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2016 - Key changes and predictions!

The 'customer experience'...

Beware, someone is going to notice your advertising!

Situation Technology - is there a limit?

Are your salespeople performing?

What does Small Business need to do differently?

10 Imperitives to better sales!

SME's Checklist before starting a business

Why the hiring process is so important

Strategy is constantly asking questions

Realtime Infographic on Internet activity

 

small business help
 
THE SME GROWTH CLUB:
It’s well documented that up to 90% of small businesses fail in the first year of trading. The big question remaining is…[more]
 
 

 

   
 
2016 - Key changes and predictions!
 
       
   

Many predictions and changes are forecast for 2016, but some key thinking changes will have to be made in order to move forward with any significance. Brick Moon has identified ten primary areas of company influence for the new year. These are by no means exhaustive, but they are essential to the mindset of any corporation, big or small, when moving forward in 2016.

1. Approach to strategy: One thing is certain...2016 will be different! Business is standing on yet another ledge and looking up at the mountain of change that technology has brought to the landscape! New levels of understanding of the consequences of these changes are required, and that doesn't just mean big corporate business, but all levels of business including startups. Critical to the road forward in 2016 is strategy. What are you requiring? What are you lacking? How can you be more productive? What are your key opportunities? How are customers finding you? How do they percieve you? These are just some of the criteria necessary to identify a more efficient future. It's time to take your strategy seriously.

2. Approach to people: There are three kinds of 'people' that influence your business environment - suppliers, staff and customers. The way business addresses and uses all three has shifted dramatically and is changing by the minute. Customers are more

 

knowledgable than ever before and demand authenticity, so service levels have to increase dramatically; staff want more involvement in the company and more transparency, so selection of people with the attitude to fit corporate culture becomes imperitive; suppliers no longer wish to be servants but rather partners committing themselves to long-term relationships and not once-off services, which means maintaining a solid and honest connection with suppliers is becoming more important...and that means timeous payment too. Business attitude towards these three critical aspects has to change accordingly.

3. Approach to technology: Yes, there is a lot of hype surrounding mobile technology and social media, and justifiably so. But don't be blinkered by just these two areas of technology. Do you have a technology strategy in place? How do you gather content, how efficient is your data, how well do you use your data, have you sales measurement tools in place, are you recording performance, are you responding to complaints and compliments, are you reaching out to find new customers, are you building communication and knowledge networks in your company? These are some of the many business objectives that technology helps to achieve. There is no time left to for a wait-and-see attitude to technology. Adopt now at every level possible, or begin your slow decline.

4. Approach to Internal Marketing: Many companies view marketing as an external process involving products or services that have to get out there to customers. Very few view marketing as an internal process to get all members of the business on the same page and all become ambassadors for the corporate brand. Your delivery man, or your receptionist could be the difference between getting further business or not. How many times have you experienced that receptionist from hell? Brand building is about the multiple small actions made at every level of customer interraction, not just two or three big adverts. Are you making sure that your staff are reinforcing the company culture and image?

5. Merging of Creative Skills: Its hard to believe that many companies still have a technical department that is tucked away in a back room with no windows. Being competitive in today's business world requires companies to think and behave creatively. Marketing is a creative discipline as it seeks always to do something different to achieve objectives. Technology today is a creative tool to help achieve those objectives. Creativity is the catalyst of the modern business. Management that are linear thinkers and focus only on bottom lines will have a tough time in 2016, and it will become increasingly tougher as time marches on.

6. Work/Life balance: The defining gap between work and lifestyle is closing rapidly. Life is accommodating work more readily, and work is accommodating lifestyle more readily. Employees are using mobile business tools to work wherever they are, and work ethics are changing towards a more relaxed (but accountable) flexi-type workstyle. In many cases it won't be long before work and home become virtually (pun intended) the same place. It has been proved time and again that this structure of business is significantly more effective and more sustainable.

7. Talking about Sustainability: Your company's connection to and involvement with sustainable development will become the difference between the modern customer having or not having respect for your company. This is not the CSR of the past that was used as a chest-beating sales tool, but rather a 'sincere' and 'responsible' long-term commitment to the community at large. Even small businesses and startups need to take this into account. There are many ways that a small business can help in its community. Companies that are not seen to be putting back will be marginalised. Remember - "people don't care what you know till they know that you care" (For more information on sustainability - http://bit.ly/18seuzY).

8. The Power of the Customer: As touched on earlier the greatest threat technology has to any company today is that they can be named-and-shamed or named-and-praised to hundreds, if not thousands of people within seconds. The choice is yours. Many corporates have already felt the destructive touch of the mobile button! This reality has the ability to affect any company at all, whether service, manufacturing, retail or charitable. No-one is safe from it. Companies and organisations had better take seriously their customer service ethics and operations from every perspective or become the inevitable victims of the dreaded tweet! This applies to small businesses in particular, as a Tweet or Facebook comment to the right (or wrong) audience can demolish your business in a flash!

9. Imagination: As mentioned earlier businesses need to become more and more creative to keep ahead of the pack. If you start a small business, or run a big business, a well-defined differentiator is what will keep you bouyant in the market. Many corporates in America and Europe now have regular 'imagination' meetings identifying opportunities for growth and diversification. These opportunities emerge from imaginitive thinking and in some cases become the company's core business with greater potential than the original one (Nokia being a prime example http://bit.ly/1d7tzCP - from cable company to telecomms giant).

10. Use Digital Media Wisely: This is tough to understand for many companies that are still relying on traditional media. In the past the purpose of using media was to announce and sell to customers. Many still believe this to be the case. But the key to new media utilisation is the building of a "customer community". Once again we realise that media is not just show-and-tell anymore, but rather a series of conversations that interconnect with customers via a network of touch-points that involve all key media. An SMS to a TV program may set off a chain reaction that leads interested customers to a You Tube video that interacts with a website that offers a free product with a purchase from a store. The question now moves from "which media are we going to use?" to ,"how are we going to integrate the media cost-effectively?"

I hope these pointers spark something towards making a difference for you in 2016, whether you are in big or small business. And in the process may you have a prosperous year ahead and remember, business is now about caring and sharing, not raking and taking. Have a good one!

2016 :: Author :: Chris van Rooyen

       

 

The 'customer experience' directly affects corporate growth.
 
 

We’ve all heard the expression “You only get one chance to create a first impression”. But is that impression a good or a bad one? Your company’s future will depend on it. A good impression will last a long time, but so will a bad one…only longer!

Every business communicates with the public at large in a multitude of ways. It may be the receptionist, the delivery man, the security lady at the gate, a press advert, a salesperson, a business card, a brochure or social media. Communication as a whole is the lifeline that connects your business with your customer. Communication creates an ongoing ‘conversation’ with your customer that builds credibility and trust. How else does your customer know who you are, why you exist, what you do, why it is different, how they can get it, what it means to them, what it means to the community, what makes you special, etc.

  Customer Service Experience
 

Every single time your business engages with the public it generates an ‘experience’.

This experience translates into a positive, indifferent or negative memory of the business. Each experience is unconsciously and/or consciously perceived by the public to be either favorable and applicable to them, or the opposite. Coffee aroma in a coffee shop is a favorable experience, and bad smells in a grocery store are negative

This is the Brick Moon universe i.e. many years of experience helping companies to “say the right thing”.

Communication strategies in companies do not only revolve around putting an advert in a paper or launching a Facebook profile. The task is far more intrinsic to the company as a whole than most companies care to realise:

Hiring people with the right attitude is the new corporate AND communication imperative. Companies filled with positive people communicate twenty five times more effectively with their customers than those that just meet expectations, and indefinably more than those that are even mildly negative.Training people to become a willing part of and live the corporate promise both in and out of the company. Customer service is about bringing the corporate promise to life!

Media communication has the potential to expose you dangerously. There’s an old advertising proverb that says “Beware when you advertise, someone may actually see it”. If someone sees your advertising what does your message leave behind? It’s not just about saying something, it’s about proving something. Do you live up to your advertising? As an example I think I can safely say without much contradiction that banks seldom live up to their advertising.

My pet hate is the "receptionist from hell!" And it doesn't mean that s/he may be loud and abrasive, but also indifferent and helpless. Your frontline staff are the most important to your business. By 'frontline staff' I mean any individual that regularly engages in any way with your customers or suppliers. Your delivery guy, your receptionist, your security people at the front gate (even if they are not yours), your sales staff, your client executives - even your staff in general when they are in public or attending events etc. Your people are your business and their bahavior will affect the way the customer perceives you.

CustomerX :: Author :: Chris van Rooyen

 

"Beware, someone is going to notice your advertising! Is it leaving the right impression?"
 
 

Professional communication that talks your customer's language works well, take Nando's as an example. I can see the smile on your face already. But beware of the inexperienced advert as it may well be giving the right information but leaving the wrong impression!
But is your advertising leaving the right impression?

  Creating the right impression
 

Advertising in any form is dangerous to your business if it is based on a limited understanding of what advertising is trying to achieve.

How many times have you heard the claim, "advertising doesn't work", only to discover that the individual designed and produced the advert themselves. It looks easy doesn't it? A 'clever' headline, a picture, a logo, approval from your wife... and we're done! But so few people realize the responsibility of advertising.

When you approach a prospective client your first and foremost task is to establish credibility. This will be unlikely to happen if you pitched up at a meeting looking untidy, or shouting at the top of your voice, or making rash promises you cannot meet, or looking boring, or cracking a tasteless joke.

In short, you may think the joke is very funny, or the headline is clever, or the colours are attractive, or the photograph is appropriate, or the price is right, or the little white lie will go unnoticed...but does your prospect feel the same? Advertising is not about what you do, but about what your prospective client will respond to. S/he may not be inclined to respond positively to a 'fat' joke when you are selling slimming agents, or to a picture of a slaughtered ox when selling fresh meat. Being responsible in your advertising reflects a responsible company. That doesn't mean you can't be funny, it's just that the joke should be in good taste and appropriate. The communication must not compromise the integrity of the company or brand.

So be careful when you advertise...your advert may actually be seen...consider carefully what impression it will leave!

Advertising :: Author :: Chris van Rooyen

 

Situation Technology - is there a limit?
 
  Glass technology   While everyone is talking about smart phones and swipe screens there is a bigger picture to this technology that will severely impact the world as we know it, particularly in the retail industry. With new discoveries in glass as a digital medium any surface made of glass has infinite possibilities in the world of communication.
 

Your bedroom window, your shaving mirror, your kitchen table and even your fridge can now carry data and imagery presenting a multitude of possibilities. And that's just in the home.

Using this technology has already created groundbreaking sales displays and features that take the consumer into a whole new world of virtual reality, giving them very practical access to merchandise and interaction with it. Large glass displays in retail stores can now predict your arrival, welcome you instore, present you with your personalised preferences, give you previews and lead you to purchasing with seamless efficiency.

When one explores the greater possibilities of this macro application of mobile phone touch screen technology one realises that the future is about to take yet another gigantic leap forward, particularly with respect to the customer's interaction with your product, brand or service. It is also easy to realise that those that fall behind this technology will lose ground more rapidly than ever.

For a very informative preview consider the future as proposed by Corning - http://bit.ly/1l6QK9y - then consider where you are with technology today.

    The retail industry will benefit the most from this advanced display medium. Fashion, cars, supermarkets, property, food, hospitality - the list goes on. One of the most powerful features of this technology is that it is portable creating virtual stores in just about any environment - train stations, schools, public buildings.. Wherever there is a plug!
 

Situation :: Author :: Chris van Rooyen

   

 

Are your salespeople performing to your expectations?
Could it be your fault if they're not?
 
       
  Sales performance  

Customer service in South Africa is a topic that is given an inordinate amount of lip service (pun intended) but few sales/service businesses are prepared to train their service staff much more than give them targets and tell them to get on with it! But successful selling involves so much more than just show-and-sell. Particularly with the emerging buying generation.

The new generation consumer's expectations have shifted significantly over the past five years. Three realities have emerged that change their behavior dramatically from the previous generation consumer.

1. Thanks to information technology they are more informed than ever before. This means that when they arrive at your door they already know mostly about what they want. Yes, they perhaps can't put it all into a practical context, but that is the salesperson's job. But first the salesperson has to determine what the customer knows, and then use that knowledge, combined with their own, to guide the customer towards the sale. Using the customer's knowledge, rather than your own, leads the customer to believe they have contributed to the decision.

 

2. The new consumer demands authenticity. This means that the old "hello-how-are-you-show-and-sell" methods do little to impress your customer anymore. They are asking for more of you as a salesperson in the way you engage with them. This means that as a salesperson your opening engagement must not be as a salesperson, but rather as a person. Give them a taste of your (genuine) personality.

3. Customers now come to your store/business armed with a potentially lethal weapon, and they are not afraid to use it. Their smartphone! They draw it from their holsters immediately to inform others of their good or bad experiences. This means that if your service is bad the experience will be conveyed to tens if not hundreds or thousands of 'friends' at the press of a button. Social media has embarrassed more than one giant in the retail industry already.

The moral of this story is that your service staff need to be trained to adapt to these realities and adopt behaviors that will help them to engage with greater significance. Of course if you don't and your competitors do, then you will be rapidly 'Facebooked or Twittered' right out of the picture.

 

10 Imperitives to better sales:
 
       
 


Remember at all times that your objective is to "make the customer feel important" and to "make a salesperson" out of your customer, ensuring that they tell the world about you. And they will, if your service is exceptional.

(But they will also do the opposite if your service is bad)

 

Preparation:
Be prepared to set a positive example for your company. Make sure you are well presented and have all the tools you require to carry out the sale efficiently. Be polite and non-threatening.

Knowledge:
Know your products to the point of being an expert i.e. that means more than how big or small or what colour it is, but what is it made of, what is its history, what is it best used for. Make sure your knowledge translates into significant customer benefits.

Behavior:
Work on your body language to make sure it reflects a positive and enthusiastic attitude. Video yourself doing the sale, you will find your weak points immediately. Your behavior is the first impression a customer gets of you and your company, make sure it is the right one.

Listen:
That means really listen! Don't listen with the intent to speak, but listen with the intent to serve. Listening is a skill that few salespeople perfect, but if you do you can be sure that miracles will happen.

Probe:
You listen in order to probe and find out what the customer really wants. Probing means asking relevant questions that make the customer think in order to give you relevant answers, thus directing the customer towards making a decision themselves.

Discover:
While probing you will discover useful 'touch-points'. These are bits of information that you can use to support your sale. For example, as a car salesperson your customer may want a car for his daughter - this is a touch-point i.e. now you can mention the safety benefits, security features and the economy of the car.

Guide:
Once you have discovered the touch-points you can begin to guide the customer towards the right decision. Note that you don't 'sell', you 'guide'. Allow the customer to come to their own conclusion. If you have probed with the right questions andf highlight the right touch-points then the rest will come easily, and the customer will respect you for it.

Decide:
Once the decision is made then move towards the conclusion of the sale. After the decision the customer wants you to be efficient and professional. This is where good prparation helps i.e. knowing what has to be done to conclude the sale with no fuss.

Efficient:
Every company has a sales procedure. Prepare yourself to process that procedure as efficiently as possible. It may require filling in forms, or calling for varification, or processing an invoice etc. Whatever it is process the sale efficiently without forgetting the customer's comforts.

Concern:
Where possible, show concern for the customer by following up on the sale. A simple call or e-mail will impress anyone after purchasing a product or receiving a service, and go a long way towards the customer returning the next time, or referring a friend.

 

Better Sales :: Author :: Chris van Rooyen

 

What does Small Business need to do differently?
 
       
 

So many small businesses stagnate or die within the first year...what does it take to stay the course before funds and time run out? Most small businesses fail because they do not start well.

The most common observation made by small business owners that have failed is that they would start differently i.e. with a different frame of mind, with a different perspective, with a different plan. And all of them say they would have used their budget differently

 

Marketing for small business

 

So, what are those things they would do differently? Here are 5 recommended actions:

  1. They would approach their new business with a more "humble" attitude. This would make them more careful and introspective.
  2. They would seek more help and information on business management. Business is more than just making and distributing a product.
  3. They would plan better. They would identify their market more accurately and identify more efficient ways to reach them.
  4. They would spend a significantly higher percentage of their budget on point 3.
  5. They would have more respect for their suppliers.

Many people in South Africa have been 'forced' into starting their own businesses due to retrenchment or age factors. Most of them have been employed all their lives and go fairly confidently into a business of their own believing that their skill will see them through. But, being a good plumber, or mechanic, or estate agent, or sales manager does not qualify you to be a good businessperson. Becoming a businessperson requires a very different discipline, approach and focus. And this reality lies at the heart of small business failure, not only in South Africa, but worldwide.

If you are a small business owner and can identify with these challenges please consider our 10%Club if you are in an appropriate region

SME :: Author :: Chris van Rooyen

 

SME's Checklist before starting a business:
 
       
     
 

31 point Checklist before starting a business:

  1. Is your business viable?
  2. Do you know enough about running a business?
  3. Do you know to work on the business, and not in the business?
  4. Do you have a business plan (that includes a Cashflow Plan)?
  5. What is your unique selling proposition, what makes you different?
  6. How to register it and what to register it as?
  7. What bank to open an account with?
  8. If necesssary how to get a loan and how much do you need?
  9. What are the most critical areas that you need the money for?
  10. Do you have an accredited auditor and/or accountant?
  11. Do you know how to file your tax?
  12. Do you know VAT requirements?
  13. Have you a disability insurance or income protector?
  14. Are you familiar with the Consumer Protection Act?
  15. Do you have the hardware and software to support your business?
  16. Do you know how to use it efficiently?
  17. How to name the company so that it appeals to your customer?
  18. Where to locate it and what is required to occupy it?
  19. Who to run or staff the business?
  20. What the Labour Law requirements are?
  21. How to put systems in place for management, invoicing and accounting, and how to work them?
  22. How to identify your ideal market?
  23. Where are you likely to find or reach them?
  24. How best to advertise your business?
  25. Have you developed marketing tools; business cards, brochure etc.
  26. Do you know how to sell your business or product or service effectively?
  27. Do you have procedural disciplines in place?
  28. Have you got a professsional website, Twitter, Facebook presence?
  29. Have you identified suppliers and service providers?
  30. Do you have support teams or mentors on board?
  31. Do you have the right attitude to run your own business (Entrepreneurs never complain!)

Some further insights into starting a new business as identified by Entrepreneur Magazine - http://bit.ly/1Iglo7y.

Checklist :: Author :: Chris van Rooyen

   

 

Why the hiring process is so important in today's business?
 
       
 

There is a new trend to the criteria involved in hiring people that has proved to be dramatically more successful than previous hiring criteria. The new trend revolves around creating a distinctive Corporate Culture, rather than hiring people for skills and qualifications (S&Q) alone. This trend is driven by the needs of the modern employee who wishes to be part of a company that is responsible

 

Human Resources

 

Companies work hard to build and cultivate the culture of their organizations. But company culture doesn't result from a memo from upper management, or a poster on the wall of your office. It’s made up of the work and values of every employee. Each time you hire a new employee based on the required culture, you contribute to sustaining that culture. Yes, S&Q is essential, but this has become a minimum standard, with culture fit being more important when comparing one prospect above another.

Hiring employees who understand and live company values serve to reinforce the organization's mission and vision and create a tighter, more effective team. And because many of today’s younger generation are specifically seeking positions at firms that are in sync with their values, finding employees that fit culturally becomes a win-win situation for both the company and the employee.

Culture matters because when employees consistently practice shared values, it provides an experience that loyal customers seek. Just look at companies like Emirates Airlines who hire people not just to deliver a hot meal or cold drink, but also to deliver an experience that is aligned with their culture and brand.

Successful companies understand the values that are core to their culture. And they consistently hire people who will practice those values and project that image effortlessly. Think about your company: Do you know the values that are core to your organization? Does everyone in you business live those values? And do you screen applicants to ensure that those values are also important to them?

Check out what Daniel Forrester of Entrepreneur Magazine has to say - http://entm.ag/1rmJdrm - "Culture Really Does Eat Strategy!

Hiring :: Author :: Chris van Rooyen

 

Strategy is constantly asking questions…and mostly getting answers you never expected!
 
       
 

What are the typical questions one asks when plotting your current corporate situation?

  • Who are we?
  • What are we doing?
  • Where are we going?
  • Where do we want to go?
  • How do we change to get there?
  • How do we measure it?

The process of self-analysis is led with these six key questions and as you drill down with further questions from each one you discover stark realities, many of them being answers that reveal the opposite of what you originally planned or anticipated.

 

Brick Moon Marketing & Communications

 

Every organisation gets sidetracked by circumstance, it can’t be helped, and the bigger the company the more prone they are to it. But when re-looking your corporate strategy two distinct realities always emerge:

  1. You discover that many of the answers to your questions reveal activities that are chewing on your resources and productivity and, in the interest of profitability, you can certainly do without.
  2. A remarkable amount of opportunities emerge that you have simply stumbled past in the pursuit of your diabolically busy calendar.

Creating the time for answers:
The challenge comes in finding the opportunity to critically review the activities of your company on a regular basis. “Oh, I’ll do that at the next annual conference”, you tell yourself. But hello. this is now 2015, and maybe you didn’t notice but strategies change at the speed of technology these days and once a year very dangerously inadequate.

Strategy in today’s world is an ongoing process that needs to be strictly scheduled into frequent review & planning meetings, not just to avoid the stumbling blocks, but also to see the opportunities available to stay ahead. I know this may all sound a bit “I’ve heard it before”, but consider that it is the very real growth factor in your business right now, and without it the decline has already begun.

Strategy :: Author :: Chris van Rooyen

 

Realtime Infographic on Internet activity:
 
       
 


Click the animation to open the full version (via PennyStocksLab). 

 


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