Category: Business Articles

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.

 

Learn More

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.

 

Learn More

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.

Learn More

Why Startups Need to Invest in Marketing

The life of an entrepreneur isn’t easy.

Startup founders are bringing their ideas to life one day, and the next, they are deciding which vendors to pay — and which to ignore.

There is never enough time, and they are scrambling to put together business plans for investors and hire the right talent for their growing team. In addition, many founders find their messaging, target audience, and even the product or service evolving. So why market what’s not ready?

Paying for marketing might seem like another unnecessary expense or something to put off until the “right” time or stage in development. So, why should startups make investing in marketing a priority?

It’s not about tactics — you need a holistic approach

‘Marketing’ is more than a clever email campaign or Facebook ad. Rather, it’s a discipline that should be baked into a startup’s process and product from the inside out. There’s a myth in some circles that building a great product is all that’s necessary for a startup’s success. ‘Build it, and they will come,’ so to speak. But basing your go-to-market strategy on a quote from a movie is a recipe for disaster. Rather, we think of marketing in the holistic sense, including the brand, interface, key messages, as well as distribution channels and, methods for user acquisition. In reality, the lines between ‘product’ and ‘marketing’ are blurred, if nonexistent, and failing to invest in those key areas, such as your name or brand personality, means you’re leaving key product decisions to chance.

Ideas need momentum

You can have the best idea in the world. But if you don’t couple that with a strategy to spread your story, your idea isn’t going to go very far. Most startup founders would agree that marketing is important, but many still don’t understand how much more complicated marketing is today than it was even five years ago. So, our advice is this: When you’re seeking an agency partner to help spread your story, make sure that partner can both believe in your story and that they also have the strategic insights to spread that story in today’s complicated marketing web.

Everyone starts as the underdog

Studies show that 25% of significant tech business news is about early stage companies, and most of that reporting is about the ‘it’ company of the moment. So nearly every startup begins its PR journey as an underdog. But they have to build market and mind-share from somewhere, and PR, if done right, can be highly efficient. It offers a market voice, validation and significant distribution. But we believe it has to be part of a broader communications strategy that revolves around strategic uses of content and smart leveraging of various channels, social and traditional media, and conventional marketing channels, like direct mail, events (like webinars), and even advertising. The secret to effective, contemporary communications is a precise message conveyed in well-crafted narratives delivered through multiple channels to the many consumptions platforms (phones, tablets, TV, desktop computers, traditional media).

It offers the best return

If you think marketing is too expensive, you should try how expensive it is to build a company without it. Marketing is the highest ROI toolset in the startup arsenal. Where else can you find one finely honed approach to:

  1. market validation and critical early feedback,
  2. actual customers, distribution paths, and quite often sales and revenue, and
  3. a pipeline for potential partners and employees.

Every rand invested in marketing has a triple return for a young company. The skill and capability of the marketing team should be a critical concern for the founding team and investors, and that’s why it often is. A solid product without an addressable market need is called a hobby. An eager market waiting for your next product is called nirvana. The difference is all in the right approach to marketing to shape that market’s expectation even while the market’s expectation shapes the products’ expansion.

You need a brand and people who care

Establishing a strong brand is the best investment a startup can make. Smart marketing can help legitimise a new company, create excitement, and engage potential clients. Nobody knows you yet, so you need to get people to care enough to try what you offer.

Startups need customers — fast

It’s simple: Without marketing, no startup can acquire new customers or clients at a rate that will allow them to grow into a mature company. Marketing can be done internally without having to hire an agency, but it will typically be cheaper to hire a full marketing agency to provide a variety of services and have been tested as a group, as opposed to trying to hire a team and acclimate them to each other.

Small budgets don’t equal a lack of options

‘Investing in marketing’ doesn’t mean you have to hire TBWA or you’re done. Thanks to Facebook, SEO, and the blogosphere, there are marketing options for even the tiniest idea. Growing an audience beyond your friends, family, and backers is important for company morale. Once you get some momentum, experimenting with PR and paid media is a good next step. Also, we’ve found social media is excellent for beta testing and consumer feedback. Get some robust numbers and you’ll be into your next series of backing and running pre-roll and bunch of banners we’ll never click on in no time.

 

The time to build an audience is now

You should always be marketing, even before you have a finished product. You don’t necessarily need to launch an incomplete product into the market, but to make launch day a little bit easier, you must start growing your community — whether this be extending your personal brand or that of your startup.

People often approach agencies (especially PR agencies) for help in order to tap into their networks, and to gain access to their ‘rolodexes.’ But imagine already having those contacts to begin with? This certainly makes going at it a lot easier (and cheaper). Start with building solid relationships with a few key players (i.e., influencers, media, outlets and other agencies trying to win your business — they are more opt to help get the word out because they want to win you over)

It’s essential to consider the other reasons why investing in a marketing agency can help you grow your startup:

  1. Your time should be spent building a really great product. Leave the marketing efforts to the experts.
    2. Agencies have a much more unbiased approach to marketing your startup. They know what the media want to see and hear which isn’t necessarily what you think it is.
    3. Marketing agencies are really great at crafting compelling stories, the why, of the company. This is what you ‘sell’ to the media.

Focusing on design is not an option

With an immensely competitive market, these startups must launch strong right out of the gate with not only a functional product, but with a smart and compelling brand experience. This is the new normal — it is no longer acceptable to keep design as a secondary notion. Design is a critical factor to the success of a startup launch. The market is too competitive and high-risk with expensive and limited (talented) resources. A close collaboration with the startup will not only lead to a more vital brand and product, but also provide an integrated and agile approach to user experience, product development and branding.

The user experience markets itself

Launching a startup product from the ground up involves a multi-step process, from research and design all the way through development and marketing of their product. Our focus is on the UX and UI design aspect of that process (which, in turn, markets itself), which allows startups to refine their ideas through user experience design. The cost of a project, if approaching design and development together, can be exponentially costly. By separating design and investing in solid UX documentation, a client can see their development cost decrease, based on the focused process of defining how a user interacts with that product. The design process is conceptual, and allows for lean iterations.

 

Learn More

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!

 

Learn More

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.

 

 

Learn More

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.

Learn More

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.

 

Learn More

10 alternatives to communicate a sense of urgency without resorting to “ASAP”

Reading “as soon as possible” in an email usually makes us cringe. There are several problems with this phrase: The request is often urgent for the other person, but not for us; it makes them seem self-important and demanding; and if the timing doesn’t align with our work schedule, we feel stressed and anxious.

That’s a pretty strong reaction to four simple words. Here are 12 alternatives to communicate without using the word “ASAP”.

1)  … by (date and time) because (reason)

Do you have a specific deadline by which this task needs to be done? Use that instead. If the other person has an exact time, they can prioritise their other work accordingly. Plus, you’ll seem less pushy since you have a clear reasoning for your due date.

2) When you have a chance (in the next day, before tomorrow, this week)

Saying “when you have a chance” gives the other person a little breathing room, so you don’t come across as demanding. However, the deadline ensures they’ll still finish your request on time.

3) I apologize for the urgency, but could you please (do X, send me Y, complete Z) at your soonest possible convenience?

This politely worded question communicates the same level of urgency as “ASAP” but in a far more considerate way.

4) EOD (End of Discussion)

All but the most pressing requests can typically wait eight hours. “EOD” shows you’d like the request fulfilled soon, but you’re not asking the other person to drop everything to tackle it.

5) I will be grateful if you can get to this (before X and Y)

Show the other person where this request falls in terms of importance on their to-do list.

6) Since this is a relatively urgent request, let’s put a hold on (X project, Y meeting, Z deliverable) until you’re finished.

When you’re talking to a direct report, use this line. It helps them stay on top of their workload and shows you’re not randomly assigning them work.

7) ASAP, or by (date and time)

“As soon as possible” is pretty vague, so if you must use it, add a date and time to show how important your request is. For instance, you might write, “Please submit your specs ASAP, or by Thursday at 4 p.m.”

8) I normally wouldn’t ask for such a quick turnaround, but (reason for urgency). It would be great if you could address this by (date and time).

Giving an explanation for the tight deadline proves you understand it might be inconvenient for the other person. A little empathy will go a long way.

9) (Timely ask)

Want to really get someone’s attention? Add “[timely ask]” to the end of your email subject line. Not only will it stand out in their inbox, but they’ll be curious to know what’s so pressing.

Just make sure the matter actually is timely — and not just for you, but for them too. If you’re trying to get them to buy in the next six hours so you make quota, rushing them to the finish line will make you look pushy and could backfire.

10) Your quick response would be greatly appreciated

When you’re trying to get a swift reply, try this line. It can come across as passive-aggressive, however, so use it sparingly.

Next time speed is of the essence, try these 10 alternatives to “ASAP” to avoid annoying your recipient.

Learn More

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.
Learn More