Jan 25
2012

Free Websites and Small Business

Just to be completely redundant and state the obvious (because stating the obvious is sometimes required to make a point), I build websites for free for community groups and non-profit organisations. Needless to say, it’s quite an attractive proposition for groups who can find it very hard to find funds to attain their goals. I also build websites for small business, at very competitive prices. I am a small business. I know how hard it can be to make it work. But in order to be able to build websites for nothing, or at a low cost, I need to find another way to support my family.

And so I have. But the means of subsidising the free and low-cost websites does more than just pay my way. It also provides an much-needed income stream for the not-for-profit, as well as low-cost marketing and brand exposure for local/small businesses. Sounds pretty good, huh? How’s it work? You’ll have to contact me to find out ;)

Now, I’ve recently made a couple of posts on Facebook about some interesting statistics for Cardinia Shire and community organisations. Quite clearly, there is a desperate need for support in the Shire. My question is… how do I promote and sell what I’m doing more effectively to provide that support…?

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Jan 06
2012

Reboot

In the grand tradition of Hollywood reboots, BGM IT is not just getting back to basics, but restarting one major part of its operations. I guess it’s a part of the process of continually reviewing what I’m doing and trying to achieve, and having received a huge amount of advice from various sources – which has been fantastic – I’ve allowed some loss of vision to occur. Things have gotten a little out of hand.

So, in order to pull it all back in-line, there’s going to be substantial changes occurring in the next week. In between writing user documentation, that is. And building websites. And making websites live.

Keep an eye out for it.

And the changes on my website ;)

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Dec 23
2011

Back to Basics

Final post for the year. Recapped last night. Worked my rear end off again today. Tomorrow and the next few days are going toi involve very little more than playing with my kids, chilling with the Boss, and maybe working on a beer or two.
But after last night’s post, I thought I’d chuck up one more quick one tonight.
Next year: Back to basics and keeping it simple.

  1. Each website created will come with full user and technical documentation
  2. Changes to Partnership Marketing in line with the previous comment
  3. Changes in Partnership Marketing that will give more back to both community groups and businesses, and yet still leave me better off.
  4. The development of relationships and, in some cases, doing so more publicly

More practically,

  • I have four websites that will go live in January
  • I have four websites in the planning stage
  • I am waiting on a response to one submitted proposal and one phone call to Queenscliff

Can’t wait!

Merry Christmas to one and all, and a Happy New Year!

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Dec 22
2011

It’s that time of year – Recap

End of the year and everyone in business will be looking both forward and back. I’m no different – although I have been incredibly fortunate in a number of different ways.
First, I have my family, who are amazingly tolerant of my endeavours. With the late nights and seemingly endless meetings, Beth has been my rock, and I cannot express how grateful I am to her. And the kids… they are my inspiration.

Then there are my customers and clients. There is not one of them who has not given me more than just a job with a paycheck. The wealth of experience and helpful advice they have given, along with patience, has been stunning. An especially large thank you has to go out to Joanne from Tour Local. Her honesty, advice and passion for what she does, and for small business, is simply amazing. Kerry from Imprint Marketing And Design, as well, has gone out of her way to help me out with advice on subjects verging on being competitive with her own business, as well as proposals for local government.

And third, those for whom I have built websites with the aim of raising funds for them – thank you for your faith.

So, looking back – what’s happened?

  • I’ve built a few websites (around 20)
  • I’ve become involved with a few groups and committees (3 or 4)
  • I’ve met a lot of people (in the hundreds)

Has it been successful? Yes and no.
Some things I can and need to do much, much better – slowing down and not trying to do as many websites at once, providing a more complete service when building those sites, and building on the relationships formed to turn them in to mutually beneficial partnerships.
Some things I’ve done reasonably well – web design skills and creativity have improved a thousand fold (thanks Vanessa from Mermaids Dreaming for pushing me to do more), understanding what I’m trying to achieve has increased and a clearer view of where the business is heading has developed.

It’s been a fantastic year. A solid base has been built, and next year will be all about doing things better and building on that base. Building new relationships and fostering existing ones. And if this sounds all a little airy-fairy… well, there’s a lot more detail to those plans that would bore the tears out of pretty much anyone other than me reading them ;)

Geekage – because Oh! I have missed thee!
But let’s let other people who’ve already done the hard work say how it went in 2011.
From MTV-Geek – The Best Moments in Geek For 2011
Discover Magazine – Top Geek Culture Moments of the Year
And from one of my favourite blogs Geek.com – The Top Games of 2011

Wishing each and every one of you a very merry and safe Christmas (or, whichever particular occassion you happen to celebrate) and a safe and prosperous New Year.

Posted in Aussie IT, BGM IT, Community, General, Marketing, Small Business, Training, Web Design | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments
Oct 25
2011

Under Pressure: Presenting Ideas and Selling Concepts

Doing presentations are usually not something I get worked up over, but last night’s meeting I admit to being a little stressed about. OK, a lot. Even with some wonderful encouragement from people like Kerry at Imprint Marketing and Design, I had convinced myself that I had too much riding on the outcome.

It ended up being possibly the single worst presentation I have ever done. Little surprise there.

And yet, I believe, with some help from Joanne (of Tour Local the core of my presentation was well received; certainly I was told that it would definitely be taken up by some members of the group. Now it is wait and see. Almost.

Tomorrow, I present the concept again, to a slightly different group, with a different focus. Having received the suggestion that some of the older (longer-standing?) members of the group I’ll be presenting to may not be as receptive, I suspect that I will need to be spot-on tomorrow. Pressure is off, though, so I am sure it will go much better.

When it comes to pressure, how do you cope?

Clearly, I needed to take a step back and look at last night far more realistically than I did. I knew this, but found myself unable (or unwilling?) to do so. While it did not end in disaster, it could have gone much better. Another day, another lesson learned.

Geekage!
Eureka fans? Warehouse 13 fans? Late notice, but if you’re in Sydney or Melbourne, check it out!

Straight from Google+ – the geek chair:
Geek Chair

And one last one – here’s a neat-o little robot riding a bike ;)

Posted in Aussie IT, BGM IT, Community, Gadgets, Geek, Marketing, Small Business, Technology, The Google+ Project, Web Design | Tagged , , , , | Comments Off
Oct 14
2011

Oh me, oh my!

What do you know? An almost frenetic (nice word, huh?) burst of posting, then… nothing! yup, busy! But it’s all good! So, for today, it’s a little recap and site count. Last time I did this I had:
7 websites in progress
2 websites confirmed but not yet started
5 potential websites – that is, approaches have been made, but no response has been forthcoming yet
1 In House website complete
1 In House website in trial
1 In House website in redevelopment

I now have:
4 websites in progress
8 potential websites – approaches made, but waiting response or opportunity to present
2 In House websites complete – but one has yet to be uploaded to its own domain
…and there’s probably some missing from there, but my diary is nto beside me so that’ll be close enough ;)

More, the business plan is being redone and reworked to be more true to what the business actually now is and focusses on.

And I’ve done my tax.

By the way, Pakenham Residential has been updated! And I’d like to welcome ANZ Quality Carpentry to the site – you can find them under the revamped “Around The Home” tab.

Want some geekage? Yeah, I’ve missed it too ;) But just one today, but it’s a goody. Hate paying bills? Me too. Pay them online if you can? Me too. So now I have a really, really good reason to finally get an x-box with kinect (thanks to a Lithuanian company!):

How awesome. Using a game box to pay bills by waving your hands in the air!

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Sep 11
2011

Goal Setting

It’s been nice taking a break from the blog for a couple of days. (i.e. in between websites and family in order to blog I would have had to sacrifice what little sleep I have been getting – no thanks!) but I’ve found my energy renewed, too. In building websites, and recapping and listing those that I have under construction and coming up, it occurred to me that, while I have goals laid out, there are a few areas I could be a bit more specific in.

To this end, I have decided that I would like to have constructed, by the end of this year, twenty websites for community or non-profit organisations. Now, having four of these websites either under contruction or planned leaves me another sixteen to go in three months. I may be being a little unrealistic. But perhaps not.

(You can help – if you have a local charity, sporting group, professional or industry association, business group, craft or activity-specific group who’d like to enhance their communication to their members, grow their membership and get online, please contact me.

So why is goal setting so important in small business, and particularly when it comes to small business on the web? Here’s a few reasons:

  • Setting goals provides motivation – short- and long-term, and provides focus. Without motivation, nothing happens, of course. Without focus, it is very easy to get caught up in the myriad of things that (don’t really) need doing, and become distracted…and find nothing happens.
  • Setting goals helps you get organised. Being organised helps you make the most of what you have, from time, through family to resources. And being a small business, resources (particularly time) are usually something in short supply.
  • Short- and long-term goals will allow you to track your progress. Keep making your milestones and it’s all good. Falling short let’s you know you need to refocus and reassess what it is you’re (not) doing. Progress online, in terms of visitors to your website/conversions can be make or break for any given business.
  • Setting goals can help your self-confidence. Every time you achieve a goal, your self-esteem gets little boost. (Missing a goal can be disheartening, but provides motivation to investigate the cause and to correct it… then achieve it and get the boost!)

Instead of going on and on with more reasons for goal-setting, the following are little things that I do that work for me with setting and achieving goals.

I write lists. Lots of lists. Lists for each day. Lists for the week. For the month. And for the year. I have lists of lists of lists! (well, not quite…)
I put posters up, or hand-written notes, or drawings of things that represent my goals. Currently, I have above the desk a mind map of twenty as-yet unlabelled websites for non-profits and various little symbols scattered around them. Right next to a poster of an Aston Martin. No, there’s no mid-life crisis here. Really.
I have pictures of my family all around me. Always have. Why else take on running a business?

What do you do to help you set and achieve your goals?

OK geekage.
Head over to geek.com to have a humourous (MATURE) read about precious metals on earth are from meteorites.

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Sep 08
2011

Balancing Acts: How much work is too much work?

Having posted the other night regarding my current site count has got me thinking (again) about how much work is too much? In doing my site count, I have a more complete and detailed list of what I actually have on at the moment, and what I have coming up. Here’s a quick summary (and no, the numbers won’t tally with what I posted the other day):

7 websites in progress
2 websites confirmed but not yet started
5 potential websites – that is, approaches have been made, but no response has been forthcoming yet
1 In House website complete
1 In House website in trial
1 In House website in redevelopment

Plus, I’ve just installed a WordPress playground for a teacher at my sons’ school, and there’s a possibility of another school needing some help with a website.

By the way, you should check out Tour Local. They have a new website! It’s quite nifty (and kudos to Imprint Marketing and Design for the banner image!)

For many small businesses, there’s a cycle of heavy workload and lighter periods that is unavoidable. But I’m talking more about when this becomes the norm and not a periodic adjustment. How do you control the demand for your services?

On the one hand, taking on extra work is likely to lead to timeline blowouts and unhappy customers (and colleagues, friends and family because you’ve become a stressed-out, tense, irritable so-and-so), but on the other saying no to a potential client is likely to lose you more than just that one job in the future.

Or is it? As a one-person show, taking on the extra work must needs be done with the acceptance of longer (MUCH longer) working hours on a daily basis. And if you’re only recently new to running your own business, saying no to a job is maybe not so good. But over time the two have a way of finding their own equilibrium.

That is, as your business grows, you may well be able to say no to those jobs that are higher-cost lower-paying for ones that are higher-paying (and preferably lower-cost but don’t count on it!). This has been referred to as up-levelling your clients. There are a few strategies out there on how to do this.

One of the hardest parts will be identifying the “good” clients, although, from talking to some folks who have been in business for themselves far longer than I have, it does become somewhat instinctive, apparently. However, to pick which customers are or will be good, you have to first define what your ideal customer is.
Some suggestions to consider:

  • Big company/small business?
  • How big is their budget?
  • How quickly would you like them to pay for your services?
  • Do you want to work with the client or for the client?

That gives you a starting point. Then you can move on to a few other points of importance. THings like:

  • The quality of communication from your client is very poor
  • Being paid on time (not to be confused with how quickly you’d like to get paid) does not happen
  • Is the customer abusive? (Three strikes right there in that one!)
  • The customer asks for more and more but refuses to budge on price

All good reasons – some better than others – to chuck the client and find another one. Ditching a client cannot be a hasty decision (except in certain circumstances, like abuse) so the criteria you set must be very clearly defined.

Having done this, and made the decision to either not continue or not begin working with the client, there are ways to try to avoid further fallout (i.e. loss of other business) by cutting this one.

  • Do it either in person or over the phone – this may be the day of mobile media but do not email them, or text (shudder) them with your decision.
  • Make sure that they understand the decision is a business decision and nothing more
  • Either offer to or actually find someone else to work with the customer (making sure if you do find someone they are aware of your reasons for not wanting the client)
  • Make sure you learn from your experience.

And just remember, there’s always a brighter side to client-relationships. Even the bad ones.

There are other ways to refine your clientele without resorting to almost profiling. Raise your prices. Offer packages and clearly describe the added benefits of working with you (i.e. not only does your client get the service, but they get this and that and the other all because of working with you…. and yeah, it’ll cost!). And make sure that any media or material you are using to market yourself is absolutely spot-on perfect.

So, instead of the regular geekage today, we have some almost random links.

Apparently HTC is suing Apple using patents from Google. Sounds almost incestuous.

There’s now a tank (army tank… big gun, lots of armour?) with Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak. Just wondering what they’re going to do about the noise…

Oh oh and something else I want for Christmas (geez Santa, I hope you’ve got a big bag this year…!) is an alarm clock. Yup, an alarm clock. Built like a defusable bomb. Oh yeah.

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Sep 05
2011

Site Count

It’s been a while since I’ve announced a website for a client (and I’m not doing it tonight!), but it won’t be long before a couple go live. (And if I recall correectly, last time I said something like that it didn’t happen). Oh well. And, while I have been posting a bit on this blog, it could appear that I’ve not had much work.

This could not be less true. I am busier than ever. OK. Count time.
Coming in the next two weeks:
1 totally free website for a wonderful charity
1 website for a local business
1 website for a non-local business
1 website for a non-local community group

Still under construction or draft stage awaiting client review/input:
1 website for a community organisation
1 website for a non-profit organisation
1 website for a non-local business

At pre-planning/formal acceptance stage:
2 websites for community groups
1 website for a non-profit organisation

In-house projects:
1 website

Grand total of 11 websites currently in the pipeline. Yes, I’m busy.
PLUS!

I’m now beginning to (seriously) look for local businesses who are interested in supporting local business and community groups. Know some? Talk to me.

Oh, and while I’m at it, I’d like to mention Imprint Marketing & Design. They’re awesome. I’m very impressed with their work. Shame they already have a website ;)

In addition, I’ve also been looking into other non-traditional marketing methods. I’m not finding anything very exciting or inspiring. I am finding a lot of the same old pap regurgitated over and over again, unfortunately. Imaginative. Perhaps I need to look harder? Do you have any unique ways of marketing your business?

No geekage tonight… but consider doing a web search for CERN Cosmic Rays Global Warming. You might find some interesting reading!

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Sep 04
2011

So, you’ve had a Bad Day in the Office

Nope, haven’t had one of them in a while – mostly because I don’t have anything that remotely resembles an office! ;) But I’ve been thinking about it a bit today, because one of my (most excellent!) clients asked me just recently if I enjoyed my job. Fact is, I do. I really enjoy working for myself. There is a great deal of satisfaction in providing a client with a new website, or marketing opportunity. Meeting people – especially those who know what they want and have an open mind – is an absolute joy. Being able to work my hours around my family is fantastic (I have my baby boy sleeping in one arm as I type this).

But there are some unpleasant aspects, as with most things. Of these, the one I dislike the most is making mistakes that affect my client. Ever done that? How do you deal with it? I take a deep breath, admit the error and correct it as soon as I can. I consider myself lucky in that my clients are professional and that works for them – and (so far) my mistakes haven’t been earth-shattering.

But there are some interesting (and useful) strategies out there to help you get past your mistakes. Here’s a couple you may like.

  1. Be honest in your apology and efforts to correct the mistake. Paying lip service will back fire, and end up losing you customers. Remember, bad experiences are spoken about more often than good, but by showing some integrity and being genuine, you can turn that bad experience for the client into a good one.
  2. Spin. Admit your mistake and fix the problem. But don’t just fix it for one client – fix it for all clients, let them all know about the fix and then tell them exactly how much better the fix is going to be for them. Even (especially) if they weren’t aware of the problem originally, they are (usually) going to come away from that feeling better about you than before.
  3. Have a giveaway handy. Something low in cost to you, but high in value to your customer. When you make the mistake, apologise, fix it and hand over the giveaway. It may not seem like much to you, but when it’s importance to your customer is higher, it proves to be of real value.
  4. When all is said and done… get feedback. No, really. Go back to your client and ask for their feedback. Let them know you’d really like to know their thoughts. Your business is all about them, after all. With their feedback, you can focus on doing more of what you did right, and improving on what wasn’t quite so right. Get. That. Feedback.

Do you have anything to add to these ideas?

On to the geek stuff!
First up – invisibility is real! Oh yes, it is! It just hasn’t been tested on humans… yet. If you’re not too squeamish, check out the full article on what Japanese researchers have come up with over at gizmag.

Have you heard about Ford’s new concept car, the Evos?
Ford Evos - Concept Car
Now that people have realised Steve Jobs’ resignation is not going to bring on an early attack of the Apocalypse, the Evos has garnered some attention. It’s connected to the “cloud”, looks wicked and a hybrid. Intrigued? Bored? Read more at CarAdvice. Shame the Evos will never be a commercial reality.

And finally – when Social Media meets Real Life: The Like Button in the real world.

’nuff said.

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