Moreton Bay Region Business Confidence Survey

The Moreton Bay Regional Council has just published the results of their Dec 2011 Business Confidence Survey.

This survey is conducted every 6 months and this time around represents the input of 421 Moreton Bay region businesses.

The full report covers a range of areas relating to Business confidence, growth in the region and topics of concern that business owners have identified as limiting or restricting their business growth.

Both this latest report and the June 2011 Business Confidence Survey list “Rising overheads and utility costs” as the major constraint on growing Moreton Bay region businesses.

There is some interesting internet marketing and social media information about our region contained in the Dec 2011 report. The same questions weren’t asked in the June report so unfortunately trend information can’t be gleaned.

Below I’ve extracted the online and social media related information mentioned in the report:

What would assist you in building a greater local customer base?

“There were over 300 responses to this question, with a lot of respondents stating that more affordable options for advertising and customer awareness programs would help them build more local clients”

“Ability to economically get my message across to local customers.”

“A better online presence, with the ability to communicate via email to most of my existing customers”

Commentary: Online marketing, social media and email provide huge cost savings over traditional TV, radio and print channels. Local businesses should be seriously looking how their marketing budget is currently broken up. If an increasing % of your budget is not being spent online then its time to revisit this.

Whatever marketing you are doing now, offline or online, you need to be tracking its performance and ROI. Coupon codes, different tracking phone numbers and “Where did you find us?” phone habits will inform as to where the inquiries are coming from. With online marketing its even easier to track traffic sources with free tools like Google Analytics.

Many online marketing methods work on a ‘pay for performance’ basis. If you are running a Facebook ads marketing campaign for example you only pay if someone clicks on your advert. Imagine dropping your $8000 Yellow Pages bill and converting that to Facebook ads where you might pay say $0.50 – $1.50 per click. That’s 5333 clicks to your Facebook page or website at $1.50 or 16,000 clicks at $0.50. Better than that – once someone ‘likes’ your Facebook page you now have a chance to continue connecting with them at nil $ cost.

Has your business established an online presence and if so, please indicate what type of online presence below

 

Online marketing, websites and social media survey results - Moreton Bay region businesses

Commentary: 82% of businesses with a website is actually very good. Depending on sources this figure normally sits at 33 – 50% of businesses still in 2012. My personal feeling is that this figure doesn’t represent the reality in our region but that the business owners that were willing to engage in the survey are probably the more organised ones and the ones more likely to have a website.

That 8% of businesses surveyed had ‘no online presence at all’ presents a huge opportunity for these businesses(and the region) to further grow and develop their companies and contribute more to the local economy. Consumers have already made the shift online and are spending more and more time there. Channels such as Facebook and email marketing represent extremely low cost options for businesses owners to pursue.

Having access to a customer database from which a business can mailout updates is an often overlooked asset of a business. If you provide a good service and a good product then customers that have already done business with you are more likely to do so again. Look at the systems in your business and see if you are collecting their email addresses for later use. Make yourself aware of spam law requirements. Then keep in contact with your database – provide interesting, educational material and news, position yourself as the market leader in your local industry and provide the occasional specia offerl. The distribution cost? Just your time to write the emails.

When it comes time to sell the business this customer database will add to the value of the business asset. So if you have a database lying around that you aren’t using then blow of the dust and start a customer re-engagement campaign.

Of the 9% of Moreton Bay region businesses with a blog there will be a smaller number that are regularly publishing fresh content. It is encouraging that most web designers will now promote the inclusion of a blog into new customer’s websites. Every blog post that you are able to add to your website provides more opportunities for visitors and search engines to find your business. There are other benefits which include the ability to answer your customers frequently asked questions, inform people about industry changes and highlight your achievements.

Once you start integrating your blog, social media and email marketing together then each of them leverages the other parts. Consider this scenario? Ask your customers on Facebook for feedback on their biggest questions about your industry, write a response article on your blog answering these questions, now email out to your database that you’ve updated the blog with the article. With this process you’ve conducted market research to find out what information your customers want from you and then you’ve provided it in addition to drawing people from your marketing database back on to your website. All for nil $ cost.

 

How often does your business transact over the internet with customers, suppliers and / or other businesses

Internet communication with customers as % by Moreton Bay region businesses

Commentary: Still surprised by these figures. 29% of businesses don’t get email from suppliers/customers or businesses weekly? Perhaps this question is more narrowly tied to online payments. Will paper cheques still be around in 3 years?

What would make a difference to the profitability or viability of your business?

“For people to stop shopping online. I cannot compete with online businesses
that have almost no overheads.”

“We are working on ways to educate our customers and building
a client base that realises the value in our service.”

“The cost of complying with all tax requirements and paperwork is
quite high – accountant, bookkeeper, etc.”

Commentary: There are significant global trends at the moment. Economically many manufacturing roles have moved to locations with low labour costs and locally the high Australian dollar further reduces the cost of imports. At a social level we are working harder than ever, often with increasing travel times due to traffic and housing affordability in CBD areas. Technologically we are living out the ‘Beyond 2000′ TV show future. The National Broadband Network is coming. What you can do with an iPhone or similar smartphone now is amazing – these things are still only a few years old. Online payments are quick, secure and open 24hrs.

The nett effect of these trends is that people are moving online have moved online. Businesses haven’t been as fast to adapt. Pushing against these global trends is going to be hard work. It will be much easier and profitable for businesses to use the trends to their advantage and exploit the window of opportunity before competitors catch up.

Hoping ‘for people to stop shopping online’ is just that – hope. Having said that if you can offer advantages and benefits in your service that just aren’t available online then maximise this and make it a selling point.

Content marketing is an effective approach for local businesses. For the business looking to ‘educate our customers’ on ‘the value in our service’ then consider the payback spent on producing online content around your services or products. You do the work once – and it works continuously online 24/7 for the life of your business. Videos, audio interviews, articles based on product benefits, how-to information, answers to frequently asked questions, photos of customers using or enjoying the product, PDF spec sheets, online user manuals, press releases and presentations(Powerpoint/Keynote). Each of these makes you a bigger target online and gives the potential customer the chance to sell themselves before even contacting your staff.

If you are taking a strategic and long term view for your business then content marketing provides significant return on investment benefits over say a radio campaign which ceases to be effective as soon as you stop paying.

As for reducing overheads and paperwork in your business…. checkout several of these resources:

Online Invoicing 

Online Accounting – comes with smartphone app so you can photo, upload and toss receipts on the go.

Paperless Solutions

Online Document Storage and another one

[End of Report]

Where do you start with online marketing?

The Dec 2011 Business Confidence Survey is very useful as a benchmark for businesses to compare themselves against others in the Moreton Bay region in terms of their online presence. It also sets the bar pretty low for those business owners looking to put themselves in the top % and to work towards online best practise.

If you are a Moreton Bay region business owner looking to start or improve your online marketing and online presence then I’m going to suggest that you look at something not even covered by the Survey – Google Places.

Google Places are the map results that show up for local business searches such as ‘caboolture hairdresser’. Start here by claiming your listing for your business and ensuring that all details are correct. These are the new equivalent of Yellow Pages full page ads for local businesses. Cost? Free if you DIY it. There are some tricks to this so consider talking to an online marketing consultant if this exposure is important for your business.

Secondly head over to redcliffesocialmedia.com and join the growing group of business owners there helping each other learn about online marketing. Cost? Again free!

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