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Cost-effective ways to market your business online

You don’t need a large marketing budget to get your business noticed online because the internet offers an array of inexpensive marketing opportunities.

Getting your brand out there doesn’t require a large marketing budget because the internet is teeming with inexpensive marketing opportunities

With the number of active internet users in South Africa growing steadily, it’s vital for start-ups to utilise marketing platforms to generate sales and drive growth. Executive coach Pat Roberts says the first step is to determine the online activity of your target audience.

“Online marketing can be very low-cost in comparison with other media formats. How skillfully you use it relates to your understanding of your target audience as this will enable you to design a strategy to reach them via the online space that they relate to and believe in,” she says.

In order to better understand your market, Roberts suggests doing focus group research. “This way you learn more about what they like and don’t like, and you will have the opportunity to expose them to your product. The aim is for you to observe your target market’s online activity so that you can get closer to them to build a relationship,” says Roberts.
Cost-effective ways to market your business online
She suggests the following strategies for marketing your business online:

Ensure you are visible
Having a website isn’t enough in today’s competitive online space so it’s crucial for new businesses to be easily found on Google searches. Set up a Google My Business page to enable your business to be listed on Google Search, Google Maps and Google+. Wikipedia is another free platform where you can list your company’s background, ethos and accomplishments.

Get social
Social media is a must for all new companies to as it enables you to enter into a dialogue with customers. Use Facebook or Twitter to build a relationship with your audience so that they feel like members of an exclusive club of users. Give them access to special offers, new information and special events. Post links to relevant industry articles, partake in debates and hold free webinars on your website.

It’s also advisable to join industry Facebook and LinkedIn groups to offer advice and support within your sector circles. This will enable you to interact with potential customers and establish yourself as an industry expert.

Add value to your audience by writing articles, giving tips on how to do things more easily or better, and express opinions that will get people talking. Write guest posts for well-known blogs, as this will help get your and your company’s name out there.

Online media
Build relationships with online journalists who are followed by your audience, and provide them with content they will find useful. Whenever your company does something newsworthy, send out relevant and concise press releases to industry writers. Any mention of your company or product in articles and blogs is great publicity.

Create multimedia
Thousands of videos are uploaded and shared on Facebook each day. Clever videos and memes bring a lot of attention to brands – think Red Bull and Nandos. Creating funny, interesting or heart-warming content increases your chances of going viral and gaining free publicity.

Start a YouTube channel for your creative promotional material and post the links on Facebook and Twitter. Flickr is also a useful free tool that allows you to create albums of business photos and link them back to your website.

How to keep your business afloat

It's tough out there, but you can avoid failing in business by steering clear of these common mistakes

While research shows that small business failure rates in South Africa have dropped from 4,9% to 3,89%, we still have one of the highest failure rates for SMEs in the first few years. Executive coach Simone Le Hane says businesses fail because they make common mistakes in the early years.

“Many entrepreneurs are unable to overcome the challenges they face,” she says. “It’s crucial to analyse industry and economic trends and to act on them. It’s also important to keep learning and improving your management, leadership and financial skills.”

Le Hane offers the following tips to achieve entrepreneurial success and keep your business growing:

Research your competition
It’s important to research your competitors on a regular basis. You need to know who they are and what their offering is in order to have a competitive edge and offer something no one else does. Whether it’s a better price, service, product quality or experience, differentiating yourself from others in the same sector will enable you to increase your sales, and cement your place in the market.

Hone in on your target market
Once you understand your competition, focus on understanding exactly what type of customer you’re seeking to attract. Use market research to determine who they are, where they live, hang out, what they read and their social media habits. When you have a clear image of your target market, you will know how best to reach them.
How to keep your business afloat
Market and network
It isn’t necessary to have a huge marketing budget in the early days of your business, but you do need to self-promote. Utilise tools such as social media groups and forums to reach like-minded people and contribute to industry topics. Network at trade-shows and conferences to get to know key players in the industry, meet potential clients or collaborate with like-minded business owners.

Use Facebook and Twitter to profile your company. Start a company page and build a community by posting industry-related articles and links, offer specials and giveaways and ask for feedback, and then follow-up on your clients’ needs.
Ask for help
A new business owner is often responsible for all aspects of the business in the early stages. It’s important to find a mentor who has accomplished what you are looking to do. If you’re struggling with a specific aspect of running your business, it’s crucial to ask for help. If finance or marketing is a weak point, read business books or attend a short course. Up-skilling can only help your business.

Most businesses lack resources and funding in the early stages. If it makes business sense, it’s a good idea to partner with businesses that offer complementary services, where you could share resources, potential leads and clients.

Be resilient
Resilience is a key factor to business success. It’s inevitable that you will make mistakes, so learn from them and move on. All businesses will experience peaks and valleys, so it’s important to be passionate about what you’re selling. Believe in yourself and your product.

Six Habits Of Super-Productive Entrepreneurs

Do you want to know what successful entrepreneurs have in common? It’s the fact that they’ve mastered these essential habits

When it comes to success, it all boils down to reaching your goals and realising your full potential as an entrepreneur. Executive Coach Elsabe Manning says success doesn’t just happen. “It’s something you need to work towards. You need to visualise your success every day.”

Manning adds that successful entrepreneurs have the following in common:

1. They have a strategy: Successful entrepreneurs have things written down with detailed goals, and objectives with timelines. They know what they want (focus), and how they will get there (direction.) This is a working document that needs to be adapted and changed as you or your business’ circumstances change.
Six Habits Of Super-Productive Entrepreneurs
Six Habits Of Super-Productive Entrepreneurs
2. They know that time is of the essence: They don’t need the discipline to get out of bed in the morning because they love doing what they do! They are highly motivated, therefore they are on time every time, and they have their priorities right. They don’t waste time during the day and spend 80% of their time on income-producing activities.

3. They manage all their resources well and don’t waste them
They know that their resources are their most precious possessions and that without them they will not be able to run their business.

4. They have an agenda for every meeting: Meetings can be a huge waste of time unless you know exactly what you want to achieve in the allotted time. They always have a clear agenda and stick to timelines. Let the people attending the meeting know what the agenda is and what information they need to bring with them and then stick to the agenda.

5. Successful entrepreneurs are healthy: They eat well and they exercise. Being healthy boosts your energy and self-esteem and helps to keep you motivated. They drink lots of water, eat plenty of fresh vegetables and fruit every day, and try to avoid alcohol, or drink only in moderation. They know that exercise keeps their stress levels in check and boosts their energy.
6. They do environmental scanning: Environmental scanning is a method that enables decision-makers both to understand the external environment (outside of their business) and the impact it may have on their business and translate this understanding into their planning and decision-making processes. Coates (1985) identified the following objectives of an environmental scanning system:

- Detecting scientific, technical, economic, social, and political trends and events important to the business.

- Defining the potential threats, opportunities, or changes for the business implied by those trends and event.

- Promoting a future orientation in the thinking of management and staff.
Alerting management and staff to trends that are converging, diverging, speeding up, slowing down or interacting.

For more information about Elsabe Manning, visit www.successfactory.co.za

The 5 non-financial essentials every entrepreneur should invest in

Being physically and mentally healthy is a key stepping stone in achieving entrepreneurial success. Here are five things that every entrepreneur should invest time in

Research shows that taking time out of your busy schedule to meditate can improve your creativity. Even if it’s just for 10 minutes a day, meditation will help you clear your head and effectively hit the reset button.

Music and fashion mogul Russell Simmons swears by it. In a recent interview with New York Magazine Simmons said that meditation gives you “longer life, better memory and better brain functionality.”

“The left and the right side of the brain start disconnecting at age eight. When you meditate, they start to integrate them back together. You can never have an ‘aha’ moment, any kind of entrepreneurial or creative idea, unless you’re present and meditation is the greatest tool known to bring people back into the present,” he said.
The 5 non-financial essentials every entrepreneur should invest in
Besides the obvious health benefits, entrepreneur and venture investor Adam Callinan says exercise, like meditation, is an effective way of reducing stress and is an outlet that allows you to clear your thoughts to make way for developing new ideas.

“You can’t focus on your mental health, which is paramount to your success, until you’ve gained control of your physical health,” he wrote in an article for Entrepreneur.com

“You don’t need to train like you’re going to hike Mt Everest, but you do need to get your blood flowing and heart pumping for at least 15 minutes every day.”

A 2011 study published in the Journal of Neuroscience noted that sleep deprived people tend to make riskier financial decisions and these risks are not always the wisest. Other studies have shown how the lack of sleep affects your reasoning skills and other cognitive functions, like your memory.

Most concerning, though, is that getting too little sleep can actually age your brain prematurely.

In an article written for Entrepreneur.com, Amerisleep CEO and self-professed sleep evangelist Firas Kittaneh put it succinctly: “Those who are sleep deprived have in fact been shown to be more irritable, forgetful and anxious, and to suffer other mental effects. Those not sleeping enough also lack concentration, co-ordination and energy throughout the workday. A combination of any of these effects is hardly optimal for achieving success, especially when running a business.”

“Keeping your body in tip-top shape will also ultimately mean less time out of the office due to poor health, and more time for the (non-work activities) you love,” he adds.

So, the non-negotiable bottom line is: get enough sleep!

While the “trial and error” approach does have its benefits, why would you want to go in blind when you can gain access to insights from established entrepreneurs who have at some point walked in your shoes, experienced your challenges and found a way to overcome them?

“One of the best ways to shortcut your decision-making trial and error time is by finding and taking advice from a mentor. This isn’t a new concept, but it’s most certainly time-consuming to set up. It will require an investment of potentially weeks or even months, but will allow you to easily seek out advice and guidance from someone that’s been in your shoes, hopefully multiple times before, allowing you to make better decisions faster,” Callinan says.
Create a life outside of your business
While being an entrepreneur often means you’re married to your business venture, business consultant Alexa Ahrem says it’s important to make time for family, friends and extra-mural activities.

“Aside from making sure you keep your relationships in order, do other things completely unrelated to your business,” she advises.

“Examples include volunteering at a food kitchen or working with an animal rescue, teaching yourself a new language, taking a painting class or going to see your favorite musicians. Spending some time away from your business and having other hobbies and identities diversifies and enriches your life.”

Source: Entrepreneur.com, LinkedIn, Forbes, New York Magazine

20 things only highly creative people would understand

THERE IS no argument anymore. Neuroscience confirms that highly creative people think and act differently than the average person. Their brains are literally hardwired in a unique way.

But that gift can often strain relationships. I’ve seen it firsthand while working with New York Times bestselling authors and Grammy-winning musicians.

If you love a highly creative person, you probably experience moments when it seems like they live in a completely different world than you. Truth is, they do. But trying to change them isn’t nearly as effective as trying to understand them.

It all begins by seeing the world through their lens and remembering these 20 things:

1. They have a mind that never slows down.
The creative mind is a non-stop machine fueled by intense curiosity. There is no pause button and no way to power it down. This can be exhausting at times but it is also the source of some crazy fun activities and conversations.

2. They challenge the status quo.
Two questions drive every creative person more than any others: What if? and Why not? They question what everyone else takes at face value. While uncomfortable for those around them, it’s this ability that enables creatives to redefine what’s possible.

3. They embrace their genius even if others don’t.
Creative individuals would rather be authentic than popular. Staying true to who they are, without compromise, is how they define success even if means being misunderstood or marginalized.

4. They have difficulty staying on task.
Highly creative people are energized by taking big mental leaps and starting new things. Existing projects can turn into boring slogs when the promise of something new and exciting grabs their attention.

5. They create in cycles.
Creativity has a rhythm that flows between periods of high, sometimes manic, activity and slow times that can feel like slumps. Each period is necessary and can’t be skipped just like the natural seasons are interdependent and necessary.

6. They need time to feed their souls.
No one can drive cross-country on a single take of gas. In the same way, creative people need to frequently renew their source of inspiration and drive. Often, this requires solitude for periods of time.
20 things only highly creative people would understand
7. They need space to create.
Having the right environment is essential to peak creativity. It may be a studio, a coffee shop, or a quiet corner of the house. Wherever it is, allow them to set the boundaries and respect them.

8. They focus intensely.
Highly creative people tune the entire world out when they’re focused on work. They cannot multi-task effectively and it can take twenty minutes to re-focus after being interrupted, even if the interruption was only twenty seconds.

9. They feel deeply.
Creativity is about human expression and communicating deeply. It’s impossible to give what you don’t have, and you can only take someone as far as you have gone yourself. A writer once told me that an artist must scream at the page if they want a whisper to be heard. In the same way, a creative person must feel deep if they are to communicate deeply.

10. They live on the edge of joy and depression.
Because they feel deeply, highly creative people often can quickly shift from joy to sadness or even depression. Their sensitive heart, while the source of their brilliance, is also the source of their suffering.

11. They think and speak in stories.
Facts will never move the human heart like storytelling can. Highly creative people, especially artists, know this and weave stories into everything they do. It takes longer for them to explain something, explaining isn’t the point. The experience is.

12. They battle Resistance every day.

Steven Pressfield, author of The War of Art, writes:

“Most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands Resistance.”
Highly creative people wake up every morning, fully aware of the need to grow and push themselves. But there is always the fear, Resistance as Pressfield calls it, that they don’t have what it takes. No matter how successful the person, that fear never goes away. They simply learn to deal with it, or not.

13. They take their work personally.
Creative work is a raw expression of the person who created it. Often, they aren’t able to separate themselves from it, so every critique is seen either as a validation or condemnation of their self-worth.

14. They have a hard time believing in themselves.
Even the seemingly self-confident creative person often wonders, Am I good enough? They constantly compare their work with others and fail to see their own brilliance, which may be obvious to everyone else.

15. They are deeply intuitive.
Science still fails to explain the How and Why of creativity. Yet, creative individuals know instinctively how to flow in it time and again. They will tell you that it can’t be understood, only experienced firsthand.

16. They often use procrastination as a tool.

Creatives are notorious procrastinators because many do their best work under pressure. They will subconsciously, and sometimes purposefully, delay their work until the last minute simply to experience the rush of the challenge.

17. They are addicted to creative flow.
Recent discoveries in neuroscience reveal that “the flow state” might be the most addictive experience on earth. The mental and emotional payoff is why highly creative people will suffer through the highs and lows of creativity. It’s the staying power. In a real sense, they are addicted to the thrill of creating.

18. They have difficulty finishing projects.
The initial stage of the creative process is fast moving and charged with excitement. Often, they will abandon projects that are too familiar in order to experience the initial flow that comes at the beginning.

19. They connect dots better than others.

True creativity, Steve Jobs once said, is little more than connecting the dots. It’s seeing patterns before they become obvious to everyone else.

20. They will never grow up.

Creatives long to see through the eyes of a child and never lose a sense of wonder. For them, life is about mystery, adventure, and growing young. Everything else is simply existing, and not true living.
photo credit: Pinterest: By Kevin Kaiser

Why it will benefit your brand to think out of the box

Once you've identified your brand's biggest challenges, it's easier to conceptualise an idea that will set you apart.

Some businesses take longer to flourish than others because industry algorithms vary considerably. However, small business entrepreneurs realise the importance of staying on their toes and are adjusting to the pace, ensuring that their brand gets ‘out there’.

Xola Nouse is the Managing Director of The Odd Number, a registered black-owned advertising company he started with partner Sbu Sitole. He says the biggest lessons they learnt in starting their business are centred around prudent governance controls, people management and managing their pipeline. In the process, they’ve learnt the importance of getting the basics right, paying particular attention to detail that is often lost during the management of the day-to-day operations of a business.
Why it will benefit your brand to think out of the box
As a start-up entrepreneur or brand, you’ll need to endure the teething stages of growing your business. “The biggest ‘start-up’ challenge we faced was around the distinction between acquiring capital to grow, or organically building working capital to stay afloat without compromising the long-term vision of the business,” says Nouse.

He believes that innovation is simply driven by challenges and a constant need to improve the status quo.

“Budding entrepreneurs should interrogate the market in which they chose to operate, says Nouse. “Through doing that they not only get an intimate understanding of the market landscape, but are also better able to articulate their value proposition and market positioning, which will ultimately result in them being able to compete.”

This just goes to show that entrepreneurship is one of the avenues in which competition is healthy.

Nouse adds that The Odd Number wants to lead the African aesthetic in terms of communication through finding, nurturing and up-skilling fresh talent.

So, what are some of the ways entrepreneurs can adjust their mindset to push the envelope?

Brand specialist Preston Jongbloed believes that brands need to adopt a social enterprise marketing strategy. “CSI is the new marketing,” says Jongbloed. “Consumers like to be part of a community, so brands need to embed themselves into the culture of the consumer they want to attract.”

Jongbloed adds that customer service, could pose as the biggest killer of business if not managed correctly. Your reputation for how you treat your customers will go ahead of you.

As for staying innovative, Jongbloed compares it to fashion, which is seasonal. This means that as a brand you constantly have to stay abreast of things. “Years ago it was predominantly print advertising and marketing,” he adds. “In this era it’s social media, but I am convinced that the future is about businesses being significant, and that’s where social enterprise will become crowd sourcing to service your business niche.”

Coco-Cola and Nando’s are examples of brands that continue to nail the advertising game. While these are not small businesses, there are definitely lessons to take on. In 2015, Coca-Cola released the first Drinkable Campaign for Coca-Cola Zero, conceptualised by Ogilvy Mathers advertising agency. The ad allows viewers a free Coke Zero drink.

Best believe that Nando’s doesn’t miss a trending moment. As soon as the Concourt’s ruling on the Nkandla matter was finalised on Thursday 31 March, Nando’s South Africa put out a new ad asking: “Bad taste in the mouth, Mr President?”

Imagine what it must be like to sit in a Nando’s ad strategy meeting?
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