Who are your competitors? And what do you know about them?


Who are your competitors? And what do you know about them? 

Whatever your sector, niche or marketplace, there's almost certainly going to be other competitors in that space – but do you know who they are and what threat they pose?

Are you the only provider of your specialism, or are you one of many companies that are all vying for the same customers? Knowing who those companies are, how they compare and what their competitive advantages are may be a vital piece of business intelligence for you.

So, how do you start this process of identifying your competitors and benchmarking your offering against the nearest market competitors? The answer is to do your homework...

Researching your competitors

To begin with it's worth understanding the difference between your direct competitors and those companies which are indirect competitors. Knowing who your direct and indirect competitors are isn't always easy, but defining the differences is quite straightforward:

  1. Direct competitors – these companies sit in the same market, produce the same products or services, and aim themselves at the same core customer audience as you. For example, Coca Cola and Pepsi are direct competitors in the cola market because they both want to sell cans of cola to the same customers.
  2. Indirect competitors – these companies do not sit in the same market, may make related products or services and may be aimed at a slightly different core demographic. They're not directly competing with you, but they may offer a product that appeals to your audience. For example, Evian is an indirect competitor of Coca Cola, as they offer bottled water that could be an alternative to a sugary, unhealthy cola drink.

The key point here is to not limit your thinking purely to businesses that do exactly what you do. Think wider than the products that provide the same features and benefits. For example, a motorbike manufacturer competes not just against other makers of petrol motorbikes but against makers of electric bikes, pedal bikes and small car manufacturers – all of which offer a small, handy form of personal transportation.

To understand who your competitors are:

  • Research your market to understand your customers' needs – talk to customers in your specific market, chat to the contacts in your business network and do your online research, with the aim of finding out which direct and indirect competitors are a potential threat to your business. If you've got the budget, hire a market research company to do all this for you.
  • Know your competitive advantage – once you've identified your competitors, you can then get a much better idea of your own competitive advantage; i.e. the traits that make your product or service stand out in the market, or that give your brand a more dominant edge over your competitors.
  • Track your competitors – competition doesn't stand still, so you need to keep your eye on your competitors' activity, be aware of their new product releases and know how well they're performing in the market. The more closely you track your competitors, the easier it will be for you to revisit and evolve your competitive advantage.
  • Benchmark yourself against the market – by tracking variables like price, product range, customer satisfaction or brand awareness, you can benchmark these against the available public information for your competitors. If a direct competitor has a 50% sale, think of ways to react to this threat – for example, matching the discount, or offering additional bonus items or benefits with your products to add more value to your price.
  • Learn to differentiate your brand – features and price are not the only ways to differentiate your products in the marketplace. Think about areas like your brand personality, your company values or your reputation for great customer service. These are all excellent ways to make your brand stand out and to win loyal customers.

Tracking your marketing results – why it's important

When your company is spending money on marketing activity, you want to get a good return on this investment. But, more often than not, businesses spend too little time actually analysing and scrutinising the performance of their marketing campaigns and channels.

Once you've invested in an expensive promotional campaign, you'll want to know that the money is well spent. So, setting aside some time to analyse your results and establish your return on investment is not just a 'nice to have' – it's an essential part of the marketing process.

Measuring success in your marketing

Knowing your return on investment (ROI) is vital if you want to make sure your marketing is truly delivering on its promise. It's only by analysing the performance of each marketing campaign or customer event that you can get a realistic idea of whether it was a success, or a flop.

The key problem with measuring your marketing return is that the impact of good marketing goes way beyond the purely financial impact. But, as we'll see, to gauge any specific impact on your profitability, you're going to need to start with the financial basics.

Let's look at key ways to analyse the impact of your marketing:

  • Financial return – one way to look at your ROI is sales income minus your investment (the cost of sales and marketing). Use your accounting platform to get an idea of the income (return) generated from sales of the product/service you're marketing. Then use this number to work out your marketing return with the following formula: ((Return - Investment) / Investment) x 100. For example, if you made 8k from sales of your new app, but spent 2k on marketing the app, this would work out as follows:

    ((8,000 - 2,000) / 2,000) = 300% ROI.

  • Engagement and conversion return – knowing your financial ROI is vital, but it's also important to measure the effectiveness of your marketing. In the age of digital and online marketing, this has never been easier to do. Using web analytics tools, like Google Analytics, you can measure areas such as engagement (people viewing or clicking through to your content) and conversion (people following your marketing calls-to-action). High engagement and conversion scores mean your digital marketing is being seen by the right people, and is delivering a return on your digital investment.

  • Lead generation return – if your marketing is doing its job, you should see an increase in lead generation and new enquiries. Tracking and nurturing new leads and enquiries through your client relationship management (CRM) platform allows you to follow the progress of these leads. Once set up in the right way, you also see where there's a direct correlation between your marketing and the conversion of leads into sales (and, by extension, into more revenue for the business).

  • Brand reputation return – your brand is an integral part of your marketing as a business. One desired outcome of your marketing should be to raise awareness of your brand in the marketplace, and to reinforce your brand reputation with customers. Measuring the changes in brand awareness pre and post-marketing helps you to see where your investment is having an impact. Using customer feedback and trust apps, like TrustPilot, will allow you to measure how satisfied your customers are with your service levels, products and the promises you've made in your marketing.

No marketing strategy should ever stand still. It's important to review your activity, look at the performance, measure your ROI and see where you can do better.

Find out which channels are delivering the best return, which target audiences are responding well to your campaigns, and which content is knocking it out of the park. Armed with this knowledge, you can refine, rethink and improve your marketing – ensuring that you improve your overall ROI over time.

Happy Christmas


Happy Christmas

Happy Christmas!

We wish you health, happiness, and a little more certainty in the year ahead!

After a very challenging and difficult year we hope you will have time at Christmas to take time-out.

May you have the time to connect with family and freinds, even if not in-person, to recharge and relax 
before the new (and hopefully brighter) year begins.

We are grateful for the opportunity to work with you and be a part of your continued prosperity.

Our office will be closing from 5pm on 23 December 2020 and reopening at 8.30am on 4 January 2021.


Surround yourself with champions

It's human nature to be influenced by the people in your inner circle. In fact, the odds of being successful are a lot higher if you're surrounding yourself with people who are also successful.

In a business context, consider very carefully the people and friends you associate with. Who plays a role in influencing your life? Who are your role models, mentors, and supporters?

"You're the average of the five people you spend most of your time with".

It really pays to think about who your top five are.

These people play a part in determining how you think, how you act, and ultimately how successful you will become.

As entrepreneurs, you're responsible for yourself. Being around the right people can help success come more naturally to you, instead of being around those who exhibit certain behaviours that hold you back. Keep an eye out for people who have the following traits:

1. People with an unbeatable work ethic

Perhaps this is you! People with the best work ethic will motivate and inspire you. True passion and commitment will breed a successful business.

2. Positive attitudes

If you are working with people who only see the negative or the problem, it will bring you down. It can get very tiring being around people who don't have a winning attitude.

People who are constantly pesimistic are in every business, so they can be hard to avoid, but you can balance the impact they have on you by finding positive people who look for opportunities and will take you higher.

3. Curious people

These people have an insatiable curiosity for business and life. They're the ones who are always asking 'why' or 'how' and genuinely keen to know more. These people will push you to be better thinkers, to ask better questions and ultimately to demand better results.

Take some time to think about your top five people in your life, or set up a regular catch up with people who help you and your business grow – it might be a monthly breakfast. It will be a positive experience for all members. If you're not surrounding yourself with champions, start thinking about how you could be.

Does Your Business Have a CRM Tool?



Client relationship management (CRM) tools offer a fast and effective way to manage all of this customer information. A CRM solution provides one central hub for recording all your customer data. This data could be the basics of customer name, address and contact details, notes from meetings, records of sales activity or information on the customer's marketing preferences.

Having clean, up-to-date information and data about your customers is a vital part of running your business. But recording, tracking and accessing this customer information can be tricky if you don't have the right tools to get the job done.

So, how does having a CRM tool help you do business? Let's take a look...

A centralised hub for managing your customer relationships

Without a CRM system in the business, your sales and marketing team have to rely on manual, organic processes to manage the company's customer information. It's likely that you'll be relying on multiple spreadsheets, diary reminders and scribbled notes to manage your customer and prospect relationships. And in this day and age, that's just not an efficient or productive way to keep on top of your customer data.

With a CRM system in place, you can:

Record higher-quality customer data – rather than relying on multiple sources of data, a CRM system becomes the heart of your business information. You can ditch the spreadsheets and paperwork and put all your customer contact information, customer interactions and marketing preferences into one centralised source of truth.

Build on your customer relationships – it's much easier to take good care of your existing customers when you have access to their information at the press of a button. Your CRM tool will be able to display a breadcrumb trail that shows every customer interaction, campaign task and comment. So, you can quickly look back to see which products or services they've engaged with, when you last spoke, or what their preferences may be for sales, advertising and marketing purposes.

Improve your client reporting and segmentation – a CRM tool will help you to track, measure and analyse your historical client data. And because of this, it's far easier to run client reports, or to split your entire customer base into meaningful segments. You might track your clients by location, by revenue generated, by industry, or by any meaningful demographic that helps you manage and target each separate audience segment.

Achieve more detailed targeting of prospects – by using the tracking features in your CRM tool, it's possible to enter details of every interaction with a new prospect. This means you can then track the evolution of the relationship from cold to warm prospect, making business development easier and giving greater insights into how well your sales and marketing targeting is working.

Stay in control of your task management – remembering to act on your planned business development and sales tasks can be a challenge for a busy sales team. Your crm tool can show you which tasks are outstanding, which are completed and manage the work-in-progress position of each and every customer. It can also send you automated alerts such as a reminder to follow-up after you've sent a quote.

Meet your data protection requirements – a flexible CRM tool makes it easier to keep your customer data safe and secure (unlike traditional spreadsheets). Cloud-based CRM solutions give fast access to your data, while also having high levels of encryption in place. And you can ensure you're meeting your data protection and compliance needs by managing who you contact, how they can unsubscribe from marketing activity and what information you hold on individuals and companies.

Inform your planning and long-term strategy – a CRM tool will give you access to truly granular client data, and that's invaluable when scenario-planning and coming up with new strategies. Decisions can be made based on clear historical data, and with the right forecasting tools you can also project this data forward in time to help inform your campaign activity, business development and wider company strategy.

A simple CRM tool can make your business more efficient; give you better control over sales and help you to support existing customers.

Smart and Effective Media Marketing

Social media should be an intrinsic part of your marketing campaign as it ensures you reach your target audience, however there are things you should avoid doing.  Consider the following tips improved productivity across the platforms and trigger better results.

1.     Publish on the Desk-Top version as well as your Smartphone !

While apps on our phones have made it easy to access social media, posting all your business content from your smartphone is not the wisest thing to do–unless the social media platform can only be fully utilised from a mobile device, as is the case with Instagram.

Each of the platforms offer slightly different features and functionality between their web-based and mobile app systems, and in particular, the area of security.  As an example, take Facebook:  if you browse the publishing options on your Facebook Business Page from a desktop computer, you'll see that there are more options with a greater reach that aren't always accessible on a smartphone.

Choose your platforms wisely !

Avoid being "out there" on every single social media platform.  You could waste a great amount of your time by using every single social media channel.  Certain industries tend to gravitate more toward one than the others.  Do some research, find out which ones are more active in your industry and then concentrate your energies on those.

Your exposure can expand quickly if it is strategically marketed.  To make the best use of your time and to be effective, you should put a social media strategy in place that will ensure you don't waste valuable hours of your time. When used correctly and strategically, social media has the power to generate more leads and sales for your business, but it can also be a major time-waster in subtle ways.

3.  Create connections by following people back !

While the Facebook Business Page itself doesn't allow you to follow individuals back, it's advisable to follow your clients and prospective members on Instagram if you can find their public account. Effective marketing on social media is about creating connections, so make the effort to connect with clients and prospective members by showing interest in their posts where relevant.  With the way many of the algorithms work, you will show up more in their network, making it easier for them to recommend you to their connections.

4. Don't overlook social advertising

Your followers are overcrowded with hundreds of posts on a daily basis, so you can't guarantee that they will see all your posts. Through advertising you can reach a wider audience, and potentially get more leads or sales. Consider the "pay to play" strategy at times – a smallish investment could expand your reach in a platform like Facebook, and you'll reap the rewards.

Don't let a Grinch of a scam ruin your holidays

Scammers are phoning unsuspecting taxpayers pretending to be the ATO and telling victims they have committed fraud against the tax office.  If you receive on of these types of phone calls our advice is that you should hang up immediately and ignore it. 

Receiving these types of phone calls can be quite upsetting and stressful but the less involved you get, the better.

The goal of the scammer is to build pressure and stress in the call, in an attempt to create an urgency for payments to be made or personal details released.   If you release any information they can use it to take advantage of you and in some (most) cases, exploit your personal bank accounts.

We have had both clients and staff experience these calls recently:  anyone can be a target for these types of phone calls.

We urge you to stay up to date about your own tax affairs so you will not fall victim to a scammer, but never divulge any type of information to them. Hang up immediately.

Some of the tell-tale signs that it is a scam call, and not the ATO include:

    •    threatening that you will be arrested or police are on their way to your address;

    •    the caller will not provide you with explanations or let you speak to another manager in charge;

    •    demanding you pay outstanding debts via the use of pre-paid cards, cryptocurrency or direct credit into a bank account of which they provide details for; and

    •    demanding you pay a fee to release tax refunds owed to you.

Guard your personal and financial information, and do not hand these out to anyone you do not know or trust. 

Let your accountant know about the call (scam); and report the scam to the ATO's dedicated scams line 1800 005 540.

The ATO's website lists a range of previously reported scams.  If you would like to see some examples if you would like more information click here: https://www.ato.gov.au/General/Online-services/Identity-security/Scam-alerts/

If you're striving for work-life balance, you'll never get it, argues Stewart Friedman, a noted author and adviser to global leaders who inspires "rock star adoration" among his students at Wharton.

Stewart Friedman advocates developing skills that integrate work with the rest of your life – home, community and the private self of mind, body and spirit – to emphasise overall harmony rather than trade-offs.

In an interview during his appearance at the World Business Forum in Sydney, he outlined these core skills and showed how integrating them can lead you to better performance in all parts of your life.

Work-life balance – that fraught division of time between work and family life – is the Holy Grail of the modern workplace. We're all looking for it, but so far no one has actually found it. 

The work-life balance paradigm

According to the work-life balance paradigm, there's work and then there's life – everything else. Like oil and water, the two don't mix. 

But what if work-life balance is an unattainable myth – an unhelpful binary that privileges one area of life – work – and pits it against all others – life?

Stewart D. Friedman, professor at the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania, says the digital age's obsession with elusive work-life balance stems from both "the widespread feeling of being overwhelmed by the demands of everyday life and the increased interest in doing work that has meaningful social value."

Ironically, this frantic pursuit of a full life can leave us feeling stretched thin and unfulfilled. As we try to satisfy life's competing priorities, we often find no one wins.

Friedman, who has developed his theories of work-life integration over three decades of teaching, research and practice in the field, suggests that a better way of understanding what we mean by work-life balance is to view life as the sum of four major domains: work or study, home or family, community, and the private realm of mind, body, and spirit.

Trading balance for harmony

Friedman rejects the notion that success in one part of life, whether it is work or home, requires sacrifice in others – what he calls a "trade-off mindset".

"Our research at the Wharton School and elsewhere shows that it doesn't always have to be this way," he tells INTHEBLACK. 

"Using different language to describe the relationship between work and the rest of life opens your mind to seeing and actually pursuing gains in all the different parts of life." 

Harmony should be our goal, he says, not balance. The challenge lies in finding strategies and solutions that make life better in all domains – what Friedman labels "four-way wins".

This is not "having it all" – code for an impossibly high set of standards we impose on ourselves. 

"You can't have it all – complete success in all the corners of your life, all at the same time. No one can," Friedman writes in Leading the Life You Want: Skills for Integrating Work and Life (Harvard Business Review Press, 2014).

"But even though it can seem impossible to bring these four domains into greater alignment, it doesn't have to be impossible. Conflict and stress aren't inevitable. Harmony is possible."

Skills and principles

In 1999, the CEO of Ford Motor Company recruited Friedman to create a program to help employees find better ways of integrating work with the rest of life. The result was Total Leadership, a program he subsequently developed into a course at Wharton and a book, Total Leadership: Be a Better Leader, Have a Richer Life (Harvard Business Review Press, 2008). 

Three key principles underpin Friedman's theory of Total Leadership: to be real, to be whole, and to be innovative.

"To be real is to act with authenticity by clarifying what's important to you…To be whole is to act with integrity by recognizing how the different parts of your life affect each other. All this examination allows you to be innovative," he explains in Leading the Life You Want

Success requires that you understand who and what is most important to you in the different parts of your life.

"Then you create new ideas for how to improve performance in all the different parts," he tells INTHEBLACK.  

Leading by example

Friedman's research found that to increase performance in the different parts of their lives, the most effective leaders act with authenticity, integrity and creativity.

In Leading the Life You Want, Friedman offers six case studies of high-profile people who have successfully integrated work with the rest of life by demonstrating these values. 

One example he gives is Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, who has a knack for "creating win-win solutions that meet multiple goals" – like turning the common problems faced by working mothers everywhere into an agenda-setting, bestseller book, Lean In.

But work-life integration is not restricted to the Sheryl Sandbergs of this world. According to Friedman's principles, anyone can achieve four-way wins.

Trial and error

 Like any rigorous scientific method, Friedman's theory relies on experimentation.  

His experiments are systematically planned and executed trials of minor changes to see how they affect the different areas of life. If something doesn't work, the experiment is adjusted or abandoned, and the failure notched up to experience. 

"Little is lost," Friedman writes, while wins accrue to gradually improve life as a whole. 

It's a system that is open to everyone. 

"For decades I've been coaching people at all life stages and in countries around the world and I have never met a person who could not come up with a creative idea for experimenting in what I call 'the laboratory of your life' in the pursuit of four-way wins," he says. 

"To do so is challenging, and fun."  

Do your priorities match your efforts?

Try this test. Prioritise four areas – or domains – in your life and then examine how much focus and effort you're allocating to each (see example below). Are the two lists aligned? 

 This common lack of alignment is what often leaves us with a sense of imbalance or dissatisfaction. By realigning your focus and effort with your priorities, you can start to create greater harmony in your life. 

This article was first published by INTHEBLACK.

The "Ad of the month" that has set a benchmark

Innovation is a great way of creating a point of difference. But what if you are producing a product that that is pretty standard, and perhaps not even your best customers want you to change? Why change the box it comes in!

This pizza restaurant has released this new packaging for Father's Day, which is sure to win them some new fans just from its sheer novelty. I particularly liked the way they revealed the innovation, teasing you to watch to the end.

Unfortunately it doesn't come with a deodoriser to get the pizza smell out of your bed. A new innovation opportunity perhaps? What can you do to innovate something about your product or service that will get people talking and get you noticed? 

 May Your Business this Year be - As You Plan It.


How Successful People Spend Their Weekends


Successful people know the importance of shifting gears on the weekend to relaxing and rejuvenating activities. They use their weekends to create a better week ahead. This is easier said than done, so here's some help.

The following list contains 10 things that successful people do to find balance on the weekend and to come into work at 110% on Monday morning.

 1. Wake Up at the Same Time

It's tempting to sleep in on the weekend to catch up on your sleep. Though it feels good temporarily, having an inconsistent wake-up time disturbs your circadian rhythm. Your body cycles through an elaborate series of sleep phases in order for you to wake up rested and refreshed. One of these phases involves preparing your mind to be awake and alert, which is why people often wake up just before their alarm clock goes off (the brain is trained and ready). When you sleep past your regular wake-up time on the weekend, you end up feeling groggy and tired. This isn't just disruptive to your day off work, it also makes you less productive on Monday because your brain isn't ready to wake up at your regular time. If you need to catch up on sleep, just go to bed earlier.

2. Designate Mornings as "Me" Time

It can be difficult to get time to yourself on the weekends, especially if you have family. Finding a way to engage in an activity you're passionate about first thing in the morning can pay massive dividends in happiness and cleanliness of mind. It's also a great way to perfect your circadian rhythm by forcing yourself to wake up at the same time you do on weekdays. Your mind achieves peak performance two-to-four hours after you wake up, so get up early to do something physical, and then sit down and engage in something mental while your mind is at its peak.

3. Schedule Micro-Adventures

Buy tickets to a concert or play, or get reservations for that cool new hotel that just opened downtown. Instead of running on a treadmill, plan a hike. Try something you haven't done before or perhaps something you haven't done in a long time. Studies show that anticipating something good to come is a significant part of what makes the activity pleasurable. Knowing that you have something interesting planned for Saturday will not only be fun come Saturday, but it will significantly improve your mood throughout the week.

4. Pursue Your Passion

You might be surprised what happens when you pursue something you're passionate about on weekends. Indulging your passions is a great way to escape stress and to open your mind to new ways of thinking. Things like playing music, reading, writing, painting, or even playing catch with your kids can help stimulate different modes of thought that can reap huge dividends over the coming week.

5. Disconnect

Disconnecting is the most important weekend strategy on this list, because if you can't find a way to remove yourself electronically from your work Friday evening through Monday morning, then you've never really left work.

Making yourself available to your work 24/7 exposes you to a constant barrage of stressors that prevent you from refocusing and recharging. If taking the entire weekend off handling work e-mails and calls isn't realistic, try designating specific times on Saturday and Sunday for checking e-mails and responding to voicemails. For example, check your messages on Saturday afternoon while your kids are getting a haircut and on Sunday evenings after dinner. Scheduling short blocks of time will alleviate stress without sacrificing availability

6. Minimize Chores

Chores have a funny habit of completely taking over your weekends. When this happens you lose the opportunity to relax and reflect. What's worse is that a lot of chores feel like work, and if you spend all weekend doing them, you just put in a seven-day work-week. To keep this from happening, you need to schedule your chores like you would anything else during the week, and if you don't complete them during the allotted time, you move on and finish them the following weekend.

7. Exercise

No time to exercise during the week? You have 48 hours every weekend to make it happen. Getting your body moving for as little as 10 minutes releases GABA, a soothing neurotransmitter that reduces stress. Exercise is also a great way to come up with new ideas. Innovators and other successful people know that being outdoors often sparks creativity.

Whether you're running, cycling, or gardening, exercise leads to endorphin-fueled introspection. The key is to find a physical activity that does this for you and then to make it an important part of your weekend routine.

8. Reflect

Weekly reflection is a powerful tool for improvement. Use the weekend to contemplate the larger forces that are shaping your industry, your organization, and your job. Without the distractions of Monday to Friday busy work, you should be able to see things in a whole new light. Use this insight to alter your approach to the coming week, improving the efficiency and efficacy of your work.

9. Spend Quality Time with Family

Spending quality time with your family on the weekend is essential if you want to recharge and relax. Weekdays are so hectic that the entire week can fly by with little quality family time. Don't let this bleed into your weekends. Take your kids to the park, take your spouse to his or her favorite restaurant, and go visit your parents. You'll be glad you did.

10. Prepare for the Upcoming Week

The weekend is a great time to spend a few moments planning your upcoming week. As little as 30 minutes of planning can yield significant gains in productivity and reduced stress. The week feels a lot more manageable when you go into it with a plan because all you have to do is execute it.