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Kickstart 2015!

Are you sick and tired of the rat race?

Do you fantasize about jumping off the treadmill and trying something new?

Are you ready to kickstart your own business?

Working on someone else’s time, lining someone else’s pockets, and being expected to feel grateful for the opportunity wears thin at times. Many of us fantasize about leaving it all behind and becoming our own boss, but it’s a daunting dream that few dare to make a reality. Most of us don’t really know where to start – we’re good at what we do, but what about things like marketing, brand awareness, communications? What about that all-important web presence that stamps your mark and brings traffic your way? Where to start with it all, and how to make sure you don’t end up doing far more work for far less money than before?

Whatever your dream, we’re here to help you make it a reality, and we’ll guide you step-by-step through all the tricky bits you’re not really expected to be expert at.

Catalyst for Transition specializes in kickstarter solutions for your small business start-up needs. Out small business kickstarter package includes:

  • Custom website design
  • Logo & branding
  • Promotional printing
  • Social media solutions
  • Start-up & marketing consultation

Catalyst for Transition’s Aall-in-one kickstarter package includes:

Website

  • Custom website design
  • Unlimited email addresses for your staff
  • User-friendly content management system so you are easily able to manage your site, adding and removing content yourself
  • A crash-course in how to use your site
  • General technical support for IT issues for the first year at no extra cost

Branding

  • Logo design
  • Business cards design + print x 500
  • Letterhead design + print x 500
  • DL envelope design + print x 500
  • Tri-fold flyer design + print x 500

Set-up & marketing support

  • Business concept consultation
  • Business set-up support
  • Marketing consultation & support

All for a special promotional price of $995, if you make sure to get in touch with us before the end of February. 

Call or email us today for a no-strings consultation.

Don’t wait a lifetime to start dreaming – dare to live life on your own terms!

 

Going Digital – Part 1: WordPress 101

So you’ve got a shiny new website, and you’re filling it up with kickass content, but are you getting the most out of it?

Too many people expect their beautiful new website to do the work of attracting users for them, but it’s not as simple as that. You may have the fastest car in the race, but you need to learn how to drive it well in order to get it up to top speed. You don’t need to be a web expert to be an effective webmaster, but you do need to know your way around the back-end of your site, and how each of the features and functions can best be used.

Organize your content

Understanding the difference between posts and pages is crucial. Pages are for your static information: your ‘about us’ section, your FAQs, your mission statement, and so forth. Posts are for dynamic information: your blog, your news or updates, and your promotions or campaigns.

Ideally you would use your menu to reflect your page structure, and the categories for your posts. So your menu would typically feature a tab for your ‘about us’ section, and tabs for each of your major categories, such as news, blog, and updates, for example. The menu does more than just assist with browsing, however; it provides navigation by organizing your content into a hierarchy of information while reflecting the site’s structure. A drop-down menu saves space on your main menu, and allows you to group and order content. For example, your ‘about us’ menu tab might drop down to reveal pages for your FAQs, your mission statement, and you contact form. Likewise, your ‘blog’ menu tab might drop down to reveal your various blog categories, to enable visitors to more easily find the type of information they are looking for.

You really want to ensure that your site is sufficiently navigable that visitors don’t need to use your ‘search’ box for anything other than really specific searches.

When posting, be sure to use categories for your information that make it search-friendly. A site that is easy to navigate will retain visitors for longer and expose them to more of your content. Tagging your posts is also useful for grouping material according to specific content, so that visitors can refine and narrow down their content searches.

Buff up your site with plug-ins

One of the great things about WordPress is the abundance of free plug-ins you can buff up your site with. Plug-ins can be searched from the back-end of your website, making it easy to find user-friendly software that can provide you with anything from a simple ranking function to display your most-viewed blog posts to a basic chat forum to a complex e-commerce section for your online orders or gift shop.

One useful plug-in that everyone should have on their site is WordPress’ own Jetpack plug-in, which gives you a comprehensive run-down on your site’s viewing stats. Jetpack enables you to view your site’s performance in terms of number of views in any given period, and in terms of which content is getting most traffic. This helps you to better understand your audience, as it gives you a gauge on which types of content most interest them.

Get SEO-savvy

You’ll also need to get SEO savvy if you are to make the most out of your site. You need to be attracting as much traffic as possible, and doing this involves a few tricks of the trade. Don’t fall for SEO salesfolk who promise you first page rankings on Google searches and charge a premium for the privilege. You can engineer first page rankings yourself with a little know-how. There are a number of user-friendly WordPress plug-ins that assist with SEO and really help you to make an impact on your search engine rankings.

Categories and tags are the first port of call for search-engine optimization (SEO), followed by keywords. With your categories the best advice is to keep the site as simple and user-friendly as possible, so make your categories clear and descriptive as you can – and check with others whether they find your site easy to navigate based on your categories and menu. Trying to be creative with naming categories is not necessarily the best way to go, as the user needs to be easily able to interpret your categories; don’t make that a cryptic struggle for them!

With tags and keywords, however, it’s a different story. The top tip here is to ensure you’re not competing with bigger fish for use of key words and phrases in either your keywords and tags – you won’t be able to out-compete the big fish in the rankings if you’re using the same terms; yours have to be different, but still capitalizing on a sense of what people are likely to be typing into a search engine that might lead them to your site.

Link with social media

Oh, and don’t forget those social media links! These days, if it’s not on social media, it’s not happening – so make sure you’re getting your stuff out there on Facebook and Twitter by enabling ‘likes’, shares and retweets from each of your posts!

5 Ways to get the Most out of your WordPress Website

As the shiny new specialness of your custom-built website wears off, most proud new owners of a solid web presence face the daunting task of learning how to use their site to its best advantage. One lesson is quickly learned: it’s not just about the quality of the content you upload – there is a lot more to attracting and engaging an audience for your cause.

To really get the most out of your WordPress website, you are going to need a few tricks up your sleeve, and every newcomer to web wizardry can benefit from a little insider information. Here are our top 5 tips for making WordPress work for you:

1. Learn from your site stats

One of the most useful aspects of your WordPress website is the feedback it gives you. WordPress’ own Jetpack plugin enables you to view your site stats from the back-end of your website with ease, and provides detail on how posts are scoring in terms of views, and where inbound clicks are coming from – i.e. how your audience finds you.

If you’re strong on social media you will probably find a lot of your audience referred to your website via the social media platforms you take advantage of. If only a small proportion of your audience is finding you via social media, this is an indication that you need to improve your social media presence.

When it comes to which posts are scoring highest in your rankings, it’s important to take note of trends. What are these numbers telling you about the type of content that your audience finds most compelling or useful? If you can see clear trends regarding the type of content that is most popular then you can plan to build on this type of content in order to retain your audience’s interest.

2. Update your content regularly

You need to give people a reason to keep returning to your website, and this means providing fresh content for them to engage with. Content takes various forms, all of which can engage your audience.

If you’re holding events or promotions, be sure to post regular updates informing your audience of how they can become involved. If you’re running a campaign, be sure to provide regular progress updates. If your organization has some news, reach out and share it with your audience. And if you don’t have a great deal to report on, make sure you are still providing content via your site’s blog.

Most organizations under-use blogging to their own detriment. Your blog is your means of communicating with your audience at the values level, as well as involving them in conversation about the issues you address or the needs you are working to meet. This kind of communication has the power to reach your audience in a way that engages them, and gives them something worth sharing with others – thus increasing your exposure. Even if you don’t have the time to contribute a post to your blog on a regular basis, you can re-post useful material you find elsewhere, with the permission of the original author, in order to update your content and keep your audience interested.

3. Enable interaction

If you want people to linger on your site you’ll need to provide them a means to engage with it. Websites have become far more than a static place to find information; these days visitors are looking for an experience, and few experiences can compare with the interactive nature of social media. In order to pry your potential audience away from social networking sites for long enough to engage them in what you are doing you will need to offer them a level – or type – of interaction that encourages them.

In many cases, visitors are satisfied with conversation via the comments section on your blog. Some are just looking to leave a comment and run, while others prefer to engage in ongoing conversation. It helps to thread your comments section several posts deep to facilitate ongoing conversations when they arise.

Polls are a fun way to engage your audience, and let’s face it, most people are happy to be asked their opinion on something. Giving your audience the sense that their input is valued – whether it’s their opinion on a topic, or their preference for one campaign suggestion over another – is empowering, and encourages repeat visits to your site.

Other ways of engaging your audience include quizzes, questionnaires, video and audio. Providing a variety of media for your audience to engage with ensures more than one mode of interaction is catered to. At the very least, try to ensure you have something on your site that isn’t a wall of text. Attention spans aren’t always up for more reading.

4. Amplify your presence with social networking

Social networking is a great way to maintain regular contact with your audience and ensure you remain fresh in their minds. The fast-paced world of social media means you have to be on the ball and maintain a firm presence. This means, in reality, that you need to be posting something on social media at least daily.

Most people don’t post new content on their websites on a daily basis, so the content of your social media posts will most likely have to include material that is not your own. Sharing material from organizations whose purpose is like-minded fosters a sense of collegiality, and encourages their sharing of your material, thus furthering your reach. Making alliances is a powerful means of amplifying you own voice, while demonstrating that you can be counted on.

Social networking enables you to funnel visitors to your website via content sharing, and provides you access to many more potential visitors. Ensure you use this funnel to your advantage when you need to promote an event, campaign or update, by providing a means to interact with your content exclusively on your website – try to get your audience to leave the comfort of Facebook or Twitter for a moment!

5. Get SEO-savvy

SEO isn’t the magic wand that email scammers make it out to be. And it isn’t something only experts can do. Learning a few SEO tricks can help you boost your search rankings – and it’s easier than you might think.

WordPress has a handy All in One SEO plugin that is intuitive and simple to use. All in One simply allows you to input a catchy (max 60 characters) title for your content – try to use search-friendly terms; a short 160 character description of the content – make sure you stick to this limit; and as many key words and phrases as you care to use. The trick is to choose key words and phrases that either appear in your article, or could be used to describe its content. Then you need to ensure that your title and description contain a number of these key words or phrases. Your key words and phrases need to be search-engine friendly – i.e. predict the kinds of words and phrases someone might type into a search engine if they were looking for the kind of content you provide.

In addition to your SEO plugin you can also make the most of tags, links, and headings. Your tags identify you as an authority on a topic if many of your posts are tagged under a small collection of key terms. As with keywords, these need to be directly relevant to your content and search-engine friendly. Try to avoid having too many tags that only apply to a couple of posts, as this undermines your perceived authority on the topic if you clearly don’t have much content around it. Providing internal links within posts to more of your own content facilitates easy navigation through your site to further information of value to your audience, and increases the click-rate on your site, thus boosting your search rankings. And finally, ensure you use headings in long posts – particularly blog posts – to break up the content into manageable chunks. Be sure to be consistent in your use of headings – heading 3 for main sections, and heading 5 for sub-sections, for example – as this assists search engines in filtering your content for web searches.

Sustainability: Just Sound Business Sense

No matter what business you’re in, people and planet are going to have to matter more to you than profit if you want to stay in business in our changing times. When it comes to profitability, sustainability is not beside the point; it is the bedrock of sound business sense.

With the Queensland Premier’s Sustainability Awards coming up, it makes sense to focus on the question of sustainability in small business. For some small businesses, such as Catalyst for Transition, sustainability is a way of life, and is an important part of the bottom line. For others, the increasing pressure to incorporate sustainability policies into operations and planning may appear a daunting task. But it really isn’t that hard. Small businesses are the economic cornerstone of their community, and, as such, play a vital role in economic sustainability. Ecological sustainability is so closely intertwined with economic sustainability that you may not even realise all the good things you are already doing that could be scaled up!

Aside from switching to a renewable energy source for your business operations, there are many more areas you could focus in on that you may not have even thought of. Sustainability may start at green energy for most, but is certainly doesn’t end there. Commitment to always pursuing the most sustainable options available takes time and research. If you break the task down into chunks it becomes that bit easier. However, get prepared to become mildly obsessive about sustainability once you realise how much room for improvement there is!

Sustainability practices can be categorised in whatever way suits your business needs. Catalyst for Transition’s sustainability policy breaks down our sustainability goals into four key areas:

  1. Equipment & supplies
  2. Waste management
  3. Business-related travel
  4. Partnerships

1. Equipment & supplies

Not all equipment and supplies are likely to be sustainable, and this may pose questions for your business as to whether or not they should be used at all. However, there is an increasing range of suppliers who offer increasingly sustainable options for equipment and supplies, and many of them may be more local than you think, reducing the net carbon footprint of your business while supporting your local economy. Many small, locally owned suppliers maintain commitment to sustainability as part of their company’s ethos, and are able to deliver on their promise with locally-sourced materials that travel small distances.

Most businesses chew through a fair amount of paper for administrative purposes. This is not always necessary, as point 2, below, will explain. However, in cases where it is, there is little excuse not to seek out recycled, acid-free, Australian Forestry Certified options from small family-owned businesses such as K.W. Doggett. It is also worth thinking about the kind of ink used for printing, as most print toners are highly toxic for the environment. In cases where you have the option, water-based biodegradable inks used in inkjet printers are the environmentally-friendly choice, and are surprisingly cheap when ordered through small online companies such as Rihac. Currently such options do not exist for laser printers.

In-office printing is surprisingly unsustainable if you’re using the wrong equipment. Upgrading your print equipment to more sustainable alternatives will generally save your business money while reducing your net carbon footprint, and your toxic waste (and perhaps you never realised just how toxic print waste could be!). Companies such as Xerox now deal in printers that are are modular and recyclable, with the bioplastics used for their parts derived from corn starch, as opposed to petrochemicals. On top of this, their equipment also has in-built energy-saving mechanisms to ensure your carbon footprint is as low as possible.

If your business has a website, – and, let’s be frank, you really should: if you’re not online, you don’t exist these days – you might be surprised to learn that the company that hosts your website may have an unenviably large carbon footprint. There is an increasing number of hosting companies, however, whose operations are offset with renewable energy, such as JustHost green server options. 

2. Waste management

Sustainable waste management practices are an ethical imperative, and lead to decreased pollution from environmental toxins. In addition, increased rates of recycling, refilling, and reusing add to the pool of sustainable jobs in your region while reducing waste and pollution.

How good are you at keeping your business waste to an absolute minimum? If you’re among the average, you’re not as good at it as you think you should be. But that can change, with ease. Writing a waste-management policy into your business operations, planning and decision-making policy really helps your business commit to the flow-chart of waste management. Simply put, you need to reuse whatever can be reused, refill whatever can be refilled, and recycle whatever can be recycled. If an item cannot be reused, refilled or recycled, perhaps it is best not to use it at all unless it is absolutely necessary to completing your work. Planning decisions need to be waste-conscious.

When it comes to office-based waste, refillable toner cartridges for printer ink, and modular printing equipment that can be recycled are great industry advances that support our sustainability goals. And there’s really no excuse for not recycling (preferably after reusing!) all waste paper. Catalyst for Transition go another step further and compost all of our waste paper for use in our local community garden. Well, being the hippies that we are at heart, we even compost our coffee grounds and teabags. Perhaps there is a community garden near you that could use your waste?

A paper-free office environment is a viable reality for many businesses these days, with email and online document storage now ubiquitous. Consider whether clients really need printed quotes, invoices and receipts, or whether these could, instead, be emailed. Clunky filing cabinets are also becoming a thing of the past, with online storage mechanisms such as Dropbox providing not only a paper-free storage option, but also greater security (you can be sure your Dropbox won’t be stolen or burned down!) and accessibility (you don’t even have to be in the office to access your filing cabinet these days!). Even project management can now be fully tracked using free online services, such as the open-source platform Trello, that enable you to reduce waste, and ensure all of your staff are on the same page at any given moment – and from any location. It’s a real win-win strategy.

3. Business-related travel

Business-related travel eats into your time, bank account, and carbon footprint. Where possible, it is best to keep it to an absolute minimum. There is nothing at all unusual these days about meeting clients via online teleconferencing as opposed to in their offices, and this opens up a whole new world of previously inaccessible clients.

Many small businesses such as Catalyst for Transition operate from a home office, as there is no real need for renting premises or commuting unless you need a shop front. If you can possibly avoid having a shop front to your business, then you are able to cut your overheads massively while reducing your carbon footprint by orders of magnitude.

Whether you rent your business premises or work from home, teleconferencing software such as Skype or Teamspeak (suitable for larger numbers of participants), liberates you from commuter time and associated carbon footprint, while positioning you with your office at your fingertips for anything you may need. Most client consultations can be carried out via teleconferencing, with some phone and email backup, and very little need for in-person meetings that require travel. Webinars also provide an excellent alternative when it comes to training options, and cut both your emissions-related ecological footprint, and that of your clients, as well as making training accessible from any location in Australia, at an affordable cost for participants.

4. Partnerships

Thinking laterally, strategic partnerships with sustainability-oriented non-profit organizations can boost both your sustainability profile, and your profile as a benevolent local business. Providing your services to such organizations at a reduced rate specifically for non-profits, or even providing pro-bono services to one lucky beneficiary chosen at the start of each year means that the benefits of your sustainability ethos are passed on to an organization whose work is furthering the cause of sustainability. Providing your services free of charge, at cost, or at a discounted rate, to your chosen organizations enables you  to give them the boost they need to serve the needs of the broader community, while assuring you that much-needed sustainability work is being enhanced with your support.

Pathway to sustainability

Any organization can take steps to enhance the sustainability of their operations, planning and decision-making. It’s just a matter of setting aside some time to plan your pathway to sustainability and start chipping away at the changes you need to make. Set specific goals with fixed timelines, and commit.

There is great benefit to the Australian community from adopting the kind of sustainability policies and procedures that form part of Catalyst for Transition‘s triple bottom-line. It is also of immense benefit for businesses to understand that operating sustainably is not as difficult as you may think, and that it need not incur extra costs, as any cost increases from some sustainability practices can be offset by savings from other sustainability practices.

If you are keen to learn more about Catalyst for Transition’s sustainability policy and how you can enhance the sustainability of your organization, please consult our blueprint for sustainable practice, or feel free to contact us.

Catalyst for Transition are available for consultation 9am – 6pm Monday – Saturday, so please get in touch if you’d like to discuss how we can help you make your business more sustainable.