From a side project to a global business used in over 150 countries – entrepreneurs’ tips for growing your business sustainably

It’s not often that you come across a business which started off as a side project and within three years, has become global, being used in over 150 countries and growing exponentially month on month. This happened to be the case for Tim Kremer and Behram Khan, co-founders of Avaza, an all-in-one professional services automation tool that seamlessly combines time tracking, expense reporting, quoting and invoicing with project management.

Avaza was born out of the need to manage consulting teams efficiently and grow profitable consulting businesses. Both founders have a background in software consulting. Kremer previously ran a consultancy, consulting to large Australian companies and Khan was head of software for Seven Media Group, which is where they met. While managing large teams of over 30 consultants, they discovered that there was a significant amount of inefficiency in collaborating on projects with teams and clients. There was no single repository for project tasks and discussions with clients, for time tracking or billing. As a result, there was a lot of duplicated data, out-of-sync customer records and painful manual administration.

“We saw the opportunity to create a single project management product that was simple to use, could run a business much more efficiently and provide the transparency to clients, integrated reporting and business insights we craved,” says Kremer. “Avaza is a very cost effective solution and provides greater insight into business performance. It gives managers the ability to automate common business processes and gain visibility on team billable utilisation and project profitability. Avaza’s also a great tool for small businesses and freelancers, giving them the same professional interface afforded by large companies.”

Avaza is a successful global business with the past two years seeing revenue grow at approximately 10 to 15% per month, without any marketing spend. Kremer and Khan believe that by utilising marketing initiatives well, it can raise brand awareness and result in a steady flow of business leads. They share their top five tips on how to grow your business sustainably.

1. Prioritise marketing through free channels first

“What type of marketing will get you the highest return on investment? Free marketing! It’s important to diversify by using a range of methods to ensure effective results. Research your target businesses first. Then integrate methods such as cold calling, letterbox drops and commenting on online business forums, marketplaces or directories, particularly those with high rankings. Make sure to respond in a timely manner with informative and relevant comments. By mentioning your product or service in comments, you can build an online presence and increase SEO. For example, within our industry there are numerous business software directories and app marketplaces. They provide a constant trickle of highly profitable customers, allowing you more leeway to spend money on paid acquisition opportunities.”

2. Ensure your paid marketing has a positive ROI

“Many startups throw large amounts of money at paid marketing such as Google AdWords and Facebook. Unfortunately these channels are very competitive. In fact, many of the bid prices for advertising will leave you losing money. These channels have been inflated by Venture Capital funded companies investing lots of money in the hopes of meeting their growth targets. For many keywords relevant to Avaza, the bid prices are so high that no one is making money from them. It’s an expensive branding exercise for companies with too much cash. This isn’t a good idea for most startups. With high cash burn rates, your business is also more likely to crash and burn. Ensure you measure where your audience is coming from through tracking click-throughs on your website and how they are converting into leads and paid customers. Google Analytics is a free and efficient tool for monitoring and analysing site traffic. This tool is handy as it is applicable to businesses of any scale. If a customer’s lifetime value is less than your cost of acquisition, run for the hills!”

3. Team collaboration tools

“Using team collaboration software enables your team to work together even when members are located in different places, working from home or remotely. This software is on the rise as it allows companies to grow and thrive through a collaborative management structure. It is efficient and gives each individual involved the ability to make changes and monitor progress of a particular task or project. This tool also ensures effective communication within the team and assists with strategic planning and keeps track of goals and objectives of each project.”

4. Online invoicing and quoting

“In today’s competitive marketplace, businesses need to find an efficient way to generate invoices, quotes and keep track of their companies’ financial information. A key benefit of online invoicing is that it eliminates errors as it includes up-to-date records and it is accessible anywhere. All the data is in one central location and it saves time by allowing businesses to create and distribute multiple invoices quickly. Another advantage of online invoicing is that is environmentally friendly and reduces the carbon footprint of your company on the environment.”

5. Let your best customers market for you

“Make sure you give incentives to your customers for a win-win situation. By asking customers for feedback, you can incorporate their testimonies in all marketing material such as the company website and e-newsletters. One of the most successful marketing activities for Avaza has been our ‘Advocate Reward Program.’ Our customers can choose to go and write an honest review of our product at a range of popular marketplaces and in return for their time, we offer a credit towards their subscription. So our best customers are those who know the product well and have a subscription and are sharing their experiences with future customers. The incredible response has ensured our presence in popular global marketplaces has consistently improved.”

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