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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.
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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.
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.
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.
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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:
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A new countrywide SME support campaign will offer small businesses free marketing exposure, financial management tools, and support to digitally transform their business as they attempt to re-open following the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown.
As a growing number of small businesses begin to shift online to meet changing customer behaviour resulting from COVID-19, Lulalend, SA’s first online funder for SMEs, has launched its Open for Business campaign.
The campaign will provide:
- Marketing support: including exposure across Lulalend’s high profile digital platforms
- Digital capability assessment: free audit by Lulalend’s digital marketing experts
- Access to cash flow forecasting tools: a snapshot of an SME’s short-term financial future
- Mentorship: connect over lunch with an inspiring mentor from your industry
The free marketing support will promote SMEs on Lulalend’s blog to help increase their exposure and improve vital search engine rankings. Businesses will also be promoted across Lulalend’s social media platforms under the Open for Business banner.
The campaign comes as internet traffic has continued to rise by 15% since President Cyril Ramaphohsa announced the lockdown in March, according to Seacom, the network service provider. These increases have included hikes in video consumption and standard web browsing.
A study from Nielsen also showed 29% of people were shopping more online since the start of the outbreak.
Michael Rampjapedi, digital marketing manager at Lulalend, said SMEs featured on Lulalend’s blog will be able to grow traffic to their sites.
“The most important benefit is the visibility, especially for a new site. You’re getting free traffic to your site. And that’s immediate, cost-effective, exposure.”
Rampjapedi said there will also be long-term benefits for a business’ search engine ranking.
Linking to the Lulalend site improves a new site’s domain authority: a group of factors that influence a site’s ranking.
“The Lulalend blog’s domain authority is similar to that of the banks. So, having those kinds of associating links is beneficial for a new site’s authority,” said Michael Rampjapedi.
Meanwhile, Lulalend’s cash flow forecasting tool will allow an SME to view a monthly breakdown of it’s expected turnover and estimated expenses for the next six months.
The Open for Business campaign will also be regularly providing valuable content to help businesses operate effectively during the pandemic, such as this Back to Business guide.
The guide, which was produced in partnership with the National Small Business Chamber, covers topics including:
- Marketing your SME during COVID-19
- Increasing your cashflow
- Communicating with your team
Within Lulalend’s SME community there have been many stories of entrepreneurs adapting their businesses overnight and finding new ways of doing things to cope with the impact of COVID-19. Lulalend is offering business owners the chance to meet and learn from these inspiring individuals.
SMEs can list their businesses here.
And can stay up to date on the campaign by subscribing to the Lulalend newsletter here.
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Searching for business funding for your SME can be a complicated journey.
But it doesn’t need to be.
In this post, you’ll learn more about the most common ways you can get business funding in South Africa.
Jump to the section to learn more about:
- How to find COVID-19 business funding
- How to determine the right type of funding for your business
- List of common funders
COVID-19 Business Funding
Small businesses across South African took a knock during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Business owners told Statistics South Africa they had:
- Lower turnover
- Paused trading
- Decreased working hours
And, just under 40% said they would turn to the government for funding relief during the pandemic.
And the numbers show there’s been an immense need for business funding:
- The Department of Small Business Development received more than 30 000 applications for its Debt Relief Scheme. Eventually, 1 497 SMEs received R513 million. In total, there was a shortfall of over R4 billion
- When applications opened for Johan Rupert’s SME relief package, SMEs submitted 10,000 applications for R2.8 billion. That exceeded the fund’s R1 billion available funding
There are, however, still sector-specific business funds available to SMEs.
And, the Small Enterprise Development Agency (Seda) shared the key COVID-19 funds with us.
Here is an overview of these sector-specific schemes:
- Small-scale bakeries and confectioneries support scheme: small businesses can apply for equipment finance or working capital
- Informal and small-scale clothing and textile support scheme: open to seamstresses, designers, art designers, shoemakers, etc. SMEs can use the funding for new business opportunities, courses to improve key skills, and business credit
- Automotive aftermarkets support: open to all auto mechanics, diesel fitters, panel beaters and spray painters. Funds can be used for working capital
- Spaza shop support scheme: general dealers and traditional grocery stores in townships and villages
Sibongile Somdaka, marketing and stakeholder relations at Seda, encouraged businesses to register on the government’s COVID-19 SMME Support registration portal to apply for any of these schemes.
“We have been inundated with inquiries from clients who are non–compliant with the online registration platform.
“Because of this non-compliance, many of our clients are missing out on these available opportunities from government,” said Somdaka in a note to Seda offices.
If you want more information, you can now visit the Seda offices. On 14 June, Seda branches opened in some parts of the country.
General business funding
Beyond COVID-19 funding relief, there are hundreds of business funding products available to you.
How to find the right one for your business?
Lucille Bester, the Head of Client Relations at Lulalend, shares advice on the best ways to fund your business.
How do you get funding for a business?
As an SME, you might know about the main ways to get funding.
According to this International Finance Corporation (IFC) study, these were the most popular ways to get business funding in South Africa:
- Personal savings from investments
- Business partners
- Credit card
- An investor
- Friends and family
- Government grant
- Fintech funder
Before taking a closer look at each option, you need to determine why you need business funding, said Bester.
“Do you need to pay a bill? Do you need funds for a piece of equipment that will generate income in six months?”
Once you have figured out the purpose of the funding, you will be able to answer other questions, like:
“Is this short-term long or long-term funding?”
Determining the purpose of your funding will save you time during the application process.
Many SMEs approach the wrong funders applying for the wrong type of funding product, according to the South African SMME Access to Finance Report.
Examples of types of business-specific funding include:
Businesses also needed funding to start new businesses, according to the report.
Gaining an understanding of the purpose of the funding lets you better plan your cash flow, said, Bester.
“You don’t want a case where you take inventory financing for over 24 months to five years. You’ve sold the inventory and already generated that income. But, you’re still repaying that loan. It doesn’t look good on your balance sheet.”
Paying off a loan for goods that are no longer bringing in revenue has the potential to harm your creditworthiness.
“So, if you have inventory finance over a three-month period, it’s not sitting on your balance sheet after that term. But, if you took funding for a piece of equipment and you bought that equipment, it’s an asset and it’s generating income for you. This looks good on your balance sheet.”
Funders evaluate these factors when they process your business funding application.
“Creditors look at your assets, liabilities, and equity.”
So, before you approach any funders:
- Gain clarity on your business needs and goals
- Find the business funding product that fits your needs
- Determine the criteria
- Submit your application
How do I get money to start a business in South Africa?
By now, you can see there are different ways to raise money for your business.
If you need capital early in your business journey, your options might be more limited.
That’s because banks, for instance, would require collateral.
“Banks would give you a reasonable rate but they will ask for collateral. And they’re not going to be quick and easy,” said Bester.
Banks often want longer trading histories, too.
Often, this makes it hard for newer SMEs to secure business funding from banks.
And while friends and family were the top sources of business funding for SMEs in other countries, Bester said SMEs should consider this option carefully. There’s always the risk of complicating your relationships.
Even if you can persuade family and friends to lend you the money to start your business, it’s not that easy in South Africa. Unequal wealth distribution severely restricts this form of finance for most South African SMEs.
Bester said businesses looking for fast, short-term funding should explore alternative funders. With Lulalend, you apply for funding online. If approved, the funds are in your account in 24 hours. And you only need a one-year trading history.
Who funds small businesses in South Africa?
Still unsure about which type of business funding is right for your business?
Here’s a roundup of the common business funders.
Different government departments provide different types of funding. For instance, The Department of Trade and Industry and the Department of Small Business Development provide business funding.
You can get loans, grants, and sector-specific business funding from the government.
Below, is an overview of common government business funds.
The Small Enterprise Finance Agency provides a range of business funding products, like asset finance, bridging finance, credit guarantees, and revolving loans.
The agency targets SMEs in the following sectors:
- Wholesale trade
- Green industries
Some of the criteria include:
- South African citizenship or permanent residency
- Written business plan that meets Sefa’s criteria
There will be additional criteria depending on the type of business funding. For instance, bridging finance is typically awarded to SMEs that have existing purchase orders.
Sefa might be a good place to start. If they can’t help you business funding, they’ll point you in the right direction.
You can take this quiz to learn more about the right funding for your business.
National Empowerment Fund
The National Empowerment Fund provides funding to black entrepreneurs.
- Women empowerment fund
- iMbewu fund
- uMnotho Fund
For a full list of funds, visit the NEF’s product page.
The criteria for the NEF’s business funding includes that your business must be:
- 50.1% black-owned
- Able to create a “reasonable” amount of jobs
- Able to repay the funding
Industrial Development Corporation
The Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) provides loans, venture capital, and other types of funding.
Focus sectors include:
- Clothing and textiles
You may be asked for security.
For more, visit the IDC’s site.
In our business loan guide, we pulled together everything you need to know about applying for business loans.
Common criteria for business funding from banks include:
- Time of operating
- Credit score
- Financial documents, like cash flow statements
And if you’re curious about how your credit score affects your application, check out our credit score blog.
Alternative funders, like Lulalend, offer a fast, easy way to access business finance. Unlike traditional lenders, you don’t need collateral. And, there are no early settlement fees.
Fast, easy business funding
If you want to learn more about accessing fast business online, visit our business funding page.
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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: