Online Tools to Turbocharge your Business


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Online Tools to Turbocharge Your Business was presented to the 2011 Flying Solo conference.

The presentation covered a sample of the online, cloud computing and social media tools small businesses can use to improve their productivity, profitability and competitiveness.

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  • I highly recommend use of cloudHQ service. The cloudHQ integrates Google Docs, Basecamp and Dropbox. Real time and continuos synchronization by cloudHQ will keep track of files for changes and copy files with a very short delay after the change has occurred.
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  • Today we’re going to look at the online tools that can help your business. We should keep in mind these tools are part of the new economy that’s changing our businesses just as we’re seeing the media and retail industries change. Be in no doubt they affect our busineseese as much as other sectors. In this presentation we’ll look at some of the major trends affecting our businesses and the tools we can use to take advantage of them. The first trends we’ll look at are the SoLoMo revolution.
  • The material for this presentation is taken from eBusiness, Seven Steps to Online Success. A free companion guide, Online Business Basics, is available for download from
  • The social web, the SO in SoLoMo is changing the way we work and play. Who here is on Facebook and who on LinkedIn? It’s tempting to think social media is just about giggling teenagers sharing photos of cute cats. It’s not. Customers trust the recommendations of their friends over your advertising while prospective staff are finding out about what you’re like to work for. Suppliers and bureaucrats are looking up your LinkedIn profile to figure out if they should give you a line of credit, enter a business partnership or give you a grant. The social web is fundamentally changing the basis of how we did business in the 20th Century. Old marketing models of shouting loudly to drown out critics is now failing as consumers have their own outlets to vent from. A good example is the Vodafail campaign where individuals have used Twitter, Facebook, Blogs and YouTube to voice their discontent with Vodafone’s service. The phone company’s response was initially to turn up their advertising and sponsorship efforts but they were eventually forced to concede they do have a problem with their network and start to fix it. The old way of shouting over your critics and customers with positive messages is not as effective as it was which is a challenge to all corporations and our politicians which is one of the reasons for rising disillusionment in our political leaders. Sites like Eatibiltiy, Urbanspoon and Trip Advisor are changing how we travel and eat out as we check the recommendations and reviews of cafes, restaurants and hotels. These tools are spreading to other platforms as group buying sites and other social based tools continue to grow. This, in my opinion, is one of the major trends we’ll be seeing in the next few years as politicians rediscover older, more personalised and accountable forms of government while corporations rediscover customer service having marginalised those roles over the past three decade. Social is forcing us into a customer service renaissance, those outsourced and offshored customer service are coming home as organisations discover these functions are once again critical to their brand and reputation.
  • LO in SoLoMo is local It sounds counterintuitive that in an era of globalisation where most corners of the world are connected by the net that we should be talking about local, but this is one of the new driving forces. In a perverse way, the globally connected consumer is looking locally again. We should also keep in mind we are not just talking local in geography, we’re also talking local to your interests. Even if you’re the only Morris Dancer in Bilgola, it doesn’t matter as social media allows you to create your own online community with the other hundred in Sydney or thousand in Australia. In the traditional sense of local, consumers are using social tools like Eatibility, Google Places and Facebook to figure out which are are the local services to use. Consumers though are also developing a sense of what is valid online. Anyone who has worked in customer service knows you will get unhappy customers regardless of how great your product is or what value you offer and customers are gaining the skills to filter out the phonies and whingers to identify valid criticism. In many ways business is going back to local business models as we return to an older way of business where our reputation in the town square and village pub counts more than flashy marketing messages.
  • The MO in SOLOMO is mobile. Last year, sales of smartphones overtook personal computer as consumers discovered the benefits of the mobile web. This gentleman here could easily be checking where the nearest café recommended by his friends during a break between meetings is then using the mapping application to find his way there. He may well be using social networks like Foursquare to recommend locations; don’t swim at this pool during lunchtime or avoid the salmon at this restaurant. It’s not just smartphones either, Global Positioning Systems, or GPS’s are building these social and local features in as well. A few months ago a friend of mine was driving between Brisbane and Melbourne and intended to stop for the night at Forbes. At Dubbo, he realised he had to stop for the night so he asked his GPS for hotel locations, the system suggested some and he was able to check the reviews of the recommendations on his smartphone before choosing one. Shared experiences and gamification, again these sites like Foursquare and Facebook, are changing the way consumers shop and find services.
  • The greatest trend that affects the first half of the 21st Century is the globally connected society. These kids are in Bhutan, one of the most closed and remote places in the world. As you can see these children at an orphanage are being supplied with Internet connected laptops. It’s not just Bhutan, a few week ago at X Media Lab in Sydney one of the speakers was an African entrepreneur who told us how the lighting up of two fibre connections, one on the East coast of Africa and one on the west, have caused Internet access costs to drop 40% this year. Those hundreds of millions of Africans as well as these kids in Bhutan are our future customers, staff and – most notably – our competitors. As our retailers are finding, the fact competitors can be anywhere in the world is nothing new, but today our customers are able to find those suppliers and buy directly from them. Today’s customers are well informed about retailers’ costs and how what mark ups they are being charged, this is one of the reasons why the campaign to lower the customs GST threashold at the beginning of this year was so spectacularly unsuccessful. Consumers now know what the costs are in different markets and need to hear a good explanation for why they are paying more. It isn’t just consumers either, until a few years ago outsourcing was only available to big business, but today even the smallest business only needs a credit card and a web browser to outsource key parts of their business and with suppliers being connected, it doesn’t matter if the outsourced services is being provided from across the street or across the world. The developments in the Internet over the past twenty years are as profound as the motor car was a century ago and the driver of change in the early 21st Century will be the internet in the same way the motor changed our society in the middle of the 20th Century. Connectivity though is the major trend which can be broken down into many effects and smaller trends. The best example is the SoLoMo phenomenon, a term coined by John Doerr of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers to sum up 3 major powers that are changing consumer behaviour.
  • SoLoMo are three of the big trends, but there are others. Collaborative tools are changing the way we work and develop products. This is part of the promise of cloud computing. In sharing information. A recent term was “talent as a cloud’. If we go back thirty years before the arrival of computers in the workplace, there was little collaboration outside of the workplace and even in there it was restricted to the drawing office, workshop and board rooms. Then computers arrived and shortly after that, in the early 1990s, they started to be networked and we were able to share files and folders, albeit only one person at a time could work on them. With the arrival of the Internet we could share more. With the arrival of cloud computing, or Software as a Service, we were able to share and work on documents together. This is reinventing the way we work in the office. A common factor with new technologies is how we try to apply old concepts to the new technologies. A good example is the movie industry. When movies first appeared, producers used the principles of the theatre and it took them a decade or so to figure out what worked in the new art form of the silver screen. A few years later, the talkies came along and the industry had to reconfigure itself again. The writer Graeham Greene spoke of his experiences as a writer in Hollywood where he learned from the scriptwriter and cinematographers who had cut their teeth in the silent movie on how to portray a story or express emotions without words. Then in the 1950s television came along and the industry changed again, television producers found much of what worked on the cinema didn’t translate to the little screen and the art form had to be refinded again. We’re at a similar point with office work, where we’re still struggling with the concepts of files and folders and attaching documents to messages when the technology allows us to move on. This trend towards collaboration and reinventing how workplaces operate will be one of the great changes over the next twenty years. In some ways consumers are already there. As we saw earlier with Vodafone, angry customers are working together on social media platforms, often while they’re on their phones, to express their discuss at businesses who fail to live up to their promises. Similar things are happening with volunteer and community groups as they step into the voids left by governments and use these tools to work together. Global, collaborative companies are already with us. A good example is Google where they use their global offices and shared tools to make sure anything can be worked on at any time of the day or night. This affects customers’ behaviour as they come to expect a large business will always have the resources to fix a problem immediately. An interesting trend here is the collaborative tools are changing the economics of outsourcing. Just last week there were reports of British companies moving their call centres back to Northern England as it has become cheaper than India. That mega trend could also be that one of our assumptions that emerging BRIC economies wages and standards of living would rise to our levels, could it be that our standard of living will drop to meet those rising economies? While a twenty percent drop in our great grandparent’s standard of living in the Great Depression meant the kids went to school without shoes, today a similar drop would mean less Happy Meals. The consequences of that happening would give rise to some very interesting trends in our economy.
  • The IT industry loves buzzwords and one of the biggest buzzwords at the moment is Cloud Computing. Another thing the IT industry loves is overselling concepts, think of Y2K or the Dot Com Boom, so in this presentation we’ll look at what cloud computing is, whether it’s being overhyped and what it can realistically do for today’s businesses. In 2003 Nicholas Carr wrote in the Harvard Business Review that Information Technology no longer matters. In Nick’s view, computers, the Internet and IT are all becoming a utility and we’ll take computers and the Internet for granted just as we in the Western world consider clean running water and electricity today. That point of view is probably true and the always on nature of the Internet and cloud computing is bringing us closer to the day we’ll assume IT is always there. In the always on, always connected society each of the nodes we see on this screen could be a customer, a supplier, an employee or even the tax man and this changes the way we do business. But every innovation has its risks and every revolution its victims. So we’ll look at the risks as well as the opportunities in an economy where cloud computing is changing the fundamentals of our businesses.
  • One thing all these trends tell is that barriers are falling. The barriers to creating new products, establishing businesses or for shoppers to go anywhere in the world, are all falling. Online services like e-lance and Freelancer dot com are making labour available anywhere in the world. Collaborative tools are allowing those international teams to work together. Big businesses are increasingly free of their large edifices. A good example of this is a project I worked on last year. We had the idea over a cup of coffee at 11am, by 3pm we had a working website taking payments. Within four hours of the initial idea we had an operating business. Over the last two years I’ve worked with the state government on developing the Digital Sydney project. One of my great frustrations there was it took three months to develop a web site when I knew we could get a working pilot happening in days. The ability to get information online quickly is challenging all of our business models. We’re moving from an economy where access to information is a privilege and data is scarce to one where that information is limitless. This also means that competitors can come from nowhere; as mobile phone and MP3 player manufacturers learned with Apple who were able to build a whole new supply chain quickly that undercuts oand out innovatives the incumbent companies in this spaces. Lack of loyalty is also punished in this environment as customers can complain and set up their own sites quickly as we saw with Vodafone. This is something that Qantas are grappling with as they discover that treating frequent fliers with disrespect damages their brand.
  • We need to own our property on the web, while there are many free or local tools, most of them require businesses to grant licenses or share user information with them. Having our own online websites allows us to behave as we’d like rather than comply with another company’s rules and regulations. It’s an opportunity to tell our story and to provide our own tools to our customers and staff.
  • Who has a domain? If you don’t get one: Now. They are cheap. If you’re Joe The Plumber, register, if another plumber called joe has beaten you to it, register Should your budget extend to it, register a few product names. Dot com au versus dot com – dot com is cheaper but often taken. Get both if you can. Some of the other domains, such as .org and .net aren’t quite right as they don’t really work for consumers. Be careful of long registrations, the standard is two years and anything longer is often relying on a promise from the registTop rar.Top level Top level domains aren’t worth watching. Don’t worry about the talk that the dot com is over. Don’t register domains through your telco, web hosting company, designer or IT guys part of a pckage. Make sure you have the administrative, billing and tech contact in your name and not that of your consultant or designer.
  • Blogger – Google’s free blogging service – is a great tool for those setting up a business or looking to get an idea online. Easy to use, with dozens of templates and plugins for services like e-commerce, newsletters, social media and advertising it’s an effective and quick way to get a website running. You can also use your own business domain name for free.
  • Wordpress is more advanced and you may need a consultant or designer to help you. Have to install add-in programs to get full functionality. Scales to meet the demands of most businesses, Wordpress probably meets the needs of 90% of businesses . Vast number of templates and plug ins and a big community of developers Allows an upgrade path to other services like Drupal.
  • Knowing who visits your site, where they come from and what they look at is essential to getting your online presence right. There’s many excellent tools to do this with and the free Google Analytics is a great place to start. This plugs into your website.
  • The great advantage with many of the online services is how they help teams work together more effectively. We’ll look at some of the basic tools.
  • Google Apps, which is free for organisations with less than ten users, is a really handy service that offers basic word processing, spreadsheets and presentation software. Its great strength is the ability to share those documents with other users who can all work on them at the same time.
  • Dropbox, and its competitor, are great tools for sharing files between computers and collaborative teams.
  • 37 Signals has excellent cloud based project management tools. Basecamp is their flagship product.
  • The Zoho range of online tools is impressive, spanning collaboration, business intelligence and productivity application. Zoho’s services also plug into Google Apps making them more powerful.
  • The whole point of computers is to make your business more productive. The various online tools help you do more with your precious time.
  • Evernote synchs your thoughts, ideas and meeting notes between devices such as the iPad, smartphones and desktop computers. This tool is probably the most popular corporate management productivity tool and is the reason many executives have iPads.
  • Salesforce is the leader in cloud based CRM, Customer Relationship Management, software. While fairly expensive per customer, it’s a very powerful online management tool.
  • Mailchimp is the sanity saviour of small businesses and community organisations wanting to get newsletters out. The service offers templates and sophisticated management tools so you can understand who is opening your newsletters.
  • Survey monkey helps businesses keep in touch with their customers and understanding their needs. It’s a great tool for measuring customer satisfaction and feedback.
  • Local search is changing the way we do business. Consumers using local as they abandon phone directories and classified ads as the net is a quicker more effective way of searching. These local search results not only appear at the top of the page but they also feed into the popular social media services. All businesses, local or otherwise should be listing on these not just to improve their search results but to also appear on other services and on devices like GPS systems.
  • Essential to be listed here, regardless of your website Upload ten product images, five best sellers and five high margin Define your areas; it is possible to cover the entire world Use the custom fields to improve your keywords
  • Plugs into Cumberland press publications Some expensive add-ins Can add pdf and word files which is useful for SEO
  • Very basic Gives a Yellow Pages print and online listing Still useful but declining Category creep You’ll get a phone call from a long suffering Sensis rep. Be nice to them.
  • One of the big ideas is the coupon and group buying space. High risk if you don’t understand your own costs. Setup your own coupon campaign Reward existing customers as well as old Integrate with newsletters and your other marketing efforts.
  • Great for driving traffic to your site Remember social media platforms are other people’s sites.
  • The biggest social media platform. You need to be there even if you don’t use it yourself.
  • Facebook offer local businesses, corporate and product pages, you can use all the options to set up a comprehensive online presence.
  • LinkedIn is best used for Business to Business purposes. As well as marketing it establishes your credibility with suppliers, potential employess and government agencies.
  • LinkedIn’s business pages are fairly basic, but still give you the opportunity to add updates and Twitter feeds.
  • Best for listening and learning. Can be good way to market but is more an effective market intelligence and customer service tool. Can be addictive if you’re a news and information junkie.
  • Nothing though is risk free. Any technological change comes with risks; electricity changed humanity but thousand of people die every year from misusing it. We can say the same for the motor car, steam engines and penicillin. For all the benefits of Internet technologies they too have their own risks, which we can divide them into three major groups; Reliability, Terms of service and Security
  • This is not business as usual. Many of our business and political users are locked into 1980s ideologies and business models that are rapidly being challenged. In the media we have a whole generation of journalists who are seeing their careers being twisted out of shape by forces they don’t recognise, something that has already happened to the record industry that thought it could use the old business model of developing new technologies that would extend their playlists in the way the LP had in the 1970s and CD in the 1980s. We see this in the consumer goods industries where old FMCG models are being challenged. Just recently Bernie Brooks, the chief executive of Myer, signed a deal with one of China’s biggest contract manufacturers to make Myer’s homebrand clothes. The problem with this is it’s the 1980s model. Today consumers can research these things and they will quickly figure out that Myer’s $200 branded shoes are made in the same factory and little different from those you can by for $50 at Target or Lowes. This mindset illustrates the problems of established businesses and it’s no problem that Coles and Harvey Norman are campaiging to obstruct online shopping in an environment where the informed consumer is able to circumvent the old distribution and retail models. In many ways these are modern equivalents of the stagecoach operators and it’s no co-incidence that a hundred years ago this year that Cobb & Co went broke. This is risk that any business runs when it is unfortunate to have managers who ignore trends. So how do we heed and understand trends?
  • In many ways, our current business environment is like surfing. There are massive waves of change in our economy, in technology and society coming through steadily. If we think we’re taking no risks by standing knee deep on a sandbar we’re actually in the riskiest place of all as we’re buffeted by the waves and the sand could collapse under us any time. We have to swim through the waves and into the clear water behind so we can see the waves coming and choose which one is right for us. Experienced surfers, ocean swimmers and boaters will know what we see in this picture is only part of the story, there are a whole bunch of currents, rips, tides and other factors that aren’t immediately obvious. We’re in a time where there are many waves coming, we have to swim out of what we think is our comfort zones so we can get a better idea of what’s in store.
  • All the ideas and tools in this presentation are available in eBusiness, Seven Steps to Online Success, and online at and
  • Online Tools to Turbocharge your Business

    1. 1. Online tools to . turbocharge your business .
    2. 2. Paul Wallbank <ul><li> </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul><ul><li>Twitter: @paulwallbank </li></ul>
    3. 3. Social
    4. 4. Local .
    5. 5. Mobile
    6. 6. Globally connected . flickr/laihiu
    7. 7. Collaboration
    8. 8. Cloud computing <ul><li>Cloud computing is nothing new </li></ul><ul><li>Return to early days of computing </li></ul><ul><li>PCs took over in 1990s </li></ul>
    9. 9. Barriers are falling
    10. 10. Own your own online platform
    11. 11. Domain names
    12. 12. Blogger
    13. 13. Wordpress
    14. 14. Google Analytics
    15. 15. Collaboration tools .
    16. 16. Google Apps
    17. 17. Dropbox
    18. 18. Basecamp
    19. 19. Zoho
    20. 20. Productivity tools
    21. 21. Evernote
    22. 22. Salesforce
    23. 23. Mailchimp
    24. 24. Survey monkey
    25. 25. Local Search
    26. 26. Google Places
    27. 27. True Local
    28. 28. Sensis
    29. 29. Selling the dream: Coupons
    30. 30. Social Media
    31. 31. Facebook
    32. 32. Facebook Pages
    33. 33. LinkedIn
    34. 34. LinkedIn business page
    35. 35. Twitter
    36. 36. Risks <ul><li>All cloud services have ToS </li></ul><ul><li>These can be arbitrary </li></ul><ul><li>Most of these tools rely on Internet connections </li></ul>
    37. 37. NOT business as usual
    38. 38. Catching the Waves
    39. 39. Paul Wallbank <ul><li> </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul><ul><li>Twitter: @paulwallbank </li></ul>