Women Powering SA: Ann Clarke, options in training

Women Powering SA: Ann Clarke, options in training

Ann Clarke

MD of options in training

The Business

options in training offers training that covers everything from an introduction to computing in business to intermediate and specialised Microsoft office courses, often tailored to meet an exact business or personal requirement.

They make keeping up-to-date and improving your skills fun by ensuring that it’s relaxed, interactive, and supportive in small, facilitator-led, computer, and business skills classes.

They have been around for over 30 years, have full MICT SETA accreditation with courses mapped to unit standards, are part of the Microsoft channel, and a testing center, but have never lost that personal touch or the flexibility to schedule courses where and when it suits you. They thrive on the challenge of developing new courses, to your needs.

Over and above Microsoft training they also offer:

Project Management, Visio, CorelDRAW, Publisher, and Internet courses.

Business Skills Training: developing your communication and people skills – whether you are looking at interaction with colleagues, bosses, employees, or clients.

They believe that when writing, presenting, training, leading, supervising, or talking, a depth of knowledge and understanding of both yourself and best practices predicts success.

Ann’s story

It was in the ’80s when Ann created a solid business plan that secured the finance she needed to start options in training. She credits this and the youthful positivity which gave her the confidence in getting started. At the time she entered the professional services industry, it already welcomed female entrepreneurs.

“A couple of lessons I’ve learned, which have so often stood me in good stead, are that saving in the good times eases the stultifying financial stress of the not-so-good, and cherish your reputation, it keeps you in business. But you wouldn’t have a business without a dedicated team who care as much as you do, look after them, “ says Ann.

“Today, our computer and business skills training has moved from our beautiful thatched premises to the small screen of our computers, in our home offices.”

“To my surprise, this hasn’t diminished our trademark personalised attention and has opened new opportunities for distance training. So hold on to perseverance and belief – they are your path to continued success.”

Get in touch with them to enrich yourself or your team’s skills and take your business to the next level.

Contact Ann at ann@optionsit.co.za

Does Alternative Lending Make Sense as a Cashflow Management Tool for Your Business?

Does Alternative Lending Make Sense as a Cashflow Management Tool for Your Business?

Running a small business is hard, especially now during lock down. One of the biggest challenges that faces small and medium-sized businesses is cash flow how does one keep the lights on when cash flow is tight? For business owners, managing business operations is hard enough, but throw in managing the finances and it can sometimes feel impossible.

In this post we will introduce how an alternative credit lending facility can help SMEs take advantage of growth opportunities, to not only keep their business operating but also generate a positive ROI in the long term.

Cash flow management 

How does one manage business cash flow effectively?

More Sales? – the easiest and best would be to increase sales while managing costs – if only it was that easy! With the constant drive to increase sales while juggling cost inputs (all with different timelines) one really needs to know how to juggle one’s cash reserves

Credit Facility? – having access to a credit facility, be it a bank overdraft or an alternative lender credit facility, can be a lifesaver,

Bank overdraft vs a Credit Facility

What’s the difference between a traditional Bank Overdraft Facility and an alternative lender Credit Facility?

When does alternative funding make sense?

Credit lending facilities can serve a specific purpose and may not work well for every business. How do you know if this is a good choice for you?

You need a quick turnaround

  • Some deals appear and you need to act quickly. This does not allow for the long lead times of traditional lenders. You can access capital from Lulalend within 24 hours. 

You are not being approved by a bank 

  • Traditional lenders have traditional credit models, which do not suit all businesses. Lenders like Lulalend can assess a business’s ability to repay a loan in minutes using their machine learning algorithms and alternative sources of scoring data. 

The costs are not clear

  • When assessing a business opportunity, you need to have a clear idea of what the costs are to ensure you are making money. Loan initiation fees, early settlement penalties and ongoing account costs are often “hidden” costs that can make traditional lending not as cost-effective as they appear. 
  • Lulalend’s fees are completely transparent – there are no initiation fees, no early settlement penalties and no account fees – you only pay when you access your facility

Margins can support the costs (Positive ROI)

  • When making any business decision that requires using a credit facility, you should check that your income and margins can support the cost of that funding. Here are a few simple examples: 

The advantage of using a lender like Lulalend, is that you can calculate your investment costs with 100% certainty before you commit to a deal so you can ensure your ROI is positive. In addition, as soon as your deal is done, you can park the Lulalend facility – at no cost! – until the next deal presents itself. 

 

Apply in minutes online and get business funding in your account in 24 hours.

 

Increasing Your Business’s Resilience to Come Back Stronger

Increasing Your Business’s Resilience to Come Back Stronger

In the face of COVID-19 most businesses have already been taking some steps, out of pure necessity, to increase their resilience.

However, as we settle into the uncertainty and prolonged semi-locked down period, we thought we would highlight the areas most experts agree should be prioritised to increase business resilience.

In this instance we define resilience as the ability to come out of a crisis faster and stronger than competitors in your industry.

In terms of survival over the lock down period many businesses have already made use of Cost cutting, and while most owners are good negotiators, we tend to get lax in times of plenty. We must use the memory of COVID-19 to keep us on our toes in terms of how we spend our budgets, how often we choose to negotiate and how extravagant we are in times of plenty. In addition, as seen in this McKinsey study of 2000 businesses, in times of crises an early and strong focus on cost cutting can better position your business for an earlier and stronger recovery. It is worth noting that in this instance the best form of cost cutting is increased efficiency through greater digitisation.

In addition to this, business insurance, as we have all seen, is worth the investment. So too is staying on top of things like UIF and encouraging your employees to invest in income protection. It is far too easy to underestimate how often these big crises occur, but once a decade is a good benchmark (last decade there were two – 2002, and 2008).

This leads to the next level of resilience – building up savings or having access to funds that can see you through any prolonged period of reduced income. On a personal level we are told to build first 3 and then 6 months worth of savings as an income buffer – and it shouldn’t be any different for your business.

While you are building this buffer up, and indeed after, it is worth having additional funding options in place. Fast access to funding allows you to fill any gaps, or more importantly to take advantage of opportunities to grow your business and recover faster ( Lulalend’s instant access credit facility is designed to help support your business through good times and bad. It has no fixed fees so it costs you nothing to have it in place “just in case”).

Throughout the current crisis we’ve all felt there was a lot of noise, but few quality sources of information. Did you manage to discover the right source of business information. If not, it is worth making sure that you have a good, reliable source of information so that you don’t waste time trying to find the answers you need. This allows you to take action faster and keep your focus where it is most needed.

One area that can help with this is finding a good mentor or building a strong network. Simply looking for businesses in your industry either locally or internationally and sending out a request to ask for some guidance can be the beginning of increased support and insights.

What is clear from the McKinsey study is that the most resilient businesses act faster to recover faster, especially as opportunities begin to present themselves as the markets change, and as competitors begin to offload assets. Furthermore the gains they make during this time stand them in good stead for years to come.

 

Small Business Marketing Strategies: Google vs Facebook

Small Business Marketing Strategies: Google vs Facebook

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.

COVID-19 SME Support: Business Brightspot Listing

COVID-19 SME Support: Business Brightspot Listing

In this edition of the Business Brighspot blog, we’re covering two traditional South African SMEs who have taken a knock during lock down but have managed to keep their doors open.

Imelda Kekana, The Muff’n Lady

About your business

We are an artisan bakery offering nutritious and scrumptious goodies. We use good quality natural and indigenous ingredients sustainably grown by local farmers, as part of our strategy to combat/reduce lifestyle diseases whilst at the same time creating awareness to the forgotten sound food intelligence that our ancestors thrived on. For premium quality and freshness, our products are only available per order.

How has your business changed during COVID-19?

Sales dropped drastically.

Contact details:

Imelda Kekana

Yaniv Belinky, Tapitalia

About your business

We import Italian bathroom fittings including taps, sanitary-ware, vanities, accessories, baths and showers.

How has your business changed during COVID-19?

We were closed for the first 5 weeks of lockdown and unable to generate sales and business has been slow since we have opened.

Contact details:

Yaniv Belinky

Want to list your business? Submit your story here

The Business Brightspot blog is part of our Open for Business campaign. This is an initiative to give South African SMEs the tools and information they need to re-open their businesses during COVID-19.

For on the campaign, read this blog post.

5 Digital Marketing Strategy Tips: COVID-19 SME Support

5 Digital Marketing Strategy Tips: COVID-19 SME Support

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: