not how many users that you have.

Nick: Yeah, absolutely and I don’t know if that thing relates to it is often described that people can say that they will buy a product but actually buying a product is a different sort of thing. So, if you can, I don’t know, are there any strategies that you are aware of where you can kind of bridge that gap between what people will say and what they will actually do?

Trevor: A great way to do it, obviously, it depends on your product, is to ask for a credit card number, so even if you don’t have a product to say or that your you know you’ve got a product that you don’t think it’s exactly 100% there, is to actually ask for a credit card, is to get people to pay for it now. What they are paying for and know that is something you can test, so are they paying for 2 years subscription or are they paying to get into the beta program? That’s one way around it. It is a tough one, it’s one that I don’t think there’s a catch or a solution for but it really, I think if you are solving their problems along the way, one would hope that the money comes with that.

So, if you are actually solving a market need, yeah you’d hope that eventually, that would relate into dollars, and so if you’ve got that right and you listened to your market and you know what is that they want, then you can find that out and then you can do some testing around that as well. So, even if you get the point to the product, the product will point where you are, yes, we are happy with this as a product in the market. You can then see a different product points and so okay, let’s try it at $300 a month and see what sort of results you get and using that information, we’ll be able to determine what the sweet spot for that particular market.

Nick: Yeah, that seems to work out for businesses when they’re not, before that when they are trying to speak to the market. What’s a good way to get out there and do that? I’ve heard mentioned before that you should do lots of cold calling to your target market and to get them on the phone and talk to them about their problem so you can really understand it. Is that a good strategy do you think or are there any others?

Trevor: I think it is. I think, certainly like occasionally like Adelaide is quite good in some look outs because getting access to some of the people is key decision makers in companies can be relatively simple because of the size of the network here in Adelaide. So, everybody knows everybody as you would know, so eventually, it doesn’t take you too long if you want to talk to the head of XYZ or the head of this branch. Obviously, that’s important the market you are trying to enter into, so, having those conversations is really, really important and especially if you want to try and find someone who can help you to develop the product to help you be your channel to the market.

Having early conversations with those sorts of people, and people who are actually talking to the market you are selling to day in and day out. So, they might be selling a product that’s similar to what you are proposing, maybe not a competitor but something that is complimentary. If you go out there and talk to them and find out because they will know you would hope, what their customers paying points are and be able to cover off a large set of customers with potentially one conversation. Look, other ways you can do it as well are surveys, again come back to the dropbox example with the video .

If your audience saw you know that you need to get earlier doctors on board, find the areas on the web where those people are having conversations. If you are selling, you’re selling something that relates to over clocking your motherboard well, there is an over-clockers website, a forum there, so go talk to those people there. So, being smart about it and using the internet to do, and social media is another great example of that and might get informed coming to social media in that regard as well just a bit different flavor of it, but going out there and using and finding out what your customers are talking, even if you are just watching the conversations that they are having there, you will find out a lot about what their talking points are by linking groups, now Google Plus communities, these sorts of environments now, utilize those to find out what it is that your market is saying so… It does depend on what your market is if you obviously if you sell consumer product, versus say an enterprise product will be different communication style. So, is and they would communicate in different ways and will have to ensure that you use the language of those different communities but generally find out what is your market talks and get involved in those conversations.

Nick: That makes sense, obviously. Another thing I’ve seen and I think you sort of briefly touched on it earlier on in the interview, was you can get these sort of email, captcha things that you put up on a website and then you just drive traffic to it perhaps by adwords or some other paid mechanism and it might be like a simple question related to some sort of product that you’re thinking of developing and then the idea is, what kind of conversion can you get to people putting in their email, address which is you know it’s not a payment but an email address is something that’s semi-valuable. So, people don’t just give it out. Yeah so at least you’ve got some sort of investment there. I guess that’s another thing that you can do. Have you had any experience, any ideas on using paid traffic?

Trevor: Another book that I would recommend that is along the same lines of the lean start-ups in terms of thinking about your business in a different ways is The Four Hour Work Week. I definitely recommend that as another book to read, it talks a lot about paid search and setting up a niche and I think really paid search is best search for a niche. Without product at one stage there, we had online back-up. As it turned, you’re looking at business, probably a couple years ago now, you are looking at $6 a click. So, if you are selling a product that is $60 a year and at $60 a click, you’re gonna need more than 1 in 10 people to sign up from clicking on your ads.

So, that might be an expensive way for you to get more traffic, however if you’ve got a niche product that people still search for but it’s not highly auctioned or what’s the term, bid on in the Google adwords infrastructure, then you’ve got a better chances of getting some conversions happening there and that’s but obviously, it has to make sense and that’s where you’ve got to make sure that you marry up your adwords content with the content on your website as well so, so definitely it can work. I haven’t personally been involved in [Inaudible 00:23:19] that have done it successfully but again, if you could read Four Hour Work Week, there’s some great examples in there of people who had just done that.

Nick: Yeah I just thought reach back and pull out the book of The Four Hour Work Week, which I do have, so yeah glad to say that I’ve actually started this one and like the lean start-up and sort of so good, it’s really quite well written and interesting. Let’s move on to the second point here, expect failure, can you elaborate on this little bit?

Trevor: In some ways, that’s the, our background as software engineers working for a large software organization quality was of the outmost and releasing anything that had a bug in it was a big no no, for a various reasons especially at that point in time. Once you got a mobile phone or a base station out in the wall, having to do patches on those to fix bugs isn’t that easy and could be quite costly if you can imagine a phone recall for an organization to bring back a mobile phone to be able to re-flash it and to fix a bug, is just not gonna happen. So, I get it, for an organization like that makes sense, but we probably took some of that, took too much of that methodology, applied it to our business where a back-up product has to work, absolutely no doubt about it but it has to work. But, it has to work for the things that people will need it to work for, so, getting it out there it doesn’t have to be perfect.

If people expect that things that gonna be wrong with software, sadly enough, it says if that is the case but what’s more important is that you put something out there knowing that something’s gonna fail because you wouldn’t have thought of every single moment that somebody’s gonna use your software. Again, if you’re doing a consumer sort of solution, I guarantee it will get it out there and someone will use it in some way that you never even thought of you know. They are still running Windows 95 or they’re trying to install it on their laptop, that’s only got 1 megabyte of space left, you know.

So, things like that that you’ve, you can’t even, you probably wouldn’t even think of before you released your software but what’s so important is knowing that’s gonna fail and being prepared for dealing with various failures. So, being responsive to people’s concern and one probably important thing from my personal perspective is owning up to them, not trying to hide the fact that this software has failures, and then once you’ve found those problems, releasing often and that is another important part of, I guess, the lean start-up is that you are always releasing new versions of your software, getting it out there, so that people can experience the new version and fixing bugs in that time.

Nick: Yeah, that makes sense. Well, I think that last point about owning up to them is something probably certain business owners, me included struggle with sometimes because you’re sort of so invested in it and you feel like it’s you know part of you so almost saying that it’s failing is almost a thing against you personally and it’s difficult to own up sometimes, having that at front of mine you should always be owning up and getting onto it quickly and making sure you give them good customer service.

Trevor: I think an important, there’s some cultural things that exist in Australia to around value. Australians generally whether be two puppy or whatever is it we’re not great on trying things and expecting something of it to fail. So, culturally, you have to deal with that as well and you have to battle your own internal feelings about this as well as others in the community or why are you doing this? It probably gonna fail anyway and that relates not only just to lean start-up and entrepreneurship, generally in Australia and it’s get them a soap box over here. In my opinion in Australia, this we are well placed, pretty better than many other places in the world to be entrepreneurs. The way that our system works where you can lose all of your money on a venture and still be able to feed the kids, have a house over here, have a roof over your head and still be able get health care, is better than 99% of the world. I think it’s a fact that we need to embrace that failure, embrace the fact that we are going to fail in certain things and recognize that when that happens you are actually in the best place in the world for failure to occur and not be end up living up in a car as we’ve seen happen for people who are not even entrepreneurs in the States and all around the world over the last few years with the financial issues.

People who thought they had a stable job, lose the job, can’t find any more work and end up out on the streets. So, in Australia [Inaudible 00:28:46] we’ve avoided most of that at a micro level. At a micro level, I think that people would just accept that they can and will fail at something and just have to go because it is so much more satisfying than just doing the 9 to 5.

Nick: Yeah absolutely, and a concept that I think relates well to this I’ve heard described, this fail forward, so trying to make sure when you do fail, you actually learning something from it, so you can re-apply that to your business or change something or fix something.

Trevor: Yeah definitely and I think it’s one of the things that, one of the reasons that I did the blog post and why I’m more than happy to spend the time with you today is because, there are some of those things, the mistakes that we made, I don’t want others to make those mistakes. So, I think, we’ve, a lot of what is happening in Adelaide in the last few years you know Silicon Beach, these co-working groups that they are setting up, there is a real vibe around entrepreneurship and start-ups now in Adelaide that didn’t exist in the past. So, I think it’s important that we all do work together to pool our learnings, so that we can all collectively grow this opportunity of Australia being, in Adelaide, be a great place to have a start-up.

Nick: Yeah, it really is interesting. I’ve been going to various events lately and through another project, I’ve just started what I’m gonna be interviewing various entrepreneurs in Adelaide. It’s really interesting thing that the community grow and concepts like, what we’re talking about today, like the lean start-up methodologies I think are really gonna be important for people who have that energy and have that desire to start something but want to make sure that you’re doing it in the right way.

So you’re not, it’s not much of a waste and so you listen to your market as you’ve said and coming up with solutions that are gonna actually solve some problems that make up, importantly pay for so you can fund your venture so that you can get some value out of it in the end. I sort of touched on briefly again the minimum viable product idea, you sort of explained, what it is to begin with and you sort of mentioned the dropbox video idea. Could you just expand on minimum viable product a little bit, maybe some examples of what a minimum viable product could be?

Trevor: It is, my experience today with minimum viable products has been its [Inaudible 00:31:24] for some people and in their industry they have their minimum viable product. It has to be quite complete before anyone would even consider using it. It’s probably in something like a – especially if you’re talking about technology where you’re traditionally working with technology where you’re working with lawyers and doctors because lawyer and doctors would be less willing to put up with bugs, less willing to put up with issues.

So, that doesn’t mean you don’t go out there and talk to them and find out what the issues are, and try to build that in but your minimum viable product that might be a lot more full featured, released, a well rounded than it might be for say something if you were targeting earlier doctors in the software industry who would know that things are gonna fail, know what the term alpha and beta means and what that would mean for this data, know that if you’re can using a service, they’re gonna have to back up their own data because it may fail at any point in time.

So, you do have to think about who your target market is what it is they might be looking to do but the way that I’ve done it recently is really just to develop a list of features or user stories that describe how the system should function and working with the market in terms of finding out what those features should be, is really just keep looking over those list of features and come back on what you think, now do we really need this for people to start using the product, for people to start buying the product and constantly checking your own assumptions about what it is that you think you’re gonna be building for people. And validating those assumptions with the market and getting it out there.

So, when it comes to a web based software, you know, obviously things like minimum viable product, someone is going to have to log in, someone is gonna have to do something with your app, whatever the key feature is of your app and be able to log out. If that’s what you need to do with your app, then that may be your minimum viable product but, in other cases, you actually may want to include in your minimum viable product, the acceptance of people’s money. If you think that you need to do that before you can launch, then that’s, again, [Inaudible 00:33:52], but again – so I think from my experience, I think, the two definitions of minimum viable product, one is sales based.

So, what’s the minimum viable product that we can release to people who are gonna start buying this solution and the other is, one in which and that was from the dropbox example, one in which people are actually just going to start providing you feed back on it. So, either of those could be determined a minimum viable product but it just really depends upon what it is that you are trying to achieve. I mean for the latter, if I could get something out there as soon as you can, that is going to extract some feedback from people and get some direct, so that you actually use your product and heading towards the goal of you buying it eventually, I think is a better approach than waiting too long until you have something that people are going to start using straight away and buy straight away.

Nick: I mean it’s probably not a perfect example but when I started, first started the Podcast, I had this idea and I had the idea for a while and then I was putting it off heaps and then, eventually I thought I would try and take a bit of a lean approach to this and I’ll just record a podcast and you know I just did it on my phone, which is probably not the best technology and then I thought I’d try to prove over time with the thinking that the main part of the product is really the content and not so much, even on a basic level of sound quality but there are sorts of bits and pieces that sort of surround that sort of extra bits which I can add later, where the minimum viable product is just the content and the sound getting out there.

Trevor: And that’s really good because see what I mean what you’ve shown there as well what you’re doing your podcast and the blog and all of that is not specifically a business, it’s about, you know, marketing sort of opportunity or marketing process that you are following to get people aware of you and to provide that content but you can still apply the lean start-up thinking to that and so, that’s where, to go back, I think to your very first question of where can it be applied? I think if you start thinking about what the methodology is teaching you or trying to achieve, you can apply in a lot of different facets of business and not just around the making of money.

Nick: Absolutely, that’s been a really great interview Trevor. Thanks a lot for coming on. I think this very useful for people who are looking to start a business but also people who are in business and they are looking to sort of improve their processes in relation to products or leaning themselves up. If anyone wants to find out more about you and sort of what you’re doing, where’s the best place to do that?

Trevor: You can obviously find me on places like Linked in, I’m on there and that’s it, sorugo.net is my company, so have a look there. I would love to help people understand more about their current idea for going into market and can help them make that happen.

Nick: Fantastic, I’ll have some links in the show notes for this episode with – to your blog post and then also to your website and your social profile where people can find you. Thanks again for coming on and have a good one.

Trevor: Thanks for having me Nick, take care mate!

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13Sep

Ep#8: Five Tips for Starting a Business

Five great tips for starting a business with an interview with Karen Gunton from Build a Little Biz

This week I’ve got a fantastic interview with Karen Gunton from Build a Little Biz. Karen gives us her 5 top tips for starting a business, particularly useful for someone starting a home based business but there’s some really useful information in here for anyone starting a business.

Covered in this episode;

  1. Finding the right idea – something that combines your interests/skills/expertise with what people actually need/want
  2. Doing your research – into biz models, profitability, a point of difference in the marketplace etc.
  3. Building the framework of your biz – your products, your customers, your brand etc.
  4. Giving yourself a timeframe – ‘portfolio building’ stage
  5. Starting right now with a simple marketing strategy

Links;

This week’s featured photo is the last in the series from The Wandering Videographer. This is just a small piece of a great panorama, click on the photo for the full photo.

Panorama Sunset by The Wandering Videographer

[spoiler title=”Transcription” open=”0″ style=”1″]

You’re listening to the Web Marketing Adelaide Podcast. We give you the tips and strategies to help you utilize the web to get more traffic, leads and sales for your business. Now here’s your host, Nick Morris.

 

Nick: Welcome to Episode 8 of the Web Marketing Adelaide Podcast. This week, we’re speaking with Karen Gunton from Build a Little Biz about Tips for Getting a Business Started. Are you there Karen?

 

Karen: Yes, I’m here. It’s great to be here talking with you.

 

Nick: Great. Let’s just get started by you telling us a little bit about yourself, your business, and what you do.

 

Karen: Sure. I guess it’s a bit of a long story. You can probably tell from my accent that I’m Canadian and I’m living here in Australia in Adelaide. We moved here about just over six years ago. Before I moved here from Canada, I was a science teacher. Once we moved here, I didn’t really want to go back to teaching. I liked being a mom at home, but I found that I missed having my own thing. I missed talking with people and planning out things to teach the students and learning – I missed both teaching and learning. But I didn’t really want to go back to work. I sort of just fell into this idea of turning my hobby of photography into a business. It was not planned. I didn’t have a clue to what I was doing. People just started asking me how much do you charge. I quickly had to decide if I was going to start charging money for doing family photographs and children’s photographs, or if I was going to keep it a hobby. I decided to give it a go, and quickly realised that if I was going to make a real go of it and actually run a profitable business, I needed to learn a lot more about business than I knew already.

 

That was around the time that Build a Little Biz started, because I found that as I was learning about how to run a business, I was getting asked a lot of questions by other mums who were at home and wanting to start their own business. It was the same idea, they had a hobby that they were trying to turn into a business. So I started blogging about what I was learning as I went and I rebranded and re-launched my photography business. It was really successful. It went really well. I was attracting the right people and making a great profit, and working the hours that I wanted. I had the freedom to run my own business from home the way I wanted. It was fabulous, but I quickly found that Build a Little Biz was taking up almost as much as time as my photography business was, so recently I have made the decision to focus just on Build a Little Biz and working with other business builders and helping them. I’m teaching them and doing some creative design stuff for them. That’s where my focus is right now, but it’s been a long journey of six years of running my own business that got me in here. It’s kind of exciting.

 

Nick: Great. I can certainly say to the listeners to go and check out your website. There are lots of great articles on there. You’re blogging regularly, and you also have other contributors to the blog as well?

 

Karen: That’s correct. Yes, I quickly discovered that while I was great at teaching some concepts because I can really put things into a way that resonate with people and made it click for people, there’s still a lot that I do not have the expertise to answer questions on. What I’ve done is I’ve got about ten regular contributors who write for Build a Little Biz. They answer questions that come in from readers and fans, as well as, my own questions. Sometimes, I’ll email them and say, “Oh my Gosh! I have a question about PR and I really need you to help with this.” So I’m really lucky because I’ve got a great team of people from all around the world that are writing for Build a Little Biz, answering questions, and helping us all with all those different aspects. There’s so much that you can do and that you can learn about in order to grow and build a successful business. There’s a lot out there. I like the fact that I’m creating a place where everything’s kind of in one handy spot. People know that when they email me a question, somebody will answer it, or if I don’t know the answer, I’ll find somebody who will. I’ve kind of built myself a reputation as being extremely helpful. I’m a pretty good librarian to help people find the resources that they need.

 

Nick: Great. If people want to go check out your website, its buildalittlebiz.com right?

 

Karen: Yes, that’s right.

 

Nick: And it’s biz, B-I-Z.

 

Karen: It is. Yes.

 

Nick: Let’s launch into the topic for this week. We’re going to talk about tips on getting your business started. You’ve got five tips so I’ll let you get started.

 

Karen: Alright. Well, I think that number one tip I have is about finding the right idea. The thing that I find most of the people I talk to fall into one of two categories. One is that they have some hobby, interests, skills, expertise, or talent; something that they do and think they can turn it into a business. Or sometimes, they have friends or family who say, “Oh my Gosh! You should totally sell that. You can make money.” So they have this product idea or service idea and now they’re trying to figure out how to make their business a go.

 

The other category is people who like the idea of having their own business and perhaps they’re working in a full time job that they don’t really want to continue on for too long. Or perhaps there are mums – a lot of them are mums – at home who are in a maternity leave or that sort of thing and they’d like to find a way to have a business from home without getting back to work. But they need an idea. Either or, I think the thing that we tend to do is think, “Okay, what can I do? What can I sell?” We look at our interest, talent, expertise, and all those things. That’s really great but the other side of the coin is that you need to find something not only that you think is a great idea or that your mum thinks is a good idea or your best friend, but something that other people actually want.

 

A lot of people start with their product and then they think, “Okay. Well, now I’ve got to find people to buy it.” That makes it a bit harder. Whereas you have an idea that you already know people want, need, long for, and crave, that makes it a lot easier to sell because it’s easier to sell something to someone who already wants it. You know exactly who you need to go talk to about what you do. It makes it feel a lot easier. It makes it a little bit more fun. I always tell people, whether they’ve already got their product or service idea or whether they’re trying to think of one, to find that sweet spot that combines something that you can do and are willing to do with something that people actually want. It’s important to go outside of your circle of close friends who are telling you to go for it and actually see what that sweet spot is. I always get people to brainstorm and really just put down everything they can think of that combines their own expertise, talent and skills with what other people might need or want. Look for some audience for your product or service.

 

Nick: I think that’s great advice because that’s certainly selling to people often seem to miss – at least people I’ve talked to – is that their idea needs to actually have an audience before that can be viable. Often, I heard of struggles trying to find your “starving crowd.”

 

Karen: Yes. That’s a really good way of putting it. The thing I think is people think, “Okay. Well, I can make this thing. Everybody will buy it like, it’s great! My thing is great. My service is great. My product is great. Anybody could buy it: any mum, any dad, or any grandparent.” They have this broad idea of who would be interested in it. But that makes it hard as well, because they think that they have a specific audience, but it’s not really. It’s hard to attract the right person to come and buy your thing if you’re not attracting anybody at all because you’re very busy trying to please everybody. I think it’s a bit tricky for people to hone in on who the people are that will actually need and desire what they want. There are a lot of ways, I think, you can go about it. You can look at what are some gaps in the market place. You can look at what other people are doing and see if you can do it in a new and innovative way. You can look at people who are kind of being ignored; the other part of the pie as they say that, nobody is really targeting.  You can look at and see what problems people have around you that need solving and see what sorts of skills and expertise you can contribute to solving that problem. But I think if you have a really clear idea on how you can help one single other person in a specific way, then that’s a pretty good starting point.

 

Nick: Let’s move on to the next tip. So that’s “doing your research.” What’s this tip all about?

 

Karen: Yes, that kind of leads from the first one. Again, I’ve talked to so many people who get like, “Okay, I’ve got this product or service and I’ll start a Facebook page and I’ll start selling it.” But they haven’t really done their research. I would say you should put as much research into your idea, especially, at the beginning as you would into actually doing the job. If you’re a person who wants to start a business on the side when you’re not at your regular nine to 5 job and you plan on working two evenings a week and both days on a weekend, those are hours that you should put in right now into researching it. Doing your research into what business models exist out there already. How are other people selling this product or service, are they online, are they doing it in person, are they going to markets, are they setting up bricks and mortar stores? What kinds of business models are out there right now that you can learn from? Not only can you see how you can do it in a way that serves your own interest and also the needs of your people, but you can learn a lot from what other people who are doing.

Sometime people have got a pretty successful business model. It’s easy to take an idea that exists out there and to turn it into something unique just by making a few tweaks here and there. I say; definitely do research into what exist out there. Another reason for doing that is also, it will help you to see what your point of difference could be in the market place. If you’re doing research into what already exist in your little niche that you want to service, you’ve really got to know what’s out there. You got to know what other people are doing. You need to know who your competitors are, who any complimentary businesses are, what bloggers are talking about this, what online groups and local networks exist. The more research you do, the better you’ll be able to sell your product because you’ll really understand what your point of difference is plus you already have started making connections with people. Again, if you have a whole group of people out there already that you’ve talk to, then that sure it makes it a lot easier to find people to sell your product to.

 

Nick:  Great tips.

 

Karen: Also, there’s just one more thing I’ll just add about that which I think is an important thing. Maybe it’s obvious but also to look into how profitable your business idea is going to be, because some people again start doing what they’re doing and they come up with random pricing that they feel good about or that they think is affordable or that they’d be willing to pay; therefore, other people will be willing to pay. They don’t always look at it with an idea of an end-goal in mind like how much money do you actually need to make from doing your business. Do you want to do it be full time? What kind of a wage do you want? How many hours can you put in? How much is it going to cost to you? Figure out and crunch your numbers. Even if you don’t know exactly what it’s going to look like, get a piece of paper, a pen and a calculator and really think about what kinds of prices will you need to charge to make this profitable and then, what would you have to do to be able to charge those prices. What value will you need to offer? What kind of difference will you need to make? Pricing is like we can have an entire podcast just on pricing which I’m sure you’ll probably have plans to do, but it’s one of the things that I find people struggle with the most – what to charge. The first step really is to sit down, crunch those numbers, and try to figure it out.

 

Nick: Yes, I definitely agree with those tips. Something that I’ve heard mentioned before is that if you start off by pricing yourself too low, it’s really difficult to increase your prices once the market already has an idea and expectation of what you’re charging. So getting in there early and doing the research of your ideal pricing might be a better way of going about it.

 

Karen: Well in that, I think I may mistake that people make sometimes is that they don’t realise that their price is part of their brand. So if they start out and they’re making handmade jewellery and they think, “I’ll charge twenty dollars or whatever for this thing. That’s what I’ll be willing to pay, so that’s what I’ll do.” Then they realise as time goes on that, first of all, they need to charge a lot more to make it worth their while. Second of all, that they need to attract people that are looking for more high-end, exquisite hand-made items and so they need to charge more in order to get into that more luxury niche. They realise this entire brand that they’ve created is all based on twenty dollar earrings and they can’t suddenly turn around and charge a hundred dollars for those earrings. So your price is part of your brand, it sends a strong message and I always say to people, if “affordable” is what you want to sell, that’s just about the hardest thing because affordable is relative. What one person values is totally different to another person. What’s affordable to you is different to me and that can change. I think you have to look at it and you really have to crunch the numbers and you have to think about the brand you want to build and the kind of people that you want to attract to buy what you’re selling and really look at your pricing that way. If you figure it out and then you decide for a little while to charge a little bit less as you’re growing, that’s one thing.  But to start low and undersell yourself, then realise in a year or two years, you need to fix it. That’s difficult.

 

Nick: Right. Well, let’s go on to the next tip and that is building the framework of your biz. What’s this tip all about?

 

Karen: Okay, so again, this leads to what I was saying already. Your framework is what I say your basis for everything else. If you are clear about this, it’s easier to build your business. The thing that I find is that a lot of people start with the products and they’re selling it, and they’re out there, but then when I ask them questions like, “Okay, who exactly are you targeting? Who is your perfect customer?” They don’t really don’t know. Like I said before they get anxious. “Oh, any mum. Any mum around the world!” That’s not very specific. It’s hard to attract every mum and so you end up not attracting any mums. What I often make people do is go backwards and get clear on their framework. By this I mean really getting clear on who exactly you want to attract – your perfect customers – those ones who actually love what you do, need what you do, and will buy anything you’d sell just because they love it so much. That’s one.

Another one is your products. A lot of people, they’re selling jewellery, or photographs, or service like copywriting, or whatever, but they don’t get the real benefits of what they’re selling like that they’re saving people time, or making people feel really good about themselves, or giving people a solution to a deep inner problem that they’re not really expressing. They think, “Oh I want some jewelry” but what they really want is a way to feel especial and feel good about themselves or fit in with all the other mums at school, or whatever it might be. You’re not just selling jewelry. You’re not just selling photographs. You’re not just selling your service. You’re selling something a lot broader and deeper than that. If you can get to the real benefits of what you sell, and if you can really get to the emotions behind what you sell, then that makes it a lot easier to talk to people about it. That’s the second part of your framework.

So you got your customers, your products – what you’re really selling, and you’ve got “you”. That’s the big one people forget. They don’t realise that you are the most unique part of your business. Nobody else can copy your idea exactly if they can’t copy you. If you pop up a store, you start selling photography services and it looks like everyone else’s store, online website and nothing about it stands out, then it’s pretty hard to compete. But if you can put ‘you’ into your business and what makes you special, and what gifts you have – your ‘secret sauce’ is what I sometimes call it. What’s your secret sauce? What is it about you that you can add to your business that really makes it stands out? That also makes doing business more fun because then its really a reflection of your own passion and your own joy and your spark. You know that thing that gets you excited to get out of bed in the morning to work on your business. That is the third part.

Then the fourth part of your framework is just what’s happening in the marketplace. Where do you fit in with your competitors? Who are some other complimentary businesses out there who are doing similar things or things that are attracting the same audience as you? Or perhaps they have complimentary services to your product, or vice versa. You can learn a lot about what they’re doing and you can figure out how you fit in there. You can also figure out how to make yourself different. You can look at what objections exist in the marketplace like if everyone else is saying, “Oh there is no way I would buy that. I’ve heard this and that about it.” Then, if you know that, then you can start addressing those objections in your own brand and attracting all those people who think, “Oh it’s not going to work for me.” You suddenly know how to talk to them because you see what they said about other people. You can learn a lot about what’s happening in your marketplace. Then once you have a really clear idea of those four things, then you can start to put together what your brand is going to be. What message do you want to send about your business? Who do you want to attract? What do you want? What does the voice of your business need to be; the look of your business? Are you going to be low-end, high-end, mid-range, or are you going to be luxury, fast, quality or personal? There are so many different things that you could be with your brand, and messages that you can send with your brand. That is going to be perfect for you if you understand everything else.

 

Nick: Great.

 

Karen: Does that make sense?

 

Nick: Yes, that makes perfect sense.

 

Karen: Yes.

 

Nick: I think, yes some really good tips. Let’s move on to our fourth tip which is “giving yourself a time-frame.”

 

Karen: A lot of people say, “I can’t start right now because I don’t have my website up or I’m not really sure yet about my pricing so I don’t want to get started. Or I haven’t really picked exactly who I want to target.” The best advice I can give is just to get started. You’re not going to learn everything you need to know about how to make your business a success until you actually start talking to people about it. You can do your research, sit online, and look and see what everyone else is doing. But until you start talking to people, I don’t think you really know what they need, what they’re looking for, and how you can help them. So the best thing that thing I would say to people is, “Just start now.” Even if you just want to get on Twitter and start talking about what it is you’re thinking about selling and see what kind of reaction you get. Just do something. What I usually recommend people do is have what I call a “portfolio building stage.” This is what photographers often do. They’ll look at where their business needs to be as far as pricing packages, kinds of prints, and stuff they’re going to offer. But they realised they’re not quite there yet, they have learning to do and they’ve got to build their portfolio, and they better find customers and work with them, and test out their systems.

What we often do in photography is have a portfolio building stage. We allow ourselves a set amount of time and we’ll have goals of what we want to put in to our portfolio. We’ll find people who want to work with us and offer them a really excellent deal for doing that. Then, we get excellent feedback, and we can grow testimonials, figure out our systems – what sucks and what we need to fix. We might find that we hate it and don’t want to do anymore. It’s great because it’s a way to sort of get started without under pricing yourself, and under-valuing yourself and sort of ruining the brand that you want to create right on the get go. I always suggest to people that they should try and find a way to incorporate that into your business plan. So get started right now and then allow yourselves three months, six months, or one month if you’re on a mission to get this going. Then say; this is my portfolio building stage. For this period of time, I’m going to offer these discounts, deals, bonuses, or I’m going to work with anybody who asks or whatever it is, and just take it as a learning stage realising that you can fix things as you go. Anything that you do for your business right now is not a tattoo; it’s doesn’t last forever. You can fix it, you can change it and you can make it work better once you learn better, but you’re only going to do that by starting now. So get started!

 

Nick: Great. I really like the tip of giving yourself a time frame. Something that I often find trouble with is not coming up with ideas but actioning them.

 

Karen: Yes.

 

Nick: Like, always planning in my head but then actually getting something out on the page and getting it started can be quite difficult.

That’s kind of the story of this podcast. I was thinking about it for ages and then all of a sudden, I thought, “Well maybe I should just get it started… and learn as I go”

 

Karen: Just get started, yes.

 

Nick: It’s much better to have something out there than it is to have to wait for like six months, a year, or never because you’re trying to get it perfect before you release it.

 

Karen: The thing is if you are at all like me, you want everything to be just perfect before you put it out there. I think a lot business owners are that way. We’re really hard on ourselves because we’re kind of on our own, we don’t have employees or bosses to lift us up and push us along. So, it’s easy to sort of get stuck in that stage of saying “It’s not as quite ready yet, it’s not quite perfect.” But yes, I think you have to just put it out there. You’ll probably look back in a couple of years, and think, “Oh my God. I learned so much since then. It’s kind of embarrassing what I did back then.” But that’s what leads you to where you’re going to be next. I was thinking the same thing a little while ago and Seth Godin had a great post about what you do for your business – It’s not a tattoo, it’s not permanent, it doesn’t last forever, you can fix it, you can change it, you can adjust it, you can do whatever you have to do. Ever since I read that I’ve thought “You know what? That’s right. It’s not a tattoo. I’m just going to put it out there and because I’m my own boss I can just give myself permission to change it when I need to.”

 

Nick: Great. Yes, I really like that tattoo analogy.

 

Karen: Yes, you’ll be thinking that now. You’ll be thinking, “Oh, I don’t know if I could do this.” And then you’ll hear my voice saying, “It’s not a tattoo Nick. Just do it.”

 

Nick: Perfect.

 

All right, so let’s move on to our last tip which is; ‘starting right now with simple marketing strategy’ which kind of melds into the last discussion…

 

Karen: Yes, exactly.

 

Nick: Tell us a bit more about that.

 

Karen: So, yes, just start right now and you might not know what you’re going to sell, or you might have a product already but you don’t know who you’re going to sell it to or whatever. Like you might have one small piece of your framework built. You might have one bit of your research done, and you might not know anything else yet. But just get started. The simplest combination of things that I suggest to people is;

Number 1: Have some sort of online presence like a blog or a website. You can start this yourself for free like there’s heaps of free options. You can set up a WordPress site on your own. You can look for one of the ready to build sites, or get a blog started, whatever it is. But just start something. Again, it’s not tattoo like in a year you might get someone to design it with something flash and amazing, but just start right now. So you want to have your own little piece of the online world. Even if you want to start a local business or a business that you tend to have it be in person and everything, it’s good to have something online; because that’s the way our society is right now.

Start to have your little piece of the online world with a website or blog. Blogs are great because you can just start talking to people like you can start writing about whatever it is that your passion or expertise is. You know what it is you love about what you do, and start attracting people just purely based on you telling the stories about what it is you do and want to offer this world. They are really flexible, you can do anything you want to do: photos, video and audio, whatever floats your boat, and whatever makes you jump out of bed in the morning because you’re excited to do. Get that online and get going.

Number 2: Then the other thing is just have some part of social media working for you. So whether you’re into Facebook, Twitter, Google +, LinkedIn or whatever, start talking about what you do and sharing your passion, interest, your expertise, and helping people. Be generous with your skills and expertise, and just start talking to people. Direct the back to your little hub, website, or blog, start getting traffic, and making connections with people, just being out there interacting and just being genuine.

Number 3: Then the third piece, really simply, is just to have a way to capture traffic, interest and fans who tell you that they are interested. I suggest having an email list and starting it right away.  Even if you don’t even know what you’re going to sell yet. If you just know “I love doing this. I somehow want to turn into a business, but I don’t how I’m going to do it yet.” If you start an email list and start collecting emails of people who think what you do is amazing, you’re ideas are amazing, and your passions are amazing, then you have a way of getting in touch with them again. Once that time comes, you start maybe getting fans on Facebook, getting friends and followers on Twitter, or getting people coming over to check out your website. If you have a way of capturing their email address, and keeping in touch with them, that lets you start building a list of people who already love what you do.

When you’re ready to launch your product, service, or you come up with a new idea on something that you haven’t tried yet or whatever, you got all these people who are interested in it. In your portfolio building stage, you can say, “Okay, I want to try this new product. I don’t know how it’s going to work. Do I have any volunteers to be guinea pigs?” When you put it out there, send out that email to people who already like what you do, then, you got people right there who are ready to hear from you. Even if you don’t know what you’re going to email yet to those people, start capturing their email addresses right away because it gives you something to start building even if you don’t know anything else about what you’re doing.

I compare it to the idea of if you were to go to a networking event and hand out business cards, that’s awesome. You could go around and say, “Hello! This is my idea and I’ve got these business cards.” A lot of people start with the business cards. They go order like a thousand business cards with their website on them and their name. Then, you go hand them out but once you hand them out the ball’s in their court. You’re relying on those people to remember to call you, to be interested enough to go find the card and call you, talk to you some more, ask questions or whatever. So you’ve handed out your business cards, you got your website up, and you’re ready but you’re waiting for people to come to you; whereas, if you have an email list of people that have already told you they’re interested in what you’re doing, then you have a way to contact them in a non-icky way. You don’t want to spam them with whatever sale offers you have  but to send genuine emails about how you want to help them, or asking them what their problems are and see if there’s a way you could help them or whatever it is. That puts the ball in your court and gives you some control over keeping in contact with people and staying on people’s radar. Before you go and buy a thousand business cards, you can start for free really right now with a simple website or blog, some presence somewhere on social media where you think your best people are hanging out and a free email list from a place like Mail Chimp or something.

 

Nick: Cool.

 

Nick: Great traffic of tips to finish off those Five Tips on Starting a Business. Thanks very much for coming on the show, Karen. It’s been really great having you.

 

Karen: Thank you for having me. It’s great to chat.

 

Nick: If people want to find out more about you and your business, it’s buildalittlebiz.com, is that right?

 

Karen: That’s right. See you up.

 

Nick: Great. Well, hopefully we might be talk to you again in the future if we have another episode on, perhaps on pricing like you mentioned earlier in the show. Until then.

 

Karen: Yes, we can talk about that for sure.

 

Nick: Great Karen. Until then I hope we have good one.

 

Karen: Thanks Nick.


Nick: Cheers.

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