Getting by with a little help from some friends…

To paraphrase The Beatles, we all need someone to love in business, to help us understand what’s possible, and to collaborate on new opportunities as well as when things get tough.

Enter “support for SMBs and startups” into Google and an impressive list of grants from State Governments, and Federal departments gets returned.

But less-visible is where SMBs and startups might go for the support they need to bridge the gap between starting, and building the track record they need, in user numbers and revenue, or in product or service development, that creates the momentum and context to apply for this type of financial support.

In short, where are the friends — peers, mentors, partners, colleagues, even customers — to turn to, to ask for help or seek insights, on how to accelerate business growth?

As part of this October’s NSW Small Business Month we’ve created two events that bring together some of our best friends at Digivizer — users, partners and clients, some of the best thinkers and experts around — to share their experiences, expertise and insights with any SMB or startup able to get to Sydney, either on 24 October or 30 October.

I spoke to a number of these guest speakers, and share here some of their insights ahead of the events themselves.

Hack to grow

Gavin Heaton is the founder of Disruptors Co (previously The Disruptor’s Handbook) and goes by the Twitter handle @servantofchaos — so he knows disruption. More importantly, he knows how to tap into the productive elements of disruption — and make them work for companies.

“Growth-hacks can mean different things to different companies but at their core they attack two things: operations and customers,” he says. “They bring together these two elements, so that your company aligns as tightly as possible with your customers. Easy to say, often difficult to do.

“What hacks do is address, rebuild and align customer acquisition, brands, leads, audience demand — and how you actually deliver on all of these. Most companies are good at some of these, few are good at all of them. And they help companies work out how best to manage attention and capability — it’s not in fact about managing resources at all.”

Making every marketing dollar count

Small businesses need to market, often with very small budgets and precious few resources. Every dollar counts, which is one of the advantages of using digital marketing. Others include direct connections and engagements with customers and users, and real-time feedback.

Henry Reith, co-owner, managing director and chief marketer of Oh Crap, the company ‘changing the world one poop at a time’, has driven astonishing growth using digital marketing, saving 5,000,000+ dog poop bags from landfill in 18 months. “The most-valuable thing in business is to know where to look. For example, we’ve been approached by any number of external partners offering support to increase conversions. But because we have our own data (using Digivizer), we know that our conversion rate is already at about 12%. To spend real money to increase that to perhaps 13% is not an option we need to consider — and we can make that decision with confidence because we know where to look.”

And being able to measure in real-time, and react quickly, has made a difference: Henry runs Oh Crap’s marketing on two-week cycles. “We discovered that our own content was too polished — but we had to find the data to understand why. Now we know, and we’re making our own content much more ‘crap’ like that of others. We’ve a way to go, but we’ve increased our impressions from 1,000 to 20,000 per post.”

Reward from risk

SMBs often steer clear of managing risk — when in fact, risk can be a business enabler, not simply a cost. Carole-Anne Priest is CEO and co-founder of business insurance company Imalia. With a background in the law and business, she believes that “insurance can, in fact, be a cost-effective financial investment. If the cost of replacement outweighs the cost of insurance, you’re ahead. And if by being insured you can continue to exploit your assets, you can create new opportunities without hopefully ever having a catastrophe.”

And she has two fundamental pieces of insight for any SMB or startup: “If business owners, founders or entrepreneurs can articulate the vision, strategy and purpose of their companies, they will get a better deal from their insurer; and risk assessment starts with you, the business owner. You know your own business, your own risk profile, and your own budget, better than anyone. And think, plan, act.”

Culture starts at the top

Most SMBs understand the importance of culture. What’s less-common is how to ensure that a company culture remains authentic and aligned with the business’ objectives. Vanessa Giannos, CEO and founder of The HR Experts International has specialized in company performance, culture and change management, across start-ups, SMEs and large companies, for over 30 years. As she observes, “It’s almost a cliche, but a company’s culture really does start at the top: your leadership style, decisions, and behaviour are what inform the culture.”

A company’s culture can also be a strong culture has a strong bias for performance and action. “Employees are empowered and passionate about the success of the company. Engaged employees will constantly come up with innovative ideas on how to make the business better or grow the business.”

Numbers that count

What’s in a number? If you ask Leanne Berry, director of Love Your Numbers and of the Australian Institute of Certified Bookkeepers, it depends on the numbers that are most-important to you. “You need to maximize the time you spend on growing your business, and the key to doing that successfully is automation — of your bookkeeping, your compliance, how you integrate your point-of-sale with your accounts. Even bookkeepers go into business to grow their businesses, not the size of their accounts ledgers!”

Insights for every business

Digivizer CEO Emma Lo Russo is passionate about helping business be as successful as they can. “What we want to do with these events is to focus on what every business owner craves — practical insights and real-world, actionable plans that they can use to grow businesses faster, improve digital marketing ROI, and build the foundations for success,” she says.

And the stakes can be high. “Across Australia, recent Australian Bureau of Statistics data show medium businesses (those employing between 20 and 99 employees) contributed between 15% and 20% of the overall growth across all industry sectors and business sizes. We are passionate about giving them, and businesses of all sizes, the best tools and insights. At Digivizer we work with Google, LinkedIn, Barilla, Optus and Lenovo, early-growth and medium-size businesses including real estate software company Rockend, and startups such as SuperFastDiet and Oh Crap. One thing unites them all: they use digital marketing to generate better results, create exciting customer experiences, accelerate growth, and improve their ROI.”

Join Emma Lo Russo of Digivizer, Gavin Heaton of Disruptors Co, Leanne Berry of Love Your Numbers, Henry Reith of Oh Crap, Aleksandra Wocial of Google, Carole-Anne Priest of Imalia and Vanessa Giannos of The HR Experts International at The Microsoft Reactor venue at Sydney’s Startup Hub on October 24th or 30th. Both events are free. Details and registration at Eventbrite.

Head of Strategic Business Communications @Digivizer. Chartered PR Practitioner.