The word ‘consultant’ elicits images of a well-dressed, officious, impersonal business person licking their lips at the prospect of charging exorbitant hourly rates to those who come knocking. Is this really the case with consultants in 2017 or just a perception spilling over from the 90’s / 00’s when consultants were a dime a dozen, making choosing a consultant even more difficult?
Thanks to the advancements in communication (including social media and portable technology) immoral and unscrupulous businesses can’t get away with what they used to — particularly in the community sector where it’s all about people and relationships.
Remember, consultants are people coming into your business from the outside with a specific expertise to help you achieve your goals. So, it’s not just about whether they will deliver on their promises, it’s also about making sure they are the right fit so you can work effectively with them.
Nevertheless, it’s essential to do your homework so you get what you need from a consultancy relationship to ensure you maximise value, service and desired outcome.
Detailed below is what you should expect (and demand) when you engage any consultant to support you and your business.
Choosing a Consultant
Consulting in the community sector is all about people just as it is for the service providers who provide direct support to people across Australia. As with any relationship, it’s important to find a good match and work with an organisation who understands you, your business and what you’re trying to achieve.
We’ve heard some horror stories from clients who have experienced negative, costly support from consultants and ended up receiving poor service with a less than ideal outcome. Here are some things you can do to protect yourself:
- Ask them how long have they been operating for?
- Ask yourself whether they understand your needs?
- Ask to speak with some clients. Did they have a good experience / outcome?
- Check the fine print in the contract. Do you have any built-in assurances?
- Will they be accountable?
One of the most important factors that will shape a successful consultant outcome is structured communication. Having an ongoing dialogue ensures that expectations are clear and timelines are met. Working in partnership will always get you a better outcome than someone just ‘developing documentation’.
Every business offers different pricing, services and value. Do your research and make sure you’re not comparing apples with oranges. Value is often built into your experience and process that will support your best outcome. As the saying goes, you get what you pay for.
Check their credentials, website and history – make sure everything checks out, be comfortable with what they stand for and that you are inspired with confidence.
If you’ve gone through this process and you’ve ticked the boxes, you can move forward with some level of confidence. Remember, it’s your business and it’s up to you to look after it.
You’ve registered your business name, received your ABN, developed a business plan and taken all of the necessary steps to start providing your products or services to the public. So what’s next? How do you start building a reliable sales pipeline and ultimately, get new clients to help sustain your business, and grow it, too?
How do I get new clients?
Surprisingly, this is one question we hear time and time again. More often than not, it’s this question that is pushed to the back of the pile while the short term focus of building a new business takes priority. But, what about the long term? The countless hours and tireless efforts that have been invested often go to waste when a new business goes to market, and more often than not, it’s because the long term goals haven’t been considered. You could have the perfect business plan in place – you’ve identified your niche, established a point of difference, have a great understanding of your competitors, hired any support staff you require and now there’s nothing left to do but start. Unfortunately, getting clients isn’t as easy as some startup business operators think. It takes time, dedication and, yes, financial investment to attain new clients and customers. So, where do you start?
1. Start by talking
Tell people what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. Know your target market and go where they go to network – events, conferences, meetups and expos are great places to kick things off. Check out Eventbrite if you’re short on ideas or want to find upcoming events in your area. Despite the technologically driven environment we live in, face to face communication and good ol’ fashioned word of mouth are still some of the best marketing assets you can have to develop relationships and attain new clients.
2. Get a website
Building relationships in person is great, but what else can you do to get new clients on board? Once you’ve established rapport, where do you send your potential customers to take the next step? It’s astounding how many small businesses still operate without an active online presence – whether that be through a website or other online channels such as social media. Taking your business online is hands down one of the best investments a small business can make. Not only do you now have an easily accessible destination to send potential clients, it offers a platform to outline your services and pricing and explain to potential customers why they should choose your business over your competitors. With the ability to add customised forms and develop content specifically tailored to the needs of your target audience, your website is often your first port of call for customers looking for the products or services you offer and allows the opportunity for you to collect and gather their details for further marketing opportunities.
3. Invest in Advertising
You might have heard of a little thing called Google. Okay, let’s be honest – it’s pretty big. In fact, it accounts for approximately 90% of all search traffic, with the remaining 10% spread across the smaller search engines such as Yahoo! and Bing. With this much traffic attributed to Google, you can imagine that competition to appear on the first results page is fierce at best. Doing so takes time, an optimised website and a bit of trial and error, but with dedication it is certainly achievable. In the short term however, there are alternative solutions such as Google Adwords, which allow you to place paid ads in search results for specific keywords or search terms. Not only will this give your business instant visibility in Google, but the additional click throughs to your website will help build credibility and in turn your website’s’ organic reach. True to the old adage of ‘You’ve got to spend money to make money’, posting ads will require a financial investment, however with the correct strategy in place, has the potential to yield considerable reward.
Over to you
As you can see, it takes time, dedication and financial investment to attract new clients. With that said, if you take the time to understand your market and put in place the appropriate steps to help reach them, you’re well on your way to building your database and generating a healthy sales pipeline.
Get a professionally designed and built website for $0 upfront* and start driving customer growth. Each package comes with 12 months of ongoing support.
Becoming a Provider under the Australian Aged Care System
Like most things in Australia’s political sphere, the media’s focus is generally directed toward those issues, initiatives, and people that offer a controversial or contentious story for the next day’s headlines.
The NDIS has certainly provided such a platform, which has seen sustained media coverage, from its inception through to now where the Scheme’s rollout is well underway across the country.
There is no doubt that the NDIS will be a great system for Australians with a permanent or severe disability. It replaces an archaic, unfair and fragmented disability system that left Australians with disability little, with regard to choice and control, to improve their quality of life.
It must be said however that the ongoing teething issues emerging as the Scheme rolls out are proving to be problematic for both participants and disability service providers respectively. These issues range from poor communication to pricing to poorly constructed participant plans.
Aged Care Provider Opportunity
However, as the relevant Government agencies look to knock these issues into place and drive the Scheme forward, there is another Scheme that is quietly experiencing its own evolution – the Australian Aged Care system.
Like the NDIS, Aged Care Home Care has shifted toward a person centred, or ‘consumer-directed care’ model – meaning people over 65 will get more choice and flexibility as to how they choose and receive these services.
These reforms began in 2012 and are part of a 3-phased process that will stretch out over 10 years. Like the NDIS, the transformation of the Aged Care sector is presenting a huge opportunity for businesses looking to deliver aged care services like Home Care. With Australia’s ageing population, the demand for these services is steadily increasing – a plus for providers looking to deliver quality, innovative services to Australians over 65.
If you would like to find out more about becoming an Aged Care Provider, download our free information guide and learn how we can assist in navigating the process.
Becoming an Approved Aged Care Provider can be a time-consuming and complex process. Get your free guide today!
The changing landscape of the Community Sector is being driven by mass reforms within the aged care and disability services sectors. This rapid evolution is forcing non-government organisations to rethink their position within the market to ensure a competitive advantage.
Why this is important in the Disability & Aged Care Sectors
One of the major necessities of successful marketing is having a comprehensive understanding of the environment in which you operate. This is of significant importance in the disability and aged care sectors as more and more businesses enter the market in order to capitalise on more open markets created by person-centred and consumer directed service delivery.
Most organisations have, at the very least, the standard marketing tools and functions in place – a website, an occasional newsletter to clients and maybe one or two social media accounts. Although this is a very good starting point, without understanding the market in which you are operating, efforts to increase engagement are often misguided and end up falling flat.
Ask yourself these 3 questions:
- Do you understand what makes your organisation different to your major competitors?
- Are you finding it increasingly difficult to compete against new competitors?
- Do you have a plan or strategy in place to attract customers and drive growth?
Without an understanding of the impact these things can have on your broader marketing efforts, your organisation will find it increasingly difficult to thrive. So, where does this leave you?
Time to take action
Whether you’re just entering the market or are an established organisation, there’s no better time than now to undertake an audit of your current positioning. This will help you and your team to identify any areas that may require improvements or discover opportunities that you may be missing out on. Either way, having a better understanding of where you sit within the competitive landscape will provide valuable insight into what steps you need to take to position yourself for success and drive financial growth.
Start with your brand
How you communicate, what you communicate, when you communicate, what your values are and the emotional reaction you want your customers to feel when engaging with your business are all crucial parts that make up your brand. Unfortunately, these defining elements can be afterthoughts, or more often than not, neglected altogether. By reviewing your current brand and asking yourself a few simple questions about where it currently stands, you are well on your way to establishing yourself as a serious competitor in the disability and aged care sectors.
To help you get started, we’ve developed a comprehensive guide to help you through this process and give you a valuable resource to share with and include your staff and stakeholders. Our free Position Your Brand for Success Guide provides comprehensive insight about where to start and what to think about to distinguish your business and drive financial growth in the Community Sector.
Where to start and what to think about to distinguish your business and drive financial growth in the Community Sector.
When we decided to update our website at the start of the year, the team spent hours writing, rewriting and fine tuning the copy on every single page until it was perfect. Developing content is often one of the most difficult (and important) aspects of defining your brand, and for us, we wanted to make sure it was just right. After all, we were developing our voice – how we would communicate our message and how that message would be perceived by the masses. It had to be perfect.
As a brand, we decided that if we were going to be heard, we needed to be bold, and this was reflected throughout all of our messaging. One of the subtleties that has truly stuck with me however, was in the form our Call to Action…
Make it Happen – Small Business Advice that Everyone should adopt.
At the time, it seemed like a simple phrase to use as a creative alternative to ‘Contact’ or ‘Enquire.’ Now however, as we delve even deeper into our business and continue pushing the boundaries in all directions, it’s becoming one of our defining attributes – our ethos, if you will.
Truth is, running a small business is tough – a sentiment to which many of our clients and partners can also attest. Hours are long, the workload immense, and we’re surprised the coffee machine hasn’t spontaneously combusted from overuse. So what is it that drives us and pushes us through the seemingly endless roadblocks? It’s our passion for what we do, our passion for the success of our clients and most of all, our drive to make it happen, no matter the circumstance. We’re in it because we love it – and we wouldn’t have it any other way.
This doesn’t just apply to our own business of course – it applies to that of our clients’ too. We’re often engaged by people who want to work with Amergin based solely on our credibility. This speaks volumes to us as a business, because it’s that ethos – those three short words – that got us to where we are today, and it’s that same driver that we apply to all the work we put out. After all, without our valued clients, Amergin as we know it may not even exist.
For those of you are going through a similar phase of starting and maintaining a small business in today’s entrepreneurial landscape, I implore you to keep pushing. The days won’t get shorter and the workload will keep piling up, but as the old adage goes, you only get out what you put in. Keep pushing the boundaries, keep working, keep doing. When everything seems overwhelming or like you’re fighting an uphill battle, remember why you decided to do it in the first place. Make it happen and enjoy it for what it is – yours.
In any competitive business marketplace, how do you fly the flag to get noticed? Here are 5 marketing tips you can adopt that will help elevate your business.
5 Marketing Tips
1. Define Your Marketing Goals
Know what you want to achieve and then map a pathway to get there. Your marketing objectives should support your business goal and aligning these means your efforts will be strategic and help you make a real difference to your business.
2. Know Who You Are Targeting
If you place five different bits of bait on a fishing hook and you catch a fish, how do you know what bait worked? It’s important to market yourself with purpose. By this I mean understand your target audience; create an identifiable business persona based on this target market; and, tailor your message to reach this audience. Doing these three things will always give you better results than trying to sell to everyone.
3. Understand Your Competition
If you don’t know who you’re competing against, how do know what makes you different? Pick three competitors who you feel pose the biggest threat to your business. Learn their strengths, weaknesses, point of difference, their target market and most importantly your opportunities to effectively compete against them.
4. Define your Unique Selling Position
Once you’ve established your opportunity, define your Unique Selling Position (USP). Convert this into a message that targets your audience and communicate throughout your website, collateral and advertising.
5. Have Foresight
Have a good understanding of the business environment you’re operating in. Stay informed on industry trends and predicted change. If you’re an innovator, you’ll be one of the businesses that not only anticipates change, but initiates it.
By following these marketing tips for your business, you’ll be well on your way to having a competitive edge in no time.
Starting a small business is one of the toughest yet most rewarding experiences you can undertake (as the entire Amergin team can truly attest). If you can survive your first year, you’re in for the ride of your life. If you can’t — well, we don’t believe in that word. Keep trying and learn from your mistakes.
You’ve got the idea, you’ve got the passion and you’ve got the drive, but what else do you need to consider to help push your small business to the next level?
There’s no simple answer to this question. However, over the next few months we’ll break down some of the non-negotiables when it comes to effectively running and marketing your business.
We’ll kick things off with an unmistakably important, yet often overlooked aspect of small business: Your Brand Strategy.
A common misconception that many small businesses have is that their logo is their brand, and often stay fixated on this before looking at the overall picture. Don’t get me wrong, your logo does matter as it identifies your brand visually, but that’s just one piece of the puzzle when it comes to your overall brand strategy.
Take a Step Back
Before you get too carried away with how your brand will identify visually, take a step back and ask yourself the following:
How does my brand communicate? An established Tone of Voice unifies your brand consistently across all channels. It’s not just about what you say – it’s how you (and importantly, your team members) say it.
Am I being consistent? Cohesive messaging helps establish brand recognition. Keep your messaging consistent across all channels (whether on or offline) so that your brand doesn’t appear disconnected. Keep your visual representation aligned with your messaging.
What’s the rush? The small business life is busy and your days are filled with a multitude of tasks. It’s important not to rush through these initial stages of building your brand. After all, it’s effectively laying the foundations of your business to which will help drive growth in the long term. Remember, it’s a long-term game and Rome wasn’t built in a day.
This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to defining your brand, but by simply asking yourself these questions the process is already underway. Stick to it and you will see results.
What other aspects of your brand strategy have you focused on? Let us know in the comments below.