The Internet, mobile phone technology and an ever-expanding array of media options has transformed the way we connect, communicate and do business.

The knock on effect is that people’s expectations of how, where, when and from whom they buy their products and services has changed significantly in the past few years.

Ask yourself, are you in tune with what your customers expect from you now?

Your customers are likely to want:

  • More choice. The Internet has opened up the world. We can buy books from England and t-shirts from America. We can connect with experts in any country. We can easily compare prices for any product or service. We can make more informed decisions because information is readily available.

    Do you know who your competitors are, what they offer and how they offer it? Do you present what you offer in a way that makes the benefits clear – price, service, quality, uniqueness, availability?

  • More control. We are no longer happy to passively take what we’re given. We want products and services tailored to suit, and delivered to us in the way we prefer.

    Are you offering one-size-fits-all products and services or do you tailor to meet specific needs and requirements? Do you offer a range of purchase and delivery options?

  • Fast, easy access. We are much less tolerant of ‘business hours’ these days. We want information quickly and we don’t want to work too hard to get it.

    Are you making it easy for people to do business with you? You don’t need to be ‘open all hours’, but you do need to ensure it’s easy for people to find out who you are, what you do, when you’re available and how to contact you.

  • Individual attention. We expect to be recognised and acknowledged. We expect our preferences to be noted and acted on.

    Do you know who your best customers are? Are in touch with them often with relevant information or offers? Do you reward them for their business?

Have you noticed that what your customers want has altered in recent years? And what have you done about it? Share your thoughts and ideas with other readers – post your comments below.

Wikipedia says the current population of China is over 1.3 billion. This is a staggering figure and shows that the potential market for your business is nothing short of enormous.

This makes the Chinese market well worth investigating – particularly as the Free Trade Agreement signed by New Zealand and China in 2008 aims to ease trade between the two countries.

China now has a strong and dynamic economy and it’s still growing. There is money in China and demand for overseas’ goods is increasing. In short, its import market is booming.

If you’re thinking about exporting your goods to China, make sure the chinese market is right for you before you take the plunge:

  • Find out if there’s demand for your goods. Conduct extensive market research. Find out about buyer behaviour in China, what the competition is like and think about where your products might fit in.

  • Go there. If you’re serious about exporting to China you need to visit the country. Spend time researching and planning your trip. Know where you want to go, what you want to find out and what you want to achieve.

  • Be seen. Time your trip to coincide with a trade fair. Here you can talk to potential buyers as well as other foreign importers. Use this as a networking opportunity. Hand out your business cards and follow up contacts when you return.

  • Think about distribution. Exporting your goods directly to China can be time-consuming and you will need to be familiar with China’s complex import customs, regulations and controls. Alternatively, you could establish a business partner or find a qualified agent or distributor with good sales contacts.

  • Employ a good translator. Having someone on hand who speaks the language fluently and understands the country’s culture will prove an invaluable investment.

  • Be cautious. When entering any new market it’s always wise to proceed with caution. Don’t rush into things and do carry out thorough checks on companies and their representatives before you enter into a contract with them.

  • Reduce your trade risk. If you manage the risks, you can reduce them. Speak to your bank. They’ll be able to advise you how best to secure payment for shipped goods and how to manage foreign currency volatility.

We’ll be posting more information about how you can reduce trade risk next week. Sign up for email alerts so you don’t miss it.

WIN the fastest iPhone yet
We have a brand new iPhone 3GS to give away to one lucky redline reader.

It’s ‘the fastest, most powerful iPhone yet’ and is twice as fast as the previous 3G model. This neat GSM cell phone features an iPod, video camera, mobile Internet with email and GPS maps.

To secure your chance to win*, you’ll need to tell us what you think about redline. You can comment on the magazine or the website in general or more specifically about any of the articles we publish.

To enter, complete the competition entry form.
*Terms and conditions apply.

WIN Dave Evans’ Social Media Marketing: An Hour a Day
Get to grips with promoting your business online with this easy-to-understand guide to social media marketing.

This ‘how to’ book teaches you, step-by-step, the best way to develop a social media plan and make it work.

Dave Evans is a specialist in word-of-mouth marketing and bases this book on the premise that ‘if I couldn’t interrupt you, how would I reach you?’.

We have five copies to giveaway*. To enter the draw, complete the competition entry form.
*Terms and conditions apply.

WIN ParcelPost Postage Included Bags
Our last ParcelPost competition was so successful, we’ve decided to run it again.

For your chance to win* one of five packs of 10 ParcelPost Postage Included Bags – each worth $50.00 – fill out the competition entry form.
*Terms and conditions apply.

WIN a business session with TVNZ’s Inspector Gadget, John Buckley
Keen to find about more about social media marketing? We’re giving away the chance to win a two hour session – at your business premises – with technology and social media expert, John Buckley.

John, who regularly appears on TVNZ’s Breakfast programme as Inspector Gadget, will advise how you can take advantage of Facebook and Twitter to find new customers, keep in touch with the ones you already have and stay ahead of your competitors.

Your business will then feature as a case study in a future issue of redline.

To enter, complete the competition entry form.
*Terms and conditions apply.

Copies of The E-Myth Enterprise by Michael E. Gerber go out to – Michelle Kean of Kean Daniel Ltd, Helen Quekett of Quekett Consulting, Jonathan Persson of Independent IT, Issa Ilo-Cabiling of CMZ Properties Ltd and Annie Goh of MoneyShop.

Carolyn Cresswell of Canine Spirit wins a professionally designed ad to go on her company’s customer invoices. We’ll feature the ad in our next issue.

William Hastings of Office of Film and Literature Classification is the winner of our International Economy Courier competition. He gets to send a parcel anywhere in the world for FREE.

Mark Whitaker of ESR, Michael Nielsen of Computer Depot Corporation, Sandra Darlington of R&B Glass & Glazing Ltd, Mig Soo of SHD Trading Ltd, Vicki Reid of Nelson Netball, Rob Dowler of Red Owl Consulting Ltd, Michael Franklin of Gulf Projects Ltd, Gillian Cross of Cross Financial Services, Colin Geertson of Marlborough Pig Hunting Club Inc and Michelle Kean of Kean Daniel Ltd – will each receive a KiwiStamp first day cover.

A pack of 10 ParcelPost Postage Included Bags will soon be on its way to - Helen Filbry of Mad Hatter Books, Jude Behrens of Market Economics Ltd, CK Smith of ozki4sigs, Denys MacKay of United Pacific Corporation and Denise Glass of DG Consultants.

Is social media marketing right for you?

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

There’s a frenzy of social networking going on. Never before has there been so much chitter chatter around the world 24/7 – and just imagine the noise if all this chit chat was audible!

Everyone is tapping away, hooking up with people they know, and sharing their news and views with family and friends…and friends of their friends…and friends of…you get the idea.

Social networking is all about word of mouth; using these forums to market and advertise your products could work well. But only you can decide if social media marketing is right for you, your products and your customers.

As long as your type of business is right for online marketing, taking your business promotion into the realms of social media marketing could prove beneficial.

Here’s why:

  • It’s expected of you
    It’s likely that your particular customers are proficient in using social networks; this is their world, their language, their way of communicating. If you want your customers to talk to and about you, you need to be where they are and actively participate in what they are doing.

  • Customers need you to
    Customers need to know you care. They believe you do if you talk to them, engage, listen, respond and interact. Social networking lets you do all of these easily - and quickly.

  • You need to stay visible to succeed
    To stay on your customers’ radar you need to make your presence felt. You may have an office, an order line and a website but if your customers are busy on Facebook or MySpace or Bebo…or Twitter, or LinkedIn…they might miss you.

  • Your competitors will be there
    You can guarantee that if you think social networking is right for your type of business, your competitors will be onto it too.

  • It’s cost effective
    Social media marketing is budget-friendly and measurable. Your major investment in social media will be time, but do remember that your time is money – so be sure you invest wisely.

  • You know it makes sense.
    And if you don’t know it now, you will. Remember, there were people who thought telephones, fax machines, mobile phones, computers, iPods…were unnecessary and wouldn’t catch on!

What’s your experience of using social media? Is it working well for your business? Are your customers engaging with you? We’d like to know. Share your thoughts in the comment box below.

There’ll be more on this topic over the coming weeks…how to get started as well as some essential Dos and Don’ts. Sign up now to our email alert service so you’ll know when the information goes live.