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

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

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

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

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

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

1. Be smart about referral marketing

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

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

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

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

2. Be smart about your business website

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

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

3. Be smart about the time you spend on email

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. Showcase what clients can expect to get

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

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

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

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

2. Consider advertising on other platforms

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

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

3.   Collect reviews and get ratings

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

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

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

4.   Keep the lines of communication open

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

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

5.   Invite influencers to stay for free

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

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

 

How small businesses can build a website on a budget

How small businesses can build a website on a budget

We are living in a fast-paced world where everything has gone digital. Customers these days prefer the convenience of an online world and make their purchasing decisions by doing their own online research. According to Web Archive, 36% of people gather information from a company’s website before making a purchasing decision. A business website is a representation of your brand, an important communication tool to explain what your business does, and a means of converting prospects into customers. If your business doesn’t have a digital footprint, you’re going to miss out on targeting a large chunk of your potential customer base.

If you haven’t got a website because you don’t have any change lying around for this right now it is important to know that you don’t have to break the bank to get a business website going. A website doesn’t have to cost you and arm and a leg. There are ways to get an eye-catching, user-friendly website up and running on a budget.

1. Register a domain name with a web host

If you get a domain name that describes your company’s business or name, people can easily search for you online. Web architect and designer Phillip Hollowell, owner of PS Web Design Studio, suggests checking affordable web hosting sites like to see if the domain you want is available. Purchasing a domain name from someone else will cost you extra, so it’s advisable to go for one that’s available for registration. Inexpensive sites include GoDaddy, that costs around US$10 to US$35 (R129,66- R453,82) for a domain name and includes freebies like web redirection, a starter web page, and a “for sale” page. Another great tip is to search online for any coupons and discounts. RetailMeNot has a wide selection of coupons to choose from for sites like GoDaddy, Name.com, and Domain.com.

2. Use website builders

If you’re new to creating a website, then a website builder can simplify things for you. A website builder helps you create a website without needing to have any special programming skills or use manual code editing.  Some good examples of website builders include Weebly which include an option to create a blog and mobile apps if you want to take your business’s digital experience to the next level. WordPress, although not a website builder, also works great for the purposes of a business website and has some great free themes and templates to choose from. These are also easily customisable, safe and secure, and search engine friendly. Because both of these tools make it easy to customise a website yourself you don’t need to hire a web designer to create and manage your businesses website.

3. Use free online tutorials or guides

You might not know the ins and outs of what website best practices are – it is probably not your area of expertise, and that’s okay. But there is a ton of free content, videos and downloadable guides out there to help you gain some basic knowledge.

4. Market your website

Once you’ve created a business website you want to start focusing on getting traffic to your site. A big part of this involves good website SEO basics to start bringing in organic traffic. But you can’t always rely on this alone. You need to consider running some online advertising through AdWords or social media like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or one of the other channels you are on. This will help you to get in front of the right audience and highlight your website so that they can find out more about your products or services and get in contact with you.

While we’ve shared some great ways to save on building a business website there will be small costs involved in registering a domain, purchasing the theme or template and possibly hiring a freelance content writer for some initial help with your website copy. While these costs will still be a lot lower than hiring an agency or web designer, some small business funding can come in handy, particularly when you feel you’re ready to market your website.

Lulalend offers short-term business funding to help you finance this expense, or other small business marketing needs. We can help ensure that you have a steady cash flow to spend on the immediate needs of your small business such as an online presence. The benefits of a website are clear; it can help you reach a wider customer base and bring in new business. So if you require small business funding to assist with these needs, contact Lulalend for more information.

 

3 things every beauty salon owner needs to know to grow

3 things every beauty salon owner needs to know to grow

Having a beauty salon can be a lucrative business in South Africa. According to the head of the South African Spa Association, Dr. Nadine de Freitas, growth in the spa industry, despite the recession, is between 15-20%, and there has been an increased demand for both male and female beauty treatments. Thembeka Johnson, former beauty editor of The Oprah Magazine and True Love, has a successful luxury hair salon in Melrose Arch called Mane Salon. One of Thembeka’s golden tips is to offer a wide range of services to be able to keep up with the growing needs of customers. “Having a huge demand is a welcome problem for any business”, she says.

If you’re in the beauty industry you are either offering a niche service or more general services. Each business strategy has its pros and cons. A one stop shop is always convenient for a client to have access to all their treatments in one place. On the other hand, a niche offering like hair care or skin care can ensure that you aren’t spreading yourself too thin and can hire the most qualified specialists in that niche area. This can help you build your reputation as the place to go to for an unmatched service. However, it takes more than just a good business model to help your business grow.

Here are 3 things you should remember if you’re in the beauty industry:

 

You need to stay ahead of the game

The beauty and wellness industry is known to develop at a fast pace. There are always new techniques and new technology to take advantage of in this growing market.

Just imagine if your hair salon still used the old fashion wash and set technique that provided the perfect curl if you didn’t go outside, make any sudden movements, or shower until your next weekly appointment. Today all it takes is a good quality hair straightener or product treatments to give you perfect silky smooth hair.

 

 

  
 

 

Skin treatment has also taken massive leaps and bounds. Facials and other skin care practices are no longer just about throwing on a face mask. There is technology that can help to improve scarring or pigmentation and have reverse effects on aging skin.

 

 

  
 

 

And while beauty treatments used to be seen as an exclusively female orientated industry we have woken up to the fact that men should also have the luxury of skin care offerings, hair treatments, massages, and hydrotherapies.

 

 

      
 

 

Keeping up with these beauty trends comes at no small cost to your business. In order to stay ahead of the game, it can require investing in new equipment, equipment upkeep, product purchases or staff training and development. Customers want the best service, and this goes beyond their interactions with your business and how they are treated by your staff. Good customer service includes the best value for money. To provide the best value for money you need to be able to offer services that keep up with industry standards and offer the most effective treatments. If you don’t there will always be a competitor around the corner that will be ready to snatch up business from you.

 

You need to put some attention into marketing

Marketing may not seem like a top priority, but it can significantly help your business grow. It’s important to make your business known to the right audience. If you don’t tell people about your business they won’t know about it.

Marketing takes effort and can cost money. This is why being strategic about how you market your business can help. Don’t spend time and money marketing in the wrong places and with the wrong tools. If your target market is more likely to find out about your business through offline marketing tactics like flyers or newspaper advertising then use those mediums. If they spend most of their time scrolling through social media or searching online for a beauty salon in their area, then consider marketing through social advertising or AdWords. Spend some time making sure that your Facebook or other relevant online channels, including your website, have the necessary information a client would need to find out about when you are open, how to find you and what your pricing and offerings are.

If you’re running specials don’t miss out on the opportunity to make your client base aware of these when they are in the salon. Hang posters up to highlight this or send out an email campaign. Mother’s Day, Father’s Day or Valentine’s Day are always great occasions to run special offerings or offer gift cards for those wanting to spoil their loved ones.

 

You need to plan for seasonal highs and lows

Your salon can see an uptake in summer when the weather is good and it’s holiday season. This time of the year people may want to spoil themselves and indulge in luxury treatments, spa days or massages. Summer and spring are also more likely to see weddings booked and planned for because the weather is good. And each year matric dances roll around and you may find yourself inundated with hair appointments, nails, and makeup so that everyone looks their best for the special occasion.

Outside of these peak times business can still be coming in but it can look a little slower. There might be a lull in winter when people aren’t always willing to venture out while it is cold or rainy.  Monthly cycles exist as well. As everyone gets to the end of the month and are waiting on payday, you may see business slow down.

It’s probably right about this time that you need to purchase more inventory for the influx of business that the start of each month sees. You don’t want to be cash strapped at these times, so be sure to plan for these monthly or annual highs and lows. This can help ensure that even when business is slow you are managing to keep up with necessary inventory purchases and other business expenses.

Staying ahead of the game, marketing your business or planning for seasonal highs and lows are all important aspects of your business. If you know that you should be doing these things, or are already doing them, but need some financial assistance for your marketing efforts or to purchase new equipment, consider short term business funding with Lulalend. With our product offering, you can get funding of up to R500 000. Our quick, easy online application process also ensures that you can get access to funding in 24 hours, making it more convenient and easily accessible than those traditional bank loans.

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What role does marketing play in growing your business?

What role does marketing play in growing your business?

As a business grows, so does the workload and you will often find yourself juggling several balls and doing the work that is usually managed by different departments or specialists. For small businesses, the onus is often on the business owner to not only provide direction and a business strategy but to manage payroll and business finances, take care of logistics and admin tasks, hire new employees, manage stock and liaise with suppliers as well as a host of other tasks. That is a lot to take on and we haven’t even gotten to marketing your business. This is something that often falls by the wayside – not only because of time but because this isn’t necessarily your area of expertise.

But here’s the problem when marketing your business isn’t a priority, especially when you want to grow your business: you will struggle to build brand awareness and generating sales will taper off eventually. While marketing is a necessity for your business, finding the time to develop key marketing strategies and run campaigns can be difficult, especially when you already have your hands full with the day-to-day running of the business. If you can’t market your business yourself because of time constraints, then other options are available, like outsourcing services or hiring staff internally.

  1. Hire someone with a marketing background and the necessary experience

Marketing skills are one thing, understanding your business and industry sector is another. If you’re thinking of making a marketing hire, ensure that they understand your business and customer needs. Being able to apply their skills to your business and show how that can add value will give you a better understanding of whether they meet your business needs. The benefit of an internal hire is that they also grow with your business and will be able to continue providing key insights into how best to reach your prospects and convert them into customers. Another benefit is that as your business pivots and grows they can make changes to the marketing strategy as and when needed. Working with outsourced agencies or freelancers doesn’t always offer this luxury and any immediate updates or quick changes that need to be made aren’t always possible and can slow things down.

  1. Outsource this function to a marketing agency

That said, your business might find an agency relationship beneficial as it frees you up to run the business and leave the marketing to trusted experts. That is if you can find an agency that is worth their salt. The advantages of a niche marketing agency are that they cater for specific industry needs. This will be particularly beneficial for small businesses as they tend to have a niche product or service categories. For example, a company that specializes in broad advertising for a massive franchise like Nandos may not be able to tailor a marketing strategy fit for a small family owned restaurant. It may also be a good idea to test their knowledge of your industry to find out how much they really know.

Furthermore, take a quick look at their website and online presence to give you an idea of how they brand their own business. These can give you an indication that they understand how to successfully market a brand their own products or services. Over and above this try and source some client reviews or referrals to see what other clients are saying about their services.

  1. Run and plan your own marketing campaigns

If an internal or external hire isn’t something that you can invest in right now it doesn’t mean there is nothing you can do. Running some basic marketing campaigns on Facebook, if that’s where your audience is, or AdWords throughout the year can help you promote your business. Ensuring that you have a business website can help give you visibility online and help you direct your clients to further information about your services or product offerings. Even using offline tactics like attending relevant business events, distributing flyers or making sure that your office space has signage that is visible and well branded can help you get in front of potential clients.

At the end of the day, you need to weigh-up what your business needs are and what the most cost effective way is to meet those needs and bring in sales. Not every business will have working capital for this, staggering marketing campaigns throughout the year may not be in your budget and the cost of developing a website or even just purchasing the template to do it yourself in a more cost effective way may be something you know you need to do but can’t afford right now.

This doesn’t have to be the case. Lulalend can help you get fast, easy access to the money you need to market your business in the right way. You don’t have to forgo this important aspect of your business. At Lulalend, we are passionate about helping you achieve your business goals, and we realise that finding the capital needed to grow your business can be quite challenging. This is why we provide funding for small businesses; we want to give you a helping hand when it comes to bringing in more sales and achieving financial freedom.