Gear up your business for growth

Gear up your business for growth

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According to entrepreneur.com, growing a business is not an easy task, and especially under the current economic climate. When you’re expanding your business, it’s important to remember that whatever your plan, you should consider the ever-changing marketplace. We’ve put together a few noteworthy tips on how you can best prepare your business for growth.

 

Plan ahead

Setting out achievable short term and long term goals are important. Goals act as a guide to what you need to do and when you need to do it. Having a clear plan of the direction you want your business to take will help in reducing the risks associated with expansion.

When you have plans, you are also able to make difficult decisions that help you stay on track.

 

Recruit the right people

Having a strong team is the foundation of any successful business. When hiring new people to join your business, it is important to have a diverse group of people who are clear on what your business vision is.

Each member of your team should have an understanding of what is expected from them and how their contribution adds value to the goal. In this way, you are also able to evaluate performance and reward good work.

Budget permitting, building a human resources team can streamline the recruitment process and ensure you find the best people the first time. This will also assist in providing your teams with ongoing feedback and development.

 

Related: Move your business online by following these essential steps

 

Improve your processes

Having clear processes makes it easier to understand what is needed to scale your business. You have to document how you do things within your business. When you have your processes down on paper, your employees can visualise the work they do from start to finish. If your processes are undefined, there is no way for you and your employees to measure that you are meeting requirements.

Having an open workplace culture has been proven to boost staff morale and balance out some of the uncertainty surrounding business processes that may seem overwhelming

 

Keep your customer in mind

When you are planning to grow your business, you must think about how what you are offering is different from others and why it should be the consumer’s first choice. It is important to always keep in mind what made your business succeed from the start.

Adding a personal touch to your product or service helps the customer feel connected to you and builds brand loyalty. This gives you the edge over larger companies who may not find this to be an essential part of their business model.

 

Related: Business Funding: An overview of how SMEs can access funding in SA

 

Review, review, review

It’s important to always go back and review your performance against your plans so you can improve them at every turn.

While your business goals will largely remain the same, your operating environment will always be changing. In order to truly evolve and gear your business for growth, adapting to change is always necessary.

Tips for the 2020/2021 tax season

Tips for the 2020/2021 tax season

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The tax season is upon us once again and we want to help you get your business prepared for submission. Complying with your tax obligations as a small business has been made a lot easier over the past few years as SARS continues its efforts to ultimately digitize and streamline the procedure.

It goes without saying, this tax season will unfold in a different manner due to the Covid-19 pandemic. While small businesses qualified for tax relief during the first 4 months of South Africa’s lockdown period, this also impacts how you’ll need to submit your taxes this year.

We, along with some of our friends who are experts in the field, have put together a few top tips to help with your business’s submission this year.

 

When is the tax season?

The tax season is split into three key periods for you to remember:

  1. April 15 to May 31 Employers submit their reconciliation of employee earnings and all third-party information providers (providers of interest certificates, medical aid certificates, retirement earnings are three examples) send their certificates to SARS and the relevant individuals. SARS also uses this information to start populating individuals’ tax returns.
  2. June 1 to August 31 Taxpayers need to ensure that all their information is up to date and accurate. During this period SARS will issue a large number of individual taxpayers with auto assessment notices via SMS messages. Taxpayers need to check their auto assessment on the SARS eFiling website or the SARS MobiApp and indicate if they accept the assessment outcome. SARS will also notify taxpayers whose third-party data is compliant that they may file early (i.e. before September 1).
  3. September 1 to January 1 All taxpayers should submit tax returns and provisional taxes and businesses due on 31 August for provisional tax. SARS will issue a public notice to confirm which taxpayers need to submit a return. Those taxpayers who file manually at a SARS branch must do so by October 22. Provisional individual taxpayers who complete their returns electronically must do so on or by January 31, 2021. Businesses have until 28 February 2021 to submit their return.

 

Related: 5 Simple Tax Tips That Save Business Owners Money and Time

 

Can you (and your employees) claim a tax deduction for working from home?

Thousands of employees have had to work from home since the lockdown began at the end of March. The Income Tax Act sets out basic requirements that must be met if this tax relief is to apply:

  • You must practice a “trade” – which can be employment. So purely by being employed this criterion is fulfilled.
  • The home office must have all the equipment you need to perform your job, such as a laptop, printer, WiFi, desk etc.
  • The home office must be used often and only for you to do your job. This space should not be a family/shared space when you have finished work for the day.
  • You must have worked from this space for at least 6 months of the year.

You can also find SARS’ tax relief measures guide here.

 

Is all relief received due to COVID-19 exempt from income tax?

“Simply put, yes,” says Bernice du Toit, Financial Accountant at Lulalend. The tax relief includes the following three sections:

  1. An exemption from income tax on funds and accruals received by the business from the government
  2. An exemption from donations tax on donations made to or by the business (limited to R10 000 per year for businesses); and
  3. Donations made to a business will be tax-deductible by the donor. “Deduction is limited to 10% of your taxable income per annum, and this deduction would only apply to donations for which a section 18A certificate has been obtained,” says Bernice du Toit.

Read up more on the list of registered PBO’s here, and section 18A here.

 

What about the TERS benefits?

SARS confirmed that TERS (Temporary Employee/Employer Relief Scheme) benefits are payable in terms of the Unemployment Insurance Act and thus exempt from income tax.

According to Bowmanslaw.com, where the employer receives the TERS benefits from the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) in order to pay employees, the employer is merely processing the payment on behalf of the UIF.

 

Related: Tax Tips for SMEs from a professional tax consultant

 

Do you really need to submit a tax return?

According to Sue Willoughby of HorisonTax, it is vitally important, for many reasons, that all taxpayers stay tax-compliant. ‘“If you do not submit tax returns every year then you are not tax-compliant according to SARS. You should always submit a tax return even if it is a “nil-return”. Why do you need to stay tax-compliant? Well, if ever you need to get involved in a financial deal with any government department, institution, or municipal body, whether a loan, work contract, or otherwise, you will need to be tax compliant with SARS,” says Willoughby.

In certain cases, institutions may be reluctant to consider loans to people who are not tax-compliant. Institutions may need to see the latest SARS’s IT34. No ITR12’s and no IT34’s means you are not tax-compliant – it is as simple as that.

Visit www.horisontax.co.za if you need assistance with your filing this season.

 

The provisions set out by SARS and the disaster relief fund aims to help businesses and individual taxpayers stay tax compliant even during a pandemic. It’s important to remain tax compliant if you want your business to qualify for the COVID-relief. By following these tips and meeting all the relevant deadlines, you and your business can make it through the 2020/2021 tax season with a better understanding of what needs to be done to continue growing your business.

Small Business Marketing Strategies: Google vs Facebook

Small Business Marketing Strategies: Google vs Facebook

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Finding the best small business marketing strategies isn’t easy.

But what if you don’t have a massive budget?

Or, maybe you’re a small business owner who doesn’t have in-house marketing expertise.

The good news is you can get started small.

And a key step in that journey is learning more about the biggest digital marketing channels: Search and Social.

In this post, Lulalend’s digital marketing experts, Stacey Vermaak, and Michael Rampjapedi, discuss how to use these platforms to grow your business online.

Small business marketing strategies: search and social

Search and social are the cornerstones of most small business marketing strategies.

No matter what industry you’re in, chances are your customers are online.

It’s estimated South Africans spend more than 9 hours a day online, according to this report.

Vermaak explained the main differences between social media and search:

“The fundamental difference between the two is the basis of their targeting: how you tell each platform who you want to speak to.

“For search, this is based on keywords that tell Google what search terms you want your business to show up for; you are targeting people who are already looking for what you do or sell. For social media, you tell Facebook, or even LinkedIn, which types of people you want to show your ads to based on who your customer is and what their interests are.”

Search is an “always-on” types of media, explained Vermaak. This means your marketing is always visible to people searching for your business 24/7. This is because your audience is self-renewing; as new people start looking for your business or it’s products you want to be visible as long as you are profitable when including your ad spend.

In addition, both platforms allow you to narrow or expand your targeting based on age, gender, location, and device.

You can even include how your audience has interacted with your business before. And this targeting will help you to get better performance from your campaigns.

“For both, you need to install conversion tracking or use UTM tagging to understand if your campaigns are making you money. However, understanding the primary targeting for each allows you to understand the fundamentally different ways the two work.”

Setting up your small business in search

Getting started with building your presence in search begins with finding the right keywords, said Vermaak.

Rampjapedi added that you could use a free tool like Google’s keyword planner to find the right keywords.

Once your campaigns are live, it is very important to compare your keywords with your Google Adwords’ search query reports. These reports are available in your account and detail what searches are triggering your keywords, allowing you to expand or refine your targeting.

“These things will help you be visible for the most relevant searches that make your business money. Using your search query reports to refine what searches you are visible for becomes even more important to avoid wasted money and to help you achieve Return on Ad Spend (ROAS),” said Vermaak.

Once you start developing ads, you should make sure they’re relevant to your customer’s needs.

“Your search term should match what you are selling, which should match your advert (or organic result or business listing) and this should match the page you send a user to. When optimising your advert you are working to tell a searcher why your product is right for them.

“You want to give them as much information as possible so that they are hopefully clicking through to find the product or service they need,” said Vermaak.

Rampjapedi said it was worth hiring a professional to set up your website to make sure your technical SEO was correct.

This included, making sure:

  • Google could index your website pages
  • Your site is mobile-friendly

Missing this step could hurt your rankings. “When SEO is setup correctly this allows you to use Google Adwords DSA campaigns”, said Vermaak.

Using Facebook to find new customers for your small business

Most businesses are on Facebook. And it makes sense why.

By 2023, it’s expected 19.8 million South Africans will use Facebook, according to Statistia.

Vermaak said approaching FB was different:

“For Facebook, you are looking for the right audience targeting that finds the people who are looking for, and engage with, your product. Facebook has a lot of targeting options from interests to demographics that you can use to define and test users.”

Consider using customer information in other ways to reach new customers.

“You should at least test remarketing to offline customer lists, site users, site converters, page and advert engagers, and test acquiring new customers using similar audiences based on each of these.

“What this means is your primary targeting is a group of people who generally remain fairly consistent. The goal is to find the audiences that work for your business.

Because the audience remains fairly consistent, you should be creative with your content.

“You need to be constantly changing up and testing your messaging, with images, videos, and carousel ads. Consider combining ads featuring different campaigns, products and messaging. Invest in boosted posts to keep the audience engaged. “

“This is very different from paid search which is generally a self-renewing list as new people come into the market for your product or service.”

Looking for more on small business marketing? Read 5 digital marketing strategy tips here.

This article is part of our Open for Business campaign, a drive to set South African SMEs up for success when they re-open during the lock down.

If you are trading in these uncertain times and need funding to really get your business going, Apply Now for instant access to funds from a credit facility that increases as your business recovers.

5 Digital Marketing Strategy Tips: COVID-19 SME Support

5 Digital Marketing Strategy Tips: COVID-19 SME Support

Reading Time: 4 minutes

The COVID-19 pandemic is changing your customer’s behaviour.

Studies show more people are shopping online than before the pandemic.

And statistics reveal climbing internet traffic since the start of the COVID-19 lockdown in March.

But does this all what does this all mean for your SME?

If you’re doing business during COVID-19, you need a digital presence.

Now, this was true even before the pandemic.

But right now social distancing and changing lockdown levels keep us physically separated. You need to be able to reach your customers online at any time.

Let’s find out exactly how you can do that.

5 Tips for setting up your SME’s digital marketing strategy

Many business owners who added their SMEs to our Open for Business listing told us they had started operating online over the past few months.

But it can be overwhelming if you’re not sure how to get started.

In this post, Lulalend’s digital marketing experts share their tips to help you get your business in front of your customers online.

1. Develop your brand message

Before you go online, you need to define what makes your business stand out.  If you have not done this  already, then it should be the first step in building out your digital marketing strategy.

Michael Rampjapedi, digital marketing manager at Lulalend, said a competitor analysis could help create your brand’s unique messaging.

“Identify potential competitors and differentiate yourself. Based on your product, understand how you’re providing value and how you’re different.”

In this article for Hubspot, Kathryn Wheeler writes about the role of a memorable brand identity that becomes the face of your business and builds credibility and trust.

Keep two questions in mind when you’re developing your messaging, suggest Wheeler:

  • What makes your business unique in your industry?
  • What can you offer your customers that others can’t?

“And don’t forget that you already know your product and customers probably better than anyone.  Start there and build out”, says Stacey Vermaaak, growth marketing consultant at Lulalend.

2. Don’t copy your competitors

Now, while it’s a good idea to understand what your competitors are offering, you should avoid copying other companies, said Rampjapedi.

“You don’t know the internal metrics your competitors are using. They might be appearing first in Google search ads, but they might be losing money. Their bidding strategy might be different.”

Your competitors may have a bigger advertising budget and different goals, said Rampjapedi.

“Their mission might be to dominate market share in search. As a new business who wants a profit, you can’t be that aggressive if you are not profitable on that sale or on lifetime value.”

Adopt a similar approach to content creation.

While a tool like Buzzsumo can show you the most popular content for each topic, you should remember that those sites might be established, so have an existing audience and strong credibility.

Instead, pay close attention to your own results.

Monitor your web traffic using Google Analytics and study engagement on social media.

Most platforms, like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, offer built-in analytics. Using this data you can discover the content that’s connecting with your audience.

3. Get professional help

Managing your online presence can be daunting.

  • Which platforms should you choose?
  • How much money should you invest?

Here’s where a little bit of professional help can make all the difference.

Vermaak, suggested hiring an expert or agency to set up your business’s Google Adwords and Facebook Ads account, even if you plan to run these yourself.

“An upfront investment in professional help can save you a lot of money in the short and long term.”

“Be upfront and explain that this is your plan. This allows you to get your Adwords account structure and all of your tracking set up correctly. The agency or provider will also educate you during calls and meetings so that when you do take over you waste less time and money.”

“This advice will leapfrog your knowledge and help you hone in on the information and campaigns that are important to your business” advised Vermaak.

Rampjapedi said some agencies offer free introductory consultations. Consider finding an agency that specialises in your niche, e.g., e-commerce or business to business.

4. Create quality content

There’s a lot of content out there.

According to Internet Live Stats, each day:

  • Bloggers write two million posts
  • People upload 35 million photos to Instagram
  • Twitter users send 322 million tweets

Fortunately, you’ll set yourself apart if you create quality content that responds to your target audience’s questions.

Rampjapedi encouraged SMEs to use Google’s free Keyword Planner to discover the kinds of questions people were asking in their online search. Next, create content that responds to those questions.

Other free tools you can use, include:

Finally, when putting together the content plan for your digital marketing strategy listen to your own customers. Which questions do they frequently ask you? What are people talking about in industry forums

5. Run small tests, keep track and get better.

And once you’re ready to launch your campaign, you should start small, said Vermaak.

“Have a test goal in mind – think about how much you are willing to pay for a lead/ sale based on conversion rates and costs. Then take a small budget, look at your targeting options, see how one campaign does vs. another platform or other targeting. When you start with a small budget, you also give yourself space to iron out the kinks. What happens when an online order comes through? Call those people and learn about their experience, make it better. Focus on the path to conversion. Can it be simpler, faster, clearer?  If it can you will save money on your acquisition costs.”

If you’re still looking for marketing help, check out these resources:

COVID-19 SME Support Guide: How to Grow During a Crisis

COVID-19 SME Support Guide: How to Grow During a Crisis

Reading Time: < 1 minute

Are you unsure about how to run your business during COVID-19?

You aren’t alone.

Business owners tell us they’re feeling uncertain about the future.

That’s why we partnered with the National Small Business Chamber (NSBC) to create this Back to Business guide for South African SMEs.

You’ll find a collection of resources that will help you:

  • Develop a COVID-19 workplace plan
  • Boost your cashflow
  • Communicate with staff and customers
  • Market your SME during COVID-19

This guide is part of our Open for Business campaign, an initiative to help get your business again thriving during COVID-19.

For the full guide, click here. 

Open for Business will be supporting your business growth with:

  • Tools to help you assess and forecast your business trajectory
  • Content and guides to upskill and empower you
  • Extra marketing support from our in house team
  • Fast and flexible access to business funding

For more on the Open for Business campaign, read this blog post

Want to increase your marketing? Submit your SME to our Open for Business listing. It’s free and takes only a few minutes. Add your business here.

Still need help getting back to business?

Here are a few Open for Business articles that might help you:

This Young Entrepreneur Will Inspire You to Take the Leap

This Young Entrepreneur Will Inspire You to Take the Leap

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Back in primary school, as her classmates jostled all around her on the playground, Boitumelo Moroe was getting ready to start her first business.

“From a young age, I fully understood the value of money and profit. I was that school girl always finding something to sell, from cupcakes, lemonade to beads.”

But, after matriculating, Moroe stepped away from entrepreneurship and followed a more traditional path: enrolling in university and earning her degree.

Once she graduated, Moroe started working a corporate job.

Up until that moment, Moroe’s career embodied modern, professional success: she had a great position in a big corporate and all the benefits it provided.

But it wasn’t long before she realised she could no longer ignore the yearning to go out on her own.

She was ready to take the leap.

“The desire to set my own limits and to get out of the comfort zone propelled me to be an entrepreneur. Armed with a vision and belief in thyself, I left the glamorous corporate world, and in a flash, I was back at it.”

That’s when Moroe founded ECU Express, an automotive electro-software company.

And she’s never looked back.

ECU Express specialises in the diagnostics, repairs, replacements, and programming of electronic control modules, the on-board computers in cars.

The company solves that universal problem shared by frustrated vehicle owners: finding quality parts at reasonable prices.

“We regard ourselves as the ‘vehicle gurus’—solving complex vehicle problems daily. Our aim is to offer affordable yet quality automotive solutions to our clientele by bridging the gap between expensive brand new products and parts bought from scrapyards, mostly with no guarantee. Our customer base ranges from dealers, workshops, bush mechanics to individuals.”

For Moroe, ECU Express is far more than just a business.

Her work is challenging, rewarding, and unpredictable, and she wouldn’t have it any other way.

“The thrill and challenges that come with being in the automotive software industry are second to none. I enjoy waking up and not knowing what direction my day is going to take. I enjoy being able to get my hands dirty (in a sophisticated way, of course), whilst wearing heels. I enjoy hearing an old lady saying that her car has started after it wasn’t running for eight months. I enjoy keeping abreast of the new developments made in automotive electro-software engineering and breaking new ground.”

Her advice for aspiring young entrepreneurs is simple:

Don’t delay your business dream.

“You are better off initially running with an idea than waiting for the perfect idea. That’s something I sometimes struggle with because of my perfectionist personality.”

She encourages young people to pursue their entrepreneurial ambitions confidently.

Moroe admits this isn’t always easy in a world that frowns upon failure.

“With time and effort, the idea will turn into a good idea; and with continued passion, the good idea will turn into the perfect idea. It is OK to fail and make mistakes because through failure we are simply ‘failing forward’ one step at a time. As an entrepreneur, you need to continuously bulldoze your way in – be loud, be unashamed and grab what’s yours.”

Giving young people the tools they need to become successful entrepreneurs starts at school, said Moroe.

“I am a firm believer that quality education can alleviate poverty in our country and reduce the staggering youth unemployment rate of about 53%. Let’s start with the basics – our educational system should be equipping children with entrepreneurial skills while they’re still at school.”

She thinks of entrepreneurship as a safety net; a set of skills a person can draw on at any time to generate an income for themselves and their families.

“This would mean that should such children, at any point in their lives, find themselves unemployed, they don’t play the pity game but instead know how to use the opportunities around them and turn them into a business idea. The government has done well with the number of youth incubation programs and funding in place but more can always be done.”

Though society celebrates the lifestyles of entrepreneurs, it’s not always easy. But the rewards make it worth it, said Moroe.

“Whenever the going gets tough, I always remind myself how far I have come – from trying to prove my worth in a male-dominated industry and standing out whilst at it, to the sacrifices I’ve had to make – and how much further I am yet to go.”

There might be challenges along the way, but Moroe simply rejected failure as an option a long time ago.

“Once you make a decision to jump into the ocean, you can only stop swimming when you get to the shore—quitting is never an option. You need to soldier on and keep focused on the dream. It is vital for one to continuously reconnect with the vision, which is something I do daily with my morning chants.”

Trevor Gosling, Lulalend CEO and co-founder, said young people had an important role to play in growing the economy and adding jobs.

“Every day we see young people who are going out and changing the world. It’s up to us to give them the support they need to do that. That’s why we’re so proud to back young business owners like Boitumelo.”