Catering for the sales and marketing communication needs of small businesses

Chesney Bradshaw

Businesses are enjoyable to work with in communications whether it be sales and marketing because they predominantly have an optimistic outlook. This is particularly so with small businesses where the owner may have hocked his or her life savings on the business and is going flat out to prove that she or he can be successful. 

This energy and enthusiasm is contagious and work with entrepreneurs like this is exciting. It’s very exciting when an entrepreneur or small businesses has come up with a new business idea, a new process or system or even new technology – often these innovations can help so many customers.

I started a long time ago to assist small businesses with their communication needs. I remember my first one. It was a woman entrepreneur was starting a new domestic cleaning businesses way back when businesses like this were unfamiliar to households. I contributed in the form of writing marketing communications for her. It was most pleasing to see how her business grew and how her business fulfilled her wish to never ever work for an employer.

I have gone on to assist businesses with their marketing and communication needs ranging from search engine optimisation, social media for business to business profiles. This is over a period of 30 years and I have built up a strong foundation in understanding the needs of business, helping them to attract customers.

Those business people who keep quiet about their businesses are selling themselves short. They have may have good reasons for doing this. That’s all very well in a market with a few competitors. But when competitive intensity increases, you need to communicate – communicate with existing customers and potential customers.

A Facebook listing, not updated regularly or a website that is more or less a static brochure, won’t do selling and marketing for your business. You need to invest time and a little bit of money to advertise your company, your product and yourself (because people like doing business with people they know and trust).

If you need help with your sales and marketing communications, please let me know and I will see if I can assist. I don’t take on new clients without much thought because one has to see if there is a fit between the services I can offer and the business owner’s objectives. Even if you just need a review of what you are putting out in the marketplace, contact me and I can make some profitable suggestions.

Extreme Weather events bring about the lighter side – sightings of Loch Ness Monster in South African flood waters and other unusual happenings

From Imgflip.com

With the world in a whirl – or sometimes it seems like that – people’s imaginations are running amok. A sighting of the Loch Ness monster in the Centurion flood waters is disturbing and must take top marks for imagination.

Then there was snow on the Sani Pass — people living nearby were worried that the iceman cometh. There were unreported incidences of yeti clambering up the icy mountain slopes. How did they get there without immigration papers? Did they have their unabridged birth certificates?

Is it the extreme weather conditions and climate havoc playing on imaginations in a sense of light relief? Or is it the silly season and people are sick and tired and need something to amuse themselves?

With global deforestation going on at a pace, surely it won’t be long before bigfoot arrives on our shores to find forestation. There’s a sneaky suspicion that they might enter via the Knysna heads to access the pristine Knysna and Tsitsikamma forest and be chased away by the mythical Knysna forest elephants.

With henny penny and ducky lucky hammering out woe from day to day, hour to hour and minute to minute, it looks like the bogeyman could be near. It seems like that sometimes when there’s no power, no water and whales being snared in octopus trap lines.

Ol’ Charles Dickens got it right – “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times” — but with such ambivalence and uncertainty some would say, “Couldn’t the poor chap make up his mind.”

If we don’t get our act right with the environment, it could be time for the universe to be invaded and taken over by zombies. Not that we haven’t seen them already, the walking dead running things into the ground yet no one hanging up on shiny meathooks.

Apocalypse now, apocalypse soon, apocalypse whenever — isn’t it about time we kicked off our shoes and took a calming stroll along the beach or in the hot desert orange sands of the Kalahari?

A brief respite so we can rest before we take up the cudgels anew and begin a new year, 2020 and just hope the prophetic words of Randy Bachman “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet” don’t hold true.

The challenge of managing ESG for businesses

Whatever size your business is, ESG (environmental, social and governance) is becoming increasingly important. Contributors to this include the climate emergency, the broad range of societal needs and an unfortunate decrease in ethical behaviour and conduct. 

Think for a moment about the environmental challenges. They include the impact of global climate deterioration, rapid depletion of natural resources and water scarcity, including pollution of streams, rivers and the ocean. Waste is another growing concern as a consumer-led society propelled by internet e-commerce requires more and more materials for goods and packaging.

The societal factors include human rights, labour practices and responses to community development.

Governance includes a whole range of good practice, ethical behaviour, rules of conduct, legislation and regulations.

What is required to manage all these important factors in a business including small businesses?

There needs to be an understanding of the ESG factors and requirements as a starting point. Someone in your business should be given the responsibility to manage and the ESG factors and ensure that not only is your business compliant but that to gain competitive advantage your business seeks excellence in ESG.

The qualities of the person managing ESG factors is firstly a good administrator who has an excellent grasp of details, is a systems thinker and can use systemic thinking to “connect the dots” and dig deep into material impacts and come up with workable solutions.

The other important thing is that your ESG administrator/manager has an excellent understanding of your business and its operations. Business and industrial experience counts because a knowledge of operations is essential. You need someone who doesn’t merely provide a register of the legislation and other requirements but a person that is proactive and can effectively manage the projects and processes that will be required to ensure compliance and good practice. 

Important characteristics of a good ESG manager and administrator are communication at various levels and with various institutions and bodies as well as deep analytical thinking skills. 

If you require any information or assistance, please let us know.

Can you tell the difference between what is sustainable and what isn’t?

Chesney Bradshaw

It’s getting harder to determine what is sustainable and what isn’t. You hear and see the words sustainable and sustainability used in so many contexts these days that it becomes confusing.

Take the example of people who say they have a sustainable business. What does that mean? Does it mean that the business is profitable or a going concern. Or, does the business practice sustainability in the business? It gets confusing doesn’t it?

There are several levels of sustainability:

  • If you look at sustainable in a risk management context, you could talk about sustainability of the financial side of a business.
  • You may also look at the sustainability of the operations of a company.
  • Then there’s another another level which concerns sustainable practices – in other words, reducing impact on the environment.

But even these approaches are limiting. 

Sustainability means different things to different people:

  • On the individual level, someone who uses water sparingly or wisely at home and in the garden can say that their behaviour is sustainable.
  • At a small business level, when the business owner says their business is sustainable it might mean that they are reducing their carbon footprint by transitioning solar power. 
  • For the private institutional level, sustainability may mean adhering to voluntary sustainability codes, regulations and legislation. The areas that could be covered include ESG (Environmental, Society and Governance).
  • On the broader national level, a country talking about sustainability could refer to water-systems, labour practices, energy, economic growth and environmental commitments.You only need to look at the Sustainable Development Goals see the range of areas that sustainability on a country-level covers. 

Many definitions of sustainability and sustainable can be found. Perhaps what is meant by sustainability and sustainable are things that reduce or have minimal impact on the environment, optimise human capital and contribute towards greater prosperity (without the downsides of huge carbon emissions, pollution and waste). 

If you need assistance in better understanding what sustainability means for your business, let us know and perhaps we can help.

What importance do you give to sustainability in your small business?

If you see sustainability as a cost and not an investment, then it could be because you see sustainability as compliance – something that you are forced to do.

Now that we have removed Darth Vader from the room safely locked him up in a secure cupboard, let’s have a constructive look at arguments for sustainability and sustainability practices.

Let’s face it, no business person worth his or her salt is going to value something unless it provides return or reduces risk. Return is not necessarily in immediate money but sometimes can be in intangibles – that later can have a monetary value assigned to it.

Excellent sustainable practice can lead to access to new customers, those large entities that are taking sustainability seriously and not kicking it to the touchline in these difficult times – but are making sure that it has a prominent role to play in their business operations. Sustainability practices and proof thereof also provide access to new markets and cross-border trading.

Some argue that sustainability provides competitive advantage for their business, doing things the right way and differentiating themselves from their competitors. These business owners are in it for the long haul – they have realised that in the medium- to long-term their businesses will grow on the platform they have chosen.

But one has to be careful here because some businesses hype their sustainability merely to try to increase revenues. However, when you closely examine their sustainability practices and look for proof, you realise that they are only paying lip service to it and their commitment is not as strong as they pretend it to be.

There are many other reasons and benefits for sustainability in a business but in this short piece we will look at reputation. Darth Vader types stop rattling your chains and read on. Anyone, including individuals take their reputation seriously and for good reason. A commercial entity or institution doesn’t want to be branded as doing harm to the environment, isolating itself from the real world, not investing in society or practicing unethical behaviour.

Sustainability comprises a large part of reputation management and ultimately brand worth. I hear Darth Vader types rattling their cage at these so-called tangible values. But let’s ignore them for the moment. Ultimately, employees, suppliers, and other key stakeholders prefer to be associated with businesses that are good for the environment and society. Some shareholder groups are excluding businesses that aren’t committed to sustainability and who hide the risks that the broader environment and society have to the business if they carry on with “business as usual”.

Sustainability in your business isn’t a sticker that you can pluck onto your product or service saying that you are eco-friendly or green. If you want the benefits of sustainability, then get involved and make the right decisions instead of ducking and diving and not putting your money where your mouth is. Sustainability practices take time, effort and money and if you aren’t willing to get started now and commit yourself, then you might as well as accept being relegated to the B or C teams and give up hopes of making it to the real top sides.

Artificial intelligence holds hope for new sustainability solutions

Photo by Buzo Jesús on Unsplash

As the climate emergency grows, private and public institutions as well as individuals are looking for solutions to increase sustainability. There are so many challenges that seem insolvable but something has to be done.

We face challenges with extreme weather events, drought in precious agricultural land, carbon emissions that are ever-growing, increased energy use and environmental pollution that is taking a heavy toll on land, rivers and the ocean.

These challenges may seem insurmountable perhaps to the individual but collectively people whether in advocacy groups, private and public institutions or simply in community organisations can together make a difference.

The digital age bringing with it new technologies holds hope now and in the future to come up with solutions that can help to reduce natural resource consumption, curb carbon emissions and lessen the heavy impact of waste on the environment, including growing landfill sites and environmental destruction.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) may provide some of the solutions to these challenges. With an increase in cloud computing, the surgence of blockchain and artificial intelligence, new avenues are opening up for solving some of the major challenges in the environment.

One example is where artificial intelligence can be harnessed to gather large volumes of data and detect leakages in water infrastructure. What this means is that huge water losses can be prevented and precious water used for the purpose intended rather than merely becoming runaway water and going to waste.

It is hoped that AI will also contribute to waste streams. Using artificial intelligence and the collection of vast quantities of data, waste can be waste systems can be analysed and opportunities found for more waste reduction, recycling and repurposing. This will help save natural resources such as water (used in production processes, catering, hotels, etc.) and help support and preserve valuable agricultural land. Solutions for reducing deforestation may be may also come from the use of artificial intelligence.

If you are interested in the new digital and other solutions for sustainability, please let us know.

Sustainability of smaller suppliers critical especially given increasing disruptive incidents

Photo by Sandra Parra on Unsplash

Sustainability of smaller suppliers is important particularly given the increase in disruptive incidents from whatever source — accidents, resource shortages and societal unrest.

Smaller suppliers are often hard-pressed to ensure the financial viability of their small businesses and so when it comes to sustainability they may have the basics in place but that’s about all. 

If smaller suppliers wish to do business with larger institutions or cross-border trade, they will be asked to provide evidence of their sustainability. Sustainability of a small supplier includes succession planning, adherence to local laws and regulations, especially labour, health and safety and environmental practices. There are a number of other factors to consider but in this brief post we can’t go into them all.

The challenge is to convince smaller suppliers about the importance of sustainability. Often their knee-jerk reaction is that it is something that will cost them more money. This is the old cost vs investment mentality. By putting sustainability processes and, where necessary, equipment in place, smaller suppliers are actually investing in their business. 

Sustainable practices for small businesses have several benefits including access to markets, access to customers, better protection of their own business operations and often can mean a point of differentiation between their business and competitors in the market. 

Assistance is available sometimes from larger institutions to support small businesses who wish to take the sustainability route. Here the main challenge is investment in time. The smaller supplier has a limited number of staff and sending staff away for training can impact the performance of their business, albeit for a short. However, without someone having the necessary knowledge and expertise of what needs to be done to make the business more sustainable, it really is not possible to change the business.

When you do business continuity management, your risk analysis and business impact analysis clearly shows the importance of suppliers in your supply chain. If the supplier is critical, its worthwhile initiating a conversation with the supplier to look at ways to increase their sustainability.

If you are interested in sustainability in the supply chain and need assistance, please let us know.

Water savings messages become more urgent as South African town hits record 50 degrees Celsius

Photo by Dan Gold on Unsplash

Water savings messages have a new urgency with a South African town reaching a record high temperature of 50 degrees Celsius. 

The climate emergency is growing as we see from the COP 25 opening talks referring to “the point of no return is no longer over the horizon”. Rivers are polluted and drying up. Boreholes are extracting precious “blue’ water. Farmers in parts of the country have experienced drought now for five years. Aging water infrastructure continues to lose large volumes of scarce and precious water. 

Some time back resource savings and efficiencies were starting to gain traction. However, with the economic conditions the water message is not being driven as hard as it could be. Take a look around at various public and private spaces and you’ll be hard-pressed to find water savings messages that aim to change behaviour. 

Of course, there are businesses that use tremendous amounts of water and these businesses are advertising their frugality with water usage. Take for example, the a car wash in my neighborhood which saves more than 75% water on each wash. This company has made it their business to save as much water as possible through recycling. 

What then can be done to save more water?

There are basically three ways: change behaviour, introduce new systems or processes or use technology that automates a process and eliminates human behaviour. 

If we examine these three, you’ll find changing human behaviour is often not sustainable over the long term. It’s hard to change human habits. Think of all the unnecessary water wastage such as turning on the hot tap in a shower and running out all the cold and warm water, which unfortunately leads to the loss of precious water resources. 

Domestic use of water remains stuck in traditional consumption habits. Take a basic process such as making plunger coffee. It can take up to three or four times the quantity used to make a cup of coffee to clean the plunger. 

The next two areas – changing the system or process and using technology to automate a process – require capital outlay. In hard economic, businesses and private individuals are not too eager to fork out money. However, as the water situation worsens and water costs rise the payback period on water process change and automation should become more attractive. 

When doing business continuity plans, one notices that water shortages and disruptive incidents because of a lack of water aren’t high on the priority risk list. This is bound to change as consumers including businesses and private individuals become more aware of the risks that disruptive water incidents can cause to their businesses and livelihoods.

Funding for your startup — for the wary entrepreneur

Photo by Adeolu Eletu on Unsplash

If you have already secured funding for your new product or service, then it won’t be worthwhile reading this. For those who may be considering obtaining finance from various organisations such as banks, small public business lenders, venture capitalists and so on, it may be valuable to consider some of the pointers below. 

Funding for startups is not easy but you know that. The main reason is because most lenders want a sure thing – they want return on their capital loaned.

Small business start-ups are risky and this accounts for one of the main reasons why funding is so difficult to obtain. Yes, you get radio talk show hosts who are self-styled  small business exspurts and their gooroo guests who want to find blame and point fingers at certain institutions concerning their lending policies for small business. 

Be realistic you won’t get a loan easily for a startup. No matter how hard you beat your fists against the wall and complain the hard-nosed capitalistic approach is reward and return. It’s a principle that has served many people, many countries, many institutions and for many centuries.

If you take the banks, for example — and we don’t want to be unncessarily unkind to banks — they they want guarantees. These guarantees will come in the form of signing away your assets in the event of you being unable to pay your loan. 

No matter how unfair you think this is, the banks want their loan money back. You can accuse banks of having palatial headquarters where they these days serve cold sparkling water out of the water cooler and employ so many people that they are tripping over each other in the lobbies. It doesn’t matter, the real thing here is that banks are in it for the money and they will not accept any risk.

To widen your thinking, the next layer of institutional funders are our organisations or agencies set up to loan money to small businesses. However, in these organisations you will find political agendas at work. If your business idea, product or service doesn’t fit with their ideology, you won’t get alone. It’s a simple as that.

So if your product or service aligns with the political agendas and ideologies, then you may stand a chance of your startup being considered for a loan.

Private companies aren’t really into funding startups unless there are specific reasons and special circumstances. These days there is a calling for public companies to support enterprise development but start-up funding instances are not the norm. You’ll find that very large corporations would buy startups or buy a stake in startups but then the startup would be already running and proving itself with its product, service or technology.

We could go on and on into various sources of funding but let’s just say that if you are faced with a funding wall and cannot move further, you may have to consider bootstrapping. This is where a cash kitty built up over years or funding from family and friends may be the only help that you’ll get. 

That’s the reality of commerce.

It’s the reason why many entrepreneurs have to put their own skin in the game and fund their startup themselves. But if you do qualify for certain types of funding for startups why not try – you’ve got nothing to lose, unless you are forced to sign away your assets.

You’ve developed your product but what now? Finding your first client is the challenge

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You spend months, maybe longer, developing your new product or service, and now you face your major challenge — that is to get your first client or customer.

Without customers you don’t have a business. But it’s always hard to persuade that first customer to buy.

It’s is the real test of your business. Everything that has gone before – all the planning, all the development work, amounts to little if you can’t attract buyers.

This is the point where you will find how important communication reallyis. You will need to communicate your ideas and concepts verbally and in written form.

When it comes to sales we’re not talking about being pushy or showing desperation. You need to have confidence that your product or service will help others – save money, make money or improve potential customers’ lives in some way or another.

We can’t go into all the different facets of selling here save to say that you need to be skilled at words that come out of your mouth and know when to stop talking. Beware that when you are selling, you can often talk yourself out of the sale at a critical point.

Written communication takes many various forms in selling your product or service. Think about it for moment – you will need to write emails, you will need to write sales literature, formal letters, presentations, written agreements and so on.

Skill with written words doesn’t come easily for many. The written word reflects who you are and creates perceptions about yourself.

People, customers, potential customers and buyers are bombarded by communication messages particularly sales messages because of electronic communications.

Every time you open the Facebook app or Instagram, you are hit with a sales message, sometimes several of them. Sales messages are appearing in your inbox. When you’ve done a search on a certain product many websites you open will have small banner advertisements for products that Internet marketers think you are interested in.

You need to make sure that your message cuts through the avalanche of sales messages that people are receiving all day long. What are you going to do to make your message stand out? How are you going to sell your product or services features, advantages and benefits? It’s no use copying the sales messages of similar products or services. You have to be fresh and original and persuasive.

If you need assistance with your written communication, let us know and we will see if we can help.