Winter is coming: How to prepare your restaurant for the seasonal slump

Winter is coming: How to prepare your restaurant for the seasonal slump

Winter is upon us which, for some, means rainfall and icy winter chills. Most people would rather hibernate when the season approaches than brave the cold outside for a bite to eat. This means your restaurant is competing against one of its greatest enemies: the bitter winter chill. And as you well know, this can influence your sales.

But, there are things you can do to draw in foodies this winter. Take a look at some ideas to up sales and help customers warm to the idea of heading out for something to eat this winter.

1. Give them a reason to brave the cold

Use the cold weather to your advantage by ensuring you have a seasonal menu with winter classics like hot, creamy soups, hearty stews and warm desserts like sticky toffee pudding. But don’t stop there. People love discounts or freebies. Create 2-for-1 specials, offer a free glass of wine with any main meal, create a winter loyalty card where members get a stamp for every meal and make the fifth one free. There are a host of different ways you can attract customers with the right deal. Once you’ve figured out how to entice your customers, make sure they know about it.

Promote special offers on online market places like Hyperli. This website allows customers to search for various special offers, including restaurant deals. Use online directories like Where2Eat to list your business and make it easy to find online. If you have your own website, and social channels, promote special offers here too.

2. Think of ways to combat the cold

Offer blankets or invest in some down heaters or wall mounted heaters – especially if you have an outside area where people like to sit. A fireplace is also a charm, it offers warmth and ambiance.

Some nights people just aren’t going to venture out, even when you’ve done all you can do. And that’s okay. But you know the saying, “if the mountain won’t come to Muhammad then Muhammad must go to the mountain”? Well there is some wisdom in it for local restaurateurs. Consider offering a convenient delivery service or partnering with UberEats or Mr Delivery in winter to drop off meals on their doorstep. Delivery management software like GetSwift can also make it easy for you to plan and retain full control of the logistics of deliveries. The last thing you want is to upset your customers with late deliveries and ice cold food.

3. Cultivate relationships with regulars

Every restaurant has the good ole faithful’s that love your spot and keep coming back each week or month. Don’t neglect to build relationships with these loyal customers. They are the ones who are probably recommending your restaurant to family and friends, and the one’s you’re going to see come rain or shine. Let them know you appreciate their business, treat them to an unexpected glass of wine on the house and make the effort to catch up with them when they pop in.

Creating more sales opportunities for your restaurant is more than doable if you think of creative, compelling ways to draw in new customers. If you’re preparing to hunker down for the winter months but are still trying to find the funds to purchase heaters, hire delivery drivers, market your specials or purchase winter produce – Lulalend can help. We offer short term business funding of up to R500 000 so that you can do all the things you need to do to see your business through the slow seasons. Our application process is quick, easy and completely online so with winter already upon us you can get fast access to make immediate preparations.

 

What no-one tells you about marketing your professional services business

What no-one tells you about marketing your professional services business

Reputation is everything in the professional services sector and has an influence on attracting new business. A big part of maintaining a positive reputation involves not only the work and results you produce but the relationships of existing customers you nurture.

You probably spend a large part of your week meeting one-on-one with clients and feel like you don’t have extra time to give to market your business. But what if meeting with clients was part of marketing your business?

The assumption that most small business owners make is that marketing is a separate business function that they need to pour energy into, or an added extra they have to make time for. But marketing can fit into your schedule and day-to-day business functions. You just have to put a little thought into it and be smart about how you can accomplish this.

To help you get started here are some thoughts and smart hacks that can help you achieve marketing and sales goals while still running a successful practice or firm.

1. Be smart about referral marketing

You spend a lot of time with existing clients and they know what it’s like to work with you. They know how you make their lives easier and how your services add value. They’ve gotten to know you and how you operate, and they have first-hand experience. So, what better way to get your business out there than to encourage them to refer you.

A referral program can be a great way to use existing relationships to get new business. Statistics show that word of mouth and online peer reviews carry a lot of weight when customers are making decisions about a purchase or service. In fact a study by Nielsen Global Survey of Trust in Advertising found that 84% trust recommendations by family or friends.

Referral marketing will require a little thought but once that is up and running it can work for itself. You’ll need to put some thought into what you can offer your client as an incentive to motivate them to ‘market your business’. Some businesses offer discounted rates for one or more referrals, others offer commission or a reward based system. Consider what kind of offer would be compelling enough for them, and what you are able to offer. Then be sure to communicate this with existing clients via an email campaign or when you meet with them, so that they understand that they benefit from sending new business your way.

Just be sure to have clear terms and conditions laid out so that you don’t run into any issues later down the line.

2. Be smart about your business website

The upside of a business website is that it can generate a steady stream of leads and doesn’t require your time each day. An effective website is user friendly and easy to navigate. Using a booking form on your website can help potential customers get in touch with you, schedule a meeting or ask questions and queries. If you don’t use an online form for prospects to contact you then make sure your contact details are easy to find on your website so that they can call in or email. Prevent barriers for new business by making it easy to find and contact you.

Also, be sure to include your website URL on business cards, invoices, email signatures and other forms of communication. This way it is always visible and easy for someone to click through and find you online. For more website tips, read our blog on how to create an effective website on a budget.

3. Be smart about the time you spend on email

You probably spend a fair amount of time on email, who doesn’t these days. It’s one of the biggest forms of communication for businesses. So, while you’re responding to emails or scheduling meetings, draft a customised email that you can send out once or twice a month updating your database on specials, your referral marketing or business news.

In this way, you are touching base with your customers, or new contacts and you’re doing it in the time you’d be using to catch up on emails anyway. Outlook, Gmail and other email tools can make it difficult to send out bulk emails to your database but a tool like MailChimp can make this easy. And if you’re checking and sending emails on a weekly basis you can make it a habit to include this in your email practices.

Marketing your business is important. It’s not a nice to have, it’s a necessity. But it doesn’t have to take all your time or cost your business a significant amount. There are clever ways to fit marketing into your daily schedule and make it a part of what you are already doing, and there are clever ways to take advantage of free marketing tools that can lend a hand. But, if you have the luxury of dedicating time to marketing your business or a team that can do that, there are also clever ways to finance your marketing campaigns with small business funding offered by Lulalend.

5 things BnB owners can do to see more business come through the door

5 things BnB owners can do to see more business come through the door

South Africa is a melting pot of different cultures with a diverse range of things to offer tourists. We have the breathtaking Table Mountain, the Kruger National Park that is home to the Big 5, and the warm waters and popular beaches of Durban. All these attractions make South Africa the perfect place to holiday, as a local or a foreigner.

So, with the constant flow of holiday makers and tourists, how do you make sure your BnB is on their radar and you’re getting business through the door? Here are a few tips on what you can do to be noticed by those searching for the perfect place to stay while on holiday.

1. Showcase what clients can expect to get

According to a study conducted by MDG Advertising, 60% of consumers are more inclined to select a business with images in its online listing. In an industry where people are making choices that are based strongly on liking what they see, showcasing your BnB with attractive pictures is a competitive advantage.

Make sure that any flyers, pamphlets or your website itself show off the beauty, functionality and practicality of your facilities. This way your customers can get a better sense of what type of experience they are in for.

Include a gallery on your website that depicts the type of experience they can expect. This can help to communicate whether it has a warm, cozy, homely type of feel to it, or is more of a cosmopolitan, boutique type BnB. If it’s a tranquil cottage by the sea or a cabin in the Drakensburg ,where customers can snuggle up next to a fireplace, make sure you highlight those strengths. People know what type of holiday experience they want, so images can help them decide if your BnB will offer them what they are looking for.

Also, make mention of the amenities and added extras that your BnB has to offer. For example, do you have a pool, are you situated close to restaurants and other night life, do you offer Wi-Fi connectivity or a shuttle services to get around? Of course, price is a big deciding factor but these extra offerings can also help persuade people to book in at your BnB instead of another one down the road

2. Consider advertising on other platforms

Travel websites and online platforms can be a great place for people to find your BnB. Consider using directories like ExpediaBooking.com and Airbnb. These serve as a marketplace for hospitality services and allow holiday makers to find accommodation easily.

These websites act as brokers that receive a percentage of the service fees from guests and hosts for every booking made. Their rates vary depending on the website, so do some research and decide whether you’re willing to pay a percentage of your earnings to market your business there. If it brings in more business it might be worth it, but you need to weigh up your options.

3.   Collect reviews and get ratings

Customer reviews and testimonials are incredibly powerful, particularly in today’s online world. First time customers have no idea what to expect, so they rely heavily on first-hand experience and recommendations from others.

There are various ways to go about collecting reviews. If you’re using online booking websites there are often review sections that customers can complete. But you can also keep a visitor’s book that customers can fill in after their stay or share their thoughts on your website.

Be sure to also leverage social media for reviews. Encourage customers to like your pages, check-in online, leave comments and share pictures of their stay.

4.   Keep the lines of communication open

Just because guests have checked out, doesn’t mean that your relationship with them should end. You’ve done your best to make their stay unforgettable, now make sure you follow up so that they remember you for next time.

Send personalised emails to thank them for their visit and use the opportunity to communicate special deals or discounts in the future. This is also another great way to get reviews. When you send them a courtesy email thanking them for their stay, why not ask for some feedback on what they enjoyed and if there is anything you can improve on to make their next visit even better.

5.   Invite influencers to stay for free

Another way to get your BnB in front of people is to invite online influencers to come and stay and share their experience with their followers. An influencer is someone online who has established credibility in a specific industry and has access to a large audience online. Perhaps you can reach out to a travel writer and offer them a free stay at your BnB in exchange for a short feature or some social sharing.

We mention some great ways for you to start drawing in more customers and getting your BnB noticed, but this doesn’t always come for free. Marketing can cost money. Lulalend can prevent that from being an obstacle by lending a helping hand. With our short-term funding of up to R500 000 you can invest in marketing your BnB. Or, if you’ve already got that covered and are doing all the right things but cash flow is your biggest challenge, we can help you with that too. Whatever the case, Lulalend offers quick, easy access to short term business funding to help your business get more business.

 

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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