Peter, people often assume you’re a local. Tell us a little about yourself and your background.
I’m not quite a local, having just ticked over ten years here. I’m originally from the Riverina, where my family farmed wheat and sheep. I grew up south-west of West Wyalong in the thriving metropolis of Tallimba (population 1,500). It seems 1,500 acres wasn’t big enough for our family of eight, so we moved to Wagga Wagga. Prior to finding a career in media, I did my apprenticeship as a Fitter Machinist, backpacked overseas for a year and also worked in the swimming pool industry.
I was offered the Sales Manager role for Prime7 here in Coffs in 2005. I didn’t seek out the role, it was offered to me, but my lack of self-confidence meant I hadn’t seriously considered it. My wife, Sue, and I flew up to Coffs to have a look. I think we were sold as soon as the plane banked over the jetty to land! It was a beautiful day and so lush and green. We’d never been here before and with the mountains so close to the ocean, we were captivated by such spectacular beauty and have never looked back.
Is there such a thing as a typical day in your role as Sales Manager at Prime7?
I’m very lucky, as the days differ so much. I deal with a terrific and varied mix of business owners/managers, and they all have their own style. We look after clients from a cross-section of different industries and you get to learn and appreciate all aspects of how their business functions and the challenges they face. We have many great, loyal clients who appreciate what we do for their business. So far, I’ve had a very enjoyable 13 years with Prime7.
You’re exceptional at developing relationships, and at CornerPost we’ve seen that first-hand. What is the key to developing good working relationships?
For me, it’s a mix of transparency, trust, communication, listening, understanding their business, having fun, under-promising and over delivering, respecting that business people have a lot on their plate and lastly, not taking things too seriously.
To a degree, I see my role as a solution solver – so by better understanding their business, I can look at different ideas to assist them in either raising their profile or moving product. I can also be a different perspective or “fresh eyes”. I may share an observation and as business owners are usually proactive and receptive, that one suggestion can be something they’ll trial.
What are the benefits for businesses in using TV as a part of their marketing strategy?
There are a number of benefits; the most notable is reach. In any form of advertising, you want as many people as possible to know you and your product. The Prime7 signal stretches from Kempsey to Maclean and as Coffs Harbour draws a lot of consumer business from these areas, it pays to be letting viewers know who you are.
TV advertising is also extremely cost effective. If I had a dollar for every time I’ve been told a spot on TV is worth $1,000, I’d have retired comfortably by now. If done right, Regional TV is the most cost effective form of advertising. It’s vital to be comparing apples with apples. In a lot of cases, the presumption is that television advertising is too expensive and so, without any investigation, people opt for what’s easiest and not what’s smartest. My advice is to take the time to do some research and ask questions so you can make an informed decision based on what’s best for your business, rather than it being a personal choice.
You’re in contact with many local businesses – what do you think are the biggest challenges they face?
Firstly, I really respect all business owners – they take on the risk of running a business in a challenging and ever-changing climate and often have to wear many different hats. Each industry has its own set of challenges but in a broad sense, staffing seems to be a primary focus.
Another challenge for the small business owner may be that they are time poor and struggle to find the time to work on their business and not just in it. It’s not as though they can simply switch off at 5pm, as the business remains on their mind. A few of my clients engage in a business coach to assist them with time management, among other aspects of running a business.
Another challenge for local business is knowing their customer base. Quite often when I ask this question, business owners can be a bit hazy. Having a solid understanding of your customer profile is key. This enables business to be more targeted and specific in their advertising.
The introduction of digital marketing such as apps and social media has changed the way we advertise. How do you think these new marketing channels can work with the more traditional means (such as television, print and radio)?
This landscape has changed dramatically over the past few years. There are now so many choices, and it’s a challenge to understand them all. No-one is online 24/7 and not everyone engages with traditional marketing channels, so finding the right mix is essential.
Using TV is still vitally important, as it reaches the masses but of course, it does depend on your target demographic and the product you’re selling. Often traditional channels like television and radio are integrated with online channels like email and social media for best results. Regularly testing results is also important.
Social media, whilst it has many upsides, can have flaws as well with negative reviews, posts and even trolls. It’s still important for a business to be on social channels that suit its core target market. Having a mobile app or at the very least, a responsive website, is super important, as most users are searching for businesses and products via their mobile phones now.
Pete, you’re into fitness and triathlons. How did this come about?
Sinclair Black roped me into the Coffs Tri Club six years ago. My first ever tri was quite memorable. I swim like a rock, so I opted for the short course. I reckon I swallowed half the jetty, the 10 km ride felt like 100 and the run was a painful crawl with jelly legs. I was half-dead – to put it in politely. Everyone was very supportive though, so I stuck with it, determined to improve on my woeful start. Training made it more fun and has led to other adventures as well. Since then, I’ve done three half marathons and two very ugly marathons on the Gold Coast. It’s challenging but rewarding to push yourself beyond what you think you’re capable of.
What are your top tips for any small business to capitalise on the peak tourism summer season?
Continue to think outside the square; be as proactive as you possibly can. Form an alliance with different business operators in town that you can leverage off.
Everyone is looking for value, don’t assume people will come your way, make it happen. Ask them for a review on social media too, as this is how tourists research where to stay, eat or play.
32% of our visitors are visiting family and friends, so it pays to be targeting locals on a regular basis too. I think a lot of businesses fall into the trap of assuming that locals will know them, and well might they do; locals are key referrers so you need to be top of mind all year round.
Pete, thank you very much for your time.