Ep#41: Email Marketing with Jamie Stenhouse

Email marketing – strategy, setup, platform, content, frequency, subscribers and more!

Jamie Stenhouse Email MarketingFor episode #41 we have a really interesting episode about email marketing where I interview internet marketing heavyweight: Jamie Stenhouse. Jamie was very generous with his time and shared some great tips. I even surprised him with a list of questions about his own email marketing campaigns and hearing the thought process behind each decision is absolute gold.

  • Why do email marketing, how can it fit into a business strategy?
  • Software and setup
  • How to get subscribers
  • We analyse Jamie’s own email marketing campaigns
  • How to generate leads and sales through emails
  • What email metrics do you pay attention to?
  • Tips for getting good open rates and link click rates

Links / Mentions

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Ep#40: The dotbrand Revolution

‘dot brands’ are the next big thing in domains names yet very few businesses know what they are about. Learn the ins and out in this podcast.

Shaun LeCornu Slam StrategyIn episode forty of the podcast I chat to Shaun LeCornu from Slam Strategy about some big changes happening in the domain name space that many businesses owners aren’t aware of. Shaun is passionate about this subject and has lots of great information and insights to share.

We cover

  • What is a ‘gTLD’?
  • What is this ‘dotbrand’ thing that we’ve been hearing a bit about?
  • At $185k + $25k/year, these new gtlds are not cheap. What are some of the ways that brands are going to get their money’s worth?
  • Those prices will put this option out of reach for most small businesses, but what are some of the effects that these domains could have on the wider online business world?
  • Will smaller businesses get an opportunity to get involved with things like a .adelaide domain?
  • What will be the SEO impact?




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

Nick: Good day everyone. My name is Nick Morris and welcome back to the Web Marketing Adelaide podcast. Today, we are talking about the dot brand revolution. We’ve got a special guest with us, Shaun Le Cornu from Slam Strategy. Good day, Shaun. Welcome to the show.

Shaun: Good day Nick. Good day everybody. How are you?

Nick: Good , thanks. How are you doing?

Shaun: Busy, very busy.

Nick: It’s always the way especially in this space, as we were just talking before the show. It’s very fast moving and always lots going on but let’s lunge into the – before we get into the topic for today, how about you just tell us a little bit about yourself and about your business, Slam Strategy?

Shaun: My name is Shaun Le Cornu. I’m the CEO of Slam Strategy and the Founder. I’ve been in this industry since 1998. I was formerly working for my family’s business, which, if you are South Australian, you would know it quite well, look on your furniture. And I was with them for 20 odd years and developed an online strategy for the company and we generated about $7,000,000 a year from that, which was great. I got to play with some very cool and fun internet tools while working for them, which has now put me into the fortunate position of being able to gain lots of experience. So, then the company sells the business and then I started up Slam Strategy and now I provide internet strategy solutions for businesses based on that knowledge that I’ve gained from that 20 years.

Nick: Awesome, great. Good introduction. So, the topic for today as I said, is dot brand revolution and I think a lot of business owners perhaps may have been vaguely aware of this new thing with top level domains in the news but they probably don’t really have a good idea about it. So, that’s what we are talking about today, what it’s all about and how’s it gonna impact business owners and you’ve got 6 points on your white board there and I think it’s best if we perhaps go through each of those points, so we can get a real sense of what it’s all about. So, what was your first point you got up there Shaun?

Shaun: What is the first one I’ve got there? To give a bit of background, we all know, if you don’t know what a domain or top level domain is, that is .com .gov .net. They are considered top level domains. There’s also a country code top level domains like .com.au and those sort of things, so there is roughly 22 top level domains that have been in industry for quite a while and these were set up by a company called I Can, which the stewards of the internet established by the U.S. Government. Yes, the internet is run by the U.S. Government, that’s right and I Can, which is the Internet Corporation For Assigned Names And Numbers, they have been working on a plan to develop the whole internet for a long, long time now. They started it out with the .com’s that we know then .net and now, I think it was June 2011, they released the successful program to allow businesses into these two to own their own slice of the internet. So, what that means, is, especially in terms of businesses, is that you are now going to be able to own your own trademark on the internet, so that’s what a top level domain is. I think that pretty much explains it. Do you want anymore, data you’d like on that, do you think, for the business?

Nick: No, I think that intros it pretty well. We’re sort of clear on that. We are talking about, as you said that .coms and that the dot something happens at the end of your domain.

Shaun: Yeah, for instance it might be dot nike, it might be dot Ferrari, it might be dot Toshiba.

Nick: Absolutely. It’s obviously got to make a pretty big difference to what people are used to, where, you know, where, in Australia we’re often looking to the dot com, dot au’s and more generated dot coms and now, we’re going to be seeing dot brand, which is going to be quite a different space to be in. It could be really interesting to see how it develops.

Shaun: It is gonna be very interesting, especially for the brands because for the first time they’re actually going to be able to control internet policy for their own trademark, whereas, if they were Ferrari.com they would be under the rules and regulations of .com, where under this and what’s most important for any trademark holder, is it, they need to have control of their trademark on the internet that is part of why 60% of the nearly 2,000 applications that went in, were for brand. Now, this isn’t for just any brand to get involved with.

In fact, they created a window for the applications to happen, of which that ended in March 2012, I think it was and that window allowed people to apply but you first of all you had to have a $185,000 just for the application fee and then there is the ongoing cost. So, each one of these is about half a million dollars a part. Now, besides the brands, they are what they call generics and really the top level domains that we are talking to guys about, I really broke it into two main categories and hopefully I’m not gonna lose people in this conversation but this two main categories is what they call an open, top level domains and closed top level domains.

Now, the difference between the two, is that your .com’s are what you’d call an open, meaning that anybody, the general public can apply to own a sub-domain or a second level domain name of that top level domain, so it can be shaunlecornu.com. It could be Ferrari.com but with the closed top level domains, which are basically the vast majority of those are for brands, that is purely for internal purposes. The brands are not going to be selling those domain names. I mean, there’s no point in selling a domain name of a brand, that’s why they’ve structured it and it also enables them to maintain that control.

So, besides the dot Ferraris that you’ll see, there is also going to be top level you know open ones like dot pizza or dot love or dot church, a whole range of domain names that the brands also need to consider because some of these extensions are actually relevant to their industry, for instance if you are a chemist, there’s going to be dot pharmacy. If you are in a fashion industry, there is going to be dot fashion, so you need to understand how that’s going to impact on your business and what you need to do to prepare for that because this is considered to be the greatest change to the internet since the creation of the internet itself. Why? It’s debatable because on the one side, you’ve got – that’s another one of our topics up there. Why is that on one side, you’ve got a whole pile of the people saying, why do we need them? We’ve got .com, we’ve got .gov. We’ve got all of those things out here, why do we need all these other extensions? This is just a ploy by big business to capitalize on the market and to further sink their teeth into making more money and I can understand that.

With my background being in retail and franchise and internet strategy, I can say that there is also a huge amount of opportunity here and part of that reason is that, as a consumer, when I type something into the internet, I am looking for something and that word that I type in, I’m expecting relevant results to come back that are going to satisfy whatever my search query is about. So, I am trying to look for groofing I suppose, so if I’m looking for pizza, I’m looking for something to do with pizza, so the natural thought process for me would be that if a company has a dot pizza, then they’re one, they’re up to date with what is happening in online space. So, they’re more likely to be able to satisfy my request for an online question but they are also in the right genre.

Take Eagle Boys for an instance, now if you don’t know who Eagle Boys pizza is, who’s Eagle Boys? If I came up with a search result for a split second there, my subconscious is not necessarily going to identify Eagle Boys as being a relevant search term, where as Pizza Haven, dot pizza for instance, automatically straight away in that split second, I’m gonna be able to identify with that company. When you’re talking about things on the internet, we are talking about percentages, 1%, 2%. There is so much information that’s out there and you’d know this yourself you are an internet man, you can be out by an inch and be out by a mile in the internet space and so that’s why this top level domains names is gonna be so important and you’d know this yourself, you’re an internet man, you can be out by an inch , and be out by a mile in the internet space and so that’s why, these top level domain names are going to be so important. And you know for a brand, this is gonna be the most absolute cheapest, cost effective way for them to be able to gain branding exposure.

If you are an Australian brand or a global brand for instance and it doesn’t have to be that but let’s say you are one of those, think of those what medium you have available to you in order to build your brand. The first thing that comes to mind, is the internet, so being able to brand yourself on the internet as a dot brand gives you that percentage of extra brand recognition and control that you didn’t have before. I can think of a brand comes to mind that I won’t I mentioned at the moment, I can think of a brand that they have their franchise company, they have, I think it’s about 1,300 franchise stores in about 30 countries around the world. Now, each of those franchise stores they have a website, each of those websites has a different domain name. There is no consistency with that domain name structure and the brand is freaking out because they don’t know how to control this whole internet space. Now, if they, all of those franchises were under their brand, so it might be store and Guanelle, whatever it is dot brand, if that franchise closes or if something changes, they have complete control over that where as, at the moment, they don’t even know what domain names these franchises have got, they’re using , so these brands, this franchises could go rouge and they can bad mouth. There are examples of franchises that have done that. I’m not saying that‘s the whole motivation for doing this but a brand needs to maintain their control.

Nick: It’s interesting. It definitely seems like it’s gonna be really targeted towards people obviously, as you say, trying to control their brand and how their brand’s viewed in the marketplace and specifically the franchise thing where, as is it now, as you say, there’s lots of independent franchises with their different websites and so there’s very little control going on. I definitely can see how having that control with your dot brand there.

Shaun: Really what on, I wouldn’t say the elephant in the room but really, the thing that this is all really based around on the internet is Google. Fundamentally, between 85 and 90% of all search online is done using Google and that is changing as some of the other platforms like Bing and Get Up speed but by far, the strongest platform is Google. So, all of this is irrelevant unless Google happens to be doing something and they are. In fact, they have patented the algorithm to include the ranking for top level domain names, previously there was the perception that a dot com would be more likely to show up higher in the search results than say a dot net or dot moby and on that basis a dot com .au was more likely to show up than a dot com because a com.au is for Australia.

Well, that’s changing and the impact that is going to have includes Google Adwords and a whole and obviously, search engine optimization, so businesses need to be aware about that because obviously, there are millions of dollars that’s invested into coming up on those search results and if you’re not on the front page of Google as any search engine person will tell you, you are invisible basically because most people will be in that space. Now, actually on that note with dot com.au, cities have also applied for their top level domain, so there’s going to be a dot New York and more importantly for Australia is it, there’s going to be a dot Sydney and a dot Melbourne. Now, if I’m looking for a hotel in Sydney, then somebody who has www.getawayhotels.sydney, it is going to come up higher in the search results than a what a dot com.au for a hotelsydney.com than a dot com.au is going to, purely because they are basing it on the fact that a dot Sydney is more likely to be relevant to a Sydney search than a dot com.au is to be to a Sydney search.

There is still a argument and debate over that because they say, well and your optimization people out there would say well, it’s all about relevance. Google said it’s all about what’s the most relevant site and that what’s comes up in search results and my argument and this is irrelevant of what Google does or doesn’t say is if you have two websites that are absolutely identical in every respect, the content’s the same, the content’s updated at the same time but the only thing that’s different between those two websites is the domain name. The more relevant domain name will appear higher in those search results and that’s the way Google wants it to be and Google themselves have applied for over 100 top level domain names, so that says something.

Nick: Obviously I care about it there. Being an SEO myself, the SEOs is gonna impact this year’s because [Audio breaks 00:18:18] very interesting for me and it would be interesting to see once they get on to the marketplace and start being used, how it impacts that, what Google’s going to be doing with that and also it’s interesting that…

Shaun: It’s actually up on my Facebook site. There is actually an article from Matt Cupps, who is, he’s the man and I refer to an article that he’s done regarding this exact topic so check that out.

Nick: Awesome, I’ll link to that on the show for this episode from the website, if anyone wants to check that one out. Yeah, so obviously Google are taking note as you’ve said. They’ve patented a process for including this in their algorithm and also applying for their own things themselves and also, it’s interesting to know that there’s been a bit of a progression lately within SEO anyway, towards more of a branded approach, giving more way to brands on the internet, as opposed to say, keywords rich domains or exact match domains it’s known as. I can see the dot brands certainly impacting that and also we aren’t talking about dot Sydney, that’s basically a brand in itself.

Shaun: That’s right.

Nick: I can see how this fits in an overall picture as well. Let’s sort of change tact a little bit and think about how, obviously most businesses or most smaller to medium sized businesses are not going to able to afford the $180,000 or so or even up to half million for the whole process as you mentioned, to get one of this domains but we were talking about these ones like the dot city ones. How can the smaller businesses like the hotels for instance be taking advantage of these? Are they gonna be, is it going to be a city sort of an organization that’s looking after those and distribute them to people who want them? How is it gonna work?

Shaun: It will be the same process as what happens now for you to purchase dot com.au, so you go to a registrar like Go Daddy or Melvin IT or any of the other registrars out there and you’ll apply for a domain name. They will have a list of all of the domain names available and you just type in what it is that you’re after and you go through the normal process and that fundamentally won’t change. So, what there will be though, will be far more choice. The argument that there’s already 22 and some of them, many of them are not full at all but the thinking for me is that the choice doesn’t go far enough. It’s one thing to have 22 top level domains to choose from and its quite another to have 1000 domain names to choose from.

There is even Google applied for dot LOL, that’s a strange one. There’s even dot socks, so you can imagine what this is going to create and the idea from I Can, was to create diversity, it was to create thought, it was to create creativity in the internet space that they believed was not there and a lot of the negativity is definitely coming from the domainers, people who have bought up lots of dot coms that they then put on sale for a profit and the last thing they want to see is dot com becoming less relevant because that’s obviously gonna affect their cash flow.

Nick: Yeah, that’s good that you mentioned that, a question that just occurred to me, what these domainers think of this change. I wonder if do you think it’s actually gonna have a massive impact on their business model or do you think it would maybe a slow…?

Shaun: Look, yeah. I’m an optimist, so I’m progressive for change and I would like to see more diversity and part of what I’m doing out there as a passionate person for this is trying to speed up that process. The official word from people in the industry is that it is going to take a long time for this things to take effect and part of that is because if you are ranking your dot com or dot com.au and then suddenly you change the domain name, well that’s gonna affect your rankings so people are going to be hesitant to be changing that so there will be a transition phase for those who are looking at transitioning but they believe that the vast majority of purchases will be new people who are just looking for their first domain or they are looking for new domain name for whatever reasons.

That’s gonna be something that happens over time because largely 95% of the population are not even aware that this whole thing is happening. It doesn’t affect their daily lives at the moment but as soon as they see those rankings get affected, they gonna start asking some questions to why that is happening. I really believe that the success of the entire domain name industry for these new top level domains is going to be largely up to the brands who have gone and purchased who are purchasing their own trademark as a top level domain and the reason behind that is because well, first of all, they’ve invested half a million dollars plus at least $50,000 a year to maintain it, so there’s an ongoing investment there. So, any brand, any business, the objective is whatever you invest in, you want a return on that investment. So, these brands are not gonna be any different.

Initially many of them purchase these top level domains from a security point of view in a defensive registration because they wanted to make sure that lets say if United Airlines for instance, they wanted to try and secure their dot united in case one of their opposition or another trademark did. This inherent issues and all of that if United were going to the political side of registering of top level domain names but there are those brands out there that would hate to see their global trademark that they’ve invested millions and millions of dollars in suddenly be owned by another entity that they have absolutely no control over. So, many of them invested just because they felt they had to but the advantage that they got is that they also have huge databases of existing clients, existing customers so for them it’s a matter of educating the customers about you know “Hey we’ve got a new domain name.”

You’ll see going down on a bus a big sign talking about Loreal or Tiffany or even IFL or INZEB, to bring something home. IFL has applied for their own top level domain name, so is Channel 7. They have applied for their own top level domain name. So, you’re going to start to see these domain names now appearing in advertising material that they’re using to their customers and also to show a point of difference between them and their competition . So, the open domain names like dot LOL and dot pizza, they don’t have that database with which they can educate people. So they are largely looking at people just to start asking questions and educating themselves. Where as the brands, they’ve have got you know everybody. You know everybody is a fan of a brand somewhere along the line.

Once they start getting involved with their advertising and promotion and their education process about, hey we’ve got a dot Tiffany and anything that happens under dot tiffany is a real dot, you know it’s a real product. Nike for instance, how many people want to buy a pair of authentic Nike shoes? Well, part of the program that Nike and all brands are going to use is, if it doesn’t end in our brands, then it’s not us and that’s a way of being able to identify a real website that has the legitimate product from someone whose doing copies and it’s sub-quality product.

Nick: Great. Yeah. Fantastic. Let’s just talk a little bit about timing. So where are we at now in terms of timing. How long until we might start seeing these top level domains out there?

Shaun: That would be the win. Okay, so these top level domain names are now going through the approval process and there’s various stages that they have to go through, in order to get approval. In fact, if you go to www.gtod.net.au that is the web site that we’ve set up that is dedicated specifically to top level domain names. Understanding the process, how to apply the agreements and everything that’s there, you’ll find it on that site. There is some information that needs to be updated on there, because the space is constantly changing but if any of the readers want to get some more information about it, it’s there.

If any of them want to apply, they can’t at the moment. They haven’t done a second round, although they say they will be but we are expecting that in the third quarter of this year, that they would start getting approved and you’ll start seeing that advertising starting to happen and it’s gonna be very, very, very interesting. Huge opportunities for those people who get involved early, whether it be, an example is virgin when xxx was listed Virgin, Richard Brandson went and defensively registered www.virgin.xxx because he didn’t want that to affect his business and his trademark.

Businesses who haven’t applied and don’t have these top level domains, they need to be thinking about what ones can they apply for that they can use to add value to their business but what ones should they be registering as well to defensively register against somebody who might purchase it to use it for their own purpose that could be negative to their business. So, there is a few things there that they can look at and there is, I Can has set up a trademark clearing house, which is where brands can go to, to apply before these domain names are released to the public, they can apply to have defensive registrations before hand of these top level domain names and secure that space for them, so yeah interesting.

Nick: I Can, have they given an indication as to when there might be another round? I thought I heard a 5 year?

Shaun: Basically, they’ve said look, we can only process 500 applications a year maximum and though that could change they haven’t said it would, so if there is 15,000 applications, assuming that there’s no problem, there’s no contentions, there’s no political issues, that would take 3 years Now, if there is problems then that could take longer because for instance for dot app, there were, I believe 11 companies that applied to register dot app.

They have to go through a process of first of all being approved by I Can but then those that did get approval, they then have to either negotiate amongst themselves and if unsuccessful in that negotiation, they then have to go to an auction and then that will come down to he who has the most money wins. One company by the name of Donuts, they registered for 307, I believe top level domain names, all open, all for people to purchase from but they’re in contention with many companies including Amazon and others who have also applied for some of these.

Nick: Interesting. So, there could be quite a process before we see another round later on the other track?

Shaun: 3 to 5 years I think it’s safe.

Nick: I was thinking along the lines of when might we see a dot adelaide coming out there. Who would be responsible for actually doing the application for Adelaide? Would it be Adelaide, the city of Adelaide or…?

Shaun: It would probably the council would approve it or say for instance, I will accompany does, our company helps organizations to apply for top level domain names and I could apply for a top level domain name myself. When you get involved with something like a domain name that involves Government, you need to have approval from the Government in order to do that and it would be more of something that you worked in conjunction and when the applications were open, I’m kicking myself from the foot now for not contacting the Adelaide City Councilor about applying for it.

Now that I know that Sydney and Melbourne – because the thing is when nobody knew who was applying for what. Some had come out and publicly said hey look you know we are registering dot Toshiba or whatever it might be but many kept it quiet and you know it was only through walking the hallways that you would find out about some of these things.

Nick: Yeah, I guess that I’m also contributed to the defensive position thing you were talking about before, if no one really knew who was registering what, there would been a lot of, we better get this before someone else might be thinking of getting it.

Shaun: Well, yes they don’t the money is out.

Nick: And yeah then I’ve got, on top of the perhaps 3 to 5 year period until they can actually catch up so doubly bad if I get on top of it. That pretty much brings me to the end of the questions I have on this topic.

Thanks very much for joining us on the show Shaun. You are probably the best person to talk to this about this topic. Obviously, you have quite a lot of knowledge and passion for it so it’s really good that we’ve come to you for this particular topic. Where can people – sorry go on.

Shaun: I just got to say there is one more interesting thing that I did want to tell the viewers about which I think it’s gonna be very relevant and especially in terms of the brands, is that now that the brands are going to own their own trademark, there is the possibility that they are going to offer to their customers, a personalized web space experience for their customer. So, it could be shaunlecornu.ferari, shaunlecornu.tiffany, shaunlecornu.inz and they would then provide a tailored web space.

If you do internet banking for instance, your internet banking profile would be tailored around what you do on the internet more so than it is now. How that’s all gonna transpire exactly, the brands aren’t really aware of. They don’t know how exactly how they’re going to use that but that is something definitely that if you are a fan of a brand, that you will, for an instance IFL you may be able to go and have your name dot IFL and that may entitle you to certain benefits that you would only get as a dot IFL member.

Nick: Yeah, the more we talk about the topic you just, there are so many more avenues that you open up and it’s only gonna get more, I guess, after you get in there. I mean just on the air, the final point. I guess all the teams are gonna want their team names dot IFL that fans with a sub domain than with perhaps fan club name to IFL. So many possibilities but I think we’ll leave I tthere for today. I’ll put the links that you mentioned both, the [Inaudible 0038:52] so was it GTLD.net.au for your website?

Shaun: GTLD.net.au. If anyone would like to contact us on our other website , it’s www.slamstrategy.com.au or they can also find us on Facebook, Slam Strategy, twitter, Slam Strategy, You tube, Slam strategy and also Linked In, so more than happy to chat to anybody.

Nick: Awesome. You’ve obviously got your branding, your own branding there in line with the consistency there. I’ll have all the links in the show night for this episode at webmarketingadlaide.au and thanks again Shaun for joining us on this episode.

Shaun: Thank you.


Ep#39 – SEO Tips & News

Ep#39 - SEO Tips & NewsThis week’s podcast is a short one with some tips about SEO, information about some new websites we’ve recently launched and podcast news.



Ep#38: How to Get Started Blogging for your Business

What is a blog? Why have a business blog? What should you write about? How to form a strategy? Who should write it?

Nicole LeedhamWe’ve talked about blogging a few times on the show before but we haven’t really addressed what it is and how you should do it. In this week’s episode I chat to Nicole Leedham from Black Coffee Communication to answer those questions.

We cover

  • What is a blog?
  • What is a post?
  • We’ve talked about WordPress on the show before, is this the blogging platform you recommend too? Are there any others worth considering?
  • What are some of the benefits of blogging?
  • Why blog rather than just adding more pages to your website?
  • How do you come up with ideas?
  • Writing techniques, how to get into a routine, how to avoid writers block?
  • How to come up with a strategy?
  • Who should do the writing?



[media url=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6VEWpU_EthQ” width=”560″ height=”315″] [spoiler title=”Transcription” open=”0″ style=”1″]

Nick: Good day everyone. Welcome back to Web Marketing Adelaide. I’m your host Nick Morris and today we are talking about blogging. This is a subject that we’ve broached with various shows in Content Marketing, WordPress. We haven’t really got to the nuts and bolts about what blogging is and how to blog and why to blog. So, this week, I’ve invited a guest on, Nicole Leedham from Black Coffee Communications and she’s gonna help us explain and explore this topic. Good day Nicole, welcome to the show.

Nicole : Hi Nick, thanks for having me. It’s great to have a talk with you.

Nick: Before we get started on the questions, how about you tell us a little bit about yourself, about your business?

Nicole: Sure, I am the person behind Black Coffee Communication and really, I guess the best way of explaining it is to say that I’m a writer for hire. So, I do all kinds of different writing, mapping writing, blogging, news letters, annual reports, cover profile you know, everything from the smallest flyer up to the multi-faceted projects. So, as long as I can write, I’m happy. I do a little bit of communication strategy as well but it’s mainly the writing.

Nick: Great, and we’ll start simple with this topic so that we can capture everybody, from the beginners up to the people who have a little bit more experience. So, let’s get started with what is a blog?

Nicole: A blog is a part of your website that isn’t static, I guess is the first thing. I think it is the first thing, that your other pages tends to be static pages whereas your blog it allows you to do new posts in it and it runs a bit like a diary. I mean blog is short for web blog so, it’s a captains log, a ship diary, something that you keep up updating reasonably regularly on a particular subject matter. I guess that’s the easiest way I can put it.

Nick: Great.

Nicole: It doesn’t have to be writing. It can be photos, it can be little things you found on the web. It can be jokes, it can be all sort of things. It’s just updated regularly.

Nick: Yeah and also it can be for business obviously as well.

Nicole: Yeah

Nick: Even the original idea behind it is a diary type thing and could also be for business.

Nicole: I think you know, it’s still a diary even if you use it for a business because you are doing it regularly and you’re putting your personality into it, even if it’s a business, there is the personality behind the business.

Nick: Cool, and what are posts? I mean, you mentioned posts a second there.

Nicole: Well, the blog itself is all of the articles in one thing. The posts are the individual articles, so for example, with my blog I post once a week. Each week there is a new post, which is really a different word for article or entry.

Nick: Great. We’ve talked a little bit on the show about WordPress before and this is my blogging platform of choice and a lot of other people’s. Is this yours as well?

Nicole: Yeah, I use WordPress. My health site the WordPress site with the blogging part of it and most of my clients are also using WordPress. The few of them that use their own CMS and have it, you know, I just use the Word version of it and I upload it and I have also worked with another one called Square Space, which a few people swear by. It’s not quite well known as WordPress but it is quite a nice platform as well and easy. It’s an easy platform, so, I guess that’s the main thing. It doesn’t have quite so much adaptability outside of blogging as WordPress does, so, I like WordPress.

Nick: Yeah, me too. Is Square Space, is that another open source type of platform or is it like a …?

Nicole: Yeah. Now, as far as I know, it’s an open source platform. I know a couple of designers that swear by it and I know a few people that have built their own websites on Square Space. So, if even people that have said to me, oh, WordPress, I could never understand WordPress and I could do Square Space, which to me, is quite interesting because I find WordPress very easy but I guess it depends how different brain works.

Nick: Yeah. What are some of the benefits of doing blogging? Why should people do it or be considering it?

Nicole: To me, the benefits of blogging is two fold. The first one is the Google, so I’ll talk about that one first and the search engine optimization. The way it was described to me, which I thought was a really clever way of describing it, is to think of Google as a huge spider web and it sends out spiders regularly across the internet to check out all the different websites out there. Now, if they don’t have any fresh content, it doesn’t even bother reporting back to Google. So, Google doesn’t even really know it exist. Fresh content makes them run, scurry back to their web and tell Google that there’s this fresh content out there. So, that’s the first way of doing it and it is also a really good way of getting your keyword in regularly without keyword stuffing and without overdoing at it and making your website look good for Google but not so good for humans and I think there’s a balance between that.

The other reason, which is the main reason I blog, is that a lot of small businesses and micro businesses don’t have a huge amount of marketing budget, so what they can do, is set themselves up as, what I call a subject matter expert. So, you blog about what you know about, you blog about your niche. People start seeing you as “Oh, that’s Nick Morris, he knows about SEO’s. I’ll go to him” So, they may not actually need your services now but when they do need your services, you’re a friend of mine because I’ve read your blog and I can see that you know what you’re talking about and I don’t think that necessarily has to just be for service providers like you and I. I think that can also be the hairdressers, you know. You talk about the latest trend or you speak about celebrities hair cuts and things like that. Builders can talk about the projects they’re working on and what they’ve done to make it a little different than the next builders project. So, I don’t think that’s just for the service industry, I think if you run a small business, you’d know your industry. So, make sure your clients know that too or a potential client.

Nick: Yeah, that one is an interesting one. I often wonder about product businesses, I mean, I guess if you have some sort of expertise, you’ve got something you can talk about but does it translate to product based businesses as well?

Nicole: It really depends on the product and it depends on why you are doing the product based business. If you are doing, if you run a product based business because you are passionate about the product, then I think you can definitely blog. If you are running a product based business because you are passionate about retail and it’s a good way to earn a living, maybe it’s a little harder. I mean, for example, you know, I know a couple of people that run online for children’s shops, educational toys and things like that. So, their blog is about not necessarily the toys but parenting as a whole and bringing play into education and how their products can help and without pushing the products constantly but every now and again on their blog.

Once every four or five posts, they might have a little thing that says, we’ve talked in this post about separation, anxiety and this is a really great toy to send your kid off to preschool with because it gives them a bit of an understanding that you are gonna be back and all of that sort of stuff. So, I think you can do it as a product based business. I mean, really, it depends on how passionate you are about your product and what it offers. It goes back to the same thing that any business you talk about the benefits, not the features. So, if you can blog about the benefits of your product or the benefits of your product line as a whole, so you might sell hats, and sunscreen and shade cloth. So, you talk about protection from the sun, rather than just about, I sell this. You don’t want your blog to be a platform to push your product.

Nick: Yeah, that is a good tip there. What are some of the benefits of using a blog for collecting your articles as opposed to just putting up new pages , for instance on your website?

Nicole: For a start, it means people know where to go. They can see that you’ve got blog written on your website, so they know that’s where the most current stuff is. It’s also good for your website architecture, I mean adding extra pages just makes the website incredibly unwieldy, whereas, you can put all the blogs on the one page with the posts. I think it also goes back to that subject matter expert thing. I mean sure, you can do static, parked pages about your product and all of that but it doesn’t bring the personality through like a blog can and these days, I think people like to see the personality behind the business, even a reasonably large business. They like to see the personality behind the face, if it fits with their morals and ethics and all of that sort of thing.

Nick: My next question is about coming up with ideas on stuff to blog about and you did mention in your introduction that you do blogging for other businesses as well as for yourself, so, you obviously have the experience with coming up with ideas for different industries and different types of businesses and things like that. Do you have some tips for how to come up with ideas for what to write about?

Nicole: Like anything else, I think research is a big part of it obviously, a few particular niche, do some Googling, look around the web, see what other people are writing about. It’s a really good idea to have a strategy behind your blogging, so, spend time to sit down and have a look maybe three or six months in advance if you want to blog weekly, how to think about what is coming up in that week. Let’s say, for example you’re a beautician, you know Valentines Day is a certain time every year, so you’re gonna schedule a blog post, something to do with Valentines Day there. In Winter, you might schedule blog post about how to keep your skin from getting dry in Winter, so it’s about having a strategy about knowing who your target audience is, knowing where they get their motivation from and how they might be interested in knowing what keywords they’re using when they are Googling and incorporating notes into your blog. So, for me, when I do it for someone else and I obviously have to get into their head, the strategy is where it’s all at.

I spend the most time with them, having a chat about all of those things and then coming up with a strategic plan and a calendar, which includes things like the keywords we’ll be targeting, the days we’re going post, the seasons or things that are coming up and then once you’ve got that behind you, once you’ve spent the time necessary on that, the extra blogging comes very easily. I mean, obviously, I’m a writer, writing companies will see me. Even if you’re not a writer, I think the blogging itself, will come reasonably easy. You already know what you’re gonna blog about, you already know who you are speaking to, you already know your keyword, so, just start random. Don’t worry about grammar, don’t worry about spelling, don’t worry about anything, just dump it and come back to it and fix that all up any time after.

Nick: Yeah, great tips. On the note of coming up with ideas, so you talk about strategy, is it good to have a content calendar? I mean, you mentioned [Inaudible 00:12:31] on it?

Nicole: I think it is a good idea to have a content calendar. I think you can probably, it needs to be flexible because there are certain things that happen every time of the year. There are times when it’s worth getting into what might be happening in the news and let’s say for example, you install solar panels and there was all those issues a year or so ago with fires in roofs or something with the solar panels. You get on to something new, where you use the keyword something like, safe solar panel installation at a time when people might be looking for safe solar panel installation and that will be your blog. They might read the other things, so for example, I have a little bit of an idea in my mind, what I do on my blog but I leave room and leave flexibility for certain things that happen. The things I can think of recently that PR marketing, Coms kind of related that I’ve blogged about it. I did something on the Spring Valley issue here in the Adelaide and how good their crisis communication was. I did something on the media culpability of that Nurse in England when Kate was in hospital and I did something on, I don’t know whether your viewers would remember back here 6 months ago. They tried to do a big site called click frenzy and the whole website fell down and their process of communication was not good. So, you need to leave room for that sort of thing so, you have an idea of what the generic blogging things are but then you need to leave space for things that are in the news, that people might find by Googling at that time.

Nick: Yep, yep, that makes sense, and also on strategy, do you have tips on how – you mentioned at the beginning one of the reasons for doing blogging is to set yourself up as the next expert of the subject matter but do you recommend that people also be finaling and directing people towards like a contact page or like a buy now page as well, to drive on traffic? And what is the best way to do that?

Nicole: I think you can certainly do that. I don’t recommend doing it in every single blog post because I think that becomes too obvious. I know people that do it and they swear by it at the very least they might get the internal links to Google rather than anyone actually clicking through to the links, so, I guess there’s that side. You get , whenever you have a website you are torn between what’s good for Google and what’s good for humans. So, I think yes, having that is very good for Google, I’m not entirely sure it’s good for humans and I guess it depends on what the purpose of your blog is. If the purpose of your blog at the end of the day, is to make sales, and to drive people to your sales pages, if that’s the way Google sees your sales pages, then that’s great.

If you are setting yourself up more as the subject matter expert, it doesn’t hurt to bring in something at the end that said and you know if you want widgets, you can buy them from us, but I don’t necessarily think it needs to be done every time and you can do it in a reasonably soft way. So, instead of buy, buy, buy, buy, buy, it can be if you want more information about how this widget would help you do this contact us here rather than necessarily buy, buy, buy, it can be, if you want more information about how this sort of widget will help you do this, contact here, rather than necessarily, like I said, buy, buy, buy, sell, sell, sell. I think people are very jaded by that. Google, on the other hand is a different story, having the internal links as you know is great for Google. I tend to internally link to other blog pages or occasionally my package pages rather than having the big sell at the end of it.

Nick: Yep, that make sense and good to point out. I think it actually served the thing of what you’re trying to do with the blog is it the directly generating sales for more of the subject matter expert thing. I guess something else that often people seem to do with the blog is having a mailing list and try to encourage people to join that, as another maybe an in between some selling and just some other stuff. Do you do some of that stuff with your clients as well?

Nicole: I do. I think it’s a good idea to have a mailing list and have a strong mailing list and to drive people on to them. People out there that know a lot more about marketing than I do, talk about it’s all in the list, everything’s in the list, it’s all in the list, driving people to the list. A lot of people rely on say, their Facebook fans or their Twitter followers and think that, that’s all they need but I think even though social media things like blogging which, I guess, is a different form of social media, is to drive people to the list and I know a lot of people, they’ll do a blog and then they’ll do a monthly newsletter, which is a bit of a wrap up of the blog plus maybe a special deal plus maybe a couple of other great articles that they’ve found in their niche around the web.

So, it’s about integrating it all and yes, certainly trying to get people up on the list you know. If you are writing a blog and you’re doing it regularly and you do have a newsletter, then there’s no harm in every now and again in every post, saying, want more of this fantastic content in your inbox? Sign up now, have a bit of an incentive to sign up because everyone wants people signing up and you kind of go from there but your list is people that have actually shown an interest in your product, so you can’t go past that.

Nick: Awesome. Do you have some tips on promotion? Once you’ve already written some posts out there, how do we try and get them out to your audiences?

Nicole: The best way of promotion, apart from through your newsletter, if you are doing it and through the list, is social media, quite obviously. Whenever you do a post, you should certainly post it on your Facebook, send it through your Twitter page, Google Plus, how many just getting around Google Plus but it’s a good platform for that as well and depending on your audience LinkedIn is really good as well. Certainly for me, as a service industry, the target is business. LinkedIn is my best place to put my links in and again it’s not just the who might be driven there from the social media platforms but it’s also Google. Google sees the link, the more valuable links that you’ve had and with Google Plus, that Google is seeing those links, more than seeing other links quite obviously. I think certainly, business to business could use Google Plus quite well. So, that’s I mean that’s the thing.

Nick: Yep, so you’re posting out on your own social profile, do you think people should also be posting it in other social places like Google, not Google, Facebook groups, business groups, their member zone?

Nicole: Yeah, I certainly do that as well. You do it just on your profile but also in the groups, in the communities that you are a member of, the LinkedIn groups, Facebook groups, Google Plus communities. You need to be clever about it because quite often, the same people are in a lot of those different groups, so you don’t want to spam them. Say, for example that you’ve written something about gardening for example. You wouldn’t necessarily put that in a group, just a group of copywriters, which in a couple of LinkedIn groups and also Google Plus groups. I mean you wouldn’t necessarily put that there but you would put it in say a broader, small business group. So I think it’s being clever about where you put it. I know, one of the things that drive me most insane about social media, is the people that just post the same thing everywhere and it starts looking a lot like spam. I think you have to be careful and clever, again I post weekly, I don’t share every single post in every single group because I figure people will get really, really sick of me after a while with that.

Nick: Cool, yeah. So you want to take advantage of these platforms but don’t go too far that it looks like spam because it’s gonna start working against you.

Nicole: That’s right and you know you can re-purpose them as well because there’s a lot of places out there that take guest post as well and quite often, I re-purpose my more popular blog, change them slightly, keep the same but change them slightly for two reasons. One, that people don’t want to read exactly the same thing twice and two, Google doesn’t see exactly the same thing twice but you can re-purpose them and send them off to places that accept guest blogs in your niche and I do a little bit of guest blogging around the place and it’s another good way to drive traffic to your website. In fact, I’ll say it’s like, that if you can’t be bothered doing or you don’t have time or you don’t have the resources or you don’t think you can think of enough topic to do to blog yourself, consider guest blogging in popular blogs elsewhere. I mean don’t just guest blog anywhere but if you’ve got a popular website in your niche that attracts thousands of visitors a day, then try and see if you can guest blog there.

Nick: Great yes. So, that’s basically writing an article for someone else’s blog and then you have a little buy button at the bottom with a link back to your website, so people can go find out more about you. If they find you interesting and obviously got a link there as well for Google as we were talking about before. Let’s just talk a little bit about blogging for yourself as a business owner versus getting someone else like yourself to do the blogging. What are the pro’s and con’s of the two approaches?

Nicole: Well, look obviously the biggest pro of doing it yourself is you know your thing very well and you can probably do quite a good brain dump in there and even if you’re not a writer, you can get enough thoughts together to do something. I guess the con of that is that most business owners don’t have the time to do that and I think that if you’re not a writer or if you’re not, if you don’t love writing, I mean not everyone that loves writing is necessarily a writer but if it doesn’t come easy to you, then you’re gonna spend hours getting blood from a stone, when you could be doing something that’s more profitable that’s actually making money for your business.

One of the cons of hiring someone else is having the faith in them that they will speak for your business and they will do the right thing and say the right thing. You can do it in a couple of ways , you can hire them as a ghost writer I guess, in which case, they are writing and they are being you, in which case you need give a lot of information on your ethics and your personality and they need to get it out of you. They can also write as a guest or write at a more generic pace rather than eye piece. To me, that’s one of the biggest cons but if you do the early bit right, if you brief the writer well and if you’ve got a good strategy behind them, then they should be able to step into your shoes. You know, a good writer should be able to take a brief, understand the client and [Inaudible 00:25:03] and obviously the client gets the final say. I mean, until you get up to a really good relationship – I’ve got a couple of clients where I’ve got a very good relationship and I just post on their behalf without them necessarily clearing it but that is very rare and it’s after a long time of the relationship.

Nick: Great. Yeah. That’s some good tips there. That pretty much brings us towards the end of this interview. Do you have some perhaps if you could bring some of the threads together from the episode and some key takeaways for people, other business owners about blogging?

Nicole: Sure. There’s a few. The first thing that I really want to stress is that strategy. I think if you’re going to commit to weekly or monthly or whatever blog, you will pull your hair out, you suddenly get to, oh my God, it’s the day I meant to blog, I have no idea what I’m gonna do etc. So, I think taking that time like anything in business, spending that time to really plan, works out much better in the long run. The second thing that I want people to take away is don’t panic if you’re not a writer. I don’t think that is a problem. I mean, obviously you want to have it correct and reading well and all that at the end but anyone can do a big brain down, you know your thing. Do a big brain down on something and then go back to it. Don’t panic about not being a writer and really it doesn’t even have to be a lot of writing.

If you are a builder and you are doing a project, take a few photos of the project and just do captions. You don’t even really need to necessarily write reams and reams of copy and I guess, the third takeaway is promotion. There is no point writing if you then don’t follow through with the other things. I think it’s a unique time at the moment with take up of social media and with newsletters and emails and blogging platforms and how easy Word Press is and other CMS’s. Integrating them all has never been easier, so integrating your social media protocols with your newsletter with your blogging it’s the easiest thing in the world and that’s the way to promote and to drive people there.

I mean, if I look at my Google Analytic from my website and hopefully everyone that has a website has a Google Analytics on it and if they don’t, they should. It spikes every Tuesday, which is when I blog. It spikes from fairly nothing up into the hundreds sometimes. So, you can see that it’s worth it and even if all of those people don’t become clients, some of them do, a percentage of them do and Google saves it. So, that again, you’ve got that two things and quite often, when I get a call about a job from a potential client, their opening comment either by phone or email is, I’ve been reading your blog for a while and I’ve been meaning to contact you. You seem like the kind of Writer I want. So, even if it’s not immediate, even if you can’t see the immediate pay, persist.

Nick: Awesome. So, a good success story there to end on. Thanks very much for coming on the show, Nicole. It’s been fantastic having you and having this conversation about blogging. Where can people find out more about you and your business?

Nicole: Well, they can go to my website, which is a really long one but I’ll try. It’s www.blackcoffeecommunications.com.au or they can find me very easily on Facebook and on Google Plus and Twitter and all of that sort of stuff and I’d be happy to have a chat with them.

Nick: Well, I’ll put links to all those in the show on this episode to webmarketingadelaide.com.au and people can go check you out there.

Thanks again for coming to the show and have a good one.

Nicole: No problem. Thanks very much for inviting me Nick.


Ep#37: BNI – Building your Business with Referrals

 Delve into the BNI business networking model and how you can use it to grow your business

Simon Derrick-RobertsThis week we have a great interview with Simon Derrick-Roberts, the regional director at BNI South Australia. BNI is a business networking organisation with 6,200 active chapters and 150,000 members in 50 countries, it is the most successful business referral organisation of its kind.

We cover;

  • What is BNI?
  • How does it work? What is the cost?
  • How is it different from other networking groups and events?
  • Is it best suited to particular types of businesses (e.g. B2B vs B2C) or particular industries (product, service) or everyone?
  • Are most members there for the long term or is there a constant turnover?
  • How does BNI get new members?
  • How can people get the most out of BNI?


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Interview with Simon Derrick-Roberts from BNI

Nick: Welcome back to the Web Marketing Adelaide broadcast. I am your host Nick Morris and this week, we are joined by Simon Derrick-Roberts from BNI and we are going to talk about BNI, which is a business networking, network international, business networking. Good day Simon welcome to the show.

Simon: Thanks for having me on Nick. Great to be here.

Nick: Let’s get started by having you tell us a little bit about yourself and a little bit about your role at BNI?

Simon: Yes, sure. So, I started my BNI journey as a rank and file member just over three years ago. I actually spoke with the local business enterprise center CEO, his name is Mike Hawkins. I asked him to tell me what are the networking opportunities that were available in my area. I spent that time working as a Business Development Manager for a cloud computing custom software Development Company based in Adelaide and also looking to connect with other business professionals, IT professionals, business consultants etc., who could refer me in to the clients that I was looking to tap in to. So yeah Mike put me on to BNI and it was interesting the very first time I went to a meeting.

We had actually, we were meeting at a pub, we were locked out of the venue, so it wasn’t a great first impression. We were stuck in the courtyard at the Britannia Hotel but I just felt that the people that were at the meeting were a much higher caliber than what I’ve bumped into at say, business SA, Chamber of Commerce, the local BEC. So, even though perception was it wasn’t a great first start, there was just something different about it, so that’s why I got involved at the ground level.

Nick: Cool, that’s a good little introduction. Moving on from that, what is BNI exactly? I mean obviously, it’s business networking but can you give us a little bit more information?

Simon: BNI is about doing your personal referral network so the challenge that you have with a normal networking group is that when you walk up, there might be three telecommunication guys in the room, five mortgage brokers, two real estate agents etc. So, you’re at one of these events, there’s normally more people there you know. There might be anywhere from 40 up to 100 but your competitors are in the room and probably the other challenge is and I actually was attending an event a couple weeks ago.

I was asked to speak for a few minutes at something we call the Networking Disconnect. I’ve never tried this exercise myself before but I asked the room, you know please raise your hand if you’re here to sell. So, every single hand, its about 35 to 40 people in the room, every single hand went up. So, they were all there to sell and then I asked the question, “Now c’mon guys, be honest, how many of you are here to buy?” Well two hands kind of half went up a little bit ashamed at least, so that’s the disconnect that everyone’s there to sell, no one’s genuinely there to buy so the idea with BNI is your competitors aren’t in the room. So, that’s one advantage and you’re actually there to sell through the people in the room, so they tap into their network of the 2 or 300 people sitting behind each other person in the room, rather than to sell to the 30 people in the room, if that makes sense.

Nick: Yeah, that makes sense. You mentioned other networking groups, what are the main, sort of differentiators between BNI and others of regular networking groups apart from obviously as you say compared to that in the room? There are other networking events I’ve sort of become aware of it, operates in a similar where they can only accept one of each industry and things like that. Are there any other major differences or for instance, do you think other networking events can still be effective for getting business?

Simon: Yeah, absolutely although you generally, look, it depends on what industry are you in. If you are a florist, you know it’s a fairly low risk transaction, so someone who’s only just met you might try you out and spend $50 or $100 bucks. What could possibly go wrong. If you are an accountant, really your goal should be to make two or three meetings for contacts on the night, have some good conversation and then follow-up for coffee afterwards. So, we actually encourage our members to be involved in other networking groups.

We think they should be active, depending on their target market Facebook and or LinkedIn in various conversation groups there. They should be involved in at least one sort of Chamber of Commerce, you know those place you go, events just to build their contacts sphere. Also you should be involved in a service group if you are a community minded, you know Rotary. We have a lot of Rotarians and Lions Clubs members, I’m in Lions myself.

So yeah, but what we don’t want for our members is that they are involved in one of those other groups that you talked about, which are similar to BNI, in that there are about referrals or leads and there is only one person per profession in the room because if the great opportunity comes across my desk for a real estate agent, then I’ve got divided loyalties, who do I give it to? So, it’s great for me, I’m tapping into two separate groups of people that again find me referrals but it’s not very fair to the other people in the room because of those divided loyalties.

Nick: Yeah that makes sense. Let’s hear a little bit more about how it actually works on the day when you go along to these events and how the referral system works and also what’s the cost behind this?

Simon: Sure, ok. So I’ll handle the cost side first if that’s alright then we’ll come back to how it works because how it works is a little bit like getting a haircut. It’s very hard to explain and get the result unless you’re actually there. So, cost wise, first thing, we’ll talk about the value. So, last year in Australia, the average return from member, obviously there is some that’s way over, some that didn’t do very well but the average return because we test and measure everything in BNI and that’s probably one of our points of differences over the similar organizations that have one person profession. The average return was $47,000 Australia wide. In Adelaide, it was around $43,000 last year for the average member. So, the cost involved, there’s an annual membership fee which is $730 next year’s fee and there is also once of joining fee of $340 next year’s fee. So, in your first year it’s $11,077 including tax and that’s less than a cup of coffee a day. I think it works out, being divided by 365 its $3.20 a day. So, if you weigh up the returns obviously you’ve got to put in some time and effort. You don’t just magically get 43 grand or 47 grand just because you’ve signed a piece of paper but cost benefit analysis is a fairly good return on investment.

Nick: Absolutely. I can see if you’re only putting in $1,000 or $750 for later years and then getting $43,000, that seems like a pretty good return.

Simon: Yeah and every year, sorry, what was the first part of that question again? So I jumped in…

Nick: That’s fine. I was just trying to get a bit of an idea how it works in the day. If it’s hard to explain maybe you can give us a brief overview.

Simon: I’ll give you a very brief overview. Somebody run a structured 40 point agenda that’s designed to facilitate building their profile and trust levels within the room, so basically proves that you are credible because if you are a real estate agent, not everyone in that room in a given 12 months period is going to be out to personally try your services. In fact, if one or two of them can, that’s great but again that’s what we’re about. We’re about selling through the people in the room. So the 40 point agenda is designed to let you show up, present your business in a very positive way, probably the key points of the meeting. We actually make a request for specific referral every week. So, depending on the size of your group you normally deliver a 60 second presentation, where you might talk about a recent job you’ve been working on and then you are ask for something quite specific.

If you’re business to business, you might name a particular person, their position in the company, the company, the industry etc. If you work business to community, business to consumer, sorry, you might describe a key life situation. So, if you are a travel agent, you might be talking about someone who’s just gotten engaged because they’re gonna start thinking about their honeymoon. So, we make a specific referral request. Each of the members during the meeting and then towards the end of the meeting, we actually pass the referrals that we did during the week, we actually record at a transaction level and it goes into the database, the referrals that we passed.

Any referrals we received previously that have translated into business, we actually tracked the value of the business received. That’s how we can tell you how that $43,000, who’s the average return for the Adelaide member last year, but I think the key point for building credibility in the room, as I said, not everyone is gonna try your service. But if one of the members has personally used you or they’ve referred you to one of their contacts and you’ve done a fantastic job, what they all generally do was read out a testimonial, either written by themselves or by that client and then they normally give you that in written forms, so you can put it in your websites or your Facebook pages etc. So, the point is, if that person then endorses you, the people in the room, they might be pretty close with 5 or 6 of the other members who therefore, because you know Bob’s endorsed you. They feel comfortable then referring you to their contacts, as well, if that makes sense. So, the testimonial is the key element.

Nick: Cool, yeah. That’s a pretty good little overview and I like the fact that you’ve all shared that testimonial angle as well, sort of goes beyond just kind of the networking itself but also things like testimonials you can put on your website. So, as you said, which can help people when they’re kind of related in this word of mouth but it’s an additional thing as well as just the networking itself. Just to make sure I got the process down, it sounds like you’re collecting referrals to give to the other people in the group when they come along each week you meet up?

Simon: Yes. We meet weekly generally. We don’t meet up on holidays, you know, if we have a break over Christmas, we generally meet 47, 48 times a year. So, there is a commitment involved but we’ve tried over the 28 year history, we’ve tried other models fortnightly, monthly but we found there was a clear relationship between the frequency of meeting and the amount of business past. One thing I should probably get clear on, if I have a BNI meeting and it’s a Thursday morning and an opportunity comes up to refer business to a Thursday afternoon, I don’t wait until the next Thursday morning to tell the member. Obviously referral’s like milk, they go off pretty quickly so you contact the member straight away but we do the paper work so we can put it into the database each meeting, that makes sense.

Nick: Yah, I was wondering about that a bit. So, you would have the business cards and the contact information of other people in the group that you sort of network with and then when you get that referral, you send it straight through to them and then you document that when you come each week for your meeting?

Simon: Absolutely that is right. Members carry a card holder, although that’s a bit old school these days, so often the referrals wait until the opportunity comes up over the phone or something, so we might send through an e-card or MMS the members date house to the prospect. The key is, so that would just be a lead. The difference between a qualified referral and a lead is we also seek permission from the prospect to have the member call them within the next day and that’s the case. There’s no sitting there waiting for that phone call that never comes in you know. If you just give a business card probably 95% of the time, you never receive that call, not that they’re not genuinely in the market but they just get busy and they get distracted, so we want to empower our members with the opportunity to follow up the prospect.

Nick: Absolutely yeah, that makes sense and I can definitely relate to getting busy and not getting on to things, I was meaning to call this person or whatever, so, that make sense.

Simon: Yeah.

Nick: Let’s move on. I’ve heard some really great things about BNI, I think the first time I heard about it I was at another networking event. Some of it said that they have joined up and then I had to leave within the first three months. They had so much business that they couldn’t take on anymore. It’s an amazing thing to say but I think I’ve heard bits and pieces from other people around the place. So, what do you think is it that has people so, sort of excited about the BNI model even, I mean obviously getting a lot of business is good. Is that just work that way well or is there other things that’s making them getting so excited?

Simon: I think obviously most people are there for the business opportunity. I should be careful about using that sort of language because it might make people think we’re pyramid scheme or multi -level marketing which, absolutely we’re not. There is no kick backs or commissions or anything like that for members introducing another member into the group but most people are there to make money. In fact, really, we want people who are there motivated to make money because we’re founded on the principle of giver’s gain, so what goes around comes around. So, yes, what happens, you end up in a room of 30 to 40 like minded business professionals in a generally go getter types, that are hungry to get work, therefore, they know they’ve got to be hungry to find opportunities. And it’s always quite rewarding when you make an introduction to a family member, a client, whatever and the jobs, you’ve solved their problems.

It’s outside of your personal, professional sphere but you’ve actually made an introduction that solved their problems. So, I think people get a good, warm and fuzzy feeling about that but also because we’re really a training organization. We provide a lot of training at no cost to our members as part of their membership fees so it gives them access to the system but also the training we provide by face to face, one on one, group workshop format and online. We have a 24/7 online training portal as well. So, some people joined for the professional development and you can see that you see members that have been in 3 months, 6 months, 5 years and they’ve really grown as an individual.

You know their public speaking, their confidence etc. So, there are other reasons why people get excited about BNI but it could at the end of the day, most of us that are there are there to increase the bottom line. And I guess people get excited because I figure it is a good return on their time. It’s far more effective than a lot of the other, what I call pay as you go networking events like Adelaide word of mouth etc. There’s some good stuff out there but it doesn’t always translate into good business opportunities, not to say that you shouldn’t do it. As I’ve mentioned before, we recommend members that are involved with other networking groups.

Nick: Awesome, yeah that makes sense. Just a thought on one point, you said there is no kickbacks or commissions [Inaudible 00:15:25] separated differently from any kind of scheme, anything, in that way. Are people expected, is there an expectation on number of referrals you need to bring along, I think you said before, you should try to bring one to each meeting. Is that like an exchange almost, like you should be matching the number of those you get, sort of thing?

Simon: Sure, sure. Look, what goes around comes around, so, if each member in the room is looking to make $50,000, $70,000 a year on average of their return. That means every member in the room needs to bring $50,000 to $70,000 worth of business opportunities to the table as well. So, but BNI’s definitely we’re [Inaudible 00:16:00] to contact sport. We want players, not spectators. So, passengers can actually or each chapter has its own vibe and culture, some chapters do better than others. We’ve got an established chapters that’s been going for about seven or eight years, that meets on Melbourne Street every Friday morning.

They have shared this calendar year and I think that $720,000 worth of business so far. So, that’s referrals that have actually translated into business and we’re not even 4 months to the year. So, the point is, they don’t tolerate passengers, they have high expectations and they hold their members accountable. So, they hold their members accountable and each member makes a commitment and members allow themselves to be held accountable by their fellow members because they’re a high performing chapter. Their results are entered. Did I answer your question? I got a bit side tracked there.

Nick: No, no, that’s alright. I think that’s good, it’s good for people to know that upfront as well that they’re gonna be expected to, the system won’t work if you don’t bring facts onto tables as well as take, you can’t just take, take, take.

Simon: Absolutely, each chapter must have its own goal. Most chapters set a target in terms of those target. Most of them wont set a goal higher that one referral per member per week cause then they’re in danger of lowering the quality of the referrals and you straying into leads territory and what we’d rather do is have a member, when they receive a referral notice, there’s a reasonable change of making a couple of thousand dollars out of that rather than you receiving a piece of confetti that that’s probably worthless.

Nick: Yeah, I think that’s a good point. You mentioned chapters in there, I think I’ll just ask on that point. So, obviously, there’s different chapters within the city I guess and I guess chapters come up when there is enough demand to open up a new chapter? Is that sort of how it works?

Simon: Yeah, that’s absolutely right because we only allow one person per profession. We have unmet demand in Adelaide right now, so we had, the start of last year we had two BNI chapters. By the end of the year, we’d launched the third, they both met in North Adelaide actually and I was a member of one of those chapters that launched about 3 years ago, as I mentioned. So, we launched a chapter in the Marian Aquatic Center, the new aquatic center down there, fantastic venue and that was because of the firstly unmet demand in the Southern and Western suburbs. We then launched two more chapters at the start of this year, one in the Deeps [Audio breaks 00:18:36] area of the for Christy’s Beach.

They made up this surf like serving club down there. There’s some serious wow factor going down to that, it makes going down there bright and early worth it when you see all the ocean views because you are right on the espionade on the second floor and also launched very rapidly, I had a great group of people, some of them had quite a corporate background. So, it got a different culture to some of the other chapters that seem to be built more around the real estate and trades more than the professional services, financial services but we launched a group that meets on Green Hill Road on Parkside and they’re a great group. In the first four weeks together, those 30 people shared over $96,000 worth of business, which for a new group is quite unusual, actually because you’ve got to build up that trust before you put your credibility on the line, making a new introduction to your best client for example. That’s a high risk referral, so they have done a really good job.

Nick: Wow, yeah. Well, if someone is looking to join BNI or join a chapter, is it best for them to go straight to the chapter themselves or do they come to BNI and you sort of tell them because it sounds a little bit like it may be beneficial for people to go to a chapter that sort of fits their culture a little bit better rather than perhaps, closest one?

Simon: You’re absolutely right. In fact, me, as Mr. BNI, I don’t determine who your team to be, some have got five chapters. They’re actually self governed ones, they are off the ground you know. I provide training support but they have a membership committee who is really the HR department and the recruitment department. So, they are the gate keepers of the chapters too. So someone, we had an example of a fantastic guy who is helping me launch a chapter in the CBD. At the moment, we are doing our first meeting next week but he came along to this chapter. I just mentioned that he shared in the $96,000 because they are actively, he’s in recruitment.

They’re actively seeking recruitment agent but when we sat down with their membership committee, they realized even though it was a successful group, just culturally, he wasn’t the right fit, but he’s a great fit for BNI, which is why he’s helping me out putting together with four other guys who are really in the same head space as him and so they’re gonna be a powerful chapter as well but Michael wouldn’t have fitted in as well at the Green Hill Road chapter. I guess by mutual decision, I realized yeah, this is not for you. Now, obviously CBD is pretty close but yeah, if they hadn’t have been available to him, we might have sent him down to Marian or Christy’s Beach if he was prepared to travel that extra distance to find the right groups for him.

Nick: And does BNI actively do some advertising things to get new members and new people involved or is it more just a word mouth thing?

Simon: Yeah, look, as we are a word of mouth organization, we wouldn’t be more credible if we used the Yellow Pages, tv, radio. Look it has been tried, Portugal’s one of the fastest growing BNI regions in the world and they did use tv advertising, a guy in Tasmania that looks after Hobart in the Southern, think it’s a Southern half of Tasmania. He’s tried some radio advertising. I’m not sure what the results have been, but really, the way, 90% of people get involved in BNI is that they get invited along to attend a meeting by someone in their network. Now, sometimes the meeting they go and see, they’re actually locked out of that meeting, so I’ve got a friend who works for Telsra and he’s just really passionate about BNI. He is getting some bright results. He’s meeting at a North Adelaide chapter but his network is in the Western suburbs, so he takes friends and colleagues along to his meeting in North Adelaide. Now, they can’t actually join that North Adelaide chapter because their profession, that seat’s already been filled. What he does is, he redirects them down to a new chapter we’re launching at West Lake, which is suitable culturally and location wise for them but yeah absolutely, he takes them to see his meetings because he’s proud. He figures his chapter is a showcase you know. They have done $720,000 of business in less than 4 months and these people like what they see. They locked out, so Yvonne will help them as a sort of an introduction to me, so I can get them having a look at the West Lake group, make sure they’re happy with the people in that room.

Nick: Awesome, and is the BNI model suited to different types of businesses, like for instance B to B versus B to C or particular industries, maybe like product based industries versus service based industries?

Simon: Look, we know that BNI can work for absolutely any business but it won’t work for every person. Again, we want people who are results oriented, they’re hungry, they’re willing to put in a little bit of time and effort because they understand that what goes around comes around you only get in, you only get out what you put in I should say. Look, we do know that there are particular, I guess professional fees that can do very well out of BNI. We find it is usually service based industries, we’re always seeing very strong industry representation in the real estate and the trade sector, that’s from the backbone and then you’ll see generally a third of the membership base of any chapter is in that real estate and trade area.

So, the real estate agent can feed the mortgage broker, who can feed the conveyance, who can feed the property manager, who feeds all the traders with the maintenance work etc. and also you get, usually you don’t see volume builders involved in BNI but you might get those high end builders who have a premium product because if you place an ad in the Yellow Pages or the messenger, you’re competing on price. Normally, when someone, if it’s pre-sold advertising they are genuinely in the market to buy when they ring, but they’re gonna ring some of your competitors, they generally shop on price. If you are someone who competes on value, not on price you need an unfair advantage of your competitions, so you need that foot in the door the person’s recommendation. So, the builders we tend to see involved, might only do ten homes a year because their homes are half a million dollars.

We will also see looks strong representation those business services and financial services so commercial lending, financial planning, personal risk insurance, general insurance brokers, business coaches, marketing consultants etc. Now, one area that we’re starting to see development in Adelaide is the health and wellbeing, so we’re getting chiropractor, physiotherapist, massage therapist, nutritional products, people like that involved in most chapters. Where we’re not strong in Adelaide currently, but I’ve seen it in the Eastern States, they called it the wedding mafia, so it’s the event planning type profession. So, you’ll see wedding celebrants, you’ll see gift baskets, bouquets, which cook can also go into corporate use. You can see people who can organize entertainment etc. So, that’s a weakness or an opportunity in Adelaide that’s, currently we really don’t have many people in the wedding and event planning type sector. Photographers would be the exception. We’ve got a photographer in virtually every group. In fact, every group I think.

Nick: So, photographers are on top of this obviously but there is a bit of opportunity for some other people in there, the wedding area and also in many other areas as you went through there I think. It seems like this quite broad and as you said, you have to be willing to give in, get back what you put in sort of thing and there is an opportunity for lots of different things there, which is good. With the BNI models, I mean, you mentioned a little bit at the beginning, do you encourage members to use LinkedIn and social media. Has the rise of digital and social media, has that changed much the way you do business? I guess because it’s essentially you are meeting in person and that’s still the major part of it. I guess the core hasn’t changed that much or…?

Simon: Yeah look, we’re still all about face to face contact, however, some of our members particularly our under 35s are starting to use social media to actually put it out there, so, using social media to generate interest in getting visitors to come along and see the meetings. They’re also responding to requests through LinkedIn groups. Someone might, I’ve seen it myself, say hey, do you know a good business coach in the Central areas and someone that’s connected with them or is involved in that group who’s also in BNI would then speak with the person online and maybe they can find a referral out of that.

We actually have a fantastic member Colts [Inaudible 00:27:28] Douglas, I don’t know if you know of his social media IOK. She’s now the Vice President of that top performing chapter in Melbourne Street and she’s working with me, we’re actually going to be rolling out a social media strategy from July of this year and providing additional training as well as. Leaders, initially, as I said each chapter self-governed and then hopefully in 2014, if we can prove the models valuable, then we’ll be rolling it out to a general membership. I think the key is, any training we provide in BNI, it’s not just BNI training. Much of it is transferable for people to use in their own business.

Nick: Cool, yeah. I have also come across someone. She’s very active in the Adelaide Business Central Facebook group which BNI came up again that’s what made me get in contact with you, so I’m reminded of BNI through her so, obviously, it’s working, the social media stuff from that perspective. One other question here….

Simon: I just gonna say, so we do test and measure everything. Simone is one of the top three members in Adelaide. She’s using social media as you have seen widely, so there is probably something in that. So, Simone and I obviously need to talk more.

Nick: Cool, yeah, absolutely. I just have one question on members, which I didn’t address before which is, most members tend to be there for the long time or is there a bit of a turn over there? What can you give me on that?

Simon: Absolutely. As I said, BNI doesn’t work for everyone. Now, our membership committees are the gate keepers so, we had a reasonably extensive interview and follow up process to make sure that people are the right fit because we don’t want to damage the brand by having people come in with the wrong expectations and it just doesn’t work for them. So, we do find that about 15% of their membership will either not renew when their 12 months come to an end or they may even leave midterm, but we have members we have a painter in Simone’s chapter who has been a [Inaudible 00:29:38] I think, 7 or 8 years and we’ve got several members in her group that have been in for five years.

We just awarded some 3 year ribbons. So, you know it’s a great testimony to the system when someone has been in for that long but we also see people like you mentioned, that if – I actually gave referral to an HR consultant that was in my chapter. He left in his second year and he rang me up and was so apologetic but what I’ve given him has turned into a three day a week contract and with his other work, he simply couldn’t take on anymore business. Therefore, what is the point of turning up every week if he didn’t want to take anything on and he was too busy to give back to the group. He didn’t want to be a passenger. So, we do find that for the life circumstance or for business reasons, people leave. So, sometimes leaving is not a negative thing, it’s a positive thing.

Nick: Cool, yeah, great answer. With this question here, was something that sort of gave me pause, when I first heard of BNI and I touched on it a little bit but I’m asking it anyway, want to get a clear answer. So, one thing I felt I wasn’t too sure about was, I didn’t want to be giving, having an expectation to give referrals and sort of being pushed towards giving referrals to people what I know friends, family, other clients and people within my business networks and referring them to other businesses that I didn’t really know that well because I have only met them through the group and I hadn’t really had a chance to try out their services. What would you say to people that have this sort concern?

Simon: That would be probably the number 1 concern that people, well probably number 1 is the commitment because really, the money expected returns is rarely a consideration, so is that weekly commitment is a challenge for a lot of people and the next highest concern, is they don’t feel confident that they can bring referrals out, particularly because 5 or 10% of members we get might have been introduced to BNI by someone interstate. So, they don’t actually someone in the group they already trust because we talked before about the testimonials. Most people are invited into BNI group by someone they know and trust and so, if that person is happy to endorse another half dozen in the chapter, then as a new member, you’ll often give them a go because you trust your friend’s judgment.

As we touched on before, the real estate agent didn’t etc. isn’t going, you’re probably not gonna use this person’s service yourself. So you know, one thing in business and in life and such as BNI, a lot of business coaches would say this. How you do one thing is how you do everything, perception is reality for the person who is perceiving it, so one thing you can do is always bring your A game when you come to a meeting. Arrive early, plan to stay late, dress sharp, even if you are a trade, come prepared and people will start to think well, if they front up to BNI meeting with that mindset and attitude, then they’re probably gonna front up to a meeting with a client, at least if not with a higher setting. Now, we also know that as a new member, you’re probably not give a lot of referrals in your first 2 or 3 months, so we have a system that sits behind BNI, which is designed to help people build their credibility within the group. We called it the BCTP process. So, firstly, you need to be visible but then you need opportunities to build your credibility because as you know if you give a referral and it doesn’t go well, it falls back on you. So, you need to trust the person you’re passing the referral to, so everything on that 40 point agenda and the other components of the system that for the rest of the week outside of the weekly meeting, I designed for the members to be able to build their trust and credibility levels within the group even if most of the members can’t personally use their service.

So, we say so probably the higher the average value of the transaction of your product or service, the more risk to the referrer. So, you would probably, if you join the group Nick, feel reasonably comfortable if you give the referral to that Florist that we talked about before cause you know $5,000 you know, okay maybe the flowers were slightly brown around the edges but it’s probably not gonna kill your credibility with your best client but you know if it was an introduction into the accountant and I stuffed it up, that would be really bad for you. So you’re absolutely not expected to start passing referrals on day 1, particularly those high value ones. So, it’s up to the other members, they actually put in the time and effort so that you feel comfortable referring business to them.

Nick: Cool yeah that’s a great answer and you did answer it a little bit before but it’s not that sort of in a package there. Just on the back of that then, do you have any tips for people on how they can get the most out of BNI just things that you can give to my listeners?

Simon: I would say I’ve touched on some of them. Don’t be late because we say that you know we’ve got a yes bucket and a no bucket sitting on your shoulder at all times with your BNI members, so if you woke up late to a meeting and people notice it, are they thinking, is he gonna walk up late when I introduce him to my client? If you come in if looking like you just rolled out of bed, what are they thinking? Most of our meetings are 7am by the way. So, again if you’re a tradee and you wrapped up your painter for example Jeff never walks up in his overalls with paint stains on them and dusty boots.

He’s always in a nice logoed shirt with slacks because he’s trying to set that right perception. He wants introduction into property managers and boutique builders and so forth, so he needs to position himself so everything’s aligned. So, that’s one thing, you know, dress for success and think about all those little 1% that are gonna affect people’s perception of you. Absolutely, look, please embrace all the training we have to offer. As I said, the training is free, I put to caveat on that. Members always pay towards venue high and catering cost but the actual content that we deliver, there’s no, we don’t get paid an extra fee for you actually accessing the training, so embrace the training opportunities. Speak with the experienced members in the group, you know they’ll provide some 1 on 1 mentoring and support the other thing is and this probably the number 1 thing don’t just be a 90 minute a week member because you will not succeed. So, we have a 90 minute structured meeting every week but you need to actually be doing some activity outside the meeting. We think you should be putting in 3 to 5 hours a week, probably no more that that because a lure of diminishing returns but we encourage you to go out 1 on 1 and meet the other members in their work place. And in return, they want to do the same for you.

If members asked for specific introductions, you should take note of that and maybe a day or two after the meeting you might not have triggered something in memory at the time but just review those notes and actually I don’t know this from xyz company but I know their biggest competitor. In fact, they’re a client of mine, ring up the member, hey, I know you asked for Bob Jane, would you like an introduction to Bridgestone instead, that sort of thing. So, put in some time and effort outside of the meeting as well as being bringing your A game to every meeting that you attend.

Nick: Great yeah. Thanks for those tips. How can people find out more if they’re interested in getting sort of signing up for a chapter or just checking out a little bit more about it?

Simon: Yeah look, if they don’t have a friend or someone in their contact, they are free to personally introduce them to BNI because as I said it is always – I feel the best way, just like you approached me, you made an enquiry through BNI.com.au, through the website that they’ll get in contact with me. I’ll follow them up, normally with a phone call if they leave up their number and we’ll have a bit of a chat. I need to understand where they’re located, what profession they’re in, to know where they’re vacancies, and chances are, when they front up at that meeting you know, with 30 odd people in the room, usually they actually know someone in the room.

They might have not realized that there was a BNI member but they normally, they have someone that can take them under their wing because they’ve had that prior relationship, but if you don’t have someone, just do what you did, enquire through the website. I’ll get on to you within one business day, unless I’m traveling. So, I also manage BNI in Darwin but look they’ll hear from me within 2 to 3 business days, the absolute worst.

Nick: Great. So, if you know someone already who’s in BNI then you can get in through them or BNI.com.au for the link and I’ll show next on our website, how to get you in contact.

I think that pretty much brings me to the end of all the questions I had. Thanks very much Simon for coming on the show. Its been a really interesting sort of delve into this BNI thing that I’d heard about but I didn’t know all of what it was about, so I think the information you’ve given has been really great.

Simon: Fantastic and if you are interested to connect with me you connect with Simone and we can -you’ve never been to a meeting yourself right?

Nick: No, I haven’t. Just heard about it from the people on the call and I think it could be interesting.

Simon: It is probably worth even if it’s not for you, it’s probably worth two hours of your time, just to check it out and maybe go along to Simone to her group. It might be the best for you, as you got – is that a virtual relationship, or do you guys know each other face to face?

Nick: No, we’ve not interacted that much. I mean I saw this Adelaide business Central group but I came across it, anyone who’s curious and I’ll put a link in the show as well. It’s quite a big group it’s like 800 people and they’re all talking about different things and I just see Simone in there fairly often posting. We haven’t interacted personally that much so I don’t know her that well but it’s a good group to go to and meet people there. So, yeah thanks again for coming to the show and we’ll speak perhaps in the future?

Simon: Alright fantastic, really appreciate the opportunity. Thanks Nick.


Ep#36: Idea Inception, Development, Founders & More for Syndeo.co

Talking through the Idea Inception, Development, Founders & More for Syndeo.co with founder Stuart Austin

This week we have another interview from our Adelaide Entrepreneurs series. Get all the info on the guest and topic over here.

Stuart Austin Syndeo Interview


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.


Ep#34: Financial Forecasting for your New Business Idea

Get the data and forecasts you need to hit the ground running with your new business idea

In this episode I interview Pratib Parthiban from Silverwhale about financial projections for new business ideas. We drill down on why its important to get a grasp of the numbers when you are planning on launching a new business and how Silverwhale’s forecasting services work.

We cover

  • Why its important to do projections for a new business idea
  • What are some of the tools you use to do projections
  • What inputs do you need
  • Where can people get those inputs from
  • What if a projection doesn’t turn out to be accurate
  • How should projections affect day to day decision making




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

Nick: Welcome back everyone to the Web Marketing Adelaide Podcast. I’m your host Nick Morris and today we’re talking with Pratib from Silverwhale about Forecasting Your New Business Idea. Good day Pratib, how are you doing?

Pratib: Hey, Nick, how are you? Good man.

Nick: Great! Now, before we get stuck into the questions I’ve got here for you on forecasting thing, how about you just tell us a little bit about yourself and about what you do?

Pratib: Yeah, my name is Pratib. Basically, I’m the Director of the Silverwhale Private Limited, and what we do in Silverwhale is basically to provide financial projection for a new business idea of projects and that’s what we do. Sometimes we also perform some additional research to make sure that the assumptions and the fundamentals that we use in the projections are accurate.

Most of the times, they research will be done by the business idea owner and usually we’ll back that research up using financial figures and that’s what we’ll do. And most of the time, customers or clients try to do a financial projection to see the viability or how much the value for the business idea that they can get from investors and also for like just for decision making purposes. Yeah, that’s how we are trying to like help, a lot of start-ups and encourage start-ups to do financial projections before actually embark in their adventurous journey.

Nick: Great, great! Do you tend to work with a particular type of business or is it fairly across the board or…?

Pratib: So far, I don’t really specialize in anything because for me every business idea is very unique by its own. It’s just very hard to generalize everything and so, it just creates a big opportunity for me to learn different models and just to learn how the business operates. I can learn about different industries as well by just not focusing on certain industry, so that’s kind of like, been my focus since I started the business.

Nick: Awesome, awesome! Let’ get started on the topic. I’ve got a bunch of questions here to ask so let’s just stuck into them. The first one I’ve got here, you’ve kind of already touched on it briefly in your introduction there but the question is, why is it important to do financial projections when you are having your business idea?

Pratib: I think that is a very good question to me because most of the businesses should know the answers for this and I would like to steal some business tips from Sir Richard Branson. One of the things that he used to propose is that, in any of his adventures he always plan on what to d. If he hit the water, how to survive, if it’s not turning up as how he plans to turn up, and I think I kind of summarized the need for financial projection because with financial projections, you can b basically assist you in decision making, gives you different scenarios but too, to give you different scenarios on what to do when something goes wrong.

Let’s say for example, one of your material cost goes up and you can basically see with just like in 2 seconds what’s the impact gonna be on your profit and loss. Based on that, you can make some fair judgment on what to do next, should I increase the customer or should I try to negotiate and get a better deal from the supplier or you might realize that the impact is not that much on your profit and loss and you might think that you know that’s fine. I can basically like go on with this and obviously for decision making, that’s the main reason why we need financial projection. For me, I think if someone asks me the need for financial projection, I always tell them the three big reasons.

One is for decision making, second is to complete their business plan and third for seeking investment. On the second point, there’s two side of argument, do we really need business plan or can we just go on with the project idea? For me, I try to think that it need business plan but it does not have to be a 60 pages document. It can be very short and concise, it’s a road map, it’s a guideline to tell you how you’re gonna run your business. You have to make sure that the business plan covers all the fundamentals of a business and business plan helps you to like identify what other aspects are missing from your business. That’s where financial projection comes in.

It basically supports all the assumption, the pricing model, the business model that you’ve created for your business idea and that’s the reason why for complete your business plan, you need financial projections. And the third main reason is for seeking investment and lot of investors are particularly very interested with return on investment and with financial projection, it helps you to identify the return on investments for your business idea. So, running business it’s very easy. Usually, investors use multiply of earnings, lets say for example, my business is earning $100,000 a year at this point of time. Initially, investors will just use a multiply of 5 or 6 or 7 and then that’s the value of the business they will be willing to pay for. For a start-up business, it’s very hard to tell them how much you’ll be earning in 4 to 5 years down the road if you don’t have a financial projection. That’s where financial projection comes into the picture. It does not have to be like full in detail like exactly of how much a pen in your business is gonna cost, how much a ruler is gonna cost but it has to cover stationery expenses. It has to cover electric expenses and it has to be valid and logical sequence of number and that’s what financial projection is all about. It’s just some inputs and outputs, it’s not very complex, so I think those are the three reasons why we need financial projections.

Nick: Great yeah! It’s something that probably a lot of people, including myself, when I started my business probably I don’t really think about that. I got this idea and might not have all of the inputs and the outputs, sort of in their heads and they sort of just jump into the start-up of their business idea then later down the track, they find out, oh you know, maybe I should have planned this better. So, I think getting this kind of information now, I can see the difference is a good step, a good learning process for people thinking of starting a business, you know, starting a business or start-up in the early stages. It seems to really make sense. What are some of the tools that you use to do the productions or to run it?

Pratib: For me, I’m personally very happy with Microsoft Excel, and I’ve been an Excel user for the past 6, 7 years, so I think the main reason why I prefer to use – there are sophisticated financial models of there but for a layman and for a lot of other business owners out there, who are very, they are very specialized in their own area, in their own product but to [Inaudible 00:07:16] my message to them, is to commit everyday and they can also work on Microsoft Excel by themselves. They don’t have to get a specialized knowledge to use the financial projections because when I build a financial projection, I want the user to use it on a daily basis.

I want them to go on and make some mistakes, make some changes, learn how the whole projection works and for that reason Microsoft Excel is a very good tool. There are a lot of forums on the internet that teaches a lot of skills, a lot of tips on how to improvise your financial models. So, in that sense I use Microsoft Excel. The second tool that I use is definitely the internet. It’s a very good place to do your research and usually what I’ve tried to do is, if I say I’m building a financial projection for a restaurant for example, I tried to contact restaurant owners and ask them what are their expenses? What are the things you have to include in your monthly budget? So, that gives me some idea on like what are the things that I have to include in my own financial projection. One of the good website sometimes I use is cora.com, I’m not sure if you have heard about it? I basically I guess…

Nick: Cora?

Pratib: Yeah. Is basically like a lot of things that you can learn from that like how to do your financial projections and they always recommend top down and bottom up approach. So, top down from a sales perspective like how many percentage of the target market you want to target? How many percentage you can convert that for your sales, for your business? Whereas, bottom up approach comes from a cost perspective like how much your product gonna cost upward. How much is that gonna be, like cost per percent, how much is that gonna be? You have to include bottom up and top down approach when building a financial projection and Excel is a very good tool for that. So, I’m very happy with Excel.

Nick: Great, Great! I like what you mentioned there about, you want the business owners to use it every day, so obviously you’ve developed your delivering sign to them that they are gonna continue using it as you say as opposed to like just to graph thing and here’s the projection that I can as in the beginning like plug in a new cost over parts or particular supply that they have an update on what they do or whatever?

Pratib: Yes! I think that’s the main function, main feature of the projection that we build in Silverwhale. What we do is, we try to make sure the financial projection models is as dynamic as possible, so anyone can go in and change the assumption. Whatever number you can put in and it should produce the output that it should produce based on the formula that we have built at the back of the model. We try to make it as user friendly as possible because we can’t be there on a day to day basis to tell them that this is the things that you can change but just making them as user friendly is good. It helps the business owners to make daily decisions and even before we pass the complete projection model back to the client, we make sure that they understand how to use it in and out.

So, that kind of like help them as well and sometimes they try to come back to us and tell us that you know what I tried to include 3 other cross element but it’s not allowing me to do it. Can you help me to teach and we’d be more than happy to just assist them, just to coach them throughout the journey and do our best for them to like be a very compatible user with the financial model that they have.

Nick: Sounds good. What are some of the inputs that you need. You mentioned that you do some research and you actually reach out to businesses already in that industry just seems like a really good idea but what are some of the general inputs that people, pretty much every business I guess, would need to put in?

Pratib: It really depends on the complexity of the business. Some business is very simple, very simple model to follow. Some follows are, I want to say completely more like challenging model, so in that sense, it really depends on the complexity of the business but to give you some info, you can probably use a lot of accounting input, like for example, you have your financial statement, you can look at a sample of financial statement for your business. Let’s say, lets come back to the restaurant example, over the internet, you can try to find out a lot of like financial statements for restaurants and based on that, you’ll have some input on a lot of things that you have to look out for.

Those are the inputs that we will use in our projection. What we do, is usually we sit down with a client, try to understand all the business assumptions and for me, in a financial model, assumption is the most important part. If you can get your assumption as accurate as possible, then your financial model should reflect as close to reality. So, in that sense for me, the assumption is the biggest part. I would definitely recommend clients to spend more time on coming up with your own assumption or their own business assumptions. Sometimes what happens is that most of the times like clients kind of like always estimate their sales figures, obviously because that’s their own idea for huge confidence for the business and so then that’s where I come in.

I try to challenge that idea, I try to like put on my black hat and tell them that you know what, are you very sure that you can get 10 to 20%, when research have shown that a new start-up can only get 10% of the total after 12 established market. So, anything more that 10% can be seen as over estimation but in some idea, the idea can be really good but 20% is such a good ideal target. So, the assumption is the biggest input that everyone has to get, right. On the assumption right, one of the assumptions that I think every businesses should consider is that, how long can they take to get the number of customers that they need to break even in their business. So, most of the times businesses have a great idea on, okay, I need 10 to 20 customers to keep this business going month to month basis but do they know how long it will take to get the 10 to 20 customers? So, that is a very important piece and also cost per customer. They have to know exactly how much they have to spend to get one customer in the door and that is another input that they have to consider and anything that related to product, any cost that relates to product has to be considered for marketing expenses. It’s very important we kind of under estimate marketing expenses a lot of times. So, that is like experiences and talking to your business mentor, your business coach that can help you to say that you know what, I think your marketing expense is too low for your kind of this business. You might want to increase your marketing expenses. So those are the inputs that you always look out for.

Nick: Yeah, that’s really interesting. Some of those things I would have thought, will be difficult to grasp early on at the start of the business or beforehand, such as the cost per customer. What are some of the ways, is it just from sort of just talking to other businesses and doing research? Can you get failure here with this numbers or is it more something that you sort of get it as accurate as you can and then you can refine over time?

Pratib: I think your last sentence is very accurate like you should get it as close as possible and then refine it over time, because I believe cost per customer should decrease over time because your brand is already out there, so you don’t have to incur much as cost when you started but you can talk to your competitors. Some competitors are very helpful, like you’ll be very surprised when some customers call their competitors, you can be very honest with them you know. I want to try and open a business such as this, how much, you know like what are the things that you consider and how much do you spend to get your customer?

Sometimes you have to do some mystery shopping, you have to act like you are coming from a research company and stuff and it is totally legal to do that. You’re not lying or cheating, you’re just gathering some research for your own business idea, which is totally fine. You can also do some questionnaires and talking with your real customers. Go to them, tell them this is what you’re planning to sell, how much are will you willing to pay it for? And questions that you can ask is, where do you find this kind of business to help you out? How do you find this business to help you out, and they will give you some ideas on what are the advertisement mediums or tools that you can use and from there, you can get a fairly rough idea on how much cost is gonna take you to get that customer like in your door.

Nick: Absolutely yeah. I think as you say some people might be a little bit apprehensive about sort of calling their competitors. If they are willing to help, that’s great, and if they’re not, you might have sort of get your hands dirty a little bit and do some mystery shopping but it’s important information you need for, it makes sure this business idea you know has the ability to get off ground. Something that sort of just came to me, does your consulting or does your financial projection process, does it you were able to advice how much sort of start-up capital people who need for business or is that sort of a simple thing?

Pratib: That’s a very good question. Based on the projection, based on the business model, we are very good in a very good position to advice them, this is how much capital they need. We can definitely do that because we always try to maintain cash flow positive for their business, so in that sense, we try to identify, we try to estimate the capital up front before they start the business but the thing is, it also depends on how much they’re willing to spend as well. Let’s say, they say, I only have ten thousand as my capital then we have to work with that. You have to tell them that you know what, you might want to like get more capital or you might want to like decrease the cost per product.

You can do these kinds of things to decrease the cost per product. So, that kind of play around with your own capital, buy yeah you’re definitely. Based on the financial projection, we can definitely advice them how much capital they need, but that’s not gonna be the final figure because when you really start the business they could be additional cost that being incurred or you might realize that you know the capital has been over estimated. You have more money in your bank, which is always good. So, in that sense it really depends on how you are running the business once you’ve launched your business.

Nick: Yeah, it occurred to me when I was talking to with Trevor Glenn a few weeks ago in an episode about Lane start-up methodologies, it occurred to me that this sort of approach where you have this forecasting document, your Excel spreadsheet, which is able to be, with the inputs and assumptions that are able to be changed, it seems to fit well with the Lane start-up approach.

Pratib: Yeah, I mean very good point. I’m a very big fan of Lane methodologies. I’ve been to their trainings and all those things and one of the book that I would recommend to all start-ups to read is the Hundred Dollar Start-up.

Nick: Ok, I’ve heard of that but…

Pratib: It’s something pretty similar to Four Hour Week book and it kind of gives you different ideas on how you can launch your business with a very limited capital and which is always good. What I try to propose to customers is that you should always launch your business with your own money. Try to sell few products with your own money and once you have an established track record of sales and then go to investors and then fish to investors because then you have more demand power. Investors will not be telling you how much your business earns, perhaps you can tell them that hey, I’ve managed to sell 10 to 15 product in just one month, which is gonna be a big hit and you should invest in this.

It just gives you a more buying power when it comes to speaking and negotiating with investors. So that’s my proposal like obviously it really, some businesses need huge capital at start, manufacturing organization is a perfect example. They need a huge capital to lease the machineries, to buy, the plant and factories and all those things. So, in that sense the lean start-up, lean methodology can still help them to minimize the cost but obviously the capital as one be as small as the business models out there.

Nick: Yeah, yeah. That make sense but certainly, for the smaller business that haven’t got that message, cost behind and that’s something they should be looking into and Hundred Dollars start-up. I’ve heard that I recommended by – it’s on my list of books to read. I’ll put a the link in the show notes. Anyway I’m just gonna check it out. Okay, next question I’ve got here is perhaps a little tricky one. What happens if a projection doesn’t turn out to be accurate or sort of starts to go off the direction of the business, sort of diverge from the projection?

Pratib: To be honest, most of the times, I think all the times, the projection will not be as accurate as the real life but I think this is where we have to understand the use of financial projections. Financial projections is a dynamic road map. It tells you where to go and how to get there. Though you are actually travelling on the road map, you might find that a, I might use route a, shorter, it’s nearer and it’s costs free for me. So those are the things that you might want to consider when someone’s doing the financial projection. It does not have to be a 100% accurate and if it’s 100% accurate, then I think there’s something wrong with the financial projection because of the way they are doing the business because you want to prove the financial projection wrong.

You want to prove in the sense that you want to tell them, hey I can make more money than what I’ve already projected or I can reduce the cost compared to the one that I’ve already estimated before I launched the business, which is very good but a dynamic projection helps you to do all these changes when you are doing the business. To get it as close to real life, I think there’s two different research you can do, one is try to get some data from primary research and secondary research. Primary research is where you can do like speaking to your customers, speaking to competitors, speaking to business mentors. You can also – of the two different start-up we find what did was basically then approach our customers, give them a questionnaire and ask them to answer a few set of questions and they are happy to do it. There was nothing for them to do – you didn’t have to give them any complimentary gift or anything.

They were more than happy to help us out and that gave us a very, very useful information because that’s coming straight from the customer and I think that’s a very good way of gathering some information, whether your product has a demand on the market before it actually go into it. If they set demand, you can ask them a lot of questions like how much are you willing to pay for this kind of services? How much are you willing to pay for this product, and that gives you a rough idea on your pricing model as well.

Secondary research is where you try to get into industry wise data or research. There are a lot of research being done in a lot of industries so you can go into there you can type into that universities usually have a lot of research papers on a lot of businesses entrepreneurship. So, you can always access this report and try to get more information on it and yeah so with primary and secondary way of research data, you can definitely build a financial model that is close enough to help you to predict or estimate the money or the expenses that you’re gonna incur in the future.

Nick: Great that’s good. Let me see if I can try and summarize it a little bit, make sure I’m understanding correctly. Sounds like the forecasting sort of product that you are providing specifically is like I said, the Excel spreadsheet and that’s a lot about the accuracy or the results of the forecast depend on the assumptions and the inputs you’re putting into that spreadsheet and in order to make a better forecast, you need to make sure your inputs and assumptions are accurate but updated if they need to be and you mentioned some of the ways you can do that with your primary and secondary research and also change in over time. So, you have to keep in mind is that it’s a road map, it’s not necessarily, exactly what’s gonna happen. It’s more about garnering more information, decisions and you should also keep in mind that you should be always break the forecasting in that you want to make more sales, you don’t want a limit to….

Pratib: Another one thing that I can also help you to understand how important financial projection is that let’s say for example there is a short supply in your materials and you have to enter some cost to get material from a different supplier and that’s gonna impact your costing but you might decide that you’re not gonna do anything with your costing, all you might decide that, you know what, I need to get more customers in for this month to get the same level of profit. But how do we decide how many customers do we get?

It’s a very hard thing. If you have a financial projection, then it’s very hard to tell you that hey, guess what, you just need another 3 more customers. So, it’s quite easy for you to find 3 more customers to power the additional cost. So, those are the things that can help you if you have a proper financial projection and not only that. I think one of the most important thing for a business is to always maintain cash flow positives.

A business can be earning $1,000,000 per annum but if its cash flow is negative then it’s gonna be very hard to pay suppliers, pay expenses or even emergency fund. So, financial projection helps you to maintain cash flow positive. It helps you to tell that these are the cost that you need to cover, the minimum cost you need to cover to maintain cash flow positive. So, that’s where financial projection helps a lot as well.

Nick: Yeah, definitely cash flow. It could be a tricky one for sure that’s the thing I’ve sort of noticed when I was starting my business with almost no idea what was I was doing.

Pratib: And I think all I was on the same boat, I guess like a was stuck in all of this.

Nick: Yeah, definitely. So, if you my listeners or people watching this video are in a position where they’re about to start a business, then get on top of your financial forecasting, could definitely be something to help you out along the way. The last question that I’ve got here, which you’ve kind of really covered to some degree but it, how can or should projections affect the day to day decision making of business owners. Could you give us some examples? You mentioned the supplier thing, kind of different suppliers. Are there any other examples that you can think of?

Pratib: I think another good example is that one my own experience, what happened was that one of the business project idea was a seasonal idea. So, in Summer, it is a hot product, in Winter, it’s not a very hot product, so, how do you do a financial projections for that? So in that sense the sales projection for Summer will be very high. You’ll be very optimistic in Winter. You will be very conservative, projection. So, that was a very good project because it really challenged me to think that okay, so what is the minimum level of customers that you have to get in Winter to keep your business going? In Summer, you can go out, get as much customers as you need whilst in Winter, these are the minimum level of customers that you have to get to operate the business because obviously in business they are fixed cost and a variable cost. As long as you’re covering your fixed cost, you should be happy or the business was quite okay to cover the fixed cost in Winter.

So, the financial projection was there to help them to identify the number of customers they have to get just to cover the fixed cost, whereas, in Summer, when the variable cost increases with the number of products that they sell, so, in that sense, it was quite alright to get more customers in but in Summer, so in Winter, they managed to identify that alright, that’s cool we just have to get 3 to 5 more customers just to cover the fixed cost. So, that’s another example on how financial projection helps seasonal business. So that’s one I example. Another example is I’m trying to think – I was thinking before this meeting, I’m just trying to figure out what idea was, written on investment.

I think what happened was that this business was seeking investment of, if I’m not mistaken $10,000 from 2 investors, and 2 investors had different return on investment and obviously, as you might have found a return on investment is basically what they are getting from money that is invested in the business and you have to make sure that the businesses that was seeking the investment are comfortable with the rate of return that the investors are seeking for. So, doing a financial projection helped them to tell them that if you are taking $10,000 you’re safe or your base return on investment should only be 5%. If investors are looking for 7%, then it has to be a best case scenario. So, a business can put a confidence, how do I put it, like confidence probability on how many times in a month they’ll reach a best case scenario. If it’s less than 50%, then I So, that’s how financial projection can help them to identify which investment proposal is best for their business.

Nick: It’s good that you’ve discussed investment as well which is something I have no idea about. So, it’s always good to get some different areas of expertise for different types of businesses that perhaps seeking an investment. That’s pretty much all I’ve got much on my questions. It’s been quite an interesting interview and I think there’ll be lots of stuff here for people thinking of starting a small business or in the early stages of start-up a more of start-up type business. Thanks very much for coming in and talking to me Pratib. It’s been…

Pratib: Big thanks for having me. I think this is such a good opportunity and the project that you are doing – I’ve been spending like 1 day just looking through all the videos that you have published before this. So, it’s been a really good, very good project, keep it up!

Nick: Thanks for that and if they want to find out more about you and about your business where can they do that?

Pratib: I have my own website which is www.silverwhale.com.au so that’s where you can get more details of the business and you can call. I don’t really charge for initial consultation. So, if you go to an Accountant, they can do the financial projection for you but I think they’re gonna charge like $150 to $300 an hour just to talk with you on your business idea but for me I take that opportunity to learn about your business model. I learned a lot of things when I talk with entrepreneurs like you. I’ve learned about other things that I’ve been missing out in my business. I get like a lot of ideas by just speaking with you, so in that sense there is always gonna be like a learning opportunity for me. So, in that sense, I’m more than happy to sit down with [Audio breaks 00:31:31] any type of normal consultation with them.

Nick: Yeah, we just lost you for 2 seconds there. You said sit down with…

Pratib: Yeah I’m more than happy to have an initial consultation for cost free with any start-up entrepreneurs or business owners because at this time are very good opportunities for them to learn how financial projection can help them and also they for me to learn about the business idea because speaking with entrepreneurs help me with all my business thinking and stuff. So, it is a very good opportunity as well. So, all I’m saying is feel free to contact me you know, costs free stuff. The only way you can find out is by trying so, there are a lot of books out there for you to identify the importance of financial projection and modeling. So, feel free to check them out, yeah and hopefully good luck with all your business adventures.

Nick: Great yeah. Thanks for that and that sounds like, as you say, there’s nothing to lose from anyone who contacted you if they are thinking about getting a financial projection. So, definitely I’ll put some links in the show notes for this episode on our website www.webmarketingadelaide.com.au we’ll have links there to Pratib’s website and those would be the video obviously from this episode and the audio up there as well. Thanks very much again for joining us on this show.



Ep#33: The Art of Getting the Sale for Small Businesses

The art of getting the sale – crash course in small business selling

In this episode I speak with Tony Manto; a business development officer from Adelaide about the art of getting the sale.

We cover

  • Knowing your target market
  • Knowing what their wants vs needs are
  • Understand the competition or current supplier
  • Defining your uniqueness
  • Qualifying the customers
  • Closing questions
  • Follow up process



[media url=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nx6d6tigwG0″ width=”560″ height=”315″]

Use the contact form below to register your interest for Tony’s workshop or purchase the downloadable version.

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

Nick: Welcome back to Web Marketing Adelaide. I’m your host Nick Morris and this week we have a special guest with us, Tony Manto, Business Development professional, from Adelaide of course. Good day Tony, welcome to the show.

Tony: Good day Nick, how are you today?

Nick: Pretty good, thanks. How are you?

Tony: Yeah it’s fun, beautiful white light, where else would you want to be?

Nick: Absolutely. This week we’re talking about Seven Steps to Creating the Perfect Sales Process and Tony’s pretty knowledgeable about the subject and we’re pretty much going to go through the Seven Steps here that I’ve got written down and make sure we give our listeners lots of great information that’s going to help them sort of, improve their sales process. So, let’s, before we get started on those, I’ll get you Tony, to perhaps tell us a little bit about yourself and about what you do.

Tony: Sure, thanks. Nick, you know I’ve been involved in selling for over 30 years and I have a Diploma in Sales and Marketing and in those 30 years, I’ve come across lots of sales seminars and picnics, and I’ve spent a lot of time in my career in investing in programs and books. I’ve studied all the different techniques that are out there. I mean selling is a technique, it’s a process. It’s a lot like baking a cake, where you have all the right ingredients, you get a perfect cake.

Where a lot of people fall over is, they don’t understand those different processes and different steps and therefore, the conversion rate or the sales success is not as good as it could be. So, I spent a lot of time perfecting it as much as I can and I’ve collated and resourced so many different techniques so I do actually understand which one works best and which ones don’t and we’re here today to give you a bit of an insight on how that works.

Nick: Great, great. Yeah, that sounds good. Another thing I’ll just mention before we get into it is, I feel like a lot of people focus a lot on getting people in the door, especially with websites. With web marketing, they focus on getting the traffic up, so they don’t realize or really think about the fact that increasing their conversion rate can greatly increase their bottom-line without having to increase the traffic or their people in the door. So, it certainly can be a powerful technique.

Tony: 100% and the easiest way, the easiest metaphor I can share with your customers or your podcast viewers, it’s a bit like a date, a relationship. Okay, you don’t marry somebody on the first date. You have to get to know them, you have to court them, you have to take them on a date. You have to have a relationship over a period of time before you decide to get married. In sales, it’s pretty much like that and a lot of people don’t understand that process. The conversion is really after the 5th, or 6th or 7th or 10th exposure and that exposure could be via a web browser or a podcast as you’re, doing, which I think is brilliant, a sales letter, a brochure, you know. So, you got to have, people will make decisions, especially in today’s environment, where there’s lots and lots of information.

People do want the information before they make their decision. So, the decision process has been postponed and the exploration process has been expanded and there are 7 stages of making the purchase decision, which I do cover in my workshop. We’re not going to cover that until the 8th but there are 7 stages in making a decision and one of those stages is collecting and collating information and people, now, as I said have access to so much information.

So therefore, you really do have to take a slow one these days and give as much information as you can. Contact your customer as many times as you can, before they will be comfortable to purchase from you, and that’s where the internet marketing and website pages – so, getting customers to your web page, having a great web page is okay, it’s a good start, but that’s not where the success is. The success is always on the back-end and we will talk about that in our 7 steps.

Nick: Awesome. Let’s jump into it then. From here, step number 1, Knowing Your Market. Can you tell us a little bit about this Tony?

Tony: Sure, this stage of market is, or any market is broken into sub-markets or marker market. So a lot of people would say if this is a bookkeeper marker, the target is business owner but there are lots of different types of businesses, as a good example. So, you might target a trader, because traders, they’re very, very bad with their paper work but the trader is so bad with this paper work and so bad with payment, do you really want that trader? You might want to have more or you might want to target people that are more, have more compliance issues and so web developers might want to target someone who has an online shopping cart, because he knows there is more maintenance on the back-end with the shopping cart than having a normal web page.

So, although you might want to target certain businesses, you’re going to put your target market and define your customer and really identify who your customer really is and what your customer looks for and who is the ideal customer for you because within that market, there’s lots of different categories and the best thing to do is to, it saves on marketing costs and increases your conversion rate. Because you start to understand your true niche customer, and you might have two or three and that’s fine.

Niche marketing is where it’s all about but a shot-gun approach in marketing doesn’t work anymore. Identifying a target market is one, and then breaking them into sub-markets is where the key is. Identifying what each market wants and needs, which we’ll talk about it a minute, and before you go ahead and expending your resources and your energy in trying to convert that market. So, that’s what a lot of people probably don’t do as much as they should.

Nick: Great Stuff. Let’s move on to step 2, which you just mentioned there, which is Knowing What Their Wants and Needs Are. So, the wants and needs of your target market, what’s this one about?

Tony: Yes, sure, okay. This relates to your info, Nick. People probably want more traffic, they want more customers, but they need a good webpage to do it. They need good content to do it. So, rather than to try to sell them what they need, you need to identify what they want, and then sell them what they want and then provide them what they need because there is a tricky difference between wants and needs.

You might say, look you need a webpage but I don’t need a webpage, I need more customers. The web page will give them more customers. So, when you have your approach, you sell them solutions is probably the best way, what’s the solution? You talk about your solution and your product is going to provide you the solution. If you can’t quite sell them the product, then unlist it. They really want to see, they really want to hear how you could satisfy their wants when you give them what they need.

So, in your question technique, when you’re interviewing a customer, it’s very, very important to spend a lot of time and a lot of people just fail here, in interviewing your customer. Interviewing your client and find out what is it they really want? What is it they’re trying to achieve? And then you weave that language back into your sales presentation and then provide them what they need on top of what they want, if that makes any sense.

Nick: No, that makes perfect sense, and I’ve heard similar things in, with regard to sales in the past about perhaps in your sales cover you’re talking about the benefits rather than the features of a product and how it can help the customers opposed to what you provide and certainly with something like SEO, which is my core business. It’s fairly complicated, so I know what they need as you say, but just trying to identify more what they want, I think, is something that would be useful.

Tony: Yeah, good example. If you went through a technical jargon, you’d lose them. You’d complicate them and they lose interest and that’s a great example. When you say, you can achieve that, yeah, we can achieve that, what are you looking for? Yeah, we can achieve that and then, you’re really just scheming, either you’re sort of briefing how you’re going to achieve it by spending more time in convincing them or conversing the language that they’re looking for and giving them what they’re looking for.

Giving them the language back, I want more customers, okay. You want more sales, okay. So we can get you more sales by optimizing your web page by, but if you go in and say, oh we want to optimize your web page or we want to do your bookkeeping or whatever the trade may be, that’s not what they want to hear. They really want to hear, the easiest way is to provide solutions to their problems and that’s what you want to know.

Nick: Yep. Absolutely. That makes sense. Let’s move on to step number 3, I’ve got Understand the Competition or Current Supplier. Can you expand a bit more about this one?

Tony: Yeah, sure. Honestly, either you know the line, “It’s a competition out there.” And once again the book keeper may, or you know they may be targeting a certain customer or a webpage developer but they may already have a supplier. So, couple of things here, you have to understand who your competitor is, what their strengths or weaknesses are and then, that’s okay, that’s step 1, but secondly if you could find that out and you may find that out in your interview process, is finding out who their current supplier is.

Tell them, I want to talk to you about your web page developer, oh we already have a web page cart. So you do it in that order but if you understand what your competitor does, and more importantly what he doesn’t do, then you turn in what he doesn’t do, into your strategy and then turn around and use that as your conversational piece or your strategy when you talk to him, rather than going in there and targeting indiscriminately different companies, which already have a supplier.

You’ve got to understand who your market is, what they’re doing and what they’re doing well and what they’re not doing well. You’re really on the back port when talking to your customer and you’re probably going to convert more sales if you do understand, spend a bit of time researching the niche base and that is brilliant. You can go in there and they list all their services and you can see the best things for someone that’s got more technical – how they’re optimizing their web page and even your customer that you’re talking to.

You can go onto their web page and you can see all the links in the back-end there. See you can actually pinpoint what their current web provider is not providing them. So, once you’ve done that, you can then go in there and know exactly where you’re going to target, because you’ve already done your homework. So, basically, what I’m saying is, before you target particular customers, you really have to do your homework on who they are, who they’re currently using, and as much information about the customer as you can before you even start talking to them.

Nick: Yep, yep. That makes perfect sense. You really want to do your research and sort of know where you stand and how your products and services kind of compare to your, the ones that your competitors are providing. So, I think that makes perfect sense. Let’s move on to step number 4, Defining Your Uniqueness. What do you mean by this Tony?

Tony: Well that sort of leads into the next step, because once you understand who your competitors are, we’re all unique, we’ve all got our own strengths and weaknesses and if you don’t really have one, if you’re just a make do, you’re also going to struggle.

So you really have to, if you don’t have a strength you have to develop a strength and so you might turn around and say, well look I know that a lot of people who don’t do content management, as an example, in your field and I’m very good at content management. I understand copywriting, I understand the sales language. I understand how to link it on the back-end and I also link on it very, very strongly. So, once you get a view, a uniqueness, you have to portray that. Why should I do business with you compared to any other web developer or book keeper or hair dresser or whatever?

So, if you’re a hairdresser, it might be an international [Inaudible 00:13:31] in the competition. The strength is in streaking or hair extensions. So just to be a hairdresser, just to be a bookkeeper, you become what I call, a need to. So you really, there’s an old saying, differentiate or die and that’s probably the best way to put it. If you can’t differentiate yourself, you can’t stay there amongst the crowd and talk to, portray that information. You’re really just swimming in the ocean of competition and once again, your success rate isn’t going to be as high. If you can identify that, and once you identify that, that’s okay, but the secret is to portray that to your customer.

Nick: Yeah that’s an interesting one. There’s probably one I think that people might struggle with a lot, especially if they don’t have something obvious that they can just sort of say “This is my strength.” For some, for a businesses that’s perhaps in a position where they don’t really know what their strength is or they don’t know if they have a particular strength, is there anything they can do to try to discover this? Or should it be more about going back to their competitors, the stuff that we talked about before and figure out where there’s a gap and maybe making that their strength. Is there anything, do you have any tips on that?

Tony: Yeah, they need to come and talk to me.

Nick: Yeah, right. Someone perhaps that I can look at externally and …

Tony: I’m being facetious but absolutely is what I’m saying. Quite often we cast, or very often, most human beings, if you view consumer behavior and study psychology like I have, we can’t see our own weaknesses, we don’t understand them, and why having an external source, it could be you. It could be anybody, I’m just joking there. Most businesses, okay, here’s the answer, most businesses have customers, otherwise they wouldn’t be in business. So, the easiest place to start is ask your existing customer why did you choose me? What do you think we do well? There are lots of ways to find that out. If you’re starting out, you do the market research, you do your competitive research and then you come up with what you think you do well.

A quarter of what you think you think you do well is not what your customers thinks you do well. So, you can do it, externally, absolutely you give them a mentor or someone that’s experienced in that and then once again, which probably relates to our next question or next topic is lots of questions that you can ask, that will uncover that and if you ask the right questions, you’ll get the right answers. Sometimes you get it through your customers, sometimes you get it through your market research, other times you just get it through friends and associates in the profession. So, if you can’t define that, well then, yeah, you need to get external sources to ask for input.

Nick: Great. Yeah. I think that tip about asking your customers, that rings well with me and that seems like a really obvious, now that you mention it, but perhaps it’s something that a lot of people would miss, you know, ask your customers. Why do they buy from you? Or why had they become a customer of yours? What do they see as your strength and then you can bring that back in and take that information on board.

Tony: And once you go up there, that becomes the first to mind, in it’s own right. So, you can then turn around and then use that as power, your self-process, like XYZ used us and it’s always better to use a third person than talk of yourself because they would think you are vain and you’re just perking yourself up. So, the best thing to do when you’re in your self-process, and this is a technique I teach is teaching or trying it as a third person and XYZ did this because of that, and WYB did this because of that, you know.

They tried it for this reason. So, that’s always a better position to take, than saying, we we’re the best, we do this well , we do that well, because if you sound like you’re, winding up yourself and that’s not what people want to hear. It is better to come from an external person. If you ask a customer, if you get a consent or whatever and then you use that as part of your marketing strategy or your sale strategy when you’re talking to your customer.

Nick: Yeah, perfect. Testimonials, I think can be very powerful, so that fits in well. Okay, step number five here, I’ve got, which we just discussed a little bit is Qualifying Your Customers. Can you expand on this a little bit?

Tony: Yeah sure. Excuse me. When you have a customer that you’re talking to, he may not be ready to buy. He may be waiting for his budget or he may be out of money, he can’t hire you. He won’t say yeah, he wants to do your work, or you do his great work, and then he can’t hire you. Or you may spend hours and hours of time, like, what I call gate-keepers, which are people that sort of protect the decision maker. So, you might be talking many hours to the wrong person. Now, you may be talking, spending a lot of time and effort sending the information to a customer that hasn’t got the funds to buy, that’s not ready to buy.

As I said, in the sales process, there are certain stages that they go through. Make endless talk about the information gathering stage, which is just one of the 7 tips. When you’re in the information gathering stage, you have a beginning and an end. If you’re the first person that person speaks to, you have to be very, very good to convert that person. You have to know where they are in the decision making process and in their buying time. When are you looking at doing this? Oh, we’re doing it in July. Oh that’s fine, we’ll come and talk to you in June. So you have to, how much money do you have to spend? What’s your budget? So, once again, rather than, if you don’t ask all those questions, and you put together a $10,000 option, you’re going to lose your sale.

If he turned around and said I’ve got $3,000 to spend or I’ve got $10,000 to spend over the next three months. We want it done in three stages, I have to get signed for Sydney, I have to get signed up for my partner, my wife’s having a baby. There’s lot’s of, by understanding that, you understand where the customer is in his decision making process and you understand whether to go in for the close now, or you’re going to the close later.

So, once again, it’s all about timing. You don’t want to start to close or put the hard sell on him now when you know that you just started the information process. So, if you started the information process you might say, let me give you a brochure, or can we meet up for coffee or I’ll call you up in a month’s time or whatever. So you’ve got to give them a bit of time to digest the information. If you know you kept three quotes and you’re the last part, well then your process, and the language that you used in this strategy you use might be a bit steep and made it a little harder, a little bit more aggressive in the close because you’re not, he’s fed up, and knowing that, you can change your strategy.

What have others got that you don’t, you know? You already know that he has three quotes, what did they say to you? And he’ll tell you, they’ll tell you. You already know you’re in the right position, because you already know that they provided me this and they provided me that and then he or she isn’t using that information. You know what they haven’t provided or where they’re [Inaudible 00:21:23] and then you’re in a better position to close the sale. So, by qualifying your customer, not only, that they can pay you, but where is it in the decision making process. Once again, it all adds up to converting more sales.

Nick: Perfect. That makes good sense as well and it seems to fit in with what we’re saying as well, which is great. Okay, step number 6 here, Closing Questions. What’s this all about?

Tony: Okay. In the sales process you have probing questions, which we’ve talking about and probing questions are information seeking, they are questions that are seeking more information and once I’ve got the information from you, now I know which cast to plan. Closing questions are basically qualifying questions or getting people to have little yes responses to little bits of your presentation. So you might turn around and say, are you looking for a shopping cart? Yes. Are you looking for a postpaid shopping cart? Yes. So you, that’s closed. You understand that he’s ready to buy a shopping cart, he’s ready to buy a postpaid shopping cart and when are you ready? So you’re ready in June? Yes. So that’s a closing question. So, basically shutting all the doors and you’re bringing the customer down to a close.

So, you can think of it as a funnel. So, the top end of the sales process, you’re asking all these informational questions and you’re qualifying him and qualifying him and closing question which qualifies him a bit more, a closing question, which is just really better to say, qualifying questions that get a yes or no answer. That’s a closing question and the best thing to do is ask questions that give you the response that you’re looking for because if you ask the wrong questions, you get the wrong responses, which takes you away from the close. So, it’s important to understand which questions to ask when and how to ask him and you just you narrow the customer down to a sale and that’s what’s called closing questions.

Nick: Right. Yeah, so now I’m down on the funnel that seems to make sense and kind of leading them where you want them to go with the questions. Yeah, that’s good. Let’s move on to the last step in the seven steps that we’ve got for this podcast, which is The Follow-up Process. This sign tells me that this is perhaps, this might be an area where I’m lacking a little bit, so I’m certainly interested to hear what you have to say on this one. Maybe other people as well struggle with the follow-up process. So let’s hear what you’ve got on this.

Tony: Absolutely, Nick. You’re doing [Inaudible 00:24:19]. You can be rest assured a lot of people or you know – there’s a lot of clichés that gets bantered around and people don’t understand them and one of the clichés is the money’s in the back-end. I don’t know if you’ve heard that one before?

Nick: Yeah, I think I have.

Tony: Okay, good. So the money is – so here’s my formula that’s always worked for me over 30 years. It’s 7, 30 and 9. Okay, let me explain it to you. People spend a lot of time say for instance, you’ve got a guy is coming in to give you a quote. He comes there, he measures, he tapes, he draws everything up. He puts together a nice presentation and he leaves it with you and you’re not quite ready to buy. It isn’t part of your will and you want to think about it, which is fine. He spends all that time, and he never ever follows you up. Now, why wouldn’t you do that?

My formula is within 7 days is the first contact. If he’s still not ready to make a decision, you may want to follow up within 30 days and if he still hasn’t made a decision, you want to contact them every 90 days for the rest of your life and this is where your online podcasting and marketing comes into work, because he may not be ready to buy but if you qualified him earlier like I said, you would know that, but having said that, there is still time to budget and follow-up. A lot of people put presentations together and never, ever follow up, or they just follow-up once and then they just forget about it. Okay. More recommendations follow up 7 days, 30 days and 90 days.

And even if they make a purchase, you’d still want to follow-up because that’s where you get, I think statistically 68% of people that aren’t happy with your service, just don’t say anything. It’s some statistic that’s floating out there, so, you want to know that and that’s where you get your writing fans, that’s where you get your clientele base that loves you might sell them something else, because statistically they bought something from you, they’ll buy something else from you.

So, the follow up process, is not only to close the sale, it’s also to get additional sales and a lot of people do fail or when [Inaudible 00:26:45]. All my success comes in following up, following up, following up and if there’s one thing I want to stress, that is where a lot of people will have more success just by simply asking questions [Inaudible 00:26:58]. You forgot to put a price on it, it happens you know or you forgot to give me your phone number, or I lost your phone number, I’m glad that you rang and [Inaudible 00:27:13]. That’s happened to you.

I mean it happened once before in a podcast you know, I couldn’t find your number. So, once again, if I don’t follow up, if I don’t give you all the information that you need and see that you love me and the you’re happy with my service, not only am I going to convert more, I’m going to get more arriving customers, I’m going to get more referrals and you’ll probably going to get more sales in the future and that’s where I’m thinking a lot of people fail on making that one sale and do you have a customer, or do you have a sale, because once, a sale is a sale. If you want success in business, you have to create customers and customers have repeat purchases, and that’s where the follow up in your podcast, in your online marketing and social media really, really fits in to what we’re talking about.

Nick: Great Tony, great tips to finish off. Everything you said there seems really great. Enough said there that my listeners should definitely make some notes on and should try to think about how they can bring that into their process. I like the follow-up every 90 days for the rest of your life because, as you say, I mean they may not be ready to buy now and you should have learned that earlier in the process but they may be ready to buy in 6 months down the track.

It might not be after the first 2 follow-ups, it might be months and months away and I’ve actually had that before where I’ve had somebody that I met at a networking event then eventually became a customer. I’ll see you later or something. On this occasion, I didn’t actually follow-up with him, he just sort of found my email somewhere and re-contacted me but I guess there could be plenty of people who don’t you know, get back in contact but I’m getting into contact with them, I can get that sale that otherwise would have been lost. With that pretty much brings us to the end of the interview. Thanks very much for coming on the show Tony, but before we go, do you have anything you would like to tell our listeners regarding what you’re doing about your course and stuff.

Tony: Sure. What I’ve done is as I’ve said to you earlier. I’ve put together a manual program which is basically, over 30 years is impossible to teach you in 10 minutes. There is a procedure and a technique, it’s a bit like a recipe for success in selling and there’s hundreds and hundreds of techniques that you can get in these solutions. So, what I’ve done and gone through in 30 years, all the sales courses, you have spent tens of thousands of dollars in my knowledge and I’ll collate it in all the very, very best techniques into a workshop, into a stand-alone manual. Now, what I want to offer your customers, or invite your customers to do is, we want to offer this to your customers or to your listeners as a download or a 2 day workshop.

With the 2 day workshop, you will spend two and a half days with me, we’ll go through this step by step. We’ll answer a lot of questions and we will tailor make these solutions to your business. The answers are in here, but without that one-on-one consultation, you might not get it quite right. Having said that, the download will put you far ahead of the game of where you are now. So we want to offer all this to your customers on your webpage as a download, or if they want to talk to us, to talk to me about a 2 day work shop, obviously, I need the numbers to do that.

I can’t do it for one person, so we can take expressions of interest and as we get in half a dozen people that may want to do a sales workshop, we’ll follow you up and we invite you to a workshop later on. Yeah, that’s over 30 years in the making and obviously, the best of the best is in there and I would just invite your customers to have a look at it and if they’re interested in investing there, because I do offer a 100% money back guarantee. If they can’t convert more sales by reading and applying this information, we’ll be more than happy to give them their money back. So, all the details will be in your webpage Nick and invite your customers to contact us through there.

Nick: Great Tony great. Sounds like a really course and downloadable as well with who would want that option. People can head to our website www.webmarketingadelaide.com.au and check out the show notes for episode number 33, which is this episode. I have all the details that Tony just mentioned, how you can find out more information, how you can register your interest for the 2 day workshop. We can also put it on our products page, as a link there. So if you just go to the website, click on the products link, you can find a link to the information as well from there.

Thanks again for coming to the show Tony. It’s been a really insightful chat and there’s certainly some stuff in here that I think I can apply to my own business, so it’s been a really interesting chat this morning so thanks again for coming on the show.

Tony: Thanks Nick, for having me.

Nick: Cheers.


Ep#32: Creating a Customer Community

Customers as Community – what does it mean, how will it benefit you and how you do it

In this episode I chat to John Baxter, communities and collaboration expert, about the concept of treating your customers as a community and some of the methods of building and fostering that community.

We cover

  • What do you mean by ‘customers as community’
  • What are the benefits of thinking of your customers as more of a community
  • What are some of the tools, platforms and strategies we can use to create these communities
  • Collaborate to Innovate events



[media url=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MldvM_Gb-uE” width=”560″ height=”315″] [spoiler title=”Transcription” open=”0″ style=”1″]

Nick: Welcome back to the Web Marketing Adelaide Podcast. I’m your host, Nick Morris and this week, we’re talking with John Baxter about Customers as Community.

Good day John, welcome to the show.

John: Hi Nick.

Nick: John’s joining us from Interstate today. He’s actually from Adelaide but he’s in Melbourne today, is it John?

John: Yep, in Melbourne.

Nick: Great. The topic we’re talking about, as I said, is Customers as Community, sort of a new way at looking at your customers but I’ll get John to explain a bit about that in a minute.

First of all John, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and a bit about what you do.

John: These days, I’m setting up the business, real ones about realizing the potential in changing the way that we work, which is, mostly, I’ve realized about tapping into potential networks. So, networks at the community level, supporting community groups, networks around organizations, say around business and customer networks and that sort of thing and between businesses [Audio distorted 00:01:29], so things like giving back and collaboration, cross hours and [Inaudible 00:01:30].

Nick: How about you tell us a little bit about this topic, Customers as Community. What do we mean by this, so what do you mean by this?

John: Well, I sat down this afternoon and think about it, and you’d have read Tribes by Seth Godin?

Nick: I haven’t actually read it but I’m pretty familiar with the concepts.

John: Well, Tribes are more or less, the same thing as community and in some context people use the word tribe slightly differently, and often a tribe is much larger and much less connected than a community but most of the things that Seth Godin was talking about in his book about engaging customers and leadership and that sort of thing, is pretty much is the same as with community.

Community, you might look at a more closely knitted group and tribes can be very, sort of desperate and people acting as individuals, community tends to be more inter personal interaction but then I know Seth Godin also talks about those sorts of things in Tribes and bringing customs together, and tribes and followers together so a lot of those ideas are pretty familiar to a lot of people.

Nick: Yeah absolutely. And I guess these days with technology and social media and all those sorts of things it’s become much easier I guess, to create these communities and to think about your customers in that way. Did these ideas sort of exist before the internet for instance?

John: I don’t know, to be honest. I know it certainly would have been, it wouldn’t necessarily be that productive to think about communities, that custom is because of the relative difficulty of engaging with them and being aware of their inter personal connections, I guess. It’s no use having a community of customers if you can’t see a type of connection and [Inaudible 00:03:34] and being a community if all you can do is put up billboards or something like that and broadcast that to them, then it’s just not that productive and I think that fostering communities means [Audio distorted 00:03:48] community. So it might be a relatively new concept, it’s relatively new to me. [Audio Distorted 00:03:55].

Nick: Cool. And what are some of the benefits of creating communities and thinking of your customers as communities?

John: It comes down to the way that target brings its net, organizations, companies, whatever it might be, it’s a vehicle for getting something done and if you look at your organization, you look at your company and you take the mission of that organization, fostering your customers as community enables you to involve them in the pursuit of that mission, of that purpose, enables them to step into participating in that, whether it’s through sharing information or contributing to your product development or whatever it might be. And also has benefits like customer attention, improve customer loyalty and things like that, that thrive on a customer level, and customers to keep in good customers. But also enable you to tap into them as a resource for doing things. So whether you’re running a social enterprise and your business is about raising awareness, then it is your customer community and help spread word about it.

Nick: Yeah. I think that makes a lot sense, especially trying to leverage your community for raising awareness as you just said and also the research or the product development idea that you can draw on the feedback from your community or your community of customers to get their sort of thoughts if you’re thinking of going in this direction or that direction or what do you actually want. That perhaps can be a difficult thing to determine. I was talking with Trevor Glen about sort of Lean Methodologists last week. We were talking about its important to do that customer research and make sure that what you’re delivering or trying to deliver is actually matching up with what your target market wants. I guess if you have this community well set up, that makes that process much easier.

John: Yeah. And especially if what you’re engaging the community is something that has a co-creation element to it, then it’s important that you understand their context and that they might be involved in the creation. So something like, Nike is a really good example of a company that is really supporting its community and its products. I mean, I’m not a Nike customer myself but I hear about them and the work they’re doing with their apps and their bit-git things and all that sort of stuff. And all those things just would not be possible whatsoever without the cooperation with their customers. So, it is not just about understanding how you can feed that information back into your development of products also being a [Audio Distorted 00:06:58].

Nick: Great. So let’s move on with what are some of the tools that people can use to create these communities and the platforms?

John: The sort of number 1 tools are being able to reach out and communicate in whatever form that might be, then number 2 is the social media platforms of any variety that’s where you’re customers are talking to one another because that’s what drives the community element, obviously being able to engage them and get customers engaged in your brand, in your mission, in your vision. And then number 2 enabling them to talk to one another.

I did a workshop with a friend earlier this week and as he put it, using social media intelligently, a big element of that is understanding the conversations that your customers want to have to one another, with one another and providing them the platform and the means to have those conversations. And that’s really what fostering community is all about, so it’s conversations, drive relationships to bring people close together around the mission and the next step is your brand in the business.

Nick: That’s an interesting part about the customers talking amongst themselves without you necessarily being there. Is this something you want to try and guide to make sure it’s to do with your products, or do you want to see what are the conversations that they might want to talk about first and sort of let that happen and help that or do you really want to try and make it more related to your business and your product or is there a way of doing that?

John: There’s really no need or purpose to restrain conversations to being about your business but you do want to, I guess keep the conversation in line with your vision I guess, and your purpose and potentially, depending on the form also can be in line with your values. So I mean, customers having conversation about your business, online say on Facebook, if they’re discussing your brand, associating with what you do with that mission, that purpose and that spread then that’s very productive. On the other hand, if you’re hosting a forum, you probably want to be more aware of customers that are acting inappropriately, whereas on Facebook, it’s only acting appropriately, mentioning your brand really doesn’t make that much of a difference to you, whereas on a forum, you have sort of have a responsibility for that conversation in a way that you’re doing otherwise but in general, anything that’s the sort of conversation that people want to have with one another around your community, around your brand, that’s brings people together and targets that community, is a good conversation pattern.

Nick: Yeah, that makes sense. You mentioned forums just a second there. From my experience, forums are really difficult. If we’re talking about forums that are hosted on a website, like a discussion forum, that can be really difficult to kick off. Is it a good idea for businesses to look at these forum ideas first or should they maybe release it to social media to sort of test it out first then maybe to a forum later?

John: Definitely don’t jump into trying to create platforms and bring people to platforms unless there’s a solid reason for it. It comes back to creating platforms and supporting your customers to have the conversations that they want to have and if your customers don’t want to go to a new forum, if they’re not that interested that they want to have conversations on a new platform without the customers, then really that’s no benefit to anyone in trying to start something up.

If on the other hand, you’ve got, I don’t know [Inaudible 00:10:55], they might not have forums but they seem to have a really strong customer and community base, they’d be the sort of institutions that would be another value added, supporting your customers to talk to one another about their habits and their achievements and that sort of thing. That’s the sort of conversations that customers in community are going to be interested in not travelling to another platform.

Outside of that, you wouldn’t want to start something until you have caught strong conversations going through other platforms like Facebook and that sort of thing, which in all other ways, you take note of what forums used to do sort of like ten years ago and anyway, and a pretty good enabling rich conversations without the need to support people somewhere else.

Nick: Yeah, I think that makes sense. You don’t want to force people to a new platform which may in fact lead to them not embracing the community aspect when you can engage with them on an existing platform like Facebook, when they’re already used to using that platform.

One thing I would sort of add, as perhaps a cautionary thing or something that people should think about is that you want to perhaps build in some kind of, another way of contacting people in case your Facebook page gets shut down or something like that, like a mailing list or some other way that you can connect with them so that you don’t lose all your hard work if something happens. Because Facebook, as big and sort of strong as it is, there’s a possibility that they could shut down a page or they could fall out of favor in the future, so you want to have some safety nets built in.

John: Yep. And then I have figured out, you’re probably a small fish as far as Facebook is concerned so they do something to you and you don’t like it, there’s probably not that much you’ll be able to do about it.

Another thing, as far as forums and independent platforms and that sort of thing, another thing that has come up is, if you’re hosting a platform for other people’s conversation, in general, you’re responsible for those conversations. So, that means you need to actively manage that in a way that [Inaudible 00:13:14] places like Facebook, you really don’t. If people start getting rebellious and that sort of thing on your website, you really need to crack down. It’s a resourcing issue in a way that conversations elsewhere are not.

Nick: Yeah, that’s another good point as well about the platform. What about offline interactions, perhaps events. Does this also fit into the model of communities for customers?

John: Definitely, sure. While the challenges would be having the density, maybe even a place to support face-to-face interaction and also whether or not that’s getting too far away from your core business. So you really want to be involved in it. You can do little things to support people, coming together, whether it’s a meeting you have on an online platform, supporting people to connect online and just making it easier to find people locally and that sort of thing but then at the same time, you have organizations like Yoke, which do a really good job of putting on events which try connecting millions and it’s a big part of the raising it, people really dig it and Yoke is [Inaudible 00:14:31] contains it, because they’ve fostered that community out of that [Inaudible 00:14:37] community with marketing things like face to face events.

Nick: That’s interesting. Events is something, I’m really interested in and I haven’t really sort of cracked it so I came to ask someone like yourself about what your thoughts are for someone like and me who’s in the marketing space, having events with small business owners and stuff like that, that’s really my target market so there’s a direct reason for that, whereas for another business that I have purchased which is B to C or even another B to B business, it may not necessarily be beneficial to run events. So I guess the key is making sure there’s actually a reason for doing it and not sort of just doing it.

John: If you can run an event that enables your customers to have the conversations that they want to have and do what they want to do, then that’s sort of what it comes back to.

Nick: Great. You mentioned that once you sort of get this community going or even to get it going, it can take quite a lot of work, and investment of time and investment of money to sort of promote it, especially the time thing is something that a lot of small business owners are going to be struggling with. Are there any good, best practices or tools or ways that you can minimize the work required to try and get something going and to maintain it?

John: I guess the main thing is just to be aware of community building and the people and conversations outside your business as part of your regular social media, communication strategy and that doesn’t necessarily require any more of it than just being conscious about it.

The second bit would be not to push it, but if you can tap into energies that your customers have, the interests that they have and pull on that and support them rather than trying to push it and get people to engage online, or engage face to face for that matter. If you’re pushing people to engage, then that requires a lot more resources and I guess the full method of identifying where there’s energy and doing that later on.

A change of techniques and specifics, because it’s so broad and a number of platforms have different methods of engagement, it’s hard to make any overall statements on that. The philosophy for efficiently using your time to get rewards and to generate good community engagement is to pull on the energy.

Nick: Do you have any tips for how businesses can discover where these existing interactions are happening and how people do want to interact? Is it just by sort of looking using these tools out there like social mention tools which you can see where people are mentioning your brand or related topics? Is that sort of the way to go or is there anything else?

John: I’m not really very familiar with social media tools that much, as sort of the concepts and that sort of thing, but if you do have a presence online, the first place to start would be the immediate conversations around that. So, who’s talking on the Facebook page, who’s commenting on the blog, all that sort of thing, the biggest majority of discussions around your brand in terms of tools to identify what’s outside of that, that’s [Inaudible 00:18:17].

Nick: No that’s fine. There are lots of people in the social media space, I guess, who can talk about those sorts of issues. I’m going to move away from the topic a little bit, and talk about Collaborate To Innovate, which is an event that you helped to organize. How long has it been going for now?

John: Wayne Darby and Vanessa Picker started it up. I think maybe about 12 months now, when we first met in Adelaide. Yes probably about 12 months, and they since moved on doing other things and so it’s now being 2 months of this year, since it started back this year that I’ve been meeting up and it’s going pretty strong.

Nick: Yeah, I’ve been along to just those 2 months so, I have nothing to compare it to but it seems to be going well from my perspective as well. Can you just tell us a little bit about what it is, exactly?

John: It’s a meet-up group, a regular monthly meet-up, people will meet face to face and a space where people want to take action. We’d provide speakers and a little bit of an excuse for people to come along and basically it’s a community-building sort of thingp providing people the opportunity to come along and have conversations they want to have and meet like-minded people.

Nick: Great, and given that you’ve only sort of leading it for 2 months as you say but are there any techniques or community-building ideas that you’ve applied to this group that someone else, we could learn from? What are some of the ideas for growing into group, is there anything specific you’ve been doing?

John: I suppose I’ve applied, I was involved with Lehman’s in this last year, sort of regularly having conversations about it and how it looks for a little while. Most of the concepts and that sort of thing meant to me [Inaudible 00:20:27]. One of the obvious sort of barriers that we’ve looked at in the last 3 or 4 months, particularly in the change over. Lehman was forming a team to support the return rate moving forward, which is getting into more of the details of this sort of community building, community cultivation practice.

I tried a few like this, but it’s about providing people, nurturing their steps, closer into the center of the community, providing open invitations for people to come along have discussions about future and to come along and join the team and have conversations about our week as it should be. [Inaudible 00:21:09] instead of being me and one or two other people actually to run it. We now have a team of about 5 or 6, fair enough and we are able to contribute, able to bring up ideas and connections and really a big core that supports the community as it reaches out and provide strong culture and make sure we have a good community of decent people and that’s the sort of thing.

Once you get into, know the details of thriving communities, having a structure that these people sort of, inner runs I guess and can simply [Inaudible 00:21:50] people that are more engaged who support the community. So, on the forum online, you’ll have the champions and get your posting of the day and then people would [File Distorted 00:22:01]. So we’ve just sort of made an effort to give people the opportunity to step into the middle of the support group.

Nick: Interesting. How often, that’s monthly usually or do you have some other sort of social events during the month as well, don’t you?

John: [Audio Breaks 00:22:20] And the more the way we’re looking at the moment is main marketing events and then the social greets for next week, so, if people want to catch up or if they can’t make the main monthly event, that’s just sort of their second reach [Inaudible 00:22:33] having a view and we’re also involved in a conference, I’m helping organize a couple other partners and community groups. It starts next month and that’s sort of the half [Inaudible 00:22:47].

Nick: Great. And if anyone’s interested in getting the dates and things for that, you can head to our website, webmarketingadelaide.com.au/events. I’ve got a calendar up there with all sorts of business-related events happening in Adelaide and I’ll make sure I’ll put up Collaborate to Innovate on the calendar there, but you can also go direct to the meet up group which is where you [Inaudible 00:23:16] the events from Adelaide.

John: Yeah the URL for that is meetup.com/C2IADL. Nice and easy.

Nick: Too easy, I’ll also put a link in our show notes on the website so people can click right through.

Just before we finish up, you wrote a book, A Book in a Week, I think it was late last year? Can you tell us a little bit about that project? First of all, what was the book about?

John: Well, the topic of the book was Openness. That’s something I sort of thought of pounced on in a few days before the book [Inaudible 00:23:58] wrote it. It wasn’t sounding out right because necessarily, a thought need to be written, sort of a bit of a back story on how to plan to write a book by the end of this year, by the end of 2013 and I went to Start Up Weekend at the end of last year, Start Up Week Adelaide and one of the teams sat down and wrote a book in about a day and a half. So, seeing there we had a year and a half timeline to write a book, while other people are writing a book in a day and a half and I thought, well it’s a bit silly if my first takes me a year and a half, I should punch out something a bit quicker.

So, I decided, well I will just set aside a week and before the week starts, I’ll work out what I’m going write about and you know, start a book. So I’m thinking about sort of some of my experience in networks, and collaboration and that sort of thing and what haven’t been covered. I found that the concept of openness and how that applies to working in general and connections and collaboration and that sort of thing. I really focused on that as a topic, this is what I can see and this is what it means to you and some tips about doing that. So, that came about that kind of topic and 7 days later, we have a book.

Nick: Great. Did you find yourself able to just knock it out? What were any challenges you faced?

John: Beyond the main challenge was having 7 days of relatively unstructured time that I was trying to feel – it’s very hard to sit at 8 o’clock in the morning and go, okay I’ll have two hours today, I’m going to write a whole lot of book, but not having milestones and not having a sense of exactly where that should be and [Inaudible 00:25:37], I spent a little bit of time actually procrastinating and just mulling around, writing, un-writing, rewriting, not doing all that much. Realistically, what I wrote could have been done in that 4 days, maybe 3 if I was really productive. So, that sort of an indication of how the went. It was 45 what pages in A4 which should be 60 or 70 in a book size, so it wasn’t too bad, but still a week’s work because I hadn’t planned it that well, and partly I think because I was working alone and didn’t have somebody else to telling me I should have written more by lunch time and that sort of thing. I could have gotten a lot more done, so that was the biggest challenge for me.

Nick: Interesting. I think just even going back to the Lean Methodologies Idea which I just talked about with Trevor Glen seems like a very lean way to test the idea of writing a book from the process perspective.

John: To be honest, the book is not that good. I mean, it’s somewhat interesting and I brought some interesting things up, but the good book will be Version 2 and the book that is really worth reading, will probably be a version 3. Version 1 is just a minimum viable product and so, along those lines. If I wasn’t embarrassed with it, it wouldn’t have taken too long. I’m a little bit embarrassed with it so I think it probably took me a lot of time.

Nick: Perfect. Perhaps I’ll hold off for Version 3 then before I …

John: Version 2 will be okay, worth looking into.

Nick: Fantastic, I will do that. I think we’ll finish off the interview there. Thanks very much for coming on the show and having this chat. It’s been interesting and I always like to delve into interesting people’s minds and you’re definitely one of those people.

If people want to find out more about what you’re doing and perhaps connect with you, what’s the best way to do that?

John: Checking out jsbaxter.com. That’s S for Slade, which is my middle name and there’s links from that page to other various things that are going on.

Nick: Fantastic. I’ll put those links again in the show notes for anyone who wants to go check you out there and thanks again for coming on the show.

John: Thank you Nick.

Nick: That brings us to the end of another podcast. For more information about this episode and all our others, head to our website www.webmarketingadelaide.com.au.