Doing Business during Bad Times

At this time, entrepreneurs and business owners down here in South Africa are doing business during bad times. Indeed, very bad times. South Africa boasts now an official unemployment rate of 29%, the highest since 2008 (FIN24). Replacing the stats with souls, the number of people desperately looking for jobs in South Africa is almost seven million. Apart from losing business because people can’t afford shopping anymore, SMEs may be burdened with higher levels of bad debt.

Doing business during these times usually (and unfortunately) results in many businesses retrenching their workers. Therefore, workers here in South Africa typically react violently and destructively to any austerity measures that are implemented. As a result, mass industrial actions, mainly organized by the government aligned labor unions, cause havoc for both businesses and the community. In fact, unions are under pressure to deliver for members in a brutal employment market, says Ciaran Ryan of Money Web.

So, the jobless people, not having money, still needs food, clothes and shelter – just to live. For that reason, many more rely on social grants. Sadly, some of them will resort to crime – mainly just to survive…


Doing business in South Africa now is doing business during bad times. However, businesses also have a right to survive!

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The Humble Hashtag – #Seeking, #Talking and #Stirring

The humble hashtag (#something?) on the net is to us what a fresh breeze is for a dog seeking love.  Just as he is poking his wet nose in the wind seeking, we’re adding #tags before words – searching for information and order in the net. Hopefully, the dog has found the information he needed to (gracefully) complete his mission… But let me rather stick with us.

Everything nowadays is getting disrupted of affected by the digital revolution. Indeed, even the interactive and popular web 2.0 has probably reached its full potential. Web 3.0, the semantic web, is quickly gaining traction in the virtual world. Techopedia defines the semantic web as a mesh of data that are associated in such a way that they can easily be processed by machines instead of human operators. Indeed, since the first hashtag (#) was conceived back in 2007 by Chris Messina, a Twitter user, we started to use the semantic web (web 3.0) seriously. So, why do we like using a hashtag? Because it’s simple and effective!

The original aim of Chris Messina was to introduce hashtags to help users efficiently retrieve information on Twitter 1. As a result, hash-tagging is a simple and convenient way for users to classify and categorize their own tweets. Indeed, such a hashtag within a tweet can simply be specified by adding a hash – ‘#’ – followed by the tag itself 2 .

Nevertheless, it is important for business owners to take hashtags and their effects seriously. Because hashtags represent a big opportunity for brands to inform content creation strategies, attract new followers, and be a part of relevant conversations, says Brent Csutoras in INC. That’s not all – a previous study has indicated that 75% of social media users use hashtags.

Let’s have a look how the humble hashtag can be used.

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Achieve a Sustainable Competitive Advantage by Adopting Service Marketing Strategies

Are you adopting service marketing strategies? If not, now is the time…

Consumer markets are more turbulent and unpredictable than a couple decades ago. Indeed, as Matthew Meacham and others reflected recently: “Twenty years ago, competition in the consumer products industry looked like professional tennis. You faced opponents with business models that were similar to yours. You had been playing against them for years. It was tough but predictable and manageable”.

But now, it’s different. After all, it seems that everything is disrupted. Advances in digital technology has changed the playing field and rules in consumer markets. As a result, most products can easily be copied and sold anytime and everywhere at ridiculous low prices. How on earth can SMEs differentiate themselves with same-old products and copycat competitors? The answer is right in front of their eyes – their customers.

The customers in the market have remained mainly the same. In spite of having more choices and access to multiple channels, they still have the same needs and wants. SMEs need to convince their customers that they are the best firm to do business with. So, if SMEs want to steady their ships to calmer waters, they need to pay much more attention to serving their customers better.

Indeed, they can be on course to achieve a sustainable competitive advantage.

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The Challenge of Doing Business in South Africa

Doing business in South Africa is not for the fainthearted. In fact, South Africa dropped from 34th place out of 181 countries on the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business ranking in 2009 to 82nd out of 192 countries last year, leaving the country trailing its African peers, including Mauritius (20), Rwanda (29) and Kenya (61), writes Sanisha Packirisamy in City Press.

It’s a pity that doing business in South Africa is perceived to be so difficult, because South Africa is nicely placed as the economic growth hub in Africa. After all, Africa is nowadays seen as one of the most exciting continents in the world to expand business for. Yet, the problem with Africa is that in many instances you can’t just arrive and start a business. Because Africa is mostly underdeveloped – therefore offering many business opportunities, but without the structures to support investors.

Nevertheless, South Africa is the second biggest economy in Africa. It is also the best developed with existing infrastructure, financial institutions and skilled labor. Sadly South Africa has regressed in stature and status as the first choice investment destination in Africa. Indeed, it’s even getting more difficult for small businesses doing business in South Africa.

So, let’s consider the challenges that face new business owners that want to open a venture in South Africa.

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What will Enhance Online Customer Experience?

Online customer experience matters. Indeed, survival in today’s competitive e-commerce environment where the competitor is only one click away means that firms have to find ways to provide customers with a unique experience much more than low prices 1.

Undoubtedly the competition for customers is fierce in the online retail channel. Yet many of you may think it’s a strange thing to say since there’re about 1.8 billion people worldwide purchasing goods online (Statista, 2018).  But there are also many online retailers.

Back in 2014 there were already more than 24 million active online stores (Internet Retailer). Sadly, only a small percentage of them does noteworthy business. So why are the majority of online retailers not doing business? One of the main reasons why these shops fail is because their customers are having bad online experiences when visiting their websites…

Nevertheless, online shopping is so popular because it offers more convenience. Furthermore, the store location is irrelevant and consumers can shop from any location, 24 h a day, seven days a week. But, just like the physical brick-and-mortar retailers, customers visiting the store want to have, apart from the shopping, a pleasant or useful experience. Indeed, online visitors may become loyal customers if they fancy the experience they get on your website.

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A Customer’s Online Buying Journey in the Retail Channel

Here’s the online buying journey of Jack, who does most of his shopping in the retail channel. Indeed, retailers are eager to discover the online buying habits of Jack. That’s for a good reason, because of all the new media, consumers are dramatically shifting both their media usage patterns and how they utilize different media sources to get the information they seek 1. As a result, it influences when, where, and how Jack chooses his brands.

In fact, the online buying journey of Jack today is markedly different from his buying journey about a decade ago. About ten or more years ago, Jack had to search the local ‘Yellow Pages’ directory to find retailers who kept the products that he wants.  Jack’s buying journey at that time was a linear process with a beginning and an end with a couple of events, in sequence, in between.

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Is the Sales Funnel Relevant in Predicting Buying Behavior of Digitized Customers?

For ages now, marketers relied on the sales funnel to get insight into their potential customer’s thought process, challenges, and decisions. Indeed, the sales funnel is academically grounded in the marketing funnel, AIDA model (Attention + Interest + Desire + Action model), and the hierarchy of effects model 1. It’s no wonder that one of the first models I’d to master early in my marketing studies was the AIDA model…

The ADIA model is thought of as a linear process which starts when the customer is becoming aware of a need and ends when he/she purchase a product or service to satisfy the need. The model derives from consumer psychology and specifically the cognitive journey a customer undertakes when buying a product.

The way that the sales funnel is commonly described graphically is shown below:

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Are Angel Investors Divine Interventions or are they Devils in Disguise?

You’re battling in vain for months now to get someone or somebody to buy into your groundbreaking business idea. Indeed, you’ve spent lot of time and money to get funds from your bank, other banks and small business development institutions. Sadly, there’s not a glimpse of hope, not even an invite for an interview. Giving up hope, you’ve decided to terminate your project. However, luckily for you, someone suggested that you should apply to get funded by angel investors. Wow, what a break! That intervention has changed your life for the better…

So, are angel investors the solution for small businesses and start-up funding problems?

Who are Angel Investors?

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How to get a Venture Capitalist to Fall in Love with your Business Idea

Many successful businesses got funded by a venture capitalist (VC) when starting-up.  After all, it seems that VCs have lots of money to invest. In fact, in 2018, the value of VC investments in the United States amounted to approximately 99.5 billion U.S. dollars (Statista).

So, if can’t get enough money to get your business started, but you’ve a (really!) great business idea, then getting a venture capitalist to invest may be a sound idea…However, VCs have, just like all other funders, loaners and investors, their own criteria and standards they use to evaluate investment opportunities.

And there’s a good reason why VCs are so picky on where to invest their capital. Tomer Dean from TechCrunch not long ago interviewed a well-known venture capitalist. The VC had the following to say about the success rate of start-ups:

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How easy is it for SMEs to get Business Loans from Commercial Banks?

Commercial banks hate giving business loans to small businesses. Indeed, it’s almost impossible for a start-ups and micro businesses to get funded by commercial banks. That’s because banks avoid giving money to what they perceive as ‘risky’ business…

How so? Dr. Paul Smith, Lead Researcher of the “Inaugural South African SMME Access to Finance Report 2017”, found that startups and micro businesses are the most undeserved in the formal business market and therefore represent the largest funding gap.

Start-ups and small businesses mostly do not need large amounts of money to get their business going. Sadly, this may be a major obstacle for them to get funded…

In fact, according to Dr. Smith’s report, is the appetite of funders to loan smaller amounts significantly less than the appetite for them to approve larger loan sizes. Yet 44% of the total SMEs funding requests are for amounts less than R250 000. As a result, whilst many funders claim to offer funding for requests under R1 million, most SMEs battle to raise funding in this range Dr. Smith concludes.

So, what can SMEs do to get business loans from commercial banks?

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