Why your SME should consider a Customer Relationship Management platform

Why your SME should consider a Customer Relationship Management platform

Reading Time: 3 minutes
Investing in a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system can be one of the most effective means to increasing customer engagement and retention for an SME. A CRM solution enables a business to efficiently collect a wealth of data on its customers’ behaviours and preferences, and then quickly respond to these via personalised communications. CRM tools can also play a vital role in aligning a business’s Marketing and Sales activities.

 

Let’s have a look at 4 reasons why your SME should consider investing in CRM software to grow your business: 

  1. A single view of the customer
  2. Real-time data access
  3. Nurture leads with optimized user journeys
  4. Track your KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators)

 

 

A single view of the customer 

A CRM platform allows a business to collate all of the data it holds on a customer, including previous purchases and interactions with the customer service team, in one place. This can then easily be viewed and acted upon by internal teams. The more you know about your customer, the easier it is to meet their future needs. Having a complete overview of all your customers also helps a business to segment its customer base and develop different strategies for each.

 

Real-time data access

The real-time data collection and analysis most CRM tools offer enables companies to gather information on prospects or clients straight away. You get actionable information on who is visiting the website and which content they are viewing. You will see which emails they are opening or clicking on, as well as which forms they have filled out. 

You will also learn about their preferences, which goods and services they buy, and how to upsell to them. By capturing behavioral data CRM tools allow you to engage in a more personalized manner.

 

Related: What is Employee Experience?

 

Nurture leads with optimized user journeys

96% of people aren’t ready to buy from you the first time they visit your website.

The same can be said for a trade show, networking gathering, or company conference. Rather than launching your sales pitch straight away, it is important to get to know your prospects and engage with them on a more personalized basis. This is conveniently accomplished by developing lead nurture journeys using a CRM platform.

As an example: email addresses can be collected via a form on your website. When this occurs, a sequence of automated email messages can be triggered. Each message can share more about your products and services, while also being tailored to any subsequent actions the lead completes (such as downloading additional product guides).  

This prompt, and customised way of following up with leads, can significantly increase conversion rates.

 

Track your KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators)

CRM tools can help you answer crucial business questions, such as:

  • Which marketing strategies are the most effective? E.g. Paid Search, SEO, or word-of-mouth?
  • Which methods of customer service do your customers prefer, such as do you need a live chat or phone support?
  • Which customer segments are most profitable? 

 

A CRM tool provides real-time filtering and monitoring, allowing you to understand important performance drivers such as:

  • Which sources your new marketing leads are coming from
  • Effectiveness of the sales conversion funnel
  • The efficiency of  your customer service team in handling queries

 

Related: How to Drive Sales Through Customer Retention

 

Here are three of the most common CRM tools SMEs can consider: 

  1. Hubspot – assign your customers to specified stages of the sales funnel where you can personalize their user experience with your business through content and marketing material.
  2. Salesforce – ensures trouble-free contact management by providing access to important customer details and relationship history. It provides a full description of the client, with insights and engagement-enhancement techniques.
  3. Freshworks – designed to help sales teams never fall behind with built-in phone and email, robust insights such as lead scoring, website monitoring, and intelligent workflows.

 

A CRM system can be the missing link for small companies looking to get closer to their clients, generate more leads, and increase revenue. Customer Relationship Management solutions provide you with the data and knowledge you need to automate your processes and improve your customer experience.

 

The SME Guide to Digital Transformation

The SME Guide to Digital Transformation

Reading Time: 2 minutes

The latest guide in our Business High Five series, The SME Guide to Digital Transformation, offers useful guidance on how to introduce digital technology to help your business succeed.

 

Download our complete guide to Digital Transformation

 

Some of the important topics our guide covers include:

 

An Introduction to Digital Transformation

This refers to an overall transformation of organizational activities aimed at leveraging opportunities created by digital technologies and data.

Here are some of the reasons why this type of transformation is proving to be so valuable to many SMEs:

  • Acceleration of Change
  • Global Competition
  • Customer Expectations
  • Digital Adoption

 

 

How to create a Digital Transformation Strategy

With the help of new technologies, you can future-proof your SME by transforming your business model to increase productivity and profitability.

By making use of the following steps, you can craft a winning digital strategy for your business.

  1. Get buy-in
  2. Make sure you have sufficient funding
  3. Assess the current state of your business
  4. Determine the objectives & desired results
  5. Conduct a gap analysis
  6. Create a transformation roadmap

 

The Power of Data

Having access to data is critical to achieving your transformation objectives. But data is meaningless if it isn’t put to use. Companies who exploit their data and operate on it easily gain an advantage over their competitors.

 

Related: The rise of eCommerce

 

Examples of Transformation Across Industries

Digital innovation has an effect on various sectors in a number of ways. It provides extraordinary opportunities to follow new market models, but each industry’s solution is distinct.

In the guide, we explore examples in the agriculture & manufacturing, healthcare, and retail industries.

 

Tools, platforms, technologies to aid your Digital Journey

A wide range of digital tools are available across industries. Here is a list of basic, yet very important (and mostly free) technologies that are relevant across most industries and will help you along your digital journey.

Some of which include;

  • Google Analytics
  • Xero
  • Pardot
  • Hootsuite
  • Oracle

 

Download the full SME Guide here.

 

 

4 Ways to Optimize your Digital Marketing

4 Ways to Optimize your Digital Marketing

Reading Time: 3 minutes

If you want to make the most of your digital marketing efforts, you have to make all your tools and platforms work for you. This is why it’s important to understand how to optimize your digital platforms.

Here are our 4 ways you can optimize your digital platform to grow and better your business online:

  1. Use technology and data to determine the best way to reach your customers
  2. Make use of Automation Tools
  3. Optimize your SEO
  4. Take Advantage of Social Media

 

 

1. Use technology and data to determine the best way to reach your customer

Modern technologies can assist you in optimizing your digital marketing strategy by allowing you to quickly identify your target market and where to reach them. You can now easily collect data on your customer’s behaviours, evaluate this, and build a deeper understanding of the media they absorb.

For example, Google Analytics turns assumptions about your target audience into solid facts. Under the Audience tab, you can quickly understand who your customers are and where they are located along with a plethora of other stats. Under the Acquisitions tab, click All Traffic then Source/Medium where you will find how your customers and web traffic were referred to your site.

With the data, you can now readily access using these technologies you can create personalized messaging and focus your investments on delivering these messages through the right channels. 

 

2. Make use of Automation Tools

One way your business can save time and money is by making use of marketing automation tools. When you spend less time on repetitive tasks, you free up valuable time that can be spent focusing on analysing your performance data and making the improvements needed to generate more growth for your business.

Some tools can help you plan and schedule your efforts as well as track what is or isn’t successful. They will help you spend your budget smartly and increase your reach.

Here are a few tools to consider:

  1. Pardot
  2. Hubspot
  3. Activecampaign

 

Related: 5 Digital Marketing Strategy Tips: COVID-19 SME Support

 

3. Optimize your SEO

While SEO optimization may be more prominent in B2C organizations it’s becoming increasingly important to ensure your B2B business has a good SEO ranking. If it’s not something people can find on the web, a B2B enterprise runs the risk of falling between the cracks.

Having an SEO specialist on your team (or using an agency) will ensure your content is optimized with; Focus keywords, Google-friendly HTML formatting, and a URL structure that correlates with your product keywords – all of which makes it easier for your target audience to find your business in search engines such as Google and Bing.

Using free tools provided by SEO specialists like Moz, as well as Google (Google Analytics, and Search Console), you can assess the overall score of your product pages and decide where improvements are needed.

Make sure you use the same SEO auditing process for all digital assets involved in your campaign, including case studies and blog posts.

 

Related: The rise of eCommerce

 

4. Take Advantage of Social Media

Since its inception in the early 2000s, social media has transformed the way people communicate. Simultaneously, it has generated novel possibilities for digital marketers.

People pay a lot of attention to social media, making content here even more effective. Marketers can use social media to reach as many, or few – if you want to be very targeted customers as they choose. (depending on your budget). It is a strategy that is beneficial to all companies, large or small.

Social Media can be used to; Build a fan/customer base and continually engage with them in a cost-effective way, reach new audiences, enhance your customer service, gather feedback and enhance your overall online presence. Social networking is something you can’t ignore when it comes to improving your digital marketing plan.

 

4 Ways to manage the low season

4 Ways to manage the low season

Reading Time: 4 minutes

With winter just around the corner, many businesses will be going into the low season. This means fewer customers, therefore, less revenue. The trick to not just surviving this period, but making it work to your advantage, is to have a plan for managing your cash flow as well as using the time to prepare for future success.

With this in mind, we’ve put together four tips for businesses to manage through their quiet months:

  1. Stick to a plan
  2. Take advantage of the downtime
  3. Plan for the busy season ahead
  4. Learn and learn again

 

1. Stick to a plan

Low seasons come around every year and should not take you by surprise. Every successful business should have a plan in place, much like they’d have a plan for the busy season. To start, don’t base your slowest season’s plans on your busiest season’s results. It won’t take long for this type of planning to cause serious problems for your business finances.

Your plan should anticipate seasonal fluctuations and adjust accordingly. If revenue is lower, you will need to cut costs. Potential areas for seasonal cost savings include:

  • Fewer operating hours
  • Reduced workforce
  • Fewer or smaller inventory buys

In addition to cutting costs, consider where you can leverage existing assets to generate income. You could leverage assets by:

  • Selling off excess or aging inventory at a discount
  • Securing a line of credit against inventory, equipment, and property
  • Renting unused equipment to other businesses

 

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

 

2. Take advantage of the downtime

The slow season is the one period of the year when you have time to focus on areas you may ordinarily not have time for. As you get close to the slow season, prepare yourself to take advantage of the time it provides.

Plan to Plan

The slow season is a great time to develop roadmaps for your business. Now is the time to determine what aspects of your business need attention. Think about how you can best prepare your business for the uptick in customers, transactions, complaints, and everything else that comes with the busy season. Be prepared to plan for these busy season realities as the slow season arrives.

Here are some common areas that often go overlooked as you grow your business:

  • Employee benefit packages
  • Updated business plans
  • Marketing strategies
  • Organizational roadmaps

Areas that deserve your attention vary depending on your business’ industry, maturity, growth, and other unique factors. The best way to prepare for your slow-season planning is to identify areas that deserve your attention.

 

Take control of administrative tasks

Before the slow season begins, identify administrative tasks that need your attention.

Your administrative tasks will vary depending on the nature and stage of your business. But, there are some common administrative tasks that many business owners avoid during the busy season because they are either too time consuming or boring:

  • Tax strategy
  • Staff growth and outsourcing needs
  • Internal policies and procedures development

 

Whether you have neglected these tasks in the past, or you simply need a good chunk of time to get these tasks completed, be ready to knock them out when the slow season provides time.

3. Plan for the busy season ahead

Once the busy season arrives, it’s too late to prepare for it. The slow season is a perfect time to ensure that you make the preparations and adjustments needed to hit the ground running when the busy season comes back around.

 

Train Employees

All employees benefit from training, but finding time to train isn’t easy. During the slow season, you have the time to offer training options that meet your employees’ needs. Newer employees may need some basic onboarding training. Your more seasoned employees likely need more advanced training to improve their skills. Identify the training needed across your workforce, and plan that training before the slow season hits.

 

Inventory Strategy

The slow season is a good time to dive into your inventory strategy, if it’s relevant to your business. The goal of an effective inventory strategy is to identify the most effective and profitable inventory method for your business. While the slow season is the time to conduct an inventory analysis, you must develop a plan beforehand that will serve as your roadmap to execute this.

Here are some common metrics and processes to consider when reviewing your inventory practices:

  • Inventory turns
  • Average shipping time
  • Cost of inventory
  • Volume discounts
  • Fill rate
  • Shipping accuracy

The list above is a starting point for analyzing your inventory practices. Before the slow season arrives, determine which metrics make sense to review when the slow season gives you a window of time to do so.

During the busy season, track the metrics applicable to your inventory strategy to ensure you are ready to execute your review when the low season arrives. An effective inventory strategy will be unique to your business.

Related: Practical cost-saving tips for your business

 

4. Learn & learn again

Perhaps the best rule of thumb when preparing for the low season is to remember what you did to prepare for the last low season.

  • Did you stick to the plan?
  • Did you take advantage of the slow season?
  • Did you utilize the slow season to prepare for the busy season?

In answering these questions, you can repeat successful behaviors and identify your opportunities to improve.

 

 

The SME Guide to Cash Flow Management

The SME Guide to Cash Flow Management

Reading Time: 2 minutes

The latest guide in our Business High Five series, The SME Guide to Cash Flow Management offers practical guidance on building and maintaining a healthy cash flow.

 

Download our complete guide to Cash Flow Management here.

 

Some of the important questions our guide answers include:

The Importance of Cash Flow Management

Cash Flow Management is the process of monitoring, analysing, and optimizing the net amount of cash receipts minus the cash expenses. As a business owner, understanding your cash flow gives you clarity over your monthly cash needs, and can also help identify the sources from where these can be met. 

The three main areas we’ll cover are:

  • What cash flow management involves
  • The benefits of cash flow management
  • Documents you’ll need when analyzing your business cash flow

 

Request a callback from our Funding Specialists

 

7 Ways to Manage your Business’s Cash Flow 

Having an effective cash flow system is the heartbeat of any successful business. This is especially true in a business where managing cash flow between different projects can mean the difference between success and failure of your business.

We’ve put together a few tips and tricks that could help you manage your cash flow to ensure your business remains profitable across all projects. 

  1. Understand your customer
  2. Do a cash flow forecast
  3. Be realistic about your profitable estimate
  4. Negotiate contract terms in your favour
  5. Always check Change Orders
  6. Be strict about collecting payments
  7. Close the project

 

8 Cost-reduction Strategies for Better Cash Flow

As a business owner, you’re always looking for ways to reduce costs. Of course, cutting costs helps you boost your cash flow. And when you’re running a business, you know cash flow matters. Business owners regularly tell us a steady cash flow means their businesses can thrive. Negative cash flow, on the other hand, causes missed opportunities and immense personal stress.

 

Related: The SME Guide to Business Funding

 

Forecasting in Uncertain Times

It’s easy to get stuck in a loop of short-term thinking when you’re dealing with sudden, unexpected, even – dare we say it? – unprecedented events. But forward planning is key because it helps you adapt more quickly as the situation evolves so you come out the other side in a stronger position.

Of course, forecasting in the midst of great economic uncertainty can feel like trying to hit a moving target. This is why it’s a good idea to plan for a number of different scenarios.

 

Download the full SME Guide to Cash Flow Management here.

 

 

The SME Guide to Business Funding

The SME Guide to Business Funding

Reading Time: 2 minutes

 

Many business owners believe the most crucial factor in success is sales. While it is obviously true that without sufficient sales a business will fail, maintaining liquidity, or having access to sufficient cash is equally important. Even the most successful businesses experience fluctuations in revenue, causing disruption to cash flow. Having fast and easy access to funding in these instances is crucial. Without it, not only will daily operations be impacted but the organization will be unable to take advantage of new opportunities.

The latest guide in our Business High Five series, The SME Guide to Business Funding, explains why access to working capital is crucial for all SMEs, as well as where and how to apply for funding.

 

Download our complete guide to SME Funding here.

 

Some of the important questions our guide answers include:

Where can SMEs access business funding?

If you search for a “business loan” online, you’ll be confronted by a staggering number of results: 1.5 billion, to be exact. And though banks still dominate as finance sources for SMEs, the International Finance Corporation (IFC) finds other loan providers have started to appeal to owners who are searching for fast, easy ways to access finance.

The three main ways one can access funding are:

  • Traditional Banks
  • Government Funding
  • Fintech Lenders

 

Related: Business High Five: Online tools to improve your business

 

How to choose a responsible business funding partner?

Ultimately, responsible lending means putting the customer first. Businesses turn to a variety of sources for funding. The problem is there are some lenders out there that don’t act in the customer’s best interests. It is important to select a funder who believes in responsible lending. This means ensuring affordability, transparency of terms and conditions, and supporting the customer when needed.

 

Request a callback from our Funding Specialists

 

How to qualifying for a Business Loan?

Do you know what your credit score is? Understanding your own and your business’s creditworthiness is a great practice in general. But it’s especially important if you’re planning to take out a loan as lenders will base their decisions, at least in part, on your credit rating.

 

Other important factors used by lenders are:

  • Trading history (how long has your business been operating)
  • Annual revenue
  • The collateral you are able to provide

 

Related: Move your business online by following these essential steps

 

Fixed Term Loans versus Credit Facilities

When considering funding, it’s important to consider the way in which you want to access capital, as well as the repayment terms. There are two broad business funding options available to SMEs.

Fixed-Term loans are the most common type of business funding, a fixed-term loan is a lump sum amount that is repaid over a fixed period of time, typically up to 10 years (depending on the size), and at an agreed interest rate.

A Credit Facility is a fast-growing alternative to fixed-term loan. Simply put, a credit facility offers instant access to a line of credit. A business can withdraw up to a pre-approved amount without needing to reapply.

 

Download the SME Guide to Business Funding.