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Brand evolution or brand revolution?

A highly recognisable brand that is instantly tied to a quality product or reliable service is the Utopia that businesses aim for. And we know it’s a long haul to get your brand well known. But those elements of the brand that comprise visual recognition – the logo, the colours, the fonts, the secondary language, do need a refresh from time to time. And occasionally they need an overhaul. The trick is to know when.

Marketing experts say that a brand should be invigorated every five or six years. That may mean that logos are tweaked to better work with evolving mediums, taglines reviewed, and colours examined. Gone are the days of worrying about a stacked logo taking up too much print space. Now we want something that will bounce out of Facebook or Instagram.

Any messaging that is attached to the brand needs to be considered to see if it still portrays what you do, what your positioning is in your marketplace and that it reflects current society values. Sometimes a small change – for instance from “The place to go…” to “Your place to go…” is all that is needed to turn your tagline into a client benefit message.

Colours are something that every brand needs to consider carefully. There’s colour psychology where research says that blue reflects trust and dependability, red is excitement and boldness, green is peace, health and nature and yellow is happiness and optimism. What do you want your brand to say?

If you are just looking at brand evolution then simplifying your logo and deepening or lightening your signature colour may be enough. If you are looking at revolution, then everything is up for grabs.

Either way, it’s not a job that should be done by an in-house management committee. It needs a fresh eye, and a distance from the emotion your team will have to your brand. You need experts in branding and marketing and how it’s applied. What are the pitfalls if you go down a certain path? You need to test concepts extensively before you go to the expense of making change.

I have highly talented brand experts at FC Business Solutions so if it’s time for evolution or revolution, we can help you.

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Automating your reporting for rich, timely data

Reporting is an arduous task for any business, but it’s only with the right data that you can clearly measure what is happening, and therefore make informed decisions. So how can a business reduce the time it spends on creating these critical reports?

The challenges:

  • Many businesses use multiple systems with multiple logins – the information they want is available but, it’s just really hard to access. The more segmented your systems are, the more difficult it is to create a holistic view that provides you with useful data.
  • No benchmarks mean no growth. If you don’t have the right historical data, you can’t accurately project what you should be able to achieve moving forward.  For instance, a slump in sales for 2020 may have been due to COVID, but how did you fare in 2019 – where were the dips and highs and how do they compare to the business you did in 2020?
  • Chewing up resources getting reports.  If there is someone in your business who is tasked with clicking buttons to generate scheduled reports, then you are wasting that resource.  Seek the advice of a software developer, or look at existing platforms, that can provide you with the ability to create the reports you actually need – reports that provide the information clearly and that it doesn’t have to be further complicated to provide you with the decision-making information which you need.

The solutions:

  • Multiple systems and logins. Reduce the number of reporting platforms you need to as few as possible.  A platform such as Op Central can collate all your Operating Procedures and Policies reports into one area – doing away with messy Google and One Drive options.  Other platforms such as Whatagraph can collate all your social media and website statistics into one report, so that you can cross-check data and see correlations, without having to log in to each platform. For example, being able to see a spike in your website traffic on the same day a specific social media post; can help outline which content is working best in your campaign.
  • No benchmarks mean no growth. All the reports you generate should have a comparison date so that you can provide context to the information.  Even a short date range like today versus yesterday gives important information on where to improve.  Ensure your reports clearly mark positive and negative results so you can focus on problem areas.
  • Chewing up resources. Once you have set up platforms to manage your business reporting, don’t waste time on a resource, who has to manually create the report and distribute them to key stakeholders.  Set up recurring emails – for example at the start of each month to nominated people, with your key data.  This allows a fast and accurate insight into your business and allows your data analyst to get collated feedback from your team, without the hassle of managing multiple email chains.
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The importance of a file note

Whether you are a small or large business, franchisor or franchisee, you need to make a habit of using file notes. Not only can it help you grow your business, but it can also act as an aide memoire, and help you remember what happened if you have a legal dispute where the ability to be able to provide a clear, detailed chronology of what has been agreed to or occurred can help protect your business.

These days a file note should be an electronic note. Made either using a Notes app on your phone, or on your PC or in your CRM, database or diary but with a firm process that if a file note is on a personal device it is transferred to a central repository within your business on the next business day at the latest. File notes shouldn’t take the place of official correspondence, but they can be an adjunct to it.

Empower and teach your team members to get into the habit of documenting the highlights of conversations, action items, and agreed-to responsibilities as they go about their day-to-day business. File notes should be made while the conversation is fresh – making them shouldn’t wait until a person is deskbound to do it.

What should you make notes of?

  • Important conversations (by phone, virtual, text message or in-person) with team members, suppliers, partners – action items, agreed outcomes, next steps
  • Conversations with team members – particularly in the area of HR.
  • Anything to do with a potential dispute resolution – team or client or franchisee
  • Personal information (such as birth of child, travel plans etc) of clients / team members / suppliers / partners so that you can refer to the information in further conversations.

Extracting and documenting the essence of a conversation is an art that we need to teach our team members. Not everybody is born with the ability to listen and hear, validate the points and then document into a useable file note. Work out a template (or series of templates) that suits your business – with memory-jogging headings for the information that should be recorded.

Don’t forget to set the business policy and procedure on files notes.

File notes are just part of the picture you need to have of your business. Emails and letters also form part of that picture. Invest in an IT system that makes creating files notes an easy process then implement a system to also capture email exchanges and documents and file accordingly. Find a way to alert others in the business that need to know that a file note has been recorded.

As a business owner you’ll find that implementing a habit of making files notes across your team will provide you with golden information on your business and aid you in making good decisions. And, worst case scenario, if there’s a dispute or legal action, you have all the historic information you need at your fingertips.

Businesswoman connected tech devices and icons applications to a digital planet earth

Use automated tools to solve your website challenges.

The events of 2020 have proven just how critical a good website is for every business. It’s your virtual shopfront- the first point of contact for most customers. It’s no longer acceptable to just create a website and leave it unchanged.  Your website needs to be dynamic, current and constantly evolving.  The good news is there are some great tools to help you ensure that your website is delivering the best possible service to your clients, and helping convert leads into sales.

The challenges:

  1. Slow website. If your website is slow, your customers will leave in frustration.  In fact, anything above 3 seconds for a page to load will mean that 57% of your visitors will instantly leave your website.
  2. Slow response to customer queries. Ever sent an email through a website and didn’t get a response until days later?  The longer your client waits, the more your brand integrity diminishes in their mind, and the smaller your chance of converting the enquiry into a sale.
  3. Risk of data breach. It’s an unfortunate opportunistic fact of life that hackers are out there looking for weaknesses in website security.  It’s not personal, it’s opportunities and it can be highly damaging.  Apart from the cost if it’s a ransomware attack (the act where they will not release your data unless a sum of money is paid), having your business data and customer details breached is a significant headache.  Privacy breaches require reporting and restitution, creating legal issues and eroding confidence in your brand is eroded.
  4. No measurable data. If you aren’t tracking your leads as they come through, you can’t calculate your CPA (Cost per Acquisition).  Knowing your CPA allows you to confidently budget your marketing spends at the right price point, and allows you to ratchet up your spend in those areas where you are getting the best return.

 

The solutions

  1. Slow website. Use free tools such as Google’s Pagespeed monitor to quickly gauge the load time of web pages on both desktops and mobile devices. With this tool, you can also look at their recommendations on how to increase the speed of your website.
  2. Slow response to customer queries. Consider installing a Live Chat application on your website. You can set it up so that it connects directly to your staff allowing customers to have their queries answered quickly and knowledgeably – leading to sales conversions.
  3. Risk of data breach. A security audit of your website can highlight any major issues your site may be facing.  Following industry best practices for website security can help mitigate any further issues, when it comes to data breaches. For instance, OWASP provides the top 10 web application security risks. Investigate using plug-ins for your website that can help automatically block unwanted bots that are trying to infiltrate your website.
  4. No measurable data. Connect a CRM (Customer Relationship Manager program) to your website to automatically track your leads and build your database.  Examples of CRM’s are Hubspot, Salesforce or Zoho.  There are also a range of industry specific CRM’s tailored to maximise the value to you, in areas that are unique to your business.

 

Attention to these critical areas of your website, as well as ensuring that your website is visually pleasing, easy to navigate and that all your content is current and easily accessed, will help build a better business for you.

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Your database is like a giant hive of potential clients

If you haven’t yet discovered the power of a well utilised database, then you are in for an exciting journey that, if you do it right, will drive sales and brand recognition.

A database is a collection of people that you’ve interacted with in some form or other. Whether they are past clients, people who’ve entered competitions you’ve run, people who have contacted you for information – generally speaking, they can be added to your database. You need to have T’s & C’s around your interactions with people so that they understand that if they give you personal details, you are going to store them and contact them.

Privacy of people’s information is also vitally important. Ensure that you have sufficient protection around your technology that the database can’t be hacked and exposed.

But once you have these protocols established it’s well worth the hassle. Got a new product you’re releasing? Discounting stock? Supporting a worthy cause? Made a video about a new store? Share it with your database. An eDM (or electronic direct mail) is the efficient way of spreading your message. Don’t forget the mandatory “unsubscribe” link. And if someone asks to be taken off your list – do it.

If your business is less retail and more one-to-one relationship based, you can set up a system where you can store additional details about your clients. Say you rang a great customer just to touch base and he tells you he’s going on a trip to… well, it is still a pandemic, so let’s say a houseboat trip on the Murray… put those details in the notes and next time you call, ask him about the trip. People appreciate that you have attended to the detail in their life.

If you have a database with entries that go back over many years, there are artificial intelligence (AI) programs that will sort through your data and match people with new details. Well worth investing in.

Integrate your database into a Customer Relationship Manager (CRM) program and you can automate a lot of the follow-up and contact. But don’t forget the still make time for the personalised information that is specific to various categories within your database. Which brings me to my last point. Categorise your database. Everyone is different, and so they are going to need different information on occasions. Use AI to track activity and your messages will be well targeted and produce results.

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Automating your emails and gaining control

Emails are an incredibly effective, instant means of communicating. They are the business equivalents of texts.  But they also can overwhelm you, distract you and destroy your efficiency.  You need to control your email not let your email control you.

Let’s look at the problems with emails:

  • Emails are constantly coming in at all hours of the day and night – they never stop.
  • Emails can cause a constant loop of spending your day replying to emails and not actually having time to action anything
  • Emails can contain pertinent information on a project but spread across multiple emails. (You know, those days when you get five emails from five different people all on the same topic?)
  • Emails with multiple CC’s get lost in clutter and there is a lack of organisation when multiple people are all replying leading to missed communication
  • Searching for emails can be difficult if you just use one folder (Inbox)
  • Emails aren’t categorised, how do you know what emails relates to what business activity?
  • Junk mail constantly comes through and you are continually deleting the same emails day after day.

Now let’s look at the solutions:

  • Set a block of time to sort through and reply to your emails. A good idea is go through your emails in the morning for 30 minutes and organise the ones that should be actioned today. Those that won’t be actioned today should still be replied to, providing the sender with an anticipated date that you will action the email request.
  • Use functions such as Conversations in Gmail and Outlook to automatically group emails into threads https://www.howtogeek.com/397298/how-to-toggle-and-customise-conversation-view-in-outlook/
  • Tag people in a conversation with the @ symbol. This gives visibility that a specific person in an email chain should look at important information that is only specific to them within the body of the text
  • Create multiple folders for your email instead of just an Inbox. There are a couple of approaches to this:
    • #1
      • Inbox (anything unread)
      • To action (anything that requires attention today)
      • In progress (anything that is a continual communication chain)
      • Archived (done and completed)
    • #2
      • Inbox
      • Categorised by groupings
        • Company Name
        • Sales
        • Marketing
        • Admin
      • Use the Categorise function to catalogue and archive your emails for easy searching in the future
        • Example categories
          • Personal Development
          • Business Development
          • Meetings
          • Invoice / Finance
          • Documentation
          • Sales / Lead
          • Personal
  • Adopt a One Minute rule. When you receive an email, can you send a useful reply to the sender within one minute? Is it something that can be actioned quickly? Can you do the task and respond with a short email on its completion? Or is it something that may take time to scope or plan? Spend less than one minute to acknowledge receipt of the email and provide the sender with an anticipated date of action to keep the conversation moving forward. If you find yourself needing more than one minute to just write an email, then set aside the email and block out a period of time in your task management system to complete the task.
  • Setup filters to automatically bin emails you don’t want to receive. Stop just deleting junk mail and look at your options for a long-term fix. Filters within systems such as Microsoft 365 and Gmail let you set up to automatically delete an email before it even gets to your Inbox. This is a good option for spam emails. Using the unsubscribe function for unsolicited marketing emails ensures that you won’t be getting those annoying emails again.

Following these simple rules will help you gain control of your emails and turn them back into the useful business tool they should.  And, give you more productive time in your day.

Ecommerce.

Christmas Like No Other

As Australians gather to celebrate Christmas, it will depend on where you are in this wonderful country as to how you approach it. States that stomped on COVID-19 in the first wave will have almost normal celebrations, while the more populated states, in particular Victoria, will come to the festive season like battle-weary soldiers at the end of a conflict. But wherever you are, there will be celebrations, holidays taken, and as we head towards the new year, resolutions and plans made.

2020 was the most challenging year in most people’s lifetime. But it also showed the resilience of human spirit, the kindness and innate goodness of people. Whether that was from putting on your mask to go outside; or dropping inspirational messages or treats into strangers’ letterboxes; to contributing home grown veggies to community food banks for example, people showed extraordinary care and an appreciation that everyone’s health – both physical and mental – lay on the shoulders of everyone.

In the lead up to 2021, and finally and enthusiastically kicking the grime of 2020 off our shoes, many of you will be making plans for yourselves and your businesses. The big lesson out of 2020 is that rapid change is possible, and that people will adapt. Don’t be afraid to make big plans, push the boundaries, have a vision that is inspirational and full of blue sky.

At FC Business Solutions, we’ve loved working with you all and helping you navigate the enormous challenges that 2020 has delivered. We look forward to being part of ensuring that your plans for the future are achieved.

To you all, we hope your Christmas is spent sharing laughs and good times with your family and friends – people who are important to you. We wish you joy and peace. Our hope is that 2021 is a year where, through treatments or vaccine, the shadow of COVID is removed from our lives; where the hard-won lessons this pandemic has forced upon us help to enrich our lives on every level.

FC will be closed from Tuesday, 22nd December 2020,
re-opening Monday, 18th January 2021.

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2020. What sucked and what didn’t

2020 was a year like no other. It took away our certainty that we had control. It caused immense distress and suffering and tragic deaths. But it taught us so much. As a Melbourne based company, we have been at the coalface of the Australian COVID experience and so we asked our team to tell us what they thought sucked in 2020 and what didn’t. Here’s a list of all the challenges they listed – and many of you will have also experienced them – followed by a list of things they learned to appreciate, respect and got inspiration from.

What sucked.

  • The bushfires that devastated so much of Australia: the appalling loss of life, homes, businesses and our iconic wildlife.
  • Watching the terrifying scenes in Wuhan, as it went into a forced lockdown and then watching with paralysing inevitability, as COVID-19 spread through the world and ultimately to our shores.
  • The panic and fear as the Prime Minister basically told us that they were planning for six months of business hibernation and social shut down.
  • The toilet paper scramble where the selfishness of some people meant that many of our vulnerable – especially older people – were unable to access this basic necessity.
  • The abuse of supermarket workers as they tried to civilly manage the uncivilised.
  • The increase in racism.
  • The increase in anxiety.
  • The loss of jobs, the reduction in incomes, the closure of so many of our vibrant cafes and restaurants. The closing of gyms.
  • The closing of schools and universities, the disruption of education for so many.
  • Home schooling. Well maybe this is a 50/50 as to whether it sucked or not. But anecdotally it was hard on parents – many of whom were working and juggling this essential activity.
  • The loss of our physical connection to families – of grandparents to grandchildren as the older people in our community had to retreat to protect themselves.
  • The loss of our physical connection to our colleagues – our team.
  • The physical loss of our friendship circles.
  • The loss of sport as an activity and a supportive tribe.
  • The distress of business leaders as they struggled to save jobs and keep their businesses afloat.
  • The Zoom room.
  • The second wave (for Victorians) seeing the numbers climbing, being locked down in extremely restrictive circumstances as we watched the case numbers reach 700 a day.
  • The ravaging of those in aged care by the virus.
  • The loss of freedoms – a curfew, a 5km travel restriction, a rule to wear masks. All for a good reason, and followed willingly by the majority of people, but still knowing that we had lost freedoms, taken for granted for so long.
  • The fear of people.
  • The border closures, the division of Australia – the inability to travel interstate (and overseas)
  • The politics. Sometimes it’s more important to work together than point score. The pandemic was one such occasion but unfortunately not everyone got the memo.
  • The media’s lack of integrity when reporting. Not all outlets, but a section that worked to divide, to sensationalise, to create clickbait for revenue and political ideology.

The silver linings in 2020

  • JobSeeker and JobKeeper – providing people with an income to survive and businesses with a way to keep people employed.
  • The inspirational bravery and dedication of our doctors, nurses, aged care workers.
  • Working from home. More productive, saved so much time not commuting, saved on travel costs and childcare.
  • More time spent with family during lockdown – closer connections formed, relationships tested and strengthened.
  • People finding ways to connect – talking to grandparents through closed windows, placing their palms against each other with glass separating them.
  • Companies found ways to innovate and survive – they adapted and changed at a rapid rate never dreamed of previously.
  • There was an opportunity for businesses to re-set, to plot a course for growth and long-term profitability.
  • Businesses were given the opportunity to trial a virtual workplace with proven benefits for employers and employees.
  • Mental health was given the attention it deserves.
  • The random acts of kindness – the treats dropped in people’s letterboxes; the people who would collect prescriptions, and offer supplies for those who couldn’t risk leaving home; doing shopping for neighbours.
  • Online shopping (but delivery times have to go in the “What sucked” column!)
  • Netflix, Stan and Disney streaming channels.
  • Slowing down and enjoying the simple things in life.
  • Exploring the local neighbourhood on walks.
  • More time for walking the dog and exercising.
  • The ability to re-evaluate your life – the treadmill you’d been on – and work out what was important.
  • Gratitude for living in a country that had the health system to care for me and my family.
  • The opportunity to work and help other businesses implement survival strategies.
  • My technology skills exploded.
  • Government project funds to enable big picture thinking and growth in the new job sectors of the future.
  • The Zoom room and the way we could connect as a tribe, supporting each other in a safe virtual circle.
  • Keeping my job and feeling fulfilled in the work I do.
  • Homeless people were provided with shelter (in Victoria).
  • That society and businesses have had radical change forced on them that would normally take decades, and we can now move forward knowing that people can adapt.
  • The awesome spirit of humankind.
  • The brilliant scientists around the world working on a vaccine.
  • The mental wellbeing sessions that were provided by so many organisations.
  • The time to focus on other projects.
  • New hobbies were explored.
  • The feeling of pride in what we have achieved as Victorians in eliminating the virus from our community.

Yes, 2020 has been a year out of the box in its challenges and the unique lessons learned. Here’s hoping that 2021 is a wonderful year for everyone and that our forced re-set in 2020 lets us all move forward with optimism, and a higher bar as to what is achievable.

Ecommerce.

Marketing Trends Rounding Up 2020

Online marketing is one of the most important tools for building a brand. But it’s an ever-shifting landscape that the modern marketer needs to stay on top of. If you struggle with knowing where, when and how to grow your digital presence, you are not alone. With businesses working remotely across the world, a shift to deliver a strong brand online has driven a wealth of changes and innovation.

Who were the biggest trend setters of 2020?

Live streaming
With the cancellation of events, concerts, gatherings and opportunities to meet together, live streaming became an essential for businesses and communities to stay connected. Between March and May means this year, the number of people who had live streamed events doubled (26% of total Australians) and this number has continued to increase since.
With the number of live streams kicking off rapidly, they never reached a point of being able to be commercialised, with only 7% being willing to pay for the stream.

What we’ve learnt about different steaming platforms:

Facebook
Pros:

  • Ability to have built in audiences for ease of access.
  • Very interactive with a suite of tools.
  • Caters to an existing database of users.

Cons:

  • Search engines such as Google cannot find your live stream which stunts the ability to improve your search engine optimisation.
  • No subscription or monetisation supported.
  • Limited to 90 minutes per stream.

Zoom
Pros:

  • Ability to see faces of listeners and make more interactive.
  • Certain level of exclusivity to sessions.
  • Strong security with locking options.

Cons:

  • Lower streaming quality
  • Limited amount of viewers
  • Paid subscription for sessions over 45 mins.

Youtube
Pros:

  • Advanced analytics to monitor performance
  • Effective chat feature
  • Ability to schedule and easily share links for users.

Cons:

  • Lower quality resolutions
  • Lack of tools for publishing

Conversational Marketing
A growing trend has seen conversational marketing being used more and more, with businesses to create a one-to-one interaction. Having a brand be personal allows customers to build trust and awareness of the WHO behind the WHAT.

Live chat on websites – Having a fast response time to customers have shown to increase up to 20% of conversion when a  business is able to respond back within 30 minutes

Authored articles – LinkedIn drove up to 9 billion impressions per week with only 3 million users actually sharing content on a weekly bases. That is only 1% of the entire exposure leaving plenty of space to get eyes on your brand.

Personal video marketing – The reality of 2020: people working from home meant consumers wanted to see a personal and vulnerable side. Voices to give relatability to a brand have become a selling point for consumers.

Selling Online

With spending having increased by 62.6% at the end of FY2020, additions of online retailers and products have never before been so readily available. Popular e-commerce platforms saw increase usage of:
Automated emails – Keep in touch with customers by setting up recurring emails both pre and post purchase. A simple message such as a happy birthday, can re-engage and re-target previous buyers.
Abandon carts – Strategies such as offering a discount code if a customer abandons their cart saw conversion rates increase by more than 10%

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Your team – the most valuable item on your Asset Register

You can have the most innovative product or world beating services, but if you don’t have the right team backing you, then your business will never meet its full potential.

Building the right team won’t happen overnight, and getting the skillsets you need in people whose personality gels with your overall team is challenging, however, the results when you have built a knowledgeable, supportive team who are committed to your business’s success will be well worth it.

Hiring new team members is something most employers dislike spending time on. It is time-consuming if you are doing it right.  Make sure you employ someone, who not only has the skills you need, but also the personality you need.  Utilise ‘personality profiling’.  Understand where there are gaps in your team.  Are you over-subscribed on creative people with no one to implement their ideas?  Are you top heavy with detail driven people who stifle creativity?  

While there will be defined roles and responsibilities, measurable KPIs and down the line management, there should also be a culture that lets every team member know that you value them and their input. Encourage innovation and the sharing of ideas – not just from those whose role it is to be inventive.  Turn your team into an ideas shop. Designate responsibility then step back a little and give your people the opportunity to grow. 

Building a cohesive, loyal team is also about taking time out to have fun, getting to know each other on a personal level.  When you understand what is going on in someone’s life, it helps you understand what influences their behaviour and what motivates them.  

Look at flexibility in how your people work.  Is it a hybrid of on-site face-to-face hours combined with home working where it’s possible?  Is it letting people start early and finish early so they can do school pick-up?  

Invest in training, for example, in personal development both measures will give you a return in higher skilled, more professionally-rounded team members.  

Don’t underestimate the value of having a charity or cause that you, as a company, highly support.  A lot of great businesses have the concept of putting back into the community as one of the measurables in their bottom line.  There’s a pride people feel in working for a business that is generous in helping support causes the community.   Once again, get your team involved in brainstorming how you can support your chosen cause in ways other than just providing a donation. 

Above all, cultivate a workplace culture that is strong and has “respect” as it’s guiding principle.  Respect for your products or services; respect for all your clients; respect for your suppliers or distributors; respect for your teammates; and respect for the community in which you operate.


Here are the top 3 team building   strategies that a business should start implementing today: 

1. Take  the time to build a team –
that is loyal, committed, well-rounded and diverse. Hire judiciously, employing ‘personality profiling’.

2. Utilise every aspect of your team –
encourage idea sharing, delegate responsibility. Train, develop and have fun too.

3. Have a culture of respect –
Celebrate your wins, help your community and enjoy the rewards of a more successful business.