The four reasons this is a magical time for entrepreneurs: Matt Barrie

3:15AM | Wednesday, 25 March

We are living in a “magical time” for entrepreneurs according to Matt Barrie, founder of, and SmartCompany advisory board member.   Speaking at yesterday’s Creative Innovation Conference in Melbourne, Barrie said we are living in a period of “unprecedented growth” powered by the internet. He outlined four global macro trends that he says have led to “a remarkable period of disruption”. 1.  Software is eating the world   Marc Andreessen, co-founder of Netscape, famously said software is eating the world. “Every business is waking up to realise it’s a software business,” Barrie said.   He says the world’s biggest book company, Amazon, is a software company, the world’s biggest video service, Netflix, is a software company.   2.  Most of the world’s population are yet to use the internet   Barrie says there are tremendous opportunities for growth as more and more of the world’s population gets online.   “There are 4 billion people not yet online,” Barrie said. “There as twice as many people on the internet in China as the entire population of the United States.”   Facebook and Google are working hard to enable more and more people to access the internet while simultaneously, Barrie says, every industry is now being digitised.   For digital businesses like Freelancer, this means increasing numbers of clients. “We are in the early stages of replicating a country in software,” he said. “We have a population the size of Belgium”.   3.  Distribution is unprecedented   Technology adoption speed is increasing as distribution gets faster and faster, according to Barrie.   Facebook went from zero to a billion users in eight years, the Apple iPhone got to 40 million units in two years, and the iPad ramped even faster.   “Consumers are adopting faster and faster but distribution is also occurring faster and faster,” Barrie said.   Technology enables “distribution fire hoses” to reach the potential clients more and more quickly.   4.  Stuff is free, stuff is cheap   Barrie says it’s cheaper than ever to build a business.   “The great thing about this is everything you need to build a business is free …  if it’s not free it’s virtually free,” Barrie said.   He cites tools such as Google docs, MailChimp and Canva as all providing free or close-to-free business services.   “You can start a business off the back of a credit card,” Barrie said.   For example, RetailMeNot was built with $30 in one weekend, bootstrapped to $30 million in revenue and then sold to WhaleShark for $90 million five years later. Now, RetailMeNot is listed in the United States and has a market capitalisation of several billion dollars. The original founders were clever enough to retain shares.   All these factors mean that businesses can succeed at a quicker pace than ever before, Barrie says.   “It took Apple eight years to reach $1 billion in revenue, Google five years, companies are doing this faster and faster,” he says.         This article originally appeared at SmartCompany.

Easy ways to measure your marketing ROI

11:31AM | Wednesday, 12 November

There are two critical questions you need to ask when embarking on a new marketing campaign: 1. What results are you expecting from marketing? 2. How will you measure marketing effectiveness?   When we’re going through this process with clients at Marketing Angels, we then break question one down into fundamentals:   What’s the total number of sales you need? What value do they need to be? To achieve that many sales based on your conversion rate, how many leads do you need to generate?   We then work out how marketing is measured and if we need to implement new measurement tools and reporting processes.   So often these two aspects of marketing have not been thought through previously or implemented in the businesses we work with.   There are some easy ways to measure your return on investment on marketing and subsequently enhance your marketing effectiveness. Tracking leads and sales   Leads and sales are usually in the short term what most businesses owners and marketers are measuring their marketing effectiveness on. These tools provide important data to help maximise ROI on any marketing campaigns.   Google Analytics   Implementing Google Analytics on your site is a must and then subsequently analysing your reports at least monthly. Makes sure your Google Analytics account is set up to measure not just where your traffic is coming from but also measuring which tracking converts through setting up goals and conversion tracking.   Google call tracking   Google has just made website call conversions available to Australian AdWords customers. So if you are buying pay per click advertising through Google, you can now identify and measure calls to your business up to 90 days after a visitor has clicked on a Google ad and arrived at your website.   Other call tracking and call recording services   If you are not using Google AdWords it is still possible to implement call tracking by acquiring unique phone numbers to be used on different marketing activity. You can also implement call recording so that you can judge how calls are handled and the quality of leads. The subsequent data that results can help you optimise your marketing activity, and also your conversion rates through better call handling. Many IP telephony systems have these functions built in or you can work with specific call tracking service companies.   Unique URLs   Use unique URLs wherever possible. Unique URLs work best as a specific call to action on online ads. If using them to measure offline activity (e.g. print, TV, radio or outdoor) advertising, you might be better off creating a micro-site relating to your specific campaign or promotion e.g. – so that it’s easy for any punters responding to your ad to remember. Engagement and awareness   Before you can create a sale or generate a lead, you need prospects to be aware of you and increasingly engaging with your brand in other ways. Brand awareness and engagement are important indicators of marketing effectiveness that leads to sales in both the short and the long term.   Email marketing measurement   Measure number of opens, reads, forwards or social shares to your email marketing. If you don’t use an email marketing platform that allows you to measure this activity then it’s important you review your email marketing platform. Personally I’m a big fan of MailChimp predominantly because of their excellent measurement tools.   Social media following   If you are using social media then you should also be measuring your follower growth. A growing following means growing brand awareness.   Stats available on age, sex, location and seniority of followers will show you who your brand is resonating most strongly with and subsequently help you create offers and content to suit or target your any ads to attract the followers you want.   Social media clicks, shares and comments   Tracking engagement with your content to help you devise content that is likely to grow your brand through social shares and interaction is critical.  Content is expensive and time consuming to create so you want to make sure it is working for you. Social media tools like Hootsuite and others can help you combine your engagement scores into a useful dashboard. The final piece of the puzzle   Often businesses have many of these measurement tools in place but no one is responsible for presenting the results in a meaningful way, suggesting changes to marketing and then enacting those changes.   Make sure you have someone internal or external who “owns” marketing and is accountable for results and you’ll have a marketing model that works and delivers real return for your investment.   Since starting her outsourced national marketing consultancy Marketing Angels in 2000, Michelle Gamble has helped hundreds of SMEs get smarter marketing. Michelle helps businesses find more effective ways to grow their brands and businesses.   This article was originally published on SmartCompany.

Our top news stories for 2013

12:04AM | Monday, 23 December

There was plenty of news and activity affecting Australia’s start-ups over the past 12 months, as the sector absorbed political strife in the Labor Party, an election that saw the return of the Coalition and attempts by Apple to trademark “startup”.   It was also an interesting year for work trends, with the rise of online outsourcing and the expansion of co-working spaces around the country.   As dull as it might sound, tax policy was also on the radar of readers, especially consultation around potential changes to employee share schemes, which could have a significant impact on the way start-ups can remunerate early staff and attract the best talent.   All of which points to a busy 2014.   Politics   The election voters had long been waiting for to toss the Labor Party out of office finally arrived on September 7. There was plenty of interest in what the major parties would offer the start-up sector and small business. But ultimately, it was what the Coalition was offering that won over voters, although for start-ups, the impact was initially unclear.   But before the election, readers were also entranced by the internal warring in the Labor Party, with the attempt to topple Julia Gillard that never was in March before Kevin Rudd finally secured the numbers to return as prime minister – albeit for a short time to “save the furniture” and soften the electoral drubbing the party suffered.   Policy   Employee share schemes and how the rules around them might be changed to support start-ups was a major issue that generated plenty of discussion during the year. That discussion is likely to continue into 2014 as the Coalition government, which in opposition had said it would consider making changes, awaits the results of a consultation process.   Debate over the $1000 threshold on when the GST should apply on goods bought online from overseas retailers also arose, as Australians continued to embrace internet shopping. Questions have been raised whether lowering the threshold would do anything to influence the behaviour of shoppers.   Australia’s fiscal position changed throughout the year, with promises that the budget would return to surplus giving way to huge deficits. What this year’s budget meant for new and small businesses drew readers’ attention, but with the change in government and the warnings of budget cuts to come, it’s unclear how the small business sector will fare in the coming years.   How we work   Freelancing, outsourcing, job matching and share work spaces all featured prominently throughout the year, reflecting the changing nature of work.   Websites connecting freelancers to jobs around the world became more prominent, especially with the successful sharemarket listing of Australian-based   As their popularity rises, the need to stand out from the crowd also becomes more important, making ‘tips’ stories on how to do just that popular.   Sharing workspaces with others away from home or out of a corporate office environment also became popular, with like-minded people coming together to work and share ideas.   Other top stories:   Apple – Apple’s application to IP Australia to trademark “startup” sparked a storm of angry comments on StartupSmart. The application has had an adverse finding against it but the case could return after Apple was allowed to defer acceptance of the report.   Investment funding – Artesian Ventures announced a $100 million fund to invest in other investment funds with the aim of investing in 1000 start-ups.   MailChimp blocked – Numerous businesses use MailChimp to deliver material to the email inboxes of their subscribers. So there was plenty of concern when it emerged the service was having problems delivering to certain domain names. The issue has since been rectified.   Sumo loss – Australian entrepreneur James Miller, who co-founded food franchise Sumo Salad before turning his attention to the re-launch of old Sydney pubs, died of a suspected accidental drug overdose.

Australian businesses in jeopardy as major ISP provider blocks MailChimp newsletter service

8:44PM | Sunday, 25 August

Businesses relying on MailChimp to deliver their marketing and sales emails are caught up in a battle between online service providers that could mean their emails are only reaching a fraction of their intended audience.   In an email to StartupSmart’s publisher Private Media, MailChimp confirmed it had been experiencing domain name server issues with .au based domains.   “After investigation, we are aware that TTP Wholesale, one of Australia's service providers, does have some sort of block in place against our DNS servers,” the email says.   “Since this block was discovered, we have been proactively working with this provider specifically to get our DNS IPs unblocked, and trying to provide as much assistance to them to demonstrate how these blocks are in turn affecting their customers.”   MailChimp says they are already working with the company involved, adding the best thing Australian users can do is reach out to their hosting company to explain how the blocks are affecting their businesses.   TTP Wholesale is owned by Net Registry. Net Registry chief executive Larry Bloch told StartupSmart that the issue could only be solved by MailChimp, as MailChimp has been added to CASA CBL, an independently maintained “real time black lists” (RTBL) based in China.   Bloch says Net Registry’s ISPs won’t deliver mail from servers listed on RTBLs.   The servers on the RTBLs are those which have sent emails that have been marked by users as spam.   “What we do, as mail providers do around the world, we just respect those lists. If someone gets listed, we refuse to receive emails from that service provider. MailChimp sends out a lot of emails, but will occasionally, knowingly or unknowingly, have users who are sending spam through their system.”   Bloch says they are unable to ignore these lists, as they are a key part of a community approach to beating spam that has been very effective.   “We support hundreds and thousands of mail users on our systems. We have an anti-spam regime in place to protect our users, and one of the key planks is independently maintained lists of blacklisted mail senders,” Bloch says, adding MailChimp would be able to fix this issue, as it’s one it must face often with many users.   “When that happens, it filters through global networks. So the problem is ultimately one for MailChimp, they must have this all the time,” Bloch says.   Fi Bendall, director of digital strategy and marketing agency Bendalls Group, described the MailChimp blocks as a nightmare for small businesses.   “I don’t want to overstate it, but this is really a bit of a mini-crisis,” Bendall says. “MailChimp is hugely popular, everyone is using it now.”   Bendall says the ISP companies involved and MailChimp need to stop passing the buck and solve the problem as quickly as possible.   “This is a real problem. If your newsletter gets stuffed up, you’ll probably need to find another solution quickly,” Bendall says, adding many small business owners would struggle to learn a new system.   UPDATE: MailChimp told StartupSmart via Twitter that this issue has been resolved. They’ve also posted a comment below. For an update on this story, click here.

How to market like MailChimp and really get to know your clients to boost sales

7:46AM | Wednesday, 24 July

Small business staple service MailChimp, a newsletter-sending service, has published a blog detailing their quest to personalise their users so they can serve (and market to) them better.   In the post, they detail their five-step approach to developing their “user persona research”, and some of the outcomes.   This included first asking their stakeholders about who they thought MailChimp’s customers were, and modelling their ideal customer based on the three words they kept hearing: Smart, self-reliant and techie.   They then grouped their customers into industries, contacted people from the main industries and interviewed them, analysed their findings and presented it back to the MailChimp team, creating posters of their key client types.   Small business consultant and mentor Nikki White says this process can be useful for all business owners.   “You can’t do any successful marketing if you don’t know who you’re talking to and how they talk,” White says.   White advises business owners to start off by imagining their target client and jotting down what they do, what they read, what they eat and drink, what social media platforms they use, who they’re following on Twitter, and what kind of industries they would work in.   She says the make-or-break marketing questions come next.   “Ask yourself, what does that person feel before they come to me? You need to know what their pain is and identify with that. Dig down on that quite deeply so you can get to the bottom of it,” White says. “Then you ask yourself how you want these customers to feel after they’ve bought your product or service?”   White says this final feeling is what you sell your product with, but you need to know the customer’s pain too.   “In your marketing, you dip them into the pain and show them how they’ll feel once they’re your customer. The impact you’ll have is the thing you need to communicate in your marketing,” White says.   Similar to the MailChimp strategy, White says business owners need to go beyond just their understanding and ask clients what they want and think about a product or service.   “If you have clients already, good trusted ones, ask them for feedback on what do you do well, what do you like about the service,” White says.   “You can do this through SurveyMonkey (a free online survey software) or do it over coffee. But when you give people the chance to do it anonymously, you’ll probably find they give you more honest feedback.”   White says creating customer avatars or posters with keywords around them like MailChimp did is a great way to stay focused. She adds business owners should remember their clients, but also tap into their own feelings.   “Small business owners usually have products they know the pain for because we’ve been through it and we’re excited about our business because it fixes it. You’ve been your client,” White says.   “We can be so desperate to get new clients, we forget to listen to our clients. But if we worked out what they really want, and we can meet that, they’d be all over us because we get it.”

Are you sending email marketing or spam? A quick guide to the Spam Act

7:50AM | Tuesday, 23 July

Earlier this year, the team at LegalVision gave us some helpful tips on the legal basics of starting a new business. Over the coming weeks, we’ll look at legal matters that can arise for a new business once it’s up and running. Here, Lachlan McKnight, chief executive of LegalVision, asks if your email marketing could cross the spam line.   Are you a spammer? You may not think you are, but many businesses do engage in activities that breach the Spam Act 2003.   Most start-ups employ a marketing strategy which involves sending out weekly newsletters, advertising special offers over emails and attempting to convert visitors or potential leads into paying customers via email. Email marketing is a totally legitimate (and cost effective!) way of driving traffic and increasing revenues, but it’s also fair to say that this marketing channel is often abused.   This article provides a checklist for businesses engaged in email marketing. Read it to make sure you’re not in breach of the law.   Does the Spam Act cover any email I send?   In short, no. The Spam Act only covers ‘commercial’ electronic messages which:   advertise or promote investment opportunities or the supplier of investment opportunities;   advertise or promote the supply of goods or services or the supplier of goods or services; or   assists a person to obtain property or commercial advantages in a dishonest manner.   It’s also important to note that it only covers emails sent from or to an email address with is accessed in Australia.   Finally, don’t imagine that sending individualised emails necessarily means you’re not breaching the Spam Act. Any email sent from a database is a type of communication covered by the act.   How do I make sure I’m not in breach?   There are three prerequisites to ensure the emails you are sending out to potential leads are not in breach of the Spam Act:   ensure you have the addressee’s consent   provide an appropriate unsubscribe function   ensure you clearly identify your business as the sender of the email   Consent   In short, you need to make sure anyone you’re addressing an email to has consented to receiving it. This consent can be inferred through the recipient’s conduct or be expressly provided.   Lots of start-ups send out weekly newsletters to customers, updating them on the latest deals and products on offer. Arguably, your customers haven’t consented to receive these sorts of emails, which could be deemed spam.   In order to avoid this issue, it’s a good idea to advise all visitors and customers to your website that by providing you with their email address they are consenting to receive marketing emails. You can do this in your website terms and conditions.   Unsubscribe function   It’s important that you include an unsubscribe function in any marketing email you send out. Most email marketing solution providers, such as Mailchimp and Campaign Monitor, automatically include such a function.   In brief, the unsubscribe function needs to be (i) clearly worded, (ii) keep working for a minimum of 30 days, (iii) allow a reply to the sender, (iv) low or no cost.   Identification   Finally, you’ve got to make sure that the sender of the email (you!) is correctly identified. If you’re sending emails on behalf of a company you’ve got to make sure that the company’s details are provided.   Exceptions to the rules   There are a number of exceptions to the above-mentioned rules, but they probably don’t apply to you as a start-up or SME. Charities, government bodies, political parties and certain other organisations can avoid certain obligations under the Spam Act.   To conclude   It’s quite possible you could be in breach of the Spam Act. Make sure your website Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy authorise you to market to anyone giving you their email address, and most importantly, don’t send your emails to people who haven’t asked for them!

How to profile your typical customer

3:18AM | Wednesday, 20 March

Bigcommerce was created after the two founders met in an online chat room. Four years on, the Aussie eCommerce start-up has secured $35 million in venture capital funding, built offices in Sydney and Texas and attracted 30,000 customers. Here, co-founder Eddie Machaalani passes on his top tips on customer profiling.   Most marketing plans fail because they don’t focus on anyone and try to attract everyone. As a result, companies are selling products that customers don't want.   Sadly, most customers aren't at the centre of the feedback loop. Sadder still, most customers will tell you what they want if you just ask.   In the first instalment of this series my colleague and co-CEO Mitchell Harper presented a seven-step marketing plan that can almost certainly double your sales in 12 months and get you on your way to seven figures in revenue.   Those steps were:   Create your typical customer profile Position your products to appeal to your ideal customer Spread the word to people who fit your typical customer profile Wow them immediately after buying Follow up with lots of free, useful stuff Ask for a (video) testimonial Repeat steps 3-6 infinitely   The first step of the plan: Create your typical customer profile   Obviously, this works best when you already have a few dozen customers, because you’ll be surveying your existing client base (no matter how small) to understand future buyers better.   Understand that this doesn’t have to be a costly process. There are free tools such as Google Docs and MailChimp that let you create a survey and mass email it easily and affordably.   Let’s say you sell customised sports apparel. Get into the heads of your customers with a survey that gives you information to help build a typical profile of someone who is likely to buy from you.   Useful information includes:   Sex Age range Salary Marital status Job Hobbies How did they find you? Why did they buy from you? What problem did your product help them solve? Would they recommend you to a friend?   And so on. The results of this survey will let you literally write a profile of your typical customer. I mean really write it out. For example:   “John is 29 years old, has brown hair, green eyes, weighs 197 pounds and is 5 foot 11 inches tall. He lives in Melbourne with his wife and works in an office all day. He loves to watch the game with his buddies on weekends and found our website via a referral from a friend at work.”   “He bought from us because of our large selection of products, has recommended us to at least one friend and was happy with his purchase so would buy from us again. He also loves video games, playing poker and has a high school education.”   That makes your next step easier: Position your products to appeal to your typical customer   Put yourself in John's shoes. Ask yourself, "If I were John, what would grab my attention and make me either sign up for information or buy something, instead of closing my web browser?"   Some ideas:   An email newsletter about his favourite AFL team with little-known facts about players. A free shipping coupon that he can use on his first order. Photos or videos of other customers (who look and sound like John) wearing your product.   Remember, your goal is to become relatable to John. Anything and everything you write or display on your website, in your emails — any communication — must feel like it's speaking directly to him.   You’re building a personal rapport with John (even though he’s a profile of a typical customer). That’s crucial, because people buy from people they know, like or respect.   Next time, we look at how to spread the word to people who fit your customer profile with some proven guerrilla marketing tactics.

Gold Coast start-up develops an app for all the stats that matter

12:54AM | Monday, 17 December

Dan Norris was inspired to set up Informly whilst working in his previous company, a website design agency.

The relationship is in your list

11:16AM | Thursday, 15 November

If you’ve been in online marketing for a while you may have heard the expression “the money’s in your list.”

10 top web tools for mumpreneurs

11:22AM | Wednesday, 7 November

As mumpreneurs and business owners with large workloads and limited time, we need all the help we can get!

Sven gets the details right

7:35AM | Monday, 30 July

A fictional character called Sven is the driving force behind online retailer Details by Sven, which curates a recommendation of around 100 top products for men.

GovHack offers up $30,000 in return for data delivery innovation

5:54AM | Monday, 7 May

Programmers and designers are being invited to participate in GovHack 2012, charged with the task of delivering government data to the Australian public for the chance to share in $30,000.

Google Drive offers free content sharing service to mixed reviews

4:05AM | Thursday, 26 April

Google is hoping to draw in business users with its new Google Drive cloud storage service, despite mixed reviews from local analysts.

Making your work at home business sing

4:12PM | Thursday, 19 April

Hands up if you’ve ever been in a high school musical? Now hands up if you’ve gone to one as an audience member?

Five top tips to improve your email marketing

5:07AM | Wednesday, 2 May

As email has become a ubiquitous tool for the public, businesses have been able to take advantage of a low-cost, high-reach and easily measurable marketing medium.

BigCommerce launches $2m fund for start-up developers

3:17AM | Monday, 11 March

eCommerce platform BigCommerce has launched a $2 million integration fund for start-up developers around the world, with each successful entry set to receive up to $20,000.

Why you need an email marketing campaign

5:59AM | Friday, 20 May

We're massive fans of email marketing.