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The last few years have seen a new wave breaking in the marketing world. You may be aware of it under different labels, but 'inbound marketing' is an umbrella term for the change.

The bedrock of marketing was always outbound strategy: the print advertisement, the billboard, the commercial on TV or in the cinema (remember going out to the movies?). Market share used to be heavily influenced by how much you could afford to spend on advertising. So the companies most likely to succeed were those who could afford billboards and full page ads. Smaller competitors had to be a lot craftier, the quality of their products or services had to be outstanding and their appeal to niche markets was often their secret weapon. 

Today's customers are much more proactive about seeking out products and services for themselves, empowered by their confidence online. If they want a plumber or a palm tree or a book on rare birds, they're more likely to begin their search on Google before they reach for the yellow pages or walk into a shop. They don't only search online. They compare prices and features. They look at product surveys and access customer reviews.

By the time they email, pick up the phone, or complete the online form on your website, they're more than likely well informed about you, your business and what you have to offer. And they're already inclined to buy your product or use your services. They're a prospect who's generated a lead for you and they've invited you to contact them. You don't have to cold call them. You 'warm call' them. Of course, it's up to you to delight them from there.

Businesses have been quick to recognise the need to connect with the new style of customers. They're making it easy for customers to find them with inbound marketing strategies. Inbound marketing outperforms outbound strategies and is cheaper.

An eConsultancy survey from 2012 found the cost of acquiring a new lead was $346 using outbound marketing strategies, yet only $135 using inbound strategies. So, while larger companies have been quick to spot the trend, many smaller businesses are finding inbound strategies well within their reach and their budget.

The message for your online strategy is: make it easy for customers to find you. Make it enticing to stay and play. Offer takeaways with sufficient value for web-surfers to be happy to exchange their contact details for your white paper or presentation or your podcast. Create opportunities to interact with potential customers so your web presence is less of a billboard and has more potential to personalise future contact.

Meetings Matter

Meetings: scourge of the working day or a top way to make things happen? Go for the biggest outcome from the smallest window. Start with basics.

Focus

Do you want to share information or status reports, make a decision, brainstorm ideas or solve a problem? Complete this sentence 'by the end of this meeting I want us to have…'. If appropriate, circulate an agenda in advance. Ask people to think about a task or problem ahead of time so they come prepared.

Who needs to be there... really?

Meetings lose momentum when there are just too many people there. Are there some things you want everyone to know about but other business involves only a small core group? Schedule so you can deal with what involves everyone first. Then, like the man said, 'let my people go'. They'll thank you. The core group can then focus on what they need to achieve. If there are a lot of people moving at once, this is your moment to schedule coffee for those staying on.

Timing

When are all the participants most likely to be available, awake and enthused? Early mornings are good though you can lose points on the 'awake-o-meter' or because of latecomers and 'what was on TV last night'. But everyone wants to be done quickly so they can get on with the day. Mid-morning means people have made some headway on their desk, they're awake and in work harness. However, you risk burning up the most productive hours of the day if you let it drag on. Work to an 'end stop' event like lunch so there's a natural time to finish. Late afternoons are low on the 'awake and enthused-o-meter' but may still work. If you call a meeting in the last half hour of the day, you risk energy being low but you increase your chances of everyone in the room being committed to achieving outcomes in the fastest, smoothest way possible.

When scheduling, a half hour is good, an hour at most.  No matter how much business there is to go through, after an hour you've lost them. Schedule a series of smaller purpose-built appointments if you have to.

Who's leading?

A facilitator is clear on the purpose of the meeting, keeps the group on task, summarises outcomes and outlines who is accountable for them. Gain the reputation of someone who starts on time, keeps to time and ends on time. People appreciate you understand they're busy. Be firm with anyone who takes the meeting off-topic. Keep it light too - it's important to stay on task but a sense of humour keeps you on task as a team. Ask someone to note down outcomes. As chair, model good listening skills by being respectful and attentive to all participants. Make sure everyone has input and is heard. At the close of the meeting summarise what's been achieved. Ask everyone if they thought the meeting was useful and field suggestions for how it could have been more effective.

Kill the toys

Nothing is more soul destroying and unproductive than trying to drag a meeting to a result while one or more people monitor their emails and texts. Be firm but fair and thank the group for staying on task.

Agenda, minutes, action!

Agenda and minutes attract flak as hallmarks of the typical boring meeting. They don't have to be. Use an agenda to establish the purpose of the meeting. When you plan it, plan how much time to allocate to each agenda item. When you chair the meeting, it will keep you on track.

As far as possible, pare back minutes to what decisions were taken, what action is required, who's responsible and by when. Follow up after the meeting by emailing a brief summary highlighting tasks and outcomes. At the next meeting, use the minutes to check that people have done what they've said they would and, if not, detail the next best course of action.

Happy New Year! While you are rested and enjoying the sunshine, it's a great time to think about how to get the most for yourself in 2015. Do you often wonder why successful people seem to have so much spare time? Enough time to exercise, share holidays with family and yet, to still be completely relaxed and stress free? Those people probably have the balancing act right and are efficient at managing time.

Here are six things that really productive people do that could help:

1. Define your priorities

Defining these can often be tricky and it isn't always about work. Part of you wants to say that work is your priority, but stop before you answer this question. What do you find fun? Think about the kind of lifestyle you want and go from there. If you want to be a CEO, you're going to have to be willing to take the level of work commitment that goes with it. If you want to have a life filled with family, then work out what your priorities are in order to make this happen.

2. Do what you are best at

You don't do everything well, but what you do well is often more enjoyable and will take you less time. It's also more than likely that if you don't enjoy something, you may not compete it or do it to the best standard. Don't take on new challenges if they are too much for you to handle. Be efficient and use your best ski8lls and expertise to shine and get the job done on time.

3. Integrate your activities

If can be a real balancing act trying to manage work, fitness, a social life and family, so look at ways to incorporate these. Find someone at work who wants a workout buddy so you can exercise together in lunch hours. It also helps to try and develop you work life and career around your interests. You will soon find yourself amongst peers with similar interests which can in turn lead to a healthy and balances social life. Instead of feeling pulled between work and play while trying to keep everyone happy, aim for a healthy medium and let everyone come to you.

4. Stop wasting time

Social media can be an excellent business tool....but it can also be a very good time waster. Unless you are using a social media site to do something specific, put it away. Ignore gaming apps which send reminders and updates - these will only lead to distraction. You need to actually budget time for necessary activities with family and friends and don't do anything that doesn't energise and uplift you. Also use business tools that can help you increase productivity like Xero cloud accounting, Trello, Call Scheduler and more. 

5. Learn more

In spite of what you may think, learning can give you back time. By discovering new tools or ways to do things, you can become more time efficient and effective in your way of doing them. If it starts to drag on though, leave it. Nothing should take up your time, only enhance it.

6. Don't beat yourself up

Remember that you are only human, so don't get too down on yourself if you can't attend to everything on the list. Also remember to celebrate your achievements as you do them. Reward yourself for the items you do tick off the list because completions can act as a form of motivation for other tasks.

It's not easy to do all these things at once, but by gradually incorporating each too into day to day work and play, you might find that over time, stress levels will be lower and life more enjoyable.


Paying your employees correctly over the holiday season can be a bit confusing with statutory days and annual leave - who is entitled to what?

There are some great online resources to help you navigate this area. Check out the Ministry of Innovation, Business and Employment for a comprehensive overview of what you need to know.

Happy holidays!

January provisional tax and GST payments


The next provisional tax instalment and GST are both due 15 January 2014. At this time of the year clients often tell us they have a cashflow problem and find it difficult to meet both payments. Through our association with Tax Management New Zealand it is possible for you to purchase your provisional tax for 15 January and defer payment until you have sufficient cashflow. Whilst Tax Management New Zealand charges a small fee, it can be significantly less than the penalties and interest charged by the IRD if you don't make the payment at all. If you are in this situation please give us a call on (09) 576 4166 as there are ways we can help.

Timely tax reminders

While we are all busy in the lead up to Christmas, don't forget these important tax dates in the New Year:

7 Jan

Terminal Tax

Taxpayers (where we prepare tax returns) on a December balance date

FBT

Close companies paying FBT on an income year basis (where we prepare tax returns) with a December balance date

15 Jan

Provisional tax

Standard provisional taxpayers on March, November and July balance dates

GST ratio method taxpayers on January, March, May, July, September, and November balance dates

6 monthly GST taxpayers on May and November balance dates

GST return and payment for period ended 30 November

Taxpayers filing GST on a monthly basis AND taxpayers (with March, May, July, September, November and January balance dates) filing on a 2 monthly basis

20 Jan

FBT

Third quarter return (for the three month period ended December)

28 Jan

Provisional tax

GST ratio method taxpayers on February, April, June, August, October, and December balance dates

6 monthly GST taxpayers on June and December balance dates

GST return and payment for period ended 31 December

Taxpayers filing GST on a monthly basis AND taxpayers (with February, April, June, August, October and December balance dates) filing on a two monthly basis

9 Feb
(7th falls on a weekend)

Terminal Tax

Taxpayers (where we prepare tax returns) with a January balance date

FBT

Close companies paying FBT on an income year basis (where we prepare tax returns) with a January balance date.

Terminal Student Loan Repayment

For those (where we prepare tax returns) with a January balance date

Note: these dates apply to those clients for whom we prepare tax returns. Different dates will apply for those clients for whom we don't prepare returns.

If you have any questions about these dates, please contact us for assistance.

Naming your business wisely

As a business owner, especially if your business is a new one, you will be eager and excited at the opportunities for growth, growth, growth – of course, everybody dreams of that. But before trying to decipher the pathways to success for your business, you need to first ask: who are you?

Your business' identity may actually rely on its very own best assets – good food, quality service, affordability for example – and all the positive adjectives found in the English language. But does the public really know you? Or worse, do they even remember who you are?

That's where a suitable business name becomes critical.

A good advertisement with a beautiful commercial model on the side may attract potential customers, but the name you give to your business will imply trust or distrust from your target market. A business logo may be changed from time to time to give the public a "fresh" perspective of you, but a business name usually remains for a very long time. So it is worth it to think about it carefully, just like a parent spending time thinking of a name before their baby is born.

Are there any rules in crafting a business name? Practically speaking there are none but you should be very careful.

Some people, like some parents naming their children, get the names of their businesses by combining their own names. This could be appropriate especially if your name carries a good reputation, but be cautious – it may in still wrong ideas in your customers on what your business is all about. If you establish a restaurant and you and your business partner's surnames are Rusty and Spoon, and you decide to combine them, the public might be scared to get tetanus and avoid coming in! Lost sales – and that hurts. Or if your surnames start with the letters S, C, A, and M, and you plan to combine them to name your insurance company… ah! Don't even consider it. Or if your surname is Schuzinderbalwoek and you plan to use it for a convenience store – don't. It will not be very convenient for the customer.

Another pitfall for some business owners is the idea of copying existing entities' names to ride on their popularity and sound catchy. Again don't. You might be selling cameras and name your business Koduck (with a matching duck logo carrying a DSLR camera). Or sell soft drinks and name your business Poke. Or establish a convenience store and name it Haven Eleven. Or… or… or… Please, just don't do it. Many business owners have already tried, and most times all it brings them is a bad reputation with a court summons as a bonus.

You do need to be creative – but not so much that the name sounds ridiculous or Harry Potter-y. It is better if your business name reflects what you really offer your customers. But don't make it so long to be worth forgetting. Don't rush, don't copy, don't overdo. Give your business a character through your business name. Make sure that it accurately describes what you do and/or what you want to become. Always remember that your name will imply trust or distrust from your target market so make sure it is worth remembering and strong enough to get the public stepping through your business' doors.

Make that holiday happen

If you are a business owner, you'll know that the more stressed out you are, the more you need a holiday and the less easy it is to make the time! With the holiday season fast approaching here are a few tips to help you plan a holiday and make the most of it:

1. Put systems in place - If you write down your procedures and practices and ensure your team are following them, you can lie on the beach without worrying. The earlier you put systems in place within your business, the earlier you will reap the benefits.

2. Plan - Use your most productive time of day to plan your holiday. Don't try and do it once you get home, after the kids are in bed. Put aside 30 minutes each working day to really plan your holiday and book airfares and accommodation. You'll have less risk of booking incorrect dates and time and your holiday will be more cohesive.

3. Rethink how you use your time - If you spend your day rushing from A to B, book a holiday that involves lying in one place. If you spend your work week on a wheelie chair in front of a monitor, go somewhere with plenty of places to walk and explore. Make sure your holiday is a real break from reality - not just the same behaviours moved to a different location.

4. Shut off - Leave your mobile and laptop behind and don't check your emails. If you are away from the office, you are out of contact. If it's an emergency, your team can call the hotel, but do not give any way to contact you directly.

5. Take a mini-break - If you really can't get away for a week or two, take a long weekend, unplug and relax. Explore your nearest large city and visit the theatre or get your blood pumping with a live sports game. If you are in the city, find your closest rural retreat, have a massage then get your gumboots on and step out into that invigorating fresh air.

Your business plan - getting started

In our last post we talked about the power of the business plan and committing it to paper. This week we'll share a few quick pointers to help you get started with your planning:

1. Start thinking - you need to try and set time aside for this frequently. Thinking is your job in the business!

2. Get the team together - you don't have all the ideas but you can bring all the ideas to the table.

3. Brainstorm ideas - anything goes, then work through the list and pinpoint the most important ones to focus on.

4. Follow a business planning guide to make sure you cover all the relevant points - you can ask us about this or locate a comprehensive, practical book on the subject.

5. Set goals - you need to keep striving ahead and you need something by which to monitor business performance. If you don't reach your goals, find out why and get the business back on course.

6. Start writing - by committing your plans and goals to paper, you have set the course ahead. It's harder to deviate from a written plan than if the thoughts are a jumble in your head.

7. Make an action plan - give people tasks to have completed by an agreed time.

8. Review monthly, or regularly enough to monitor any deviations from the proposed course. It's fine if you choose to change tack later on but keep charting the course ahead and identify goals to work towards.

Please contact us if you would like help with any aspect of your business planning.

Some business owners have planned such a clear path for the future, they wonder why others are so hung up about writing a business plan.

After all they have it all in their head – their vision, objectives and goals – so isn't that enough?

The short answer is NO, it isn't enough. Even if you're so busy with your work, rigidly following that path for the future, you've still got to write a business plan.

In fact writing the business plan is one of the first things you need to do – before you set-up in business.

So, why is it so important? Let's look at some important reasons.

Good Thinking
One of the essential ingredients that goes into the planning process is good, critical thinking. Before you write anything you've got to think through what you intend to do in your business and how you intend to do it. If you're just sitting down to write your plan after several years in business, you need to think about what you are doing currently and what you intend to do.

We can help provide a list of all the things you need to cover in your business plan, or you can find helpful books in the library. For example, you'll need to include information on industry and market analysis, customers, environmental factors, financials, competition, marketing, advertising, as well as plans for sales, distribution and staff development. And that's just the short list.
 
Writing a business plan is a big task, but because the plan encompasses everything about your business operations, it's a vital document. Operate without one and you may start taking some wrong turns along your pathway.

On the other hand, by committing all this thinking to paper you are setting a well-mapped course for the future of your business.

Monitor the Deviations
Once you have your plan in place you now have a tool to help you compare current performance against what you wrote in the plan.

Follow-up is important with your business plan. You haven't written it just to throw it into the filing cabinet and forget about it. You do need to check in with your business plan regularly, maybe monthly, to make sure your business is still on course to reach your planned goals.

Securing a Loan
Banks and financiers love business plans. If you apply for financial support they will want to know you have a business plan and are operating to it.

A plan shows them you are serious about your business. It also states that you have planned your future direction and how this will be achieved, and, importantly, that you know how the loan is going to be repaid.

A properly-prepared loan application with supporting documentation is likely to be much more successful than a verbal or badly-prepared one.

Involve the Team
Several heads are better than one when writing, or updating, your business plan. You might be leading your organisation and have a vision about where it's going, but your employees probably have a wealth of great ideas. Don't overlook them. Your job is to bring the ideas to the table and give people an opportunity to discuss them.

Involving the team can often result in more effective implementation as they own the ideas and are more willing to implement the plan. The teamwork approach can also spark a lift in morale.

As well, the business planning process focuses the team on big issues, such as looking at future developments for the company or enhancing services to customers. By reviewing the "big picture", you are making decisions based on analysis of the business in its entirety, rather than a piece-meal approach of decision-making forced by crises. 

"…there are oodles of studies showing that businesses that write business plans have a much better chance of being lean, mean and successful, generating higher sales, more profit and better growth." Small Business For Dummies. Veechi Curtis

For more information and assistance with your business planning contact us today.

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