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Innovation

10 Steps For All-Around Optimising Your Business

The secret to being a well-oiled business machine is meshing the best available online tools, with solid social media strategy and a top-notch team.

John Rampton

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Whether you have been running a small business storefront for years or you are just starting out but have no online presence, there are many ways you can get up to speed with how the modern online world works.

Thanks to available digital tools and platforms as well as companies behind those solutions, you have more help now than ever before to modernise your business without having to spend considerable resources to do so.

Here are 10 ways you can upgrade your business to leverage the growth opportunities available online:

1Use cloud-based software programmes

Having a cloud-based architecture for your business makes it much easier and cost-effective to move your business to the online world. Doing so will allow you to access certain aspects of your business from anywhere and any device, which is important in the online world where every store and website is always open.

By working behind the scenes to share information with your team and handle processes from anywhere, your business will appear to be working around the clock to serve customers.

Related: Small & Medium Businesses Should Be Saving Money For A Bad Day – Here’s how

2Leverage solutions that personalise the online experience

Moving to the online world can be overwhelming at first because your audience can become so much larger yet expect you to know each one of them personally. Thanks to software solutions, it’s easier to accomplish this and actually build stronger relationships with customers that you have regularly serviced in-person.

For example, if you are a restaurant and want to make each customer feel as though you are interacting with them directly, you can leverage online tools that offer a database that keeps track of what those customers have ordered, when they have eaten at your restaurant or have a future reservation, when they have an upcoming special occasion and more that you can then use to personalise future visits, including sharing special menus that include dishes they like or offering a coupon for a future birthday.

3Select tools that help you automate time-consuming processes

automate time-consuming processes

When your business can automate aspects of the operations that tend to be time-consuming like invoicing, billing, and payments, you will be able to focus on other business-building activities while it efficiently takes care of these tasks for you.

Automation is one of the most beneficial aspects of the online world and provides you with a way to focus on the human component of business like interacting with customers and enhancing those user experiences that bring them back for more.

While those time-consuming tasks are very important to the business, they do take you away from what makes you money.

Related: 8 Ways to Avoid Cash Flow Surprises That Could Kill Your Business

4Update your security systems for data

Even an offline business has significant data that it keeps on customers, including personal and financial information. In order to protect your business and customers from data theft, it’s important to upgrade your security systems and create a system that minimises the vulnerability level.

In then moving online, this need for security becomes even greater so it makes sense to understand where the vulnerabilities lie and then invest in the necessary security solutions, such as encryption and two-step verification processes.

5Create and actively develop a social presence

If you want to get to know your customers that are online every day and let them know you are available to chat, you need to develop a social presence on multiple platforms and regularly use them to interact and engage with your audience.

Setting up a Facebook page and Instagram account isn’t enough; you need to be on there daily answering questions and responding to feedback from your fans as well as providing useful content that brings them back for more. Like any relationship, your online social relationships need constant attention to flourish.

6Leverage Web APIs

pplication programming interfaces

The online environment puts you in touch with so many tools that can help you modernise how you work with your customers and run your business. Known as application programming interfaces (APIs), you can use these to fairly easily add specific applications to your business that increase functionality in every aspect of your organisation – marketing, sales, ecommerce, invoicing, payments, project management, collaboration, communication, security and more.

These APIs can be quickly found and added without having to start from scratch and needing the technical knowledge to add these operational patches to your business.

Related: This Software Is Making Ecommerce Companies Even Smarter

7Make the most of mobile demand

No customer will see you as modern if you don’t have some type of mobility to your business whether that is an app for them to tap into promotions or for you to drive more revenue through localisation strategies.

Mobile modernity also means the ability for your business to allow the team to work from their smartphones or tablets, if necessary, in order to maintain productivity.

On all fronts, having mobile functionality in your business means greater engagement from all stakeholders and illustrates your ability to work on the preferred devices.

8Deal with the data

Today’s businesses have such a wealth of intelligence at their disposal but are not sure how to truly harness it because they lack the understanding of how to do so or what type of analytics to leverage.

This data can include everything from customer preferences and purchase histories to analytics that can reveal preferred time to receive communication from brands, the optimum time to post on social media, and how certain marketing tactics are working to drive more business.

Numerous data analytics tools can be incorporated to modernise your business and the decisions made in relation to all the data available.

9Add more channels for revenue growth

A business that is stuck in the past only sees one pathway to revenue while a modern online business understands that it is best to implement an omni-channel model that puts your products in front of customers that could be looking for what you offer on all channels, including online, mobile, and offline, or traditional, channels.

By offering numerous ways your customers can buy, you are acknowledging that modern businesses need to make themselves available everywhere to satisfy their target audiences.

10Hire talent with modern skill sets

You most likely are not going to have the time to learn all the necessary skills. That’s why you need to hire strategically with outsource and freelance digital savvy talent that you can bring on board to handle specific projects or processes that need to be modernised to reflect the online environment.

These new skills to add include everything from programming and data analytics to social media marketing, influencer marketing, and mobile marketing.

It can seem overwhelming to overhaul your traditional business to work in the modern online world, but having a strategy that includes these approaches can help revamp your company.

Make the most of what has been done already in terms of best practices, tools, and talent so you don’t waste time and money reinventing the wheel just to catch up.

Always be open to the idea that you will now most likely continuing to evolve your business because the modern online world is in constant flux as technology and other external factors continue to change this operating environment.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

John Rampton is an entrepreneur, investor, online marketing guru and startup enthusiast. He is founder of the online invoicing company Due. John is best known as an entrepreneur and connector. He was recently named #2 on Top 50 Online Influencers in the World by Entrepreneur Magazine and has been one of the Top 10 Most Influential PPC Experts in the World for the past three years. He currently advises several companies in the San Francisco Bay area.

Innovation

Innovate For Change – Think Like A Social Entrepreneur

Why consider the social entrepreneurship model?

Nation Builder

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Social entrepreneurship is an exciting business arena that finds new, sustainable business solutions to long-standing problems. Social entrepreneurs see social challenges (such as poverty, homelessness, poor infrastructure or lack of quality education) as an opportunity for change.

This approach brings together the best that business practices offer and blends it with the best that civil society offers (a social mission, broader stakeholders involvement and the engagement of the community). By generating income from business activities and reinvesting its profits back into driving its mission, this approach generates both social value and economic value simultaneously.

Why consider the social entrepreneurship model?

1. Seeing social challenges as opportunities

South Africa’s social and structural challenges, from our poor ranking in health and education to the high level of unemployment, provide a myriad of opportunities for entrepreneurs that are willing to roll up their sleeves and work to build a better future.

The recent winner of the recent Nation Builder Social Innovation Challenge, Lungi Tyali, is a great example of this mindset.

Across Africa, there is a dire lack of provision for the electrification needs of the majority of the population, especially in rural communities. In South Africa, at present, there are 3.4-million households without a formal, metered electricity supply; 2.2-million in formal and 1.2-million in informal households. Lungi Tyali is the CEO of Solar Turtle who, with her business partner, James van der Walt, created a solar energy solution for rural and off-grid areas. Solar Turtle provides a solar-powered kiosk in a container that serves as a hub for renewable electricity. During the day, the solar panels are open to collect sunlight and at night they are enclosed and locked securely into the container.

Related: How To Be A Social Entrepreneur

2. Social entrepreneurship has low barriers to entry

Many of the most successful social enterprises start off small with an enterprising individual seeing an opportunity in their local community and building from this small beginning. There is no prerequisite for a university degree of formal training. Growing social enterprises can thus also offer employment opportunities to unskilled workers and youth without experience, addressing South Africa’s high level of unemployment.

One such story is that of Nonhlanhla Joye, the founder and facilitator of Umgibe Farming, Organics and Training Institute. Ma’ Joye, was diagnosed with cancer in 2014 and as a result, could not work to provide food for her family. She decided to grow organic vegetables in her backyard to feed her family. Unfortunately, the chickens ate all her vegetables and she had to come up with a solution.

She innovated a growing system using plastic bags. Before long Ma Joye was teaching other community members to use her growing system. A platform was born where poor communities started growing vegetables to feed themselves and collectively sell their surplus produce.

3. Corporate Social Investment, with purpose

Social enterprises also offer individuals and companies the opportunity to invest in lasting social change. Unlike traditional philanthropy, the impact of social enterprises has the potential to be much more lasting by directly providing affordable social goods and services, as well as employment opportunities.

Nation Builder, for example, is a platform* that brings like-minded businesses and civil society together in order to learn from each other and partner together for the greatest possible impact through wise and responsible social investing.

Related: Miss Teen Social Entrepreneur SA Is Making Its Mark

4. Personal actualisation

Perhaps the most rewarding advantage of being a social entrepreneur is the impact you can have on society, but this model also offers several personal benefits:

  • working to solve issues you care about
  • freedom to explore and create innovative solutions that can inspire change
  • the opportunity to turn passion into profit
  • working as your own boss.

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Innovation

Having The Perfect Product Isn’t Enough To Keep You In Business

The odds of the small business surviving aren’t stacked in its favour. It’s more likely to fail than succeed. That’s the bitter truth. However, once it’s able to shake off the niggling teething problems, watch it as it unfolds from a pupa to a beautiful butterfly.

Matthew Mordi

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There is a small bakery operates in my neighbourhood. It bakes bread; no cakes or other confectionaries. The best home-made bread that has your palates yearning for more. This is in sharp contrast with the bread produced by bigger bakeries. They also supply bread to the neighbourhood.

The bigger bakeries operate a model that is largely automated to the point that they lose a very important ingredient beyond flour, yeast and whatever goes into making bread. They lack the personal touch that gives it the home-made feel. This is why the neighbourhood bakery is preferred despite being pricier.

The small bakery isn’t without its flaws; avoidable flaws that may, sadly, sink the business. My view is more on the certainty of the demise of the business as observers would’ve noticed a slow yet steady decline in the output of the business. These flaws aren’t unique to the bakery, several other small businesses have share the same flaws.

Why would a customer who is willing to pay more for a product suddenly cease patronising the business. What other factor apart from higher price, in the absence of a drop in purchasing power, would make a customer buy bread of supposed inferior quality from the competition.

A couple of years ago when I moved to the neighbourhood the business was doing great. Even during a biting recession the shelves were always stacked with freshly baked bread of different varieties. Despite the excellent product on display, there was an unsatisfactory trend in the operation of the business.

For one, the sales personnel are rude. Having the right staff is necessary to grow any business, but when this very fundamental issue isn’t gotten right it will be fatal to the business. After all for how long would customers put up with poor service delivery in the face of stiff competition from bigger rivals.

Small business owners must realise that proper training of staff is as important as sourcing for capital and shouldn’t be overlooked as the survival of the business also rests on it. Bigger businesses in this regard always come out tops in comparison with their smaller counterparts.

Related: Why Small Businesses Are Unable To Pay Staff Salaries

Annually, big businesses spend billions of dollars on staff training for the simple recognition of the fact that having disgruntled customers, on account of poor service by personnel, is dangerous for business. Despite their size, big businesses tend to understand better the importance of the single customer. Also, how the discontent of a few customers can translate into poor sales which is detrimental to the business.

The mindset of a small business shouldn’t be different. Investing in staff shouldn’t be treated with levity to ensure the business not only stays afloat, but also grow it. Growing a business is in itself tough work, small business owners shouldn’t make it tougher by providing terrible service.

The neighbourhood bakery lacks this important feature and it’s been responsible for the steady decline in sales. I didn’t know the poor service rendered by the attendants had attained much notoriety until I was having a conversation with a group of individuals at a religious gathering and the issue came up. It’s a sad realisation.

For financial reasons small businesses aren’t known for recruiting the best personnel. Most employ the services of family members. While there is nothing wrong with this, it’s important to ensure such person is the best fit for the business. Employing family members may lead to a myriad of problems for the business. Therefore it will be in the best interest of the business not to employ an incompetent family member than have him ruin the business. This is a risky way of running the business.

The feeling of the customer towards the goods or services businesses provide is key to its success or failure. This is because customers can have the most unbiased assessment of the business rather than management and staff. Despite the poor service the bakery openly had on display, no one seemed to have bothered complaining to the owner of the business. So it may seem.

It will be in the best interest of a small business owner to leave an open channel for feedbacks from customers. This isn’t the case with the bakery and some other businesses face this challenge too which may lead to further problems.

The inability to provide an avenue for customers to channel their complaint to the proper individual creates a problem of inaccessibility. Accessibility happens to be an area of strength for small businesses because of their size. In larger businesses, despite creating channels for complaints there is usually no personal relationship between the owners and their customers. This is an area a small business shouldn’t be found wanting.

One would imagine that as a small business, the owner of the bakery should be easily accessible to interact with customers to in order to obtain feedbacks pertaining service and staff performance. This isn’t the case as the business clearly takes this important factor for granted. A lot of customers don’t know the owner of the bakery despite patronising it for years.

On paper the size of small businesses translates to easy accessibility. A closer look will reveal that the owners of small businesses tend to take a lot of things for granted. They fail to realise that they have to be consciously open to the idea and cultivate the habit of seeking feedbacks from customers. A small scale business has to maximise its potential for dynamism and flexibility. If it can’t take advantage of its unique qualities then it’s doomed.

There has been a reduction in the variety of bread baked and in addition to this is the equal reduction in the amount of bread on display generally. From observation it’s clear that patronage has taking a massive hit.

It’s painful witnessing the slow demise of a business with a good product due to its own failures. Having the perfect product won’t on its own keep the small business in business. The odds of the small business surviving aren’t stacked in its favour. It’s more likely to fail than succeed. That’s the bitter truth. However, once it’s able to shake off the niggling teething problems, watch it as it unfolds from a pupa to a beautiful butterfly.

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Company Posts

Customers Are The Heart Of Innovative Businesses

Keep your customer at the heart of your business.

Viga Interactive

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One of the main reasons start-ups fail is because they don’t create solutions that meet their customers’ needs. Failure is avoidable. Businesses that understand their customers feelings, challenges, expectations and motivations make themselves indispensable in highly competitive markets because they recognise that true innovation is led by customer insight.

An incredible example of a business that believes in innovation driven by insight is Netflix. They revolutionised the way people watch video content by listening to their customer’s needs. You’ve probably heard the story before: after paying a $40 overdue DVD fee, Reed Hastings co-founded Netflix. He was simply too busy to return his DVD. He recognised that this experience wasn’t exclusive to him, but that it was a problem that many people faced. He saw a gap in the market for receiving and returning videos more effectively, and that is how the $150 billion business was born.

If your start-up doesn’t fulfil a human need, then you’re setting yourself up for failure. It’s not enough to have a cool idea. Ask yourself, “What is the market need behind the offering?” and then test ways of delivering your offering in the most user-friendly manner. Talk to your consumers, understand their likes and dislikes and establish your business purpose before haphazardly allocating funds to R&D.

Related: How Netflix Is Now Disrupting The Film Industry By Embracing Short-Term Chaos

You can’t go from being a California based DVD-by-mail provider, to becoming the world’s largest online video streaming service without a business plan. It’s important to recognise the step-by-step process of success. Netflix didn’t go from delivering DVD’s to pouring capital into the production of video content within six months. That sort of development would have bankrupt the company almost immediately. It took 21 years for the business to become content creators.

  • In 1999, the company became a subscription service because they found that customers preferred paying a monthly fee rather than making a once off purchase.
  • Then, in 2009, the company used investor capital to expand their DVD collection because their clients wanted a larger selection of movies.
  • In 2010, the business expanded internationally because they saw a gap in the market across various countries.
  • Finally, in 2013, Netflix created its first original content series because customers craved fascinating content beyond the overused Hollywood archetype.

The point is: Progress didn’t happen overnight. The business had to set goals and objectives. They then had to fund their growth by presenting market opportunities, backed by customer insights, to their investors. Establish your start-up one step at a time and make sure every progression isn’t innovation for innovations sake – it must be inspired by a human need.

13-reasons-whyNetflix was founded by a computer scientist and a marketing director. While one partner focused on Netflix’ service development, the other focused on sales. Since the company’s origin, collaboration and balance have been the cornerstones of the business’ success.

Netflix is currently composed of a diverse team of tech-professionals and designers. They understand the importance of combining technology and design to offer customer-inspired user-experiences.

After conducting consumer research, Netflix discovered that series and movie artwork influences viewing decisions by 82%. This has resulted in the creation of more descriptive and provocative designs. Netflix is known for leveraging human-behaviour to revolutionise their service offering.

As an entrepreneur, you can increase your ROI by partnering with the experts that understand human-based innovation.

Keep your customer at the heart of your business.

Related: What These 5 Digital KPIs Say About Your Business

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