6 social media tips for small businesses

6 social media tips for small businesses

Social media is a driving force for much of our communication in the 21st century. Many people cannot go very long without checking their Facebook and Twitter feeds. The recent South African Social Media Landscape 2016 study conducted by World Wide Worx and Fuseware has revealed that in South Africa there are 13 million Facebook users and 7.4 million Twitter users.  As a small business, the popularity of social platforms is an opportunity for you to create brand awareness, drive more traffic to your website, create a valuable relationship between you and customers, and increase sales.

This being said, social media marketing needs to have a strategy – it requires clear objectives and planning to achieve those goals. Here are some easy ways you can use social media to positively impact your business.

1. Choose platforms suited to your business

Keep it simple. You don’t need to use every social media platform under the sun. If you have a restaurant, Instagram is a great option. It’s a very visual platform that can help you showcase your dishes. If you have a consulting business, you’re probably going to want to stick to more professional platforms like LinkedIn. Do some research to find out what social media sites your audience spend time on and are using. This way, you don’t waste time and resources posting on platforms that won’t generate leads and engage with potential customers.

2. Planning is essential

Create a social media marketing plan before you do anything else. Your plan should have clear objectives and goals that you want to achieve. Perhaps your business is new and you want to create more brand awareness, or you simply want to increase sales. With goals in mind, you can assess whether your social campaigns are successful or not. Create a content calendar for your social media postings. This can help you plan content for the week or month and allow you to schedule these in advance so that you can save time.

Tools like Hootsuite can prove to be quite handy. HootSuite is a central platform from which you can schedule tweets, Facebook posts, LinkedIn updates, and other social content. It also allows you to  read and respond to what’s happening across various feeds. Here’s a great video on more of that.

3. Engage with customers and potential customers

Listening to your customers is as important as sharing content with them. The best way to show them that you are listening is to engage with them on social media. This makes your customers feel like you understand their needs and hear their concerns. It also shows that you are proactive when it comes to dealing with complaints and shows your customers that you value them. Lyra Communications gives some great tips on how to engage with your social media followers below. Take a quick listen.

4. Be aware of what to avoid doing on social media

One of the most annoying things brands can do is use click bait. This is when someone uses controversial headlines to gain more attention. More often than not, the article offers no new information or provides content that contradicts the headline. This can be extremely frustrating for audiences and should be avoided at all costs.

Another thing you want to steer clear of is using social media purely for advertising purposes. This makes customers feel like your only concern is the bottom line. Instead use it to add value to your customer. Share information that they would find useful and can help and inform them.

If your business is online, at some point or another you might receive a negative comment. The worst way to handle these is to ignore or delete them. Rather use this as an opportunity to show the kind of brand that you are and the kind of service you work hard to provide. Answer these types of queries timeously, try to solve the issue quickly and engage with the customer to see what you can do to make things better.

Remember that every interaction online is an opportunity to showcase your brand and the type of business you are. Turn negatives into positives, and determine how you are going to handle these situations before they crop up – this goes back to the first point about planning.

5. Make use of curated content

Don’t just talk about yourself. Everyone hates the hard sell. If all you do is bang on about your product or service and how awesome your business is you’ll start losing followers. There will be other businesses or industry leaders who write better blogs than you do, or have a greater knowledge of the industry than you do – don’t be afraid to share their content. Always keep in mind that the content you share on social media is there to add value to your customer. Let that rule of thumb be a guide on what and how you share curated content.

6. If you can, make use of social advertising

Social advertising can make a meaningful difference. Boosting content on Facebook or using LinkedIn sponsored content can help you reach a wider, targeted audience. Take advantage of these opportunities if you have the budget, it is a great opportunity to make more people aware of your business, make your content accessible to those who don’t yet know about you and gain new customers.

Check out this video that explains the reasons you should be using social media

How small businesses can build a website on a budget

How small businesses can build a website on a budget

We are living in a fast-paced world where everything has gone digital. Customers these days prefer the convenience of an online world and make their purchasing decisions by doing their own online research. According to Web Archive, 36% of people gather information from a company’s website before making a purchasing decision. A business website is a representation of your brand, an important communication tool to explain what your business does, and a means of converting prospects into customers. If your business doesn’t have a digital footprint, you’re going to miss out on targeting a large chunk of your potential customer base.

If you haven’t got a website because you don’t have any change lying around for this right now it is important to know that you don’t have to break the bank to get a business website going. A website doesn’t have to cost you and arm and a leg. There are ways to get an eye-catching, user-friendly website up and running on a budget.

1. Register a domain name with a web host

If you get a domain name that describes your company’s business or name, people can easily search for you online. Web architect and designer Phillip Hollowell, owner of PS Web Design Studio, suggests checking affordable web hosting sites like to see if the domain you want is available. Purchasing a domain name from someone else will cost you extra, so it’s advisable to go for one that’s available for registration. Inexpensive sites include GoDaddy, that costs around US$10 to US$35 (R129,66- R453,82) for a domain name and includes freebies like web redirection, a starter web page, and a “for sale” page. Another great tip is to search online for any coupons and discounts. RetailMeNot has a wide selection of coupons to choose from for sites like GoDaddy, Name.com, and Domain.com.

2. Use website builders

If you’re new to creating a website, then a website builder can simplify things for you. A website builder helps you create a website without needing to have any special programming skills or use manual code editing.  Some good examples of website builders include Weebly which include an option to create a blog and mobile apps if you want to take your business’s digital experience to the next level. WordPress, although not a website builder, also works great for the purposes of a business website and has some great free themes and templates to choose from. These are also easily customisable, safe and secure, and search engine friendly. Because both of these tools make it easy to customise a website yourself you don’t need to hire a web designer to create and manage your businesses website.

3. Use free online tutorials or guides

You might not know the ins and outs of what website best practices are – it is probably not your area of expertise, and that’s okay. But there is a ton of free content, videos and downloadable guides out there to help you gain some basic knowledge.

4. Market your website

Once you’ve created a business website you want to start focusing on getting traffic to your site. A big part of this involves good website SEO basics to start bringing in organic traffic. But you can’t always rely on this alone. You need to consider running some online advertising through AdWords or social media like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or one of the other channels you are on. This will help you to get in front of the right audience and highlight your website so that they can find out more about your products or services and get in contact with you.

While we’ve shared some great ways to save on building a business website there will be small costs involved in registering a domain, purchasing the theme or template and possibly hiring a freelance content writer for some initial help with your website copy. While these costs will still be a lot lower than hiring an agency or web designer, some small business funding can come in handy, particularly when you feel you’re ready to market your website.

Lulalend offers short-term business funding to help you finance this expense, or other small business marketing needs. We can help ensure that you have a steady cash flow to spend on the immediate needs of your small business such as an online presence. The benefits of a website are clear; it can help you reach a wider customer base and bring in new business. So if you require small business funding to assist with these needs, contact Lulalend for more information.

 

3 things every beauty salon owner needs to know to grow

3 things every beauty salon owner needs to know to grow

Having a beauty salon can be a lucrative business in South Africa. According to the head of the South African Spa Association, Dr. Nadine de Freitas, growth in the spa industry, despite the recession, is between 15-20%, and there has been an increased demand for both male and female beauty treatments. Thembeka Johnson, former beauty editor of The Oprah Magazine and True Love, has a successful luxury hair salon in Melrose Arch called Mane Salon. One of Thembeka’s golden tips is to offer a wide range of services to be able to keep up with the growing needs of customers. “Having a huge demand is a welcome problem for any business”, she says.

If you’re in the beauty industry you are either offering a niche service or more general services. Each business strategy has its pros and cons. A one stop shop is always convenient for a client to have access to all their treatments in one place. On the other hand, a niche offering like hair care or skin care can ensure that you aren’t spreading yourself too thin and can hire the most qualified specialists in that niche area. This can help you build your reputation as the place to go to for an unmatched service. However, it takes more than just a good business model to help your business grow.

Here are 3 things you should remember if you’re in the beauty industry:

 

You need to stay ahead of the game

The beauty and wellness industry is known to develop at a fast pace. There are always new techniques and new technology to take advantage of in this growing market.

Just imagine if your hair salon still used the old fashion wash and set technique that provided the perfect curl if you didn’t go outside, make any sudden movements, or shower until your next weekly appointment. Today all it takes is a good quality hair straightener or product treatments to give you perfect silky smooth hair.

 

 

  
 

 

Skin treatment has also taken massive leaps and bounds. Facials and other skin care practices are no longer just about throwing on a face mask. There is technology that can help to improve scarring or pigmentation and have reverse effects on aging skin.

 

 

  
 

 

And while beauty treatments used to be seen as an exclusively female orientated industry we have woken up to the fact that men should also have the luxury of skin care offerings, hair treatments, massages, and hydrotherapies.

 

 

      
 

 

Keeping up with these beauty trends comes at no small cost to your business. In order to stay ahead of the game, it can require investing in new equipment, equipment upkeep, product purchases or staff training and development. Customers want the best service, and this goes beyond their interactions with your business and how they are treated by your staff. Good customer service includes the best value for money. To provide the best value for money you need to be able to offer services that keep up with industry standards and offer the most effective treatments. If you don’t there will always be a competitor around the corner that will be ready to snatch up business from you.

 

You need to put some attention into marketing

Marketing may not seem like a top priority, but it can significantly help your business grow. It’s important to make your business known to the right audience. If you don’t tell people about your business they won’t know about it.

Marketing takes effort and can cost money. This is why being strategic about how you market your business can help. Don’t spend time and money marketing in the wrong places and with the wrong tools. If your target market is more likely to find out about your business through offline marketing tactics like flyers or newspaper advertising then use those mediums. If they spend most of their time scrolling through social media or searching online for a beauty salon in their area, then consider marketing through social advertising or AdWords. Spend some time making sure that your Facebook or other relevant online channels, including your website, have the necessary information a client would need to find out about when you are open, how to find you and what your pricing and offerings are.

If you’re running specials don’t miss out on the opportunity to make your client base aware of these when they are in the salon. Hang posters up to highlight this or send out an email campaign. Mother’s Day, Father’s Day or Valentine’s Day are always great occasions to run special offerings or offer gift cards for those wanting to spoil their loved ones.

 

You need to plan for seasonal highs and lows

Your salon can see an uptake in summer when the weather is good and it’s holiday season. This time of the year people may want to spoil themselves and indulge in luxury treatments, spa days or massages. Summer and spring are also more likely to see weddings booked and planned for because the weather is good. And each year matric dances roll around and you may find yourself inundated with hair appointments, nails, and makeup so that everyone looks their best for the special occasion.

Outside of these peak times business can still be coming in but it can look a little slower. There might be a lull in winter when people aren’t always willing to venture out while it is cold or rainy.  Monthly cycles exist as well. As everyone gets to the end of the month and are waiting on payday, you may see business slow down.

It’s probably right about this time that you need to purchase more inventory for the influx of business that the start of each month sees. You don’t want to be cash strapped at these times, so be sure to plan for these monthly or annual highs and lows. This can help ensure that even when business is slow you are managing to keep up with necessary inventory purchases and other business expenses.

Staying ahead of the game, marketing your business or planning for seasonal highs and lows are all important aspects of your business. If you know that you should be doing these things, or are already doing them, but need some financial assistance for your marketing efforts or to purchase new equipment, consider short term business funding with Lulalend. With our product offering, you can get funding of up to R500 000. Our quick, easy online application process also ensures that you can get access to funding in 24 hours, making it more convenient and easily accessible than those traditional bank loans.

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10 Informative websites that can help fast-track your business

10 Informative websites that can help fast-track your business

Owning and managing a business isn’t easy. It takes hard work, long hours and sacrifice. You probably find yourself second guessing whether it’s worth it, or if you are even doing it right. Sometimes stepping back and getting a fresh perspective, hearing from like-minded individuals that face similar challenges, reading about those that have succeeded or learning from those that have failed, is what you need to stay inspired and remind yourself that you’ve got this.

To help you with the resources, support, inspiration and advice you need to keep doing what you’re doing as you grow your business step-by-step, here are some of our favourite websites that are worth adding to your reading list:

SME South Africa

A well put together site is usually a sign that the content will be excellent; this is the case with SME South Africa. Dealing with the challenges SMEs face in Africa, it provides business owners with important advice that can be applied to running a small business.  It covers relevant topics such as business finance, SME laws and regulations, marketing, technology, human resources, technology and leadership and alternative ways to fund your business. With all this valuable information at your fingertips, you will be able to get the information you require to make a business breakthrough.

Ventureburn

Ventureburn tells fascinating success stories of entrepreneurs and gives valuable tips to new businesses. They aim to “showcase and celebrate entrepreneurship in emerging markets, from Africa to Asia”. What’s great about the site is that it offers insight into how people have started their businesses from scratch and gives you an idea of how they carried out their business. Check out one of our articles on Ventureburn: Lulalend CEO on fairer finance opportunities for small businesses’ for ideas on how to fund your business.

Kickstart

With both a print magazine and online platform, Kickstart remains an asset for up-and-coming businesses. Published by Tuming Lee Studios, the publication notes that it’s suitable for the modern-day entrepreneur. But there’s good news for you tech savvy individuals out there; they have an online publication which has business news and advice. The site includes blogs on sales, HR, business strategies and compliance. With useful topics like ‘How to get that sale in 6 steps’, this site is bound to grab your attention.

Ideate

What makes ideate special is that it’s a blog written for entrepreneurs by entrepreneurs. The obvious advantage – content is created by people who have faced common business challenges. Containing a vast range of categories to choose from, you can rest assured that all your bases are covered. Featuring content that is fresh, current and at times taking a tongue-in-cheek approach, this blog will spark your interest and inspire you to face your business challenges head-on.

Small Business Forum

This professional forum encourages the growth and development of small businesses. There is also a library filled with resources which will assist you to market, manage and grow a successful business. SBF is passionate about supporting small businesses in their development. It’s a useful place to discuss issues with other business owners and gather practical advice. Since membership is free, you would be silly to not sign up.

National Small Business Chamber (NSBC)

This non-profit membership organisation fosters the sustainability and growth of small businesses. They host the popular NSBC Summit yearly as well as other events that will aid in helping your business. These events are a powerful way to network and increase leads, so it is worthwhile to keep up with their latest offerings. The real gem though is the content on their sister site: the small business site. It includes articles in a wide range of topics that will give you the help you need to take your business up a notch.

SME Toolkit South Africa

The Toolkit, a joint initiative between Business Partners, the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and IBM offers easy access to information, resources and online training relevant to SMEs across industries and business sectors. They have practical tools like the Return on Assets Ratio Calculator. There is also a monthly newsletter on offer with SME news updates when you register on the site.

Entrepreneur magazine

If you’re looking for a ‘how-to guide’ for running your business, then this site is the way to go. What’s nifty is that they offer solutions for entrepreneurs and managers and they cover topics on the latest trends in management, sales, marketing, technology and finance so that you can improve your existing business.

Entrepreneurship in a Box

If you are relatively new to the business world you can use all the free tools you can find. Entrepreneurship in a Box caters for those who need help in terms of building their business, by offering key tools that will aid them. There are various templates to download for free, including a marketing plan, a SWOT analysis template, sales forecast templates and competitor analysis templates.

Forbes

Well known for its rankings of the richest people in the world, Forbes has been added to many a reading lists. Focusing on South African websites is vital but it also helps to get an international perspective on business news. Use the site to catch up on the latest business news or simply gather the motivation to make your business a force to be reckoned with. The editor’s pick, in particular, offers constructive advice on how to manage your business.

With all these websites available to you, it is easy to find the assistance you need to drive positive change in your business. But even with all these important tools, you may still battle to find access to funding your business. There are many expenses to consider such as paying staff, purchasing inventory and implementing marketing strategies.

Lulalend offers quick and easy access to short term business funding, so all you need to worry about is paying full attention to the aspects of your business that drive expansion, new business development and customer satisfaction (with the help of all these brilliant websites of course). If you would like to find out how Lulalend can help your business flourish, DOWNLOAD OUR CASE STUDY with Cape Coffee Beans.

What role does marketing play in growing your business?

What role does marketing play in growing your business?

As a business grows, so does the workload and you will often find yourself juggling several balls and doing the work that is usually managed by different departments or specialists. For small businesses, the onus is often on the business owner to not only provide direction and a business strategy but to manage payroll and business finances, take care of logistics and admin tasks, hire new employees, manage stock and liaise with suppliers as well as a host of other tasks. That is a lot to take on and we haven’t even gotten to marketing your business. This is something that often falls by the wayside – not only because of time but because this isn’t necessarily your area of expertise.

But here’s the problem when marketing your business isn’t a priority, especially when you want to grow your business: you will struggle to build brand awareness and generating sales will taper off eventually. While marketing is a necessity for your business, finding the time to develop key marketing strategies and run campaigns can be difficult, especially when you already have your hands full with the day-to-day running of the business. If you can’t market your business yourself because of time constraints, then other options are available, like outsourcing services or hiring staff internally.

  1. Hire someone with a marketing background and the necessary experience

Marketing skills are one thing, understanding your business and industry sector is another. If you’re thinking of making a marketing hire, ensure that they understand your business and customer needs. Being able to apply their skills to your business and show how that can add value will give you a better understanding of whether they meet your business needs. The benefit of an internal hire is that they also grow with your business and will be able to continue providing key insights into how best to reach your prospects and convert them into customers. Another benefit is that as your business pivots and grows they can make changes to the marketing strategy as and when needed. Working with outsourced agencies or freelancers doesn’t always offer this luxury and any immediate updates or quick changes that need to be made aren’t always possible and can slow things down.

  1. Outsource this function to a marketing agency

That said, your business might find an agency relationship beneficial as it frees you up to run the business and leave the marketing to trusted experts. That is if you can find an agency that is worth their salt. The advantages of a niche marketing agency are that they cater for specific industry needs. This will be particularly beneficial for small businesses as they tend to have a niche product or service categories. For example, a company that specializes in broad advertising for a massive franchise like Nandos may not be able to tailor a marketing strategy fit for a small family owned restaurant. It may also be a good idea to test their knowledge of your industry to find out how much they really know.

Furthermore, take a quick look at their website and online presence to give you an idea of how they brand their own business. These can give you an indication that they understand how to successfully market a brand their own products or services. Over and above this try and source some client reviews or referrals to see what other clients are saying about their services.

  1. Run and plan your own marketing campaigns

If an internal or external hire isn’t something that you can invest in right now it doesn’t mean there is nothing you can do. Running some basic marketing campaigns on Facebook, if that’s where your audience is, or AdWords throughout the year can help you promote your business. Ensuring that you have a business website can help give you visibility online and help you direct your clients to further information about your services or product offerings. Even using offline tactics like attending relevant business events, distributing flyers or making sure that your office space has signage that is visible and well branded can help you get in front of potential clients.

At the end of the day, you need to weigh-up what your business needs are and what the most cost effective way is to meet those needs and bring in sales. Not every business will have working capital for this, staggering marketing campaigns throughout the year may not be in your budget and the cost of developing a website or even just purchasing the template to do it yourself in a more cost effective way may be something you know you need to do but can’t afford right now.

This doesn’t have to be the case. Lulalend can help you get fast, easy access to the money you need to market your business in the right way. You don’t have to forgo this important aspect of your business. At Lulalend, we are passionate about helping you achieve your business goals, and we realise that finding the capital needed to grow your business can be quite challenging. This is why we provide funding for small businesses; we want to give you a helping hand when it comes to bringing in more sales and achieving financial freedom.