A Rapid Roundup of the Juiciest New Developments of the Year for Small Business

The red hot highlights of the year! Here’s a roundup of the best Small Business developments of 2013.What was your favourite Small Business Highlight of the Year?
Maybe it was an intriguing new development?
A useful new innovation? A fresh opportunity to market your business in an exciting new way? Or simply a comical highlight which made you smile?

My own Rapid Roundup of My Favourite Bits of 2013 hopefully includes a brief sample of all of the above…

I did ask some of my fellow Martin Print team members for their own thoughts, but I must have forgotten to stress the ‘business’ element.
Josh was very keen to point out that the highlight of his year was reaching Level 172 in Candy Crush Saga with only minimal screams of frustration.
Charlie, our Shipping Supremo with a mind rooted in strategy and tactics, seemed particularly proud of his work mapping me out a brand new route to the Sweet Pastry Shop.
It shaves a whole two minutes off my travelling time, although I now get stung by nettles and scratched by thorns every lunch break.

Meanwhile, Old Bert claims that his highlight of the year was beating Big Ted at Snakes and Ladders in a high-tension match which went on for days. His victory celebrations lasted just slightly longer.

Well, I’ll politely skip over those for now, and unveil my own selection of the hottest highlights of the year for Small Business.
From long-overdue changes to Facebook Contest rules which change the game completely, to the rise of NFC marketing, via the funniest Social Media meltdown of the year.

Did you miss any of these juicy bits of 2013?


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Why You Should Never Follow These
Mythical ‘Unwritten Rules’ of Business

False! Wrong! Bogus! Untrue! Let’s take a look at a list of some of the worst unwritten rules in Small Business and why you should never follow them…Are you following any of the so-called Unwritten Rules of Business?
If so, could you be making a very dangerous mistake and putting your business health at serious risk?

I was having a catch-up with my good friend Wonky Alan last week down at Smokey Joe’s Small Business Bar.
I’d spent what seemed like two hours listening politely to his latest news, updates, and plans for the future.
In fact, I’d managed to get through four Fizzy Frothy Fruity Fusion drinks before it got round to my turn.

Eventually, I got the chance to share some of my own new stories and anecdotes from the continuing design-driven adventures of Martin Print.
However, I was only really starting to get to the good bits when I was abruptly cut short after less than ten minutes.

“Stop!” yelled Wonky Alan, dramatically. “Have you been feeling unwell or something? It sounds as if you’ve been breaking every unwritten rule of business in the book! Maybe it’s time you took a holiday?”

Well, I wouldn’t say no to a holiday. But I strongly disagreed with Wonky Alan’s reasoning.
I’ve always had a bit of a problem with ‘unwritten rules’ of anything.
If a rule is so good, why on Earth has nobody ever bothered to write it down?
Could it be because the rule in question is actually a bit rubbish?
Is there even perhaps a small chance that the unwritten rule could turn out to be completely wrong?

At this point, Wonky Alan pulled out a curiously named book from his pocket called The Definitive List of Unwritten Business Rules.
Hmm. Surely a contradictory title? Unless all the pages were blank.

But no, the pages weren’t blank. In my honest opinion, the pages were crammed full of very bad business advice which should definitely have remained unwritten and unspoken.
Wonky Alan seemed to have been absorbing all this nonsense recently, so I decided to postpone sharing my own stories and news until our next catch-up.

I felt our time would now be better spent on exposing the lack of logic in many of these mythical guidelines, and ripping up The Top Four Completely and Utterly False Rules of Business


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Considering the New Marketing Trends to Take on Board as Your Business Sails into the New Year

New Year ahead! But what will be the new business marketing trends for you to consider in 2014?What will 2014 have in store for your business?
And what will be the Big New Trends to bear in mind if you’re planning on keeping up with changing consumer habits and those fresh marketing strategies that your closest rivals will be engineering?

I always like to plan ahead for a winning result, so I thought I’d begin by asking some of the greatest entrepreneurial minds down at Smokey Joe’s Small Business Bar for their predictions for 2014.

I was a bit disappointed by the results, to be honest. I was hoping for something a bit more profound and insightful than this kind of stuff;
“I’ll get a year older but no wiser.”
“People will keep on buying things from other people who will be trying to sell them things.”
“Some prices will go up, whilst others will go down. But mostly they’ll go up.”
“You will see a tall dark stranger with letters in his name.”
“The human race will become conquered and enslaved by a race of invading aliens with faces that look a bit like giant pancakes.”

I was almost ready to give up on the whole idea, when Smokey Joe pulled me to one side and told me that he might be able to set up a meeting with one of his oldest friends who always seems to come up with the right answers.
This guy is a mysterious and wise business guru who harnesses the ancient secret powers of the universe from his little shack on top of an invisible mountain.
If you’ve been following my posts on Facebook, you may already know that this guy cooked up a very curious and slightly impossible Advent Calendar, and I’ll be opening a new door every day on the Martin Print Facebook Page during the countdown to Christmas…

So, I jumped at the chance to meet this guru in person.
I wasn’t allowed to go to the invisible mountain for security reasons, so we eventually met up a few days later at a quiet table in the corner of Smokey Joe’s Bar.

The guru was certainly a quirky character. He continually fidgeted with his long, wispy beard and made a variety of strange grunting noises and occasional whoops of delight as he consulted his starcharts and spreadsheets and circular graphs on the table.


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How to Create a Bigger Business Buzz
with the Twitter Hashtag

An introduction to the Hashtag on Twitter, along with advice, tips, pointers, and a full guide on how to get your business trending on Twitter.How on Earth did a faintly unassuming little squiggle become one of the most powerful buttons on your keyboard?
What exactly does the humble Hashtag represent, and how can you use it more effectively to get your business services trending on Twitter?

I was having a little chat about this with Josh in the Martin Print canteen yesterday. He was telling me about a recent project that he’d been working on for one of our long-term clients.
Josh had been designing a new set of Flyers for a very special business promotion, and he was delighted to discover that the promotion was now trending on his Twitter home screen.
“The client had created a new Twitter hashtag and she requested that we include this in the design,” he told me. “The promotion has really taken off now and everyone’s tweeting about it in the Twittersphere!”

At this point, I noticed that Old Bert had wandered in with a look of bewilderment on his face.
He had just caught the end of our conversation, and he was clearly struggling to decipher a single word that had been said.
“Whatever happened to the English language?” he eventually wailed.
“We never had to deal with any of this nonsense back when I ran my own handyman business. Ah, they were simpler times…”

The hashtag may seem like a baffling concept to begin with, but it could actually prove to be one of the most dynamic tools in your Social Media Marketing arsenal, as it cuts right through the useless online chatter, and delivers clearer and stronger communication between your business and your audience.

If you’re already familiar with the power of this strange little symbol, you may wish to skip to the tips and pointers below on creating a bigger buzz with the Twitter Hashtag!

But if you’re still scratching your head and wondering what all the fuss is about, let’s just kick off with a brief introduction to help put you in the picture…


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Busting the Common Small Business Myths
on Good Email Marketing

Could some of our current email marketing strategies and techniques be hopelessly outdated? It’s time to head back to the small business classroom and learn some new tricks…“Ah, you have to be very careful with email marketing campaigns. One false move and you’ve blown it forever. It’s all about timing, frequency, and doing everything you can to avoid the dreaded Spam bin. Unless you have my kind of experience and insight, you’re likely to mess it all up, I’m afraid. Do you want to hear some of my expert advice?”

I was having an entrepreneurial chat with Wonky Alan down at Smokey Joe’s Small Business Bar.
He has a reputation for spouting rubbish at the best of times, but I have to admit that I would normally have agreed with much of what he had to say today.
However, my own outlook on Email Marketing had very recently been turned inside out by an intriguing new report from Alchemy Worx which dares to suggest that nearly everything we think we know might just be completely wrong…

This epic study from the digital marketing agency scrutinised data from their own work with customers and industry figures – including the analysis of literally billions of emails – to reach their surprising conclusions.
The good news is that email marketing may actually be a little simpler and safer than we had previously assumed.

But is it true that the wrong choice of keywords could send your emails straight to the Spam Bin?
Is it really so crucial to despatch your emails at the exact optimum time on the exact optimum day?
And do shorter subject lines really improve your chances of getting noticed?

As Wonky Alan began to share some of his long-winded old-school advice with me, I responded with some of the new thinking now proposed by Alchemy Worx.
Between us, I hoped that we might just be able to debunk some of the common myths of email marketing techniques, and untangle the updated truth of the matter…


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How to Identify and Connect with the
Perfect Target Audience for Your Business

Get on target with your small business marketing! But how do you identify and connect with your perfect target audience?Is your Small Business Marketing reaching the right targets?
Have you identified your target audience and built up a profile of your typical customer? How do you get connected with your chosen targets? And perhaps more importantly, how do you stay connected with this audience well into the future?

The Martin Print team have been chatting this week about the types of infuriating marketing that really drive us all round the bend;
Hostile marketing, pushy marketing, intrusive marketing, dressed-up-in-a-giant-chicken-costume marketing…the list goes on and on.

But one form of marketing that kept cropping up in our conversations over and over again was deeply irrelevant marketing;
The kind of stuff that lands on our laps without any thought or care as to whether it might be at all suitable for us.
In many cases, this marketing material might be laughably unsuitable.
For example, I can’t really think of any logical reason why I keep getting bombarded with strong encouragements to upgrade my current knitting machine, or why Old Bert keeps getting told where to go for all the latest Volcano Boarding accessories.

Of course, there are situations where there may well be some value in grabbing tiny crumbs of custom from a blanket catch-all marketing strategy.
But it’s surely much more cost-effective and rewarding to focus your marketing campaigns on a shrewdly considered target audience.
You stand far more chance of generating the right results without aggravating everybody else who gets caught up in your marketing net!

So, let’s take a look at the four key points to bear in mind when narrowing your sights on the perfect target audience for your products and services…


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How Every Australian Small Business Owner Can Get Help to Improve Your Digital Literacy

How’s your digital literacy? Is your business making the most from the internet? A new report from Paypal suggests that Australian SMB owners are struggling to seize the true potential of online marketing…How do you rate your own digital literacy?
According to new research from Paypal Australia, there’s every chance that you might not be making the most of everything the internet can offer for your business.
In fact, you may be barely scratching the surface…

A new report from Paypal entitled Digital Literacy Among Small Business in Australia suggests that a whopping 3 in 5 Aussie SMB owners feel that their low levels of digital literacy are preventing them from running their business more efficiently.

But what other shocking findings have been thrown up by the report?
And what are the positive steps you can take to improve your digital literacy for the sake of your business?

In all honesty, I’m not entirely surprised by the figures.
We may happily live in a world of expensive fancy gadgets which plug us into the infinite realm of Cyberspace, but how many of us are really taking advantage of all the solid business opportunities right at our fingertips?

Last week down at Smokey Joe’s Small Business Bar, I was having an insightful chat with Sharp Simon.
Well, I say insightful chat…
He was actually just throwing his latest ‘hi-tech business purchases’ in my face, and telling me how super-fast they all were, and how much he had paid for them all.
Smartphones, desktop PCs, laptops, iPads, tablets, phablets…Sharp Simon had the lot.
And for a second or two, I was mightily impressed.

“I see you’re taking the digital revolution very seriously,” I ventured.
“I’m guessing that all these gadgets are vital in helping you to build and maintain a huge online presence for your business. So, tell me a bit about your online marketing strategy. How’s it coming along?”

At this point, Sharp Simon faltered for a minute.
He eventually showed me how quickly he could access Angry Birds, and then pointed out the crisp definition of the screen displays.


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How to Conquer Your International Worries and Take Your Business Overseas

The whole world is at your fingertips…but is your business taking advantage of the new online opportunities for international custom?How’s your business doing on a global scale?
Are you fully committed to connecting with a vast international audience, or are you totally dedicated to serving your local customers?
Could you be missing out on lucrative opportunities for business growth and expansion by turning your back on the overseas market?

Of course, not every single business under the sun can realistically consider going global.
Just for a bit of fun, some of the Martin Print designers have taken part in a mini-brainstorm session in the canteen, in which I asked them to think up any types of business which could never ever work on an international level.
Within just a few minutes, we’d come up with a little list of utterly unsuitable business types that were destined to stay local for the time being.
And that was before we got carried away with the sillier suggestions.

But here’s the thing that worries me quite a bit;
People who worry when there’s really nothing much to worry about.
It gives me sleepless nights and puts me right off my bowl of All-New Healthy Froot Loops in the morning.

To put it in another way that might make slightly more sense…
So many business models are positively crying out to stretch their wings and capture the bigger bounties of the international market.
But the business owners just don’t seem convinced. They can’t be persuaded to grab the opportunity with both hands.
Maybe they’re shy. Maybe they have serious doubts. Maybe they think it’s all just far more trouble than it’s worth.
Or maybe they’re still worrying about problems that were happily solved years ago…


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Inventive and Surprising Ways to Use
Your NFC Goodies for Business and for Fun!

Experimenting with the new force of NFC…but are you getting creative with your branded NFC Business Cards and Key Rings?Just how many new and imaginative uses can you find for NFC on your Smartphone?

It’s possible that you’re currently still considering your first steps into the developing new world of NFC Business Marketing.
Or perhaps you’ve already been experimenting with your own set of branded NFC Cards or Key Rings, and now you’re hungry for new ideas and possibilities!
Whatever your situation, you might just be surprised at some of the incredible things you can do with this new marketing technology which is all set to explode in popularity in the very near future…

If you’re a complete newcomer to the concept of encoding an NFC Business Card with enhanced digital functions which can be unlocked by your recipients with a simple tap from a Smartphone, you might want to start off by checking out this special FAQ article from the Blog which reveals Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Those NFC Cards But Were Afraid to Ask.
Don’t worry, it’s all much, much easier than you may imagine!

It’s fair to assume that the majority of business-owning NFC adventurers will have already been tempted to set up their NFC Cards (or other NFC marketing goodies) with a simple link which will instantly direct recipients to the business owner’s website, or Facebook page, or YouTube video, or practically any other slice of suitable online content.
It’s a perfectly sensible strategy which ensures that your clients can get connected to your online presence with just a simple tap of a card!

But what other powerful business marketing opportunities can be unlocked with the power of NFC?
And how much fun and value can we squeeze out of the concept on a strictly personal and highly functional level?

Is it really possible to configure your NFC Cards to switch on your computer remotely or even turn the lights on and off in your house?
(Quick answer – yes, but those advanced options are a little more complicated to set up!)

Here’s a full rundown of the some of the most creative, useful, powerful, and downright wacky ways to take advantage of NFC on your Smartphone screen…


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Why the Next Generation of YOUR Business Customers May Be Turning Away from Facebook

What’s in store for the future of Facebook? Could it be that your business customers of tomorrow are already turning away from the biggest Social Media platform of them all?Imagine a world without Facebook.

The social networking site has held such a firm grip on both our personal and business lives in recent years that trying to imagine a world without Facebook is a curiously difficult thing to do.

The platform has rapidly developed over a relatively short period of time into one of those things that just seems to have been around forever and is widely expected to continue playing a huge role in everybody’s lives until the very end of the universe.
A bit like the internet in general. Or mobile phones. Or digital cameras. Or Celebrity Masterchef Australia.

But is the future of Facebook really so secure?
Will we all still be using Facebook so frequently in ten years from now or even just five years from now?
Could it be that history will ultimately remember Facebook as nothing more than a passing trend that was popular for several years before eventually drifting off into obscurity?

An intriguing article written by a 13-year old girl from New York has recently caused a few ripples on the Social Media scene, and could even be interpreted as an early warning sign that Facebook may already be falling from favour with the next generation of your business clients…

The headline of the article in question is certainly an attention-grabber which makes you stop and ponder;
“I’m 13 and none of my friends are on Facebook!”

The article, written by young Ruby Karp for Social Media and Tech website Mashable, raises several interesting concerns on the future of Facebook from a crucial teen perspective.

Before we go any further, it’s important to bear in mind the current age restriction on Facebook;
You’re not officially allowed to open up a Facebook account until you reach the ripe old age of…yep, you guessed it…13.

Not that this rule will stop every inquisitive young mind from sneaking behind the backs of their parents and opening up an account regardless.
But it’s fair to say that Ruby Karp has hit that age when she and her friends should be fully embracing all the fun of Facebook with the complete backing of the official regulations.
They should all be looking forward to a future of friend requests, private messaging, madcap photographs, friend blocking, and petty online arguments played out in a public arena!

However, that just doesn’t seem to be happening.

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