Archive for the ‘Planning’ Category

Six ways to identify online opportunities for your small business

The world in your hands
Are you taking advantage of the online opportunities for your business?

With Christmas just around the corner and the New Year nearly upon us, why not review your business strategy. What are the online opportunity areas for your business exactly?

Today, your small business can probably address a much larger market online than offline. And this usually means access to potential customers who may never have had the opportunity to buy your product or service before.

Work through these six areas and see how many opportunities are open to you.

1. Sell online

Are your products or services available for sale online in Australia? If not, should they be? Researching search traffic can be a good way to identify what kind of demand there might be for your products, and of course you can research your online competitors relatively easily.

Ok, so you think there is demand, but you’re concerned about the startup costs? Well, you’ve got some low-cost low risk options. You can start selling online using eBay, use a hosted online store and just pay a commission when you sell, right through to setting up your own eCommerce site. Even the last option – which used to be very expensive – is within reach of most small businesses. So if you think the demand is there, what are the real barriers to getting started?

2. Market online

If they are being sold online, are your products or services being effectively marketed online? Can new niche audiences find you?

You don’t have to actually sell online to benefit from long tail opportunities. If you can’t sell your products online, are there opportunities to market online – perhaps to find latent demand in niche export markets?

3. Existing products, new niches

Are there profitable niche markets for your existing products and services you are not addressing?

Would expanding your addressable market for your existing products find new, profitable niches? Imagine running a gift store in a country town. Now move that to the busiest shopping precinct in the country. All of a sudden you can stock a much wider range of goods, because there are more customers and more diverse interests. The same thing happens online – all of a sudden, there are lots more consumers out there, so items that were too niche to think about before might now be in demand. Think of it as latent demand, just waiting for you to address it.

4. Services for niches

Services on the web are still in their infancy. If you are a service provider, can you offer online services to niches that have not been well serviced? In Australia? Overseas? Like products, some niche services may also be in demand once the larger addressable market online comes into play.

Can’t offer your service online? What would you need to modify so you can offer your service over the Internet? How could you specialise and just deliver a part of your service online?

What latent demand exists in niches for existing or new online services? In Australia? Overseas?

5. Knowledge products

Can you convert aspects of your products, services or knowledge base into a niche knowledge product where there is latent demand? Could you make this knowledge available online through training products or e-books?

Or can you use your knowledge to educate others and interest them in your mainstream products?

6. Less generic, more specific

Looking at your existing products or services, how could you make them less generic and more specific so they become relevant for niche markets where latent demand exists?


I hope this gives you plenty to work with, and helps to inspire your business planning for next year. I’ve written an article that goes into a lot more depth about latent demand – what has caused it, and how it can be addressed. If you’re interested, drop me a line at and I’ll shoot you a copy – would appreciate your comments.

Marketing is easy …

… or is it?

Looking from the outside in, it seems easy. All you have to do is make your product or service look appealing, advertise in the right places and there you have it.

At least, so I thought a few months ago. But I have to admit to being wrong.

Marketing is hard.

Take online marketing – something I’ve been trying to get my head around over the past few weeks.

My expertise lies in producing effective content and publishing, or getting it published. This works fine when I’m talking to editors, journalists, and face to face with potential clients.

Our website is starting to look pretty sharp and our blog’s going pretty well, attracting links and comments.

Site visitors and blog subscribers are on the up.

But it ain’t that simple. Window-shoppers are one thing – converted customers come much harder.

Taking those window-shoppers by the hand, drawing them through your site on a journey of discovery and convincing them to click that order button – now that’s the art of online marketing.

Then there’s SEO and a whole world of analytics to help you optimise these opportunities – that’s the science of online marketing.

From there you might move into pay-per-click advertising, managing databases and auto-response emailing (we use, e-newsletters, reciprocal linking, online referral programs, creating and distributing effective offers.

Then you remember that there’s a real world out there too – working with the media remains important, as do opportunities for networking, joint marketing initiatives, giving presentations.

You can do it all yourself. Here’s one lady who is – and this is one of many blogs that can help you do it.

But if you’re exhausted by just reading this, don’t be too proud to ask for help.

A good story isn’t enough – it’s how you tell it.

Time to blog!

ClockWhile surfing my Google Alerts and newsreader, looking for new small business content, I came across two useful new business blogs: Small Business Blogging Scout by self-made blogging ‘infopreneur’ Hendry Lee, and The Zone Read, which I like as much for the design as the content.

They both blog pragmatically about business blogging, and include posts on the challenge of finding time to blog – which is probably what attracted me to them, having realised my last post for Small Business Inspiration was 12 days ago.

This isn’t for lack of inspiration, but lack of time. Yet how many other things do I manage to fit into my day, combining our small business with studying and bringing up children? It’s not as if I’m not used to juggling lots of small tasks.

I suspect one of the reasons many small business operators place blogging low on their priority list is because we still view this form of communication as a hobby rather than a business strategy – a personal indulgence instead of a marketing tool.

But scanning the web over the past few days has revealed several examples of the continuing exponential rise in awareness of the benefits blogging for small businesses – not just here in Australia, but most notably in India and the US.

No small business serious about growth can afford to place blogging at the bottom of its ‘to do’ list any longer, much less ignore it altogether.

Hendry Lee’s blog includes a list of Business Blogging Myths that are a useful reference for those who are still in doubt about the blogging commitment. And his post, What to Blog on Slow Days, is handy to keep nearby when blog-fade hits.

So get out your diary, find a half-hour slot and write down ‘Time to Blog’!

Dream .. plan .. act .. celebrate


Don’t you love it when you encounter a new idea that is *so* good that it stays with you for years! Some years ago Adrian Glamorgan ran a workshop for me on project planning, and outlined a model that is just brilliant for looking at your business:

Dream – Plan – Act – Celebrate

Have a think about your own business, and consider how effective you are being in each of these four areas.

Dream. What are your dreams and goals? How are you going to go about achieving them (your strategies)? Have you written them down? Have you revisited them recently? Getting this dimension activated helps make sure when you are succeeding, you are succeeding at the right things.

Plan. Now that you have clear strategies, have you planned how are you going to implement them? And do you have this plan written down? Breaking down your goals into a plan with simple, achievable steps is a great way to make them happen. Setting deadlines and milestones means you can track your progress. And planning doesn’t have to be long winded – a good plan is simple and clear.

Act. When you act on your goals through a well defined plan, you are helping your business be effective. You must act to achieve success … plans and goals on their own aren’t enough.

Celebrate. Taking time out to recognise achievements and celebrate success is hard to do when you are the thick of it all. But without it, we miss out on a lot of the fun. Celebrating success means taking time to notice it first.

The model is all about balance across the four dimensions. Its not enough to dream up a grand strategy if you never plan and do it. Its not enough to dream an idea and then ‘just do it’, without taking time out to plan. And why work and succeed if you aren’t going to celebrate your successes?

Your strengths are the easy area, but its not enough to be the world’s best planner … if you don’t have a good strategy. Its no good working hard and doing a lot … if you haven’t got a plan. And if all you plan on doing is celebrating without taking time to put in the effort, you may not have a lot to celebrate.

Use this model to look at the balance of your overall business. Are you active in each of these four areas? If not, why not pay attention to the area you are neglecting most.

Dream .. plan … act .. celebrate.