Category: Business

8 Tips for Creating an Effective Online Presence for Your Small Business

Today, every business needs an online presence. Whether you run a local business or sell products online, a website, social media and other online profiles can help you reach a larger audience. Whether you’re just starting to build an online presence or looking to step up your efforts, here are some tips for your small business.

Create More Effective Instagram Videos

Video is the perfect outlet for getting a unique message across to your potential customers. If your target audience is active on Instagram, then you should be utilising video on that platform. But how can you make your videos more effective?

Use Organic Social Media as a Base for Paid Marketing

It’s true that ads and paid promotions on social media can help you increase your reach significantly. However, you can’t really make use of these options without a solid base of organic social media content.

Fix Your Local SEO Mistakes

When you’re trying to reach local customers online, you need to be very careful when shaping your SEO strategy. There are tons of mistakes that impact businesses and make their efforts less effective.

Target Adjacent Markets with Smart Risk Taking

If you want to expand your target audience, it helps to look into adjacent markets that are very similar to your current customer base. But it’s important to do this without alienating your current customers. That takes some smart risk taking.

Leverage the Full Potential of On-Site Search

A search function is important for any website. It helps your visitors find specific types of content they’re looking for, providing a better experience overall. But simply having a search bar may not be enough.

Examine the DNA of Shareable Content

If the content you create on your blog or website is shareable, you can extend your reach significantly.

Embrace Different Ways of Promoting Your Business

If you always stick to the same methods for promoting your business, you’ll continue to get the same results. So if you want to grow, you need to embrace new methods.

Create Content That Attracts Customers

Quality content can really help you step up the impact of your website and online presence. But it’s important to consider exactly how your content can attract your target customers, rather than creating generic posts.

 

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Surviving The Recession

Surviving The Recession

Most small businesses have already started noticing a decline in sales enquiries since autumn 2018 and could feel the effects of the “technical” recession long before the numbers were published. Almost everyone we speak to had cashflow problems during the past few months and most SME’s reported a decline in sales requests. Our latest recession combined with higher fuel costs creates an endless circle of decline and many small businesses will be struggling for survival.

One of the main observations we have noted is the large increase in marketing expenditure on Google and Facebook Ads. Many businesses are competing aggressively to dominate search results to increase their online visibility. This helps them sustain their businesses and cash-flow during the financial slump by generating more clients.

Our advice is to ensure your website is perfectly optimised for sales flow and that your Google Ads have the best possible conversion rate settings. There are many ways to increase your conversions (sales leads) and decrease your cost per conversion using historical data. We can help you build the perfect Google Ads campaign.


What is a Google Ads Conversion Rate?

The industry average for Google Ads conversions is about 2.35% and the top 25% of optimised accounts have a 5.31% conversion rate. We try to aim for a 10%+ conversion rate, but this takes time to build and requires lots of careful optimisations on both the website landing page and the Google Ads account.


Recession Survival Tips:

  1. Look for new opportunities within your business or new ideas to make the current service more profitable and streamlined.
  2. Consider expanding to new areas or even globally if you offer a product or service that appeals to a global market. Don’t be afraid to move beyond the local area if your sales are slowing down.
  3. If your target market is suffering financially, change your offers or evolve your offer to find a new target market.
  4. During a recession, businesses and people will make hard choices about what expenses to cut. Try to find ways to compromise with a cost-effective solution to maintain the business relationship until finances improve.
  5. During a recession, people are more focused on price comparison and shift their priority towards value and will usually choose a product or service that represents the best compromise between price and quality.
  6. Consumers and business are spending money more carefully and tend to do more research when selecting a new product or service provider. Ensure your customer reviews are looking good and use good reviews in your marketing material.
  7. Use the internet wherever possible! Many stores are closing their physical shop locations and opening virtual eCommerce stores. You save massive amounts per year in rent and offer a more convenient shopping experience for your clients. Woolworths, Take-A-Lot and Domino’s pizza have very user-friendly and efficient online ordering systems.
  8. Don’t stop advertising! When cash-flow starts to decline, many businesses examine their budgets and start reducing costs including their advertising budget. This is only a short-term solution and cutting your marketing budget will decrease the already dwindling sales and will cause more harm to your cash-flow.

 

Almost any business can survive an economic rescission if you are committed to improving your business. Work closely with your marketing company to see where you can improve and what else you can do to increase your online visibility, target market and profits. You can survive the storm and emerge stronger.

 

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8 Website Design Guidelines for an Exceptional User Experience

When it comes to designing or re-designing a website, it can be easy to get hung up on the aesthetics. “That shade of blue just doesn’t look right …. Wouldn’t it be cool to have the logo on the right side of the screen? …. How about we put a giant animated GIF in the middle of the page?”

However, if you’re truly trying to accomplish something with your website (e.g., brand awareness, lead generation, etc.), you’ll need to focus on more than just how your website looks.

In a world where folks have more than a billion websites they can potentially land on, you need to make sure your website’s design is optimized for usability (how easy your website is to use) and user experience (how enjoyable interacting with your website is for actual users).

Now, you could spend years studying the ins and outs of usability and UX, but for the sake of giving you a jumping off point, we’ve put together the following list of helpful guidelines to apply to your next web design project.

1) Simplicity

While the look and feel of your website is important, most visitors aren’t coming to your site to evaluate how slick the design is. Instead, they’re coming to your site to complete some action, or to find some specific piece of information.

Adding unnecessary design elements (i.e., elements that serve no functional purpose) to your website will only make it harder for visitors to accomplish what they’re trying to accomplish.

From a usability and UX perspective, simplicity is your friend. And you can employ simplicity in a variety of different ways. Here are some examples:

  • Colours. Don’t use too many. It is recommended using a maximum of five (plus or minus two) different colours in your website’s design.
  • Typefaces. The typefaces you choose should be legible at the very least. And when it comes to colours, you shouldn’t use too many. A common recommendation is to use a maximum of three different typefaces in a maximum of three different sizes.
  • Graphics. Only use them if they’ll help a user complete a task or perform a specific function.

Strip away everything that doesn’t add value, then add some visual texture back in.

The great car designer Colin Chapman famously said, “Simplify, then add lightness.” This principle owes something to that mindset. Every element on a page must add value to the user or the business—and ideally, to both. Taken literally, the process of stripping away non-value-adding elements can produce a rather Spartan design. This is where adding some visual texture back into a page comes in. This approach means:

  • The page focuses on the key content.
  • The necessary visual texture and interest is present—supporting the aesthetic-usability effect—but not at the expense of the key page content.

Strip away everything that doesn’t add value, then add some visual texture back in.

The great car designer Colin Chapman famously said, “Simplify, then add lightness.” This principle owes something to that mindset. Every element on a page must add value to the user or the business—and ideally, to both. Taken literally, the process of stripping away non-value-adding elements can produce a rather Spartan design. This is where adding some visual texture back into a page comes in. This approach means:

  • The page focuses on the key content.
  • The necessary visual texture and interest is present—supporting the aesthetic-usability effect—but not at the expense of the key page content.

2) Visual Hierarchy

Closely tied to the principle of simplicity, visual hierarchy entails arranging and organising website elements so that visitors naturally gravitate toward the most important elements first.

Remember, when it comes to optimising for usability and UX, the goal is to lead visitors to complete a desired action, but in a way that feels natural and enjoyable. By adjusting the position, colour, or size of certain elements, you can structure your site in such a way that visitors will be drawn to those elements first.

3) Navigability

Having intuitive navigation on your site is crucial for ensuring visitors can find what they’re looking for. Ideally, a visitor should be able to arrive on your site and not have to think extensively about where they should click next — moving from point A to point B should be as pain-free as possible.

Here are a few tips for optimising your site’s navigation:

  • Keep the structure of your primary navigation simple (and near the top of your page).
  • Include navigation in the footer of your site.
  • Don’t offer too many navigation options on a page.
  • Don’t dig too deep. In most cases, it’s best to keep your navigation to no more than three levels deep.
  • Include links within your page copy, and make it clear where those links lead to.

Another pointer: Once you’ve settled on what your site’s main (top) navigation will be, keep it consistent. The labels and location of your navigation should remain the same on each and every page of your site.

4) Consistency

In addition to keeping your site’s navigation consistent, the overall look and feel of your site should be consistent across all of your site’s pages. Backgrounds, color schemes, typefaces, and even the tone of your writing are all areas where being consistent can have a positive impact on usability and UX.

That’s not to say, however, that every page on your site should have the same exact layout. Instead, you should create different layouts for specific types of pages (e.g., a layout for landing pages, a layout for informational pages, etc.), and by using those layouts consistently, you’ll make it easier for visitors to understand what type of information they’re likely to find on a given page.

5) Accessibility

Research shows that tablet internet consumption grew 30% between 2013 and 2018. Smartphone internet consumption, meanwhile, grew 78% during the same time period. The takeaway here: In order to provide a truly great user experience, your site needs to be compatible with the different devices (and operating systems, and browsers) that your visitors are using.

At a high-level, this means investing in a website structure that is highly flexible — like responsive design. With a responsive site, content is automatically resised and reshuffled to fit the dimensions of whichever device a visitor happens to be using.

At a lower level, improving accessibility can be as simple as adding alt-text to all of your images (so visitors who can’t see images in their browsers can still understand what’s on the page).

Ultimately, it’s more important that your website provides a great experience across different platforms as opposed to having to it look identical across those platforms. And that can mean adhering to platform-specific design conventions instead of trying to squeeze in unique elements that users of that platform might not be familiar with.

6) Conventionality

There are certain web design conventions which, over the years, internet users have become increasingly familiar with. Such conventions include:

  • Having the main navigation be at the top (or left side) of a page
  • Having a logo at the top left (or center) of a page
  • Having that logo be clickable so it always brings a visitor back to the homepage
  • Having links change colour/appearance when you hover over them

While it might be tempting to throw all such design conventions out the window for the sake of being completely original or unique, this would (likely) be a mistake.

In order to provide the best experience possible for your site’s visitors, take advantage of the fact that you already know what types of web experiences they’re familiar with. You can use this information to make your site easier for visitors to navigate.

7) Credibility

Ultimately, using web design conventions — design elements and strategies that visitors are already familiar with — can help give your site more credibility. And if you’re striving to build a site that provides the best user experience possible, credibility (a.k.a. the amount of trust your site conveys) can go a long way.

One of the best ways to improve your site’s credibility is to be clear and honest about the product/service you’re selling on the site. Don’t make visitors have to dig through dozens of pages to find out what it is you actually do. Instead, be up front about it, and dedicate some real estate to explaining the value behind what you do.

Another credibility tip: Have a pricing page. While it can be tempting to force people to contact you in order for them to learn more about pricing, having prices listed clearly on your site can definitely make your business seem more trustworthy and legitimate.

8) User-Centricity

At the end of the day, usability and user experience hinge on the preferences of the end users. (After all, if you’re not designing for them … who are you designing for?)

So while the principles detailed in this list are a great starting point, the real key to improving the design of your site is to conduct user testing, gather feedback, and make changes based on what you’ve learned.

68% of visitors fail to convert because they don’t think you care about their experience. So as a final bit of usability/UX wisdom, start caring more! Put yourself into the shoes of your site’s visitors and keep them in mind every step of the way.

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15 of the Best Calligraphy Fonts You Can Download for Free

The right font can instantly improve the look of your marketing presentation, impress your client, or escalate your design from average to exceptional.

But it’s often tough to find a font that falls somewhere in-between classy and dramatic — particularly when you’re not willing to pay for an experienced calligrapher.

We’ve compiled 15 of the best calligraphy fonts we found online. These fonts are subtle, professional, and eye-catching. Best of all, they’re free, so you can download and try them all before picking your favourite.

Most of these fonts are for personal use only, but some of them are available for commercial projects. Below each font, is specified whether it’s free for personal or commercial use — however, if you’re considering using the font for commercial purposes, please read the font’s individual licensing agreement.

1. Alex Brush

This font is classic and understated. It’s also legible and clear, with decent space in between each letter, so you can use the font even for dense paragraphs of text.

Download at: 1001 Free Fonts

Free for personal and commercial use.

2. Adreno Script Demo Regular

 

Adreno Script is more playful and fun than most of the other calligraphy fonts in the bunch, making it a good option when your design intent is more lighthearted.

Download at Urban Fonts

Free for personal use.

3. Balqis

If you’re designing an artsier project, like a book cover or presentation swag, this font is folksy and down-to-earth, and doesn’t appear too formal.

Download at: Free Design Resources

Free for personal and commercial use.

4. Bukhari Script

Bukhari Script is bold and fluctuates in shading, making it appear vintage and old-school. It’s a good font to use if you’re trying to invoke some nostalgia in your marketing.

Download at: Font Fabric

Free for personal and commercial use.

5. Champignon

This font is decorative and classically formal — you’d probably use this font for invitations, placeholders, or titles, rather than long paragraphs of text or a presentation.

Download at: Dafont

Free for personal and commercial use.

6. Easy November

The swoopy, exaggerated nature of Easy November makes it a great font for titles or branded items like calendars or stickers. Its eye-catching nature makes it appropriate for many different platforms.

Download at Font Space

Free for personal use.

7. Great Day

This font falls somewhere between retro and conservative, making it fitting for both professional presentations, or playful signs or titles. The spacing between each letter also makes it easier to read than some of the other calligraphy fonts.

Download at Font Space

Free for personal use.

8. Kristi

This is one of the more casual and spirited fonts in the mix, evoking memories of girls names in high school yearbooks, which could be ideal if you’re looking to add a personal or hand-written feel to your design.

Download at: Font Squirrel

Free for personal and commercial use.

9. Learning Curve Pro

If there was ever a font that mimicked a “Learn Cursive” activity book, this would be it. The simple, precise lines make it a good bet for any longform content you’re trying to spruce up, while remaining traditional.

Download at: Font Squirrel

Free for personal and commercial use.

10. Pinyon Script

This formal design echoes nineteenth century letter-writing styles, making it a tasteful option for formal posters, invitations, or namecards. This is a good font to use if your theme is more conservative.

Download at: 1001 Fonts

Free for personal and commercial use.

11. Ralph Lanok Future

Ralph Lanok Future is dramatic, and sleek. While it seems too theatrical for dense text, it’s a great option when you’re aiming to draw a viewer’s attention to a few words or phrases.

Download at Urban Fonts

Free for personal use.

12. Sacramento

 

 

This casual, funky font is a throwback to styles of the 1960s — perfect for large signs or advertisements aiming to create a vintage feel.

Download at: 1001 Fonts

Free for personal and commercial use.

13. Sophia

Undoubtedly one of the more feminine, charming fonts in the list, Sophia uses wide and thin strokes to appear beautifully hand-drawn. This font would work perfectly for any design calling for a soft, graceful feel.

Download at: Creative Booster

Free for personal and commercial use.

14. Special Valentine

 

 

Special Valentine is one of the few classic fonts where the uppercase and lowercase letters are similar sizing and aligned. This makes it useful for full paragraphs by ensuring easy readability, but it’s still elegant enough to also use for invitations or titles.

Download at Urban Fonts

Free for personal use.

15. Qaskin Black Personal Use

There’s something about this font that screams “outdoors-y” to me. I don’t know if it does the same for you, but regardless, Qaskin Black is an unusual calligraphy font, seeming more tough and rustic than the others.

Download at Font Space

 

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You have until July to Install SSL or Google will mark your site “Not Secure”

Chrome 68, due out in July, will warn users about HTTP sites.

The time has come for all websites to migrate to HTTPS. You have until July when Chrome 68 releases.

Google has also pushed the date back a couple of times trying to avoid the massive disruption that will occur when websites start getting labeled, “Not Secure.”

If you haven’t been following, here’s what you need to know:

Google and the rest of the browsers have been working on this for a long time. Last year Google and Mozilla began the push towards universal encryption by changing the UI on their browsers. In addition to the padlock icon, any website with SSL is marked “Secure.”

The idea was that website owners would gradually adopt SSL as more and more features were being taken away.

The browsers also began marking HTTP sites “Not Secure.” This was done more gradually. The warnings started out just warning users when they were about to enter a password in an unencrypted field. Now, with the release of Chrome 68 in July, Google is cranking it up to 11. Any website served via HTTP is going to get the “Not Secure” indicator.

What’s the Big Deal with HTTPS?

HTTP is ancient by computer standards. It’s a protocol for communication and it worked fine for a while. Unfortunately, HTTP is not secure. When you make an HTTP connection with a website that connection is not secure. That means that anyone can eavesdrop on the connection and steal or manipulate any data passed back-and-forth.

HTTPS is secure. When you make a connection with a website the data being sent is encrypted. That essentially makes it worthless to anyone without the corresponding key. Beyond security, HTTPS also blocks ISPs from injecting ads on your website, it is faster and performs better than HTTP and, finally, you have to have encryption in order to use HTTP/2, which is becoming more widely adopted by the day.

What do I need to do?

You need to install an SSL certificate and migrate your website to HTTPS. Before you order one though, take stock of what you need to secure. You may just have a single domain or you may have something more complicated like sub-domains or even multiple domains, in which case you’ll want to find the right certificate. Don’t worry, there’s a diverse set of offerings that cover just about every use case. Webnova can assist all clients hosted with us, if not done already.

Next you’ll need to migrate to HTTPS, you can do this by changing the protocol in your URLs to HTTPS, then using 301 redirects. You may also want to take the time to add your website to HSTS preload list.

Either way, the key takeaway is that you have until July to get an SSL certificate, in case you anger Google.

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How to Write a Business Plan

Not all business ideas are good ones. A lot of people have business ideas — it’s whether these ideas are any good that really matters. That’s precisely why, if you intend to actually build a business from your idea, it’s helpful to create a business plan so you can build out your concept in detail and prove that it can really work, both logistically and financially.

What is a Business Plan?

A business plan is a living document that maps out the details of your business. It covers what your business will sell, how it will be structured, what the market looks like, how you plan to sell your product or service, what funding you’ll need, what your financial projections are, and which permits, leases, and other documentation will be required.

At its core, a business plan helps you prove to yourself and others whether or not your business idea is worth pursuing. It’s the best way to take a step back, look at your idea holistically, and solve for issues years down the road before you start getting into the weeds.

This post covers tips for writing a business plan, followed by an outline of what to include and business plan examples. Let’s start with some basic, overarching tips before we dive in to the details.

Tips for Writing a Business Plan

Narrow down what makes you different.

Before you start whipping up a business plan, think carefully about what makes your business unique first. If you’re planning to start a new athletic clothing business, for example, then you’ll need to differentiate yourself from the numerous other athletic clothing brands out there.

What makes yours stand out from the others? Are you planning to make clothing for specific sports or athletic activities, like yoga or hiking or tennis? Do you use environmentally friendly material? Does a certain percentage of your proceeds go to charity? Does your brand promote positive body image?

Remember: You’re not just selling your product or service — you’re selling a combination of product, value, and brand experience. Think through these big questions and outline them before you dive in to the nitty-gritty of your business plan research.

Keep it short.

Business plans are more short and concise nowadays than they used to be. While it might be tempting to include all the results of your market research, flesh out every single product you plan to sell, and outline exactly what your website will look like, that’s actually not helpful in the format of a business plan.

Know these details and keep them elsewhere, but exclude everything but the meat and potatoes from the business plan itself. Otherwise, you might risk losing your readers’ attention.

Format for easy skimming.

Your business plan shouldn’t just be a quick(ish) read — it should be easy to skim, too. That’s where formatting becomes particularly important. Use headers and bullet points, bold or highlight the key lines or metrics you want the reader to take away, and even attach labeled tabs to your copies (paper and digital) for easy reference.

You can (and should) change it as you go.

Keep in mind that your business plan is a living, breathing document. That means you can update your business plan as things change. For example, you might want to update it a year or two down the road if you’re about to apply for a new round of funding.

How to Write a Business Plan

Here are the key elements in a business plan template:

  1. Executive Summary
  2. Company Description
  3. Market Analysis
  4. Product and/or Service
  5. Operations & Management
  6. Marketing & Sales Plan
  7. Financial Plan
  8. Appendix

Here’s what goes in to each of the elements of that business plan outline:

1) Executive Summary

The purpose of the executive summary is to give readers a high-level view of the company and the market before delving in to the details. (Pro Tip: Sometimes it’s helpful to write the executive summary after you’ve put together the rest of the plan so you can draw out the key takeaways more easily.)

The executive summary should be about a page long, and should cover (in 1–2 paragraphs each):

  • Overview: Briefly explain what the company is, where you’ll be located, what you’ll sell, and who you’ll sell to.
  • Company Profile: Briefly explain the business structure, who owns it and what prior experience/skills they’ll bring to the table, and who the first hires might be.
  • Products or Services: Briefly explain what you’ll sell.
  • The Market: Briefly explain your main findings from your market analysis.
  • Financial Considerations: Briefly explain how you plan to fund the business and what your financial projections are.

Example of an “Overview” section of the Executive Summary:

Jolly’s Java and Bakery (JJB) is a start-up coffee and bakery retail establishment located in Cape Town. JJB expects to catch the interest of a regular loyal customer base with its broad variety of coffee and pastry products. The company plans to build a strong market position in the town, due to the partners’ industry experience and mild competitive climate in the area.

JJB aims to offer its products at a competitive price to meet the demand of the middle-to higher-income local market area residents and tourists.

2) Company Description

Next, you’ll have your company description. Here’s where you have the chance to give a summary of what your company does, your mission statement, business structure and business owner details, location details, the marketplace needs that your business is trying to meet, and how your products or services actually meet those needs.

Example of a “Company Summary”:

Sam’s Creative Center is a startup, to go into business in the summer of this year. We will offer a large variety of art and craft supplies, focusing on those items that are currently unavailable in this area. The Internet will continue to be a competitor, as artists use websites to buy familiar products. We will stock products that artists don’t necessarily have experience with. We will maintain our price comparisons to include those available on line.

We will offer classes in the use of new materials and techniques.

We will build an Artist’s Oasis tour program. We will book local Bed and Breakfasts; provide maps and guides for appropriate plain-air sites; rent easels and materials; sell paint and other supplies and ship completed work to the clients when dry.

We will expand the store into an art center including: A fine art gallery, offering original art at, or near, wholesale prices; Musical instruments/studio space; Classrooms for art/music lessons; Art/Music books; Live music/coffee bar; Do-it-Yourself crafts such as specialty T-Shirts, signs, cards, ceramics for the tourist trade.

3) Market Analysis

One of the first questions to ask yourself when you’re testing your business idea is whether it has a place in the market. The market will ultimately dictate how successful your business will be. What’s your target market, and why would they be interested in buying from you?

Get specific here. For example, if you’re selling bedding, you can’t just include everyone who sleeps in a bed in your target market. You need to target a smaller group of customers first, like teenagers from middle-income families. From there, you might answer questions like: How many teenagers from middle-income families are currently in your country? What bedding do they typically need? Is the market growing or stagnant?

Include both analysis of research that others have done, as well as primary research that you’ve collected yourself, whether by surveys, interviews, or other methods.

This is also where you’ll include a competitive analysis. In our example, we’d be answering the question: how many other bedding companies already have a share of the market, and who are they? Outline the strengths and weaknesses of your potential competitors, as well as strategies that will give you a competitive advantage.

Example of a “Market Analysis” summary section:

There are two distinct groups of target customers. These two groups of customers are distinguished by their household wealth. They have been grouped as customers with <R1 million and >R1 million in household wealth. The main characteristic that makes both of these groups so attractive is their desire to make a difference in the world by making investment decisions that take into account environmental factors.

The financial services industry has many different niches. Some advisors provide general investment services. Others will only offer one type of investments, maybe just mutual funds or might concentrate on bonds. Other service providers will concentrate on a specific niche like technology or socially responsible companies.

Market Segmentation

The target market has two distinct groups. The groups can be differentiated by their difference in household wealth, households of <R1 million and >R1 million.

  • <R1 million (household worth): These customers are middle class people who have a concern for the environment and are taking personal action through their choosing of stock investments based on companies with both strong economic and environmental performance records. Because these people do not have an over abundance of money they choose stocks that are of moderate risk. Generally, this group has 35%-45% of their portfolio in stocks, the remaining percentages in other types of investments.
  • >R1 million (household worth): These customers are upper middle class to upper class. They have amassed over R1 million in savings and are fairly savvy investors (themselves or the people they hire). These people are generally concerned about the rate of return of their investments but also have environmental concerns.

4) Products and/or Services

Here’s where you can go into detail about what you’re selling and how it benefits your customers. If you aren’t able to articulate how you’ll help your customers, then your business idea may not be a good one.

Start by describing the problem you’re solving. Then, go into how you plan to solve it and where your product or service fits into the mix. Finally, talk about the competitive landscape: What other companies are providing solutions to this particular problem, and what sets your solution apart from theirs?

Example of a “Products and Services”:

AMT provides both computer products and services to make them useful to small business. We are especially focused on providing network systems and services to small and medium business. The systems include both PC-based LAN systems and minicomputer server-based systems. Our services include design and installation of network systems, training, and support.

Product and Service Description

In personal computers, we support three main lines:

1) The Super Home is our smallest and least expensive line, initially positioned by its manufacturer as a home computer. We use it mainly as a cheap workstation for small business installations. Its specifications include …[additional specifics omitted]

2) The Power User is our main up-scale line. It is our most important system for high-end home and small business main workstations, because of …. Its key strengths are …. Its specifications include ….[additional specifics omitted]

3) The Business Special is an intermediate system, used to fill the gap in the positioning. Its specifications include … [additional specifics omitted]

In peripherals, accessories and other hardware, we carry a complete line of necessary items from cables to forms to mousepads … [additional specifics omitted]

In service and support, we offer a range of walk-in or depot service, maintenance contracts and on-site guarantees. We have not had much success selling service contracts. Our networking capabilities …[additional specifics omitted]

Competitive Comparison

The only way we can hope to differentiate well is to define the vision of the company to be an information technology ally to our clients. We will not be able to compete in any effective way with the chains using boxes or products as appliances. We need to offer a real alliance.

The benefits we sell include many intangibles: confidence, reliability, knowing that somebody will be there to answer questions and help at the important times.

These are complex products, products that require serious knowledge and experience to use, and our competitors sell only the products themselves.

Unfortunately, we cannot sell the products at a higher price just because we offer services; the market has shown that it will not support that concept. We have to also sell the service and charge for it separately.

5) Operations & Management

Use this section to outline your business’ unique organisation and management structure (keeping in mind that you may change it later). Who will be responsible for what? How will tasks and responsibilities be assigned to each person or each team?

Includes brief bios of each team member and highlight any relevant experience and education to help make the case for why they’re the right person for the job. If you haven’t hired people for the planned roles yet, that’s OK — just make sure you identify those gaps and explain what the people in those roles will be responsible for.

Example of a “Personnel Plan” section of the Operations & Management:

The labor force for DIY Wash N’ Fix will be small. It will consist of a part-time general manager to handle inter-business relationships and corporate responsibilities. In addition, DIY Wash N’ Fix will employ three certified mechanics/managers; their duties will consist of the day-to-day operation of the firm. These duties fall into two categories: managerial and operational. Managerial tasks include: scheduling, inventory control and basic bookkeeping. Safety, regulatory issues, customer service and repair advice are the operational tasks they will be responsible for.

Additionally, customer service clerks will be hired to perform the most basic tasks: customer service and custodial. DIY Wash N’ Fix will have a single general manager to coordinate all outside business activities and partnerships. The business relationships would include accounting services, legal counsel, vendors and suppliers, maintenance providers, banking services, advertising and marketing services, and investment services. “Name_Surname” will fill this general management position. She will be receiving a BComm. from the University of …

The daily management of the business will be left to the lead mechanic. Even though DIY Wash N’ Fix is not a full service repair shop it can be expected that some customers will attempt repairs they are not familiar with and need advice. Therefore, we intend to hire three fully certified mechanics. The mechanics will not be authorised to perform any work on a customer’s car, but they will be able to take a look at the car to evaluate the problem. To reduce our liability for repairs done incorrectly we feel only professional mechanics should give advice to customers. The primary function of the mechanics will be customer service and managerial responsibilities.

6) Marketing & Sales Plan

This is where you can plan out your comprehensive marketing and sales strategies that’ll cover how you actually plan to sell your product. Before you work on your marketing and sales plan, you’ll need to have your market analysis completely fleshed out, and choose your target buyer personas, i.e., your ideal customers.

On the marketing side, you’ll want to cover answers to questions like: how do you plan to enter the market? How will you grow your business? Which channels will you focus on for distribution? How will you communicate with your customers?

On the sales side, you’ll need to cover answers to questions like: what’s your sales strategy? What will your sales team look like, and how do you plan to grow it over time? How many sales calls will you need to make to make a sale? What’s the average price per sale? Speaking of average price per sale, here’s where you can go into your pricing strategy.

Example of a “Marketing Plan”:

The Skate Zone plans to be the first amateur inline hockey facility in Johannesburg, South Africa. Due to the overwhelming growth of inline hockey throughout South Africa, the company’s promotional plans are open to various media and a range of marketing communications. The following is a list of those available presently.

Public relations. Press releases are issued to both technical trade journals and major business publications.

Tournaments. The Skate Zone will represent its services at championship tournaments that are held annually across South Africa.

Print advertising and article publishing. The company’s print advertising program includes advertisements in The Yellow Pages, Internet, The Skate Zone Mailing, school flyers, and inline hockey trade magazines.

Internet. The Skate Zone currently has a website and has received several inquiries from it. Plans are underway to upgrade it to a more professional and effective site.  In the future, this is expected to be one of the company’s primary marketing channels.

7) Financial Plan

Finally, outline your financial model in detail, including your start-up cost, financial projections, and a funding request if you’re pitching to investors.

Your start-up cost refers to the resources you’ll need to get your business started — and an estimate of how much each of those resources will cost. Are you renting an office space? Do you need a computer? A phone? List out these needs and how much they’ll cost, and be honest and conservative in your estimates. The last thing you want to do is run out of money.

Once you’ve outlined your costs, you’ll need to justify them by detailing your financial projections. This is especially important if you’re looking for funding for your business. Make sure your financial model is 100% accurate for the best chance of convincing investors and loan sources to support your business.

Appendix

Finally, consider closing out your business plan with an appendix. The appendix is optional, but it’s a helpful place to include your resume and the resume(s) of your co-founder(s), as well as any permits, leases, and other legal information you want to include.

There you have it. We hope this has helped you get a better idea of what a business plan should look like. Now it’s time to turn that business idea into a reality. Good luck!

 

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7 Rules for small business growth

You can ask almost any Small business owner what they want for their company, and the answer is likely to be “more customers, more sales and more business.” In other words, they want their business to grow. Here are just a few suggestions that might be of help to you and your business.

  1. Know what business you’re in

You may think you know what your business does, but in today’s rapidly changing world, with more competitors, it may be hard to figure out exactly what your strategic position is and how your customers perceive you. Take our small business. We called ourselves a web design and internet marketing company. But the world of web design and online marketing changes almost every day. We needed to figure out what our customers really wanted from us and understand our core competencies so we could change to survive in this new competitive environment. What are your core competencies?

  1. Take care of your bread-and-butter business first

What business activities / services actually bring in the money to pay the bills? Never endanger these activities, even if they’re not exciting or “creative” It’s easy to get bored with your own business — but don’t allow yourself to be. After all, your employees need a paycheck, and your dog has to eat. Look at your financials to see where your sales come from and who your biggest clients are. Taking care of them is your first, though not your only, priority.

  1. Don’t bet all your money on one horse

Many businesses — including our own at one point — have only one or two clients or distribution channels that bring in the bulk of revenue. Being dependent on one or two revenue streams is perilous. It certainly made us nervous at the time, and we knew we had to add new revenue streams to reduce risk, which we did. And that boosted and sustained our business.

  1. Be clear about your target market

If you don’t know exactly who your customers are, you won’t know what they want and how best to serve them. The biggest problem of most small businesses is they try to serve too large a market. Find a niche and own it. When you try to reach too many customers — or types of customers — you spread your resources too thin and your message gets incoherent.

  1. Identify exit scenarios

Someday, you’ll want to leave your business — sell it, close it, pass it to your family members. Outline a few realistic exit possibilities and the steps necessary to make those happen. For instance, if you’d like to sell your business, what would make your company attractive to a buyer?

  1. Build one business at a time

Most entrepreneurs have many great ideas and see opportunities to grow in many different directions. But if you try to act on all those ideas — seize those opportunities — at once, you’re less likely to be successful at any one of them. A key rule is to concentrate on only one new direction — product line, target market, distribution channel — at a time. Get that done right, and only then expand.

  1. Choose a strategy you can afford

Growing a business takes money: for marketing activities, new staff, inventory. How will you fund that growth? Through your own revenues? That means growth will be slower. By taking out loans? You’ll have more debt and obligations. By finding an investor? That takes time, and you have to give up part of your company’s ownership. Figure out what kind of financing you can live with, and choose your growth strategy accordingly.

 

 

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The 3 Areas Brands Should Invest in to Improve Consumer Experiences on Mobile

Digital user experiences are more important than ever. Whether it’s on the web, mobile, or a digital assistant, consumers’ relationships with technology continue to evolve. People are finding faster and more efficient ways to get things done. As a result, brands are no longer competing with other brands in their category. They’re now competing with the best digital experience a user has ever had.

1. Help me faster

Consumers are shifting their thinking from “Who does it best?” to “Who does it best, now?”

2. Know me better

Consumers want to be served relevant experiences—regardless of context, device, or channel.

3. Wow me everywhere

Consumers expect seamless experiences every time they interact with a brand.

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10 Ways to increase your email open rate

You probably already know how important email marketing is, but if no one is actually reading your emails, your campaigns aren’t doing you much good. Luckily, there are lots of ways you can entice more people to click on your emails. Here are 10 tried-and-true strategies for improving your email open rate.

  1. Write a great subject line

A subject line is to an email what a headline is to an article. If it doesn’t beg to be clicked, people won’t bother, and your painstakingly-crafted email will go unseen. If you’re not happy with your current email open rate, your subject lines are a good place to start improving.

A few rules of thumb for clickable subject lines: make them concise, specific, and action-oriented. If you can, add a sense of urgency, or make people feel like they’ll be missing out on something great if they don’t click. Whatever you do, don’t be generic or bore people. For example, write something like “Grab our marketing guide while it’s free!” instead of “Special offer inside.”

Try not to sound too promotional in your subject line, or your emails might get snagged by the spam filter. Don’t use all caps or multiple exclamation points.

  1. Send emails from a trustworthy name

What name do you send marketing emails from? This little detail can make a big difference in your open rates. If your brand is small or personal, make sure your name is in the “From” field, not the name of your business. People are more likely to open emails that are sent from a name they recognise and trust.

There are some times when you might want to use your brand name instead of your personal name for sending emails, though. If your brand is very recognizable but your name isn’t, you may get better results by putting your business’ name in the “From” field. There’s no single right answer here, so put yourself in your subscribers’ shoes and take the approach that makes more sense for your situation.

  1. Use a double opt-in system

When it comes to subscribers, quality is more important than quantity. You can ensure that all your subscribers are actually interested in your business by using a double opt-in system. With this type of system, your subscribers have to open up your first email and click a confirmation link to be added to your list. True, you probably will get fewer subscribers than you might have otherwise, but you’re only losing the people who didn’t care that much in the first place. This is also a good way to prevent bots from joining your list.

Popular email marketing systems like MailChimp allow you to use a double opt-in system.

  1. Maintain your email list regularly

Just like anything else, your email list needs regular maintenance to stay neat and tidy. Go through your list periodically and do the following checks:

  • Fix common typos, such as example@gmal.com or 123apples@yahoocom.
  • Remove alias email addresses, like webmaster@yoursite.com or support@yoursite.com.
  • Check your feedback loops. If people are reporting your messages as spam, it could damage your reputation with ISPs. Remove the complainers from your list so they can’t keep sending your emails to their spam folder.
  • Look at your bounces. A hard bounce means there’s a permanent problem with an email address – it may be deleted or blocked. Whatever the reason, you should take it off your list right away. A soft bounce indicates a temporary problem with an email address, like a full mailbox, so it’s okay to keep soft bounces on your list.
  • Identify subscribers who never open your emails. Don’t delete them right away – give them one more chance to re-engage with you. For instance, you could send an email offering them a discount, or just ask them if they want to keep getting emails from you. If you don’t hear back within a week, cut them – they’re dead weight on your list.
  1. Segment your email list

Segmenting is the process of categorising your email list, so you can tailor your marketing more effectively to different facets of your customer base. There are a ton of ways you can divide up your list. Consider segmenting by:

  • Location
  • Industry
  • Job title
  • Purchase history
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Frequency of opening your emails

The more data you gather about your subscribers, the easier it will be to segment your list effectively, so consider conducting some informal polls or surveys to find out more about your customers.

  1. Personalise Your Emails

Everyone loves hearing (or reading) their own name. To get your subscribers’ attention, talk directly to them by using their name in your emails, preferably in both the subject line and the body. You can also personalise your emails based on your subscribers’ location and any other pertinent information you’ve gathered about them. Segmenting your list will help you do this more easily.

  1. Keep your tone casual

Nobody likes reading stiff, formal marketing emails. You can get more people to open your emails by making them fun to read. Don’t focus on the fact that you’re sending each email out to a lot of people – write like you’re talking to your favorite subscriber. Don’t be afraid to throw in a joke or a pun every now and then, too. Of course, you should also keep your emails in line with what’s appropriate in your industry. You’ve got more leeway in an artistic field than you do in finance, for example.

  1. Deliver Great (and Alternative) Content

If every email you send is too promotional or boring, people will catch on and stop opening them. Maintain a good reputation with your subscribers by sending emails they’ll actually want to read. Here are some ways you can provide excellent value in every email:

  • Don’t email your subscribers unless you have something good to say. It’s hard to be interesting when you’re just emailing for the sake of emailing.
  • Write well. Use a lively tone. Proofread every email to make sure you haven’t made any easily-preventable grammar or spelling mistakes.
  • Link to something your subscribers will like, such as a useful article or video.
  • Give something away. Send your subscribers an ebook, some case studies, a coupon code, or an invitation to a webinar.

When it comes to writing alternative content, get creative. Infographics works great if they’re short and sweet (and load quickly). Keep things fresh so that in the future, people will always open emails when they see they’re from you.

  1. Time your emails right

Want more people to read your emails? Send them at the right time. The day of the week and time of day you send an email both have a huge impact on whether people will click on it or not.

Figuring out the best time to send your emails can be tricky. It varies from industry to industry. In general, though, weekdays are better than weekends, and the middle of the day is better than evening. Whatever you do, don’t send emails in the middle of the night, or your open rate will probably take a nosedive.

Analysis from Mailchimp shows that subscribers open more emails on weekdays – especially Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday – than weekends.

MailChimp also found that open rates are highest during the middle of the day, particularly between 9 AM and 2 PM.

Good email timing is somewhat field-dependent, so you’ll probably have to experiment to find a time that works well for you. If you’re not sure when to send your emails, the next tip can help you figure it out.

  1. Make Your Emails Mobile-Friendly

Are your emails easy for your smartphone-loving subscribers to read? They should be, because two out of every three emails are opened on a mobile device instead of a desktop computer, and that number is growing all the time. You can make sure your emails are mobile-friendly by:

  • Using short subject lines that will display fully on a mobile screen. Aim for an upper limit of 30 characters or so.
  • Giving your pre-header text some thought. Mobile devices display the beginning of your email (the pre-header) to give your subject line some context. Start your emails in a way that will make people want to open them.
  • Breaking your text into short, easy-to-scan paragraphs. Long, dense emails are tedious to read on a mobile device.
  • Making sure your emails look good without images, since not all mobile devices display them.

 

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Having e-mail problems? Solve it in 5 easy steps with Webnova

  1. Check your Internet connection. Emails need an Internet connection in order to connect to the Server where your emails / account is hosted. Try to Google something to see if the connection has been lost. If you do not have an Internet connection, please contact your Internet Service Provider such as Telkom.
  2. Check your access to your email server. Visit your webmail page. Simply go to the url bar at the top of your Google page and type in (yourdomain).co.za/webmail If the page loads and asks you for a username and password, it means your connection to the Webnova Server is working.
  3. Ensure you are using the correct settings as provided to you by Webnova Designs. This is very crucial as on several occasions, clients miss something or have an incorrect setting / incorrect spelling mistake which leads to high levels of frustration. If you are not sure about the settings, please contact Webnova or send us an email. We are happy to assist!
  4. The Incoming mail server / outgoing mail server should have the same settings. You only have to set up your account once so why not double check it the first time to save you unnecessary stress.
  5. Use the correct password. The hosting server has very strict security measures and only grants you 5 attempts for your email password. Should you have exceeded this amount, your IP will be blocked immediately. Please contact Webnova Designs so that we can whitelist your IP.
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