commications

5 Ways to stay in touch with your customers

When it comes to increasing your sales and overall profitability, one of the best places to start is to increase your level of customer interaction.

 The more contact you have with your customers, the more likely it is that they will buy from you and refer you to others who need your products or services.

 It shouldn’t be just any old customer interaction though. You need to be strategic, targeted, value-driven and compelling – without appearing to be desperate, spamming or annoying.

 Not always the easiest feat, but to help you here are five proven ways to maintain regular customer contact and how to use them more effectively so your customers look forward to hearing from you.

1. Newsletters

 While some will argue the trusty newsletter has had its day, I tend to disagree. If you are going to make it work in this day and age of endless emails though, you’re going to have to shake things up a bit.

 When producing your newsletter, e-zine or e-news always come at it from the perspective “What’s in it for my customer? What information, tips and offers can I include that will make my customer want to give up 5, 10 or 15 minutes of their life to read this every month?”

 Think industry insights or a market update, some key tips that could be helpful and implemented the day they receive your newsletter, a relevant article and a call to action by way of a special offer.

 You want to keep it short and succinct, and where possible, in the reading pane of their email. If you do have any long articles or pieces of information you want to include, publish them as a blog post on your website so you can provide a short sentence or two with a link to “read more” in your newsletter to save space and increase your website traffic.

2. Special offers and competitions

A special offer for the month can be a great way to stay in touch with your customers and get them buying from you. Competitions also have the benefit of getting customers to engage with you by sharing your brand both online and offline.

 To hold your customers’ interests and ensure the best results, make sure your special offers are different each time and your competition prizes are desired items that are relevant to your business.

3. Emails using auto-responders

Not only are auto-responders an effective way of interacting with your customers, they can also save you a lot of time in the process.

 You could have a set email sequence start from when a customer or potential customer first inquires, becomes a customer, signs up to your mailing list or downloads a resource from your website so there is a clear process leading them to a sale or repeat sale.

 Or you could use it to give a quick weekly tip, update, thought, special offer, or all of the above to add more value to them.

 For optimum impact, make it concise, poignant, relevant and educational. Also use a value-driven or fear-based headline in order to stand out in an overcrowded email inbox.

4.  Social Media

 Social media is perhaps one of the best ways to stay in touch with your customers as it’s the most accepted regular form of contact, and a more “social” form of contact, making rapport building quicker and easier when done right.

 On social media, most people are anticipating regular updates from you – normally daily updates and possibly even multiple daily updates depending on your business. No other communication method has as much expected or allowed regular communication with a customer, making it an extremely valuable tool.

 To use it effectively and maintain your customer’s interest, you need to do more than post special offers and sales pitches. Look to inform, entertain and add value to your customers first, and then add some business promotion in.

5. Blogging

 While it is a slightly more passive way of communicating with customers as they are coming to you, when you post relevant, interesting and educational content regularly, you can build a loyal readership that will keep coming back for more.

 To make it a little less passive, give readers the opportunity to subscribe to your blog by email or RSS feed. This way they can have updates sent to them immediately instead of potentially missing something when they are left to come back on their own.

 To monetise your blog and convert your readers to customers, add a call to action or special offer that relates to what you wrote about in the post as a P.S. at the end of your blog post.

By Amanda Jesnoewski

Property 5

Rental properties – Deductions

If you own a rental property you could be one of the 110,000 investors who will be getting a letter from the Australian Tax Office (ATO) about your tax liabilities.

The ATO has announced that it will be writing to a sample of rental property owners about their tax obligations and entitlements, after new data mining technology identified that property investors may have submitted incorrect tax claims in prior tax years.

The ATO are targeting aggressive expense deductions and particularly the estimated two thirds of property investors who are negatively gearing their investments and claiming losses on their investment properties to offset their tax bills.

If you fall into this category, the following tips might be worth considering when you are completing your tax return.

What’s the status of the property?

Firstly, it’s vital that, if you’re claiming deductions, your rental property needs to be rented or available for rent. If a property is not available for rent, then expenses incurred by a taxpayer are not deductible.

This would seem an obvious point, but it’s worth remembering particularly if your property – as a holiday home or other part-time accommodation – is not rented out across the entire year. If that’s the case, remember that you can only claim deductions for the period that the property is rented or available for rent.

Who’s the owner?

It’s also worth remembering that the legal ownership of the rental property determines the proportion of ownership and entitlement to deductions on your individual tax return. This means that if a husband and wife purchase a rental property in joint names, then their levels of ownership will be 50/50 unless stated otherwise in the purchase contract.

Categories of deduction

Generally, the ATO specifies three types of rental property expenses:

  • Those which you cannot claim a deduction.
  • Those which can be claimed as an immediate deduction in the financial year in which they were incurred.
  • Those that can be deducted over a number of years.

Capital or personal expenses aren’t deductible, although you may be able to claim decline in value deductions (depreciation) or capital works deductions, or include certain capital costs in the cost base of the property for capital gains tax purposes. Other examples across each of the three categories are outlined in the sidebar alongside this article.

The picture also gets a bit more complicated when other considerations are factored in. For example, if you take out a loan to purchase a rental property, you can claim the interest charged on that loan as a deduction. However, if the loan is taken out for more than one purpose, you can only claim the interest relevant to the amount borrowed for the rental property. Depending on your circumstances, there may also be potential to claim prepaid interest to maximise your deductions.

Another factor which often confuses owners is the area of repairs and improvements to the property. Spending on repairs and maintenance is tax deductible, but you can’t immediately deduct costs on improvements and total replacements of items, as these are considered capital in nature. However, you might be able to claim depreciation and capital allowances on some improvements.

And, if you’re looking to fix something straight after buying the property, remember that you cannot claim initial repair costs for deterioration and damage already there when you bought the property until at least 12 months after purchase

You should consider getting a quantity surveyor’s depreciation report to ensure you can claim the maximum depreciation and capital allowances deductions. A specialist quantity surveyor can visit your property and prepare a depreciation report that will cover the actual building and the items within it (such as air-conditioner, stove, hot water service, etc).

It’s also worth consulting your accountant before you leap into the property investment space. Given the issues outlined above, tax time can be complex for property investors. When it comes to completing your tax return, working with your accountant to get it right can save a great deal of paperwork – and cost – down the track.

Please feel free to contact us : info@youraccountants.com.au

architect

Tax deductions for architects

If you work as an architect, some of the tax deductions you may be able to claim on your personal tax return are:
Meals and Travel
  • The cost of buying meals when you work overtime, provided you have been paid an allowance by your employer (you can claim for your meals without having to keep any receipts, provided you can show how you have calculated the amount you spent)
  • The cost of parking, tolls, taxis and public transport if you are required to travel to attend seminars, meetings and training courses (if you need to stay away overnight you can also claim for the cost of all meals and your accommodation)
  • The cost of using your own car for work, including travel to attend meetings, attend training courses, pick up supplies and driving between or around job sites (to claim for car costs it is usually best to keep a diary record of the number of kilometres you travel during the year for work purposes and then we can calculate the amount of your tax deduction at the end of the year) . You can claim the cost of using your own car to travel to and from work, BUT only if you are required to carry bulky tools and equipment for your work AND there is no secure area to leave these items on site overnight
Work Clothing
  • The cost of buying uniforms (including shirts, pants, skirts, jackets, jumpers – your uniform should have the business’s logo on it to ensure it is tax deductible)
  • The cost of laundry, dry cleaning or repairs of your uniforms
  • The cost of buying sun protection items (including sunscreen, hats, sunglasses and sun-protection shirts or jackets) if you are required to work on-site
  • The cost of buying any protective equipment required for working at your business premises, including gloves, goggles, masks, steel-capped boots, gum boots, high visibility clothes, winter outdoor jackets and aprons. This is only relevant if the protective items are required to be worn when you are working on-site
Training
  • The cost of work-related short training courses, for example first aid, OHS, computer skills or project management, which are not run by a University or TAFE (you can also claim for the cost of travelling to and from the course and any accommodation and meal expenses if you are required to stay away overnight)
  • The cost of self-education courses run by a University (not including HECS/HELP) or TAFE.  If you are studying you can also claim for the cost of books, stationery, equipment and travel required for your course
Work Tools & Equipment
  • The cost of buying and repairing equipment you use at work (including tools, electronic organisers, laptop computers and mobile phones)
  • The cost of any materials or supplies that you buy for use at work, for example office stationery, diary, work bag or briefcase, safety gear or first aid equipment
Other Work Expenses
  • The cost of annual memberships or union fees
  • The cost of work-related books, magazines and journals (these could include design, architecture, computer, management or OH&S books)
  • The cost of work-related mobile or home telephone calls and rental (you should keep a diary record of the number of phone calls you make for work for one month and then we can use that to estimate your usage for the whole year)
  • The cost of work-related internet connection fees (you can only claim the proportion of your monthly fees that relate to work use, which could include emailing, research relating to your job and research for your training courses)
General Expenses
There are some tax deductions that all employees can claim on their personal tax returns:
  • The amount of any donations to registered charities (as long as you haven’t received anything in return for your donation, such as raffle tickets or novelty items)
  • The cost of bank fees charged on any investment accounts
  • The cost of income protection or sickness and accident insurance premiums (this type of insurance covers you if you hurt yourself (including when you are not at work) or become sick and you are unable to work. It will pay you your normal wage until you are fit to return to work – if you don’t have this insurance you should see a financial adviser or ask us and we will refer you to someone who can organise it for you. It is definitely worthwhile)
  • Your tax agent fees (the amount you pay to your accountant to prepare your tax return each year)
  • The cost of traveling to see your tax agent (you can claim the cost of traveling to see your accountant to have your tax return prepared. You should keep a record of the number of kilometres you travel and any other incidental costs such as parking, meals, accommodation etc)
We suggest that you keep receipts for all purchases that are work related, even if they are not listed above. That way, when we prepare your tax return, we can decide whether you are allowed to claim a tax deduction for them or not.
If you would like any more information about the deductions listed or any other personal tax information, contact us at info@youraccountants.com.au