Why Your Business Ideas Aren’t Working

By ensuring that your goals are S.M.A.R.T, you set yourself up to experience the thrill of an achievement that will become a motivation for future successes.

Did you know that you can give 110% effort and fail miserably, even with a good business idea?

I’ve seen it more times than I can count. An eager entrepreneur has a brilliant idea and quickly forges ahead, only to come back disappointed that things did not work out.

By the time they come to that realization, they have likely invested a lot of money, energy and time that they will never get back.

Entrepreneurs going through this experience usually assume that they are simply not cut out for entrepreneurship.

It is at this point that I dig a little deeper into their execution process and I find that the real problem was that the idea or goal was underdeveloped, leading to poor execution. It was a set-up for failure from the start.

I then have the task of talking the entrepreneur off the ledge by explaining that there may have been nothing wrong with their effort, resources or intentions. The reason for the apparent failure was likely that the goal was an inherently bad goal.

When it comes to execution in business, a good goal is not just noble in its intention, but it also S.M.A.R.T.

It is specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely. Ensuring that your goal meets these criteria increases the likelihood of success.

It eliminates wasted time and hones in on the best strategy for success.

Specific goals break down your general goals into manageable pieces so that they are easier to achieve. A great example of this might be to increase your annual revenue.

“Increase revenue in 2019” is a noble general goal.

An even better goal is to “increase revenue in 2019 by identifying profit leaks and creating monthly marketing campaigns in order to obtain new clients.”

Using that example, it’s easy to see how an entrepreneur can go from casting a wide net and taking a chance on what sticks, to identifying a specific strategy for success.

Even that specific goal can be further developed as you think about other factors that will affect the outcome.

By adding metrics and changing the goal to “increase revenue by 40% in 2019, by identifying profit leaks and creating monthly marketing campaigns in order to obtain new clients,” the direction and initial action steps are even clearer.

This way, there is little room for wasted resources and time.

The attainable and realistic factors in the S.M.A.R.T. formula are subjective factors determined by the individual’s readiness to start working on their goals.

An entrepreneur who does not have a marketing budget needs to first raise the money or create a budget for marketing before embarking on the goal above.

Without a budget for a robust campaign, attempting to increase revenue by creating marketing campaigns will prove futile.- @andrena_sawyer Click To Tweet

It seems obvious enough, but many entrepreneurs still do not count the cost before they set their foot on the pavement.

The last piece of the formula is timeliness. This ensures that the person setting the goal has a sense of urgency and can fend off complacency when working toward their goal.

It is easy to overlook this final piece, but it is just as critical as the others because it has two extremes: too much time allotted for the goal, and not enough time.

When there is too much time, it is easy to fall into traps of procrastination and complacency. These are traps that force individuals to believe they have more time to do the work than they actually do.

They lose their sense of urgency, which opens the door for others to leverage their ideas, or for a competitor to get to a product launch before they do. The other extreme is not to give yourself enough time.

No goal is perfect, and neither is every process, and there is room for imperfection. – @andrena_sawyer Click To Tweet

By rushing toward the goal, entrepreneurs stand the risk of sabotaging by not properly assessing the risks and all of the factors necessary for success.

After all, there’s value for the entrepreneur in trial and error and even failure.

However, by ensuring that your goals are S.M.A.R.T., you set yourself up to experience the thrill of achievement that will become a motivation for future successes.

Budding entrepreneur: Here’s why you need a Lawyer in Your Corner

Naivety and misplaced trust have seen many individuals lose money and opportunities they have worked for in business. Doing business with a friend can contribute to its success as there are cohesion and team spirit at work. However, delve into a little research and you will realize that many have also been swindled by friends they considered family. When setting up a business especially a partnership it’s good to get your agreement in writing and sign contracts. This will draw boundaries on which the business will operate. A Lawyer brings perspective to your business. Click To Tweet Most millennials excited by the start of something new forget that there are legal obligations that their businesses should meet. This is why it’s paramount to involve a lawyer from the onset of your business.

A Lawyer brings perspective to your business. Instead of seeing the business as a friends venture or a short-term money-making investment. Lawyers see the bigger picture and plan for circumstances that we may not foresee as we are busy trying to build the business. Change is inevitable, mindsets change and people who were previously on the same page about the direction a business should take begin to disagree. This situation is dangerous as it can lead to the death of the business or the destruction of a brand if no prior steps had been taken to advise on what should be done in such a situation. That’s why it’s important to involve a lawyer early on at the start of the business albeit the extra cost the lawyer will add to your young business. In the long-term, you will realize this is cheaper as opposed to calling on a lawyer only when things go wrong and you are in court. A lawyer will go out of their way to ensure your company’s intellectual property is protected Click To Tweet Our current world is such that you can do everything by yourself online including registering a company in a span of one to three days. You can draw contracts to use in your business transactions using templates provided online. Such liberties are great but they should not delude us into thinking that lawyers are not key to our businesses success. A lawyer will go out of their way to ensure your company’s intellectual property is protected. In a business partnership between friends, they will bring the law on board to ensure no one is cunning enough to overwork the other and still expect to reap from the others hard work.

Here are some reasons why motherland moguls should enlist the knowledge of lawyers in their businesses.

A lawyer is your voice of reason.

Most businesses sprout from our passions. This means we may not be very objective while making some decisions. We are tempted to use trust as a currency while dealing with our customers or partners just to get the business on its feet. This means we may end up with bankrupting the business due to bad debts. Lawyers come in handy as they assert themselves and insist on contracts with suppliers and customers. This saves motherland moguls from cons as there will be no loopholes to be exploited in the business.

Lawyers offer security and protection

A lawyer’s roles are to pre-empt situations and ensure we are not victims of unscrupulous people who we are doing business with. In situations where certain circumstances cannot be avoided, they ensure the law is on our side. Many times we are ignorant of what is required of us by law and lawyers protect us from our own ignorance.  

Lawyers have connections and a clientele base like you

The right lawyer will hold your hand and help you know the ins and outs of the business niche you have chosen to explore. They have other clients like you and so they have been on the journey you are just beginning. Lawyers will offer insights that may prove very useful in the long run to a start-up. In addition to offering legal services, they can be a marketing tool for your business as they speak of your business to potential clients.
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How to build a Strong Foundation for your Business

You have made up your mind that your business is kicking off or you have been in business but you know there are a few things you need to put in place so your business can be well positioned for success now and in the long term.

Here are a few tips on how you can build that foundation that will produce the desired result of a flourishing business enterprise.

 

INVEST IN YOUR PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT AND GET MORE EDUCATION

Your business is an extension of you, how far you go, and how well you do is dependent on what you’ve got inside of you.

To be successful, you have to constantly commit to more learning in your area of business and in your own education. You must know that there is no end to learning and knowledge or you might wake up one day and find out that the rest of the world has left you behind.

To compete effectively in the world of business, you have to keep tab with ongoing developments and strategies in the marketplace and anyone who doesn’t have the knack for learning will be unable to succeed or stand out.

 

KNOW WHEN YOU NEED TO HIRE EXPERTS

At first, when you start out, you might need to do everything by yourself. From setting up shop to marketing, keeping the books, taking inventory, hiring staff etc.

But as the business begins to grow do not be tempted not to hire the experts that will make the whole process more effective thus enabling the business to succeed even more.

TREAT YOUR EMPLOYEES WITH RESPECT TO REDUCE HIGH TURNOVER OF STAFF

Small businesses always have a high turnover of staff because employees never enter into the company with long-term career goals in mind partly due to the fact that the remuneration might just be something to get by, or their employers just uses them to get the job done without factoring into the whole process their needs and long-term goals.

Some employers even overwork their employees and sometimes do not pay them for months!

If this describes how your business operates, there is every likelihood that your business will not run effectively and will not thrive in the long run because you will continually lose the best hands.

 

ALWAYS SEPARATE PERSONAL FUNDS FROM BUSINESS FUNDS

A healthy separation of personal funds from business funds will indicate that you run your business in a professional manner and thus translate into the credibility of your business in the eyes of your customers.

In addition, if it becomes necessary for you to obtain a loan from the bank, it will be easy for you to succeed with separated accounts than when they are mixed up.

 

HAVE A GOOD CREDIT POLICY

It is very important that you set your credit policy upfront before selling to a buyer who wants credit.

Many businesses sell on credit to generate more sales and to have more customers but there are associated risks. If for any reason the buyer is unable to pay you, you stand to lose both your capital and profit.

In the case where most of your customers are credit buyers, how will you be able to restock when customers with cash are at your doorstep? So be wise by setting up a good credit policy.

 

NETWORK

Relationships are key to any human endeavor. Your business will not run in a vacuum, you need people to make it a success.

Thus it makes reasonable sense for you to initiate, build, and keep relationships with people who will enable you and your business succeed.


Got a business advice for us? Share your advice with us here.

10 ways to end a business year

In the course of the year, entrepreneurs can get consumed with loads of activities that it becomes difficult to keep track of all that’s happening.

The end of the year is the time when most business activities wind down,  therefore, it’s a good time to pause, take stock, plan and take a position for the year ahead

Here are 10 things to do to make that happen:

1. Review your financial statements (balance sheet, cash flow, income statement) and prepare tax returns.

You need to know:

  •  If your business is profitable
  • How profitable your business is
  • Where all the money that passed through your business in the year was spent
  • How much the business owns
  • How much the business owes
  • Exemptions you can get on taxes

2.  Review business expenses. Its important business expenses are directly linked to the bottom line of the business.

 

3. Compare financials from the year before to that of the current year. Pay attention to any rise or drop in figures, investigate reasons for them.

 

4. If you have made a very good profit for the year, this would be a good time to consider buying or replacing any equipment that will directly result in increased revenue.

 

5. Reconcile your goals for the year with your achievements; take note of goals you could not achieve. Also, be careful not to discard these goals instead try to find out why you were unable to, and devise new ways to go about achieving them.

 

6. List and celebrate major accomplishments, you can share with your staff, this should motivate them and make them emotionally invested in your business.

7. Reward your employees and customers, it does not have to be much, could be in form of bonuses, gifts, personal notes…

Also get in touch with your vendors/suppliers and inform them of any change in the business that might affect them.

 

8. Pay attention to your numbers; identify your metrics, this varies from business to business – website analytics, the source of customers, customer growth rate, customer return rate/retention, subscriber list, downloads, number of monthly orders e.t.c.

Identify patterns of growth in such areas, trace down these patterns to identify much bigger opportunities and devise ways to multiply effects of these patterns.

9. Review your systems, operations, and processes. This is a good time to review and update (if required) contracts, license agreements, and technology, Identify your strengths and work on your weaknesses.

 

10. Create a vision for the coming year, based on this vision, set goals, write down your action plan and ways you intend to implement these plans.

Hope these tips help you end the year with sufficient knowledge of your business even as you prepare and position yourself for growth and opportunities in the coming year.


How are you wrapping up the business year? Share your ideas with us here.

The Customer Service Series: Develop trust at a distance

If customers don't trust your business, your chances for success dramatically reduce Click To Tweet

Distrust is the bane of every entrepreneur’s (especially those operating in the ‘very’ skeptical Nigerian market) existence. So in this post, I’ll be talking about some easy ways you can build and sustain trust with your customers and consequently enjoy more patronage and customer loyalty & advocacy.

1. Have your customer’s best interests at heart

There are so many easy ways to do this, for example, you can make your website mobile friendly, let your payment portal be secure and hassle free, offer recommendations and helpful advice. Just endeavor to be thoughtful and empathetic in how you run your business and engage with customers. Plus, and this is very

Plus, and this is very key if your product/service is not the right fit for a customer, let them know that too. You don’t have to try to be all things to all people. Truth is you would get calls from prospects asking for some help in an area that’s not really your business’ thing. And while it may seem like ‘growth’ to take on that (new) customer, if that customer isn’t a good fit, it can actually stunt real growth.

In some cases, trying to work with customers who are not ideal clients can lead to such a bad experience for both your business and the customer that you actually create vocal detractors for your business! 

2. Be capable of delivering on your promises

For example, 24 hours delivery should be just that. If for any reason you might not be able to make it happen then escalate (within the agreed time period) and by all means be apologetic while doing so.

Let the product do what you said it would do and let the service experience deliver the value that’s being paid for. Never over promise and under deliver!

3. Be honest and authentic

Do not collect money for a size 4, mistakenly deliver a size 3 and then make the return and refund process hellish and frustrating. Customers and clients are smart; they know when you’re being up front or when they are told a mistruth.

They’ll appreciate and admire you more when you admit to a mistake, rather than playing games or even worse, avoiding the topic altogether.

Finally, not to scare you, but what is always important to know is, the moment your business is not trusted by people, your chances for success within your market/industry are diminished dramatically.

Cheers!

The Customer Service Series: Don’t interrupt your customers

You're going to have to get your customers attention one way or the other, just don't interrupt them Click To Tweet

I’ll make this one very quick. Here’s a simple fact, people do not like ‘marketing interruptions’.

Take these two scenarios. You’re listening to a radio station but a jingle comes up, so you tuned out. You’re watching your favourite show and there’s a commercial break, so you pick up your phone to check your Twitter TL. If this sounds familiar to you, then you know what I’m talking about.

This is the age of ad blockers where people are paying a significant sum to avoid advertising. So you can imagine how irritating it can be for these people when brands/businesses somehow manage to break through and interrupt what they are doing.

As a business you have to be deliberate about not annoying your (prospective) customers and quite frankly, things like;

  • Incessant generic and ill-targeted advertising
  • Nonstop unsolicited emails
  • Bombarding a customer (after they’ve made a purchase) with marketing offers and updates

can be quite exasperating.

The right way to interrupt customers

The thing is you need your customers to notice you. However, if you’re going to interrupt your customers at all, you want to make sure that it is more for their gain than yours.

As you navigate this tricky landscape, you must ask yourself these three key questions:

  1. Is what I’m offering/doing/saying/sharing relevant?
  2. Are the message and the overall experience contextual?
  3. Is the journey enjoyable — or at least not unenjoyable?

At the end of the day, in one way or the other, you’d have to interrupt your (prospective) customer in other to be heard. The key is to try to find a balance between interrupting and creating relevant interesting brand experiences that they’d want to participate in.

Cheers!

10 tips for excellent customer service

Customer care can make or break a business, here are 10 tips to win at customer service Click To Tweet

Do you remember the last time you had an unpleasant experience with a service or product? Of course, you do. As paying customers, we’re looking to get value for our money. Yet we may find that at times the service or product fails to live up to the sales pitch. Perhaps the company does not answer emails or phone calls, the staff is clueless and disinterested, or you are given the run around when you called to report a problem.

It does not matter how low your prices are, if the customer service is poor you will still lose out on repeat business. When you have outstanding customer service; happy customers are more than willing to pay for quality and a pleasant experience! Excellent customer service is what will set your businesses apart and improve your sales figures.

Here is how to improve customer service for your hustle.

Get your staff trained

It is important to ensure that your staff members are trained in how to interact with customers and how to solve problems in a professional manner. You may want to train your employees on the following;

  • Greeting and interacting with customers
  • Answering the phone
  • Staying calm in a crisis
  • Managing emotions in a difficult situation
  • Solving problems in a professional manner.

Capitalise in effective and reliable training tools and on-going refresher courses. When staff members are properly trained, they feel empowered and motivated to serve to the best of their ability.

Create a welcoming environment

Companies who create a personalised service not only attract new customers but are able to retain their customer base.

Invest in friendly, patient and courteous staff. Sometimes it’s the little things that matter such as offering a cold glass of water on a hot day, comfortable seating in the waiting area or a children’s area with toys for example can go a long way towards winning them over.

In order to make lasting connections with customers, it is very important that the staff exude an authentic personable feel as opposed to animated robotic performances which may come out as fake or acting and put off the customer.

Know your products/services

It is important that the staff know your products and services in and out, how they work and how they benefit the customer. Be aware of the most common questions customers ask, and know how to articulate the answers that will leave them satisfied.

Keep your points clear, simple and leave nothing to doubt. This way you will also be in a position to assist them when they run into problems. Persuasion skills are also valuable in excellent customer service. This is the ability to convince interested customers that your products are right for them.

It is also important to honour your commitments, do what you say you will do, for example if you offer a guarantee then you must honour it. A sure-fire way to ruin your relationship with a client is to go back on your word.

Polish your internal organisational systems

Set clear goals and expectations so there are no misunderstandings, regularly communicate with your staff and find out what challenges they experience. Rectify problems and maximise on your strengths.

Have a clearly defined and uniform company culture. An organisation that is disjointed and at loggerheads with itself will soon show its cracks to the outsider and can never succeed. All involved must pull together to one direction. It is crucial to have a well-defined organisational structure for communication and decision-making purposes.

Build trust by focusing on customer relationships and not sales Click To Tweet

Know your customers

Know your target market very well; what they look for in a product and what their buying habits are. This will put you in a great position to not only match their needs but exceed their expectations! Build trust by focusing on customer relationships and not sales.

Think long term when dealing with customers. By keeping customers happy, they will be loyal and through word of mouth, will do the marketing for you. It is also very important to be able to read your customers, whether face to face, via email or over the phone.

Apart from what the customer is saying out loud, some basic understanding of behavioural psychology helps you to look and listen for subtle clues about their non-verbal communication, what they are not saying, their current mood, patience level, personality etc. This will go far in keeping your customer interactions positive and fruitful.

Get customer feedback and solve problems

Remember the customer is always right. Invest in easy and swift communication channels such as a suggestion box, customer surveys and feedback forms. Besides asking them directly, you can do this by putting a suggestion box, customer surveys, feedback forms where customers can report back about your service and offer suggestions.

Offer many different ways for your customers to contact you: like phone, email, and your business’s social media pages. Also ensure management is easily accessible and reachable to resolve any matters when the need arise. Use the feedback to create a better experience and improved service.

Use social media wisely

Capitalise in well run platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram where you can post about your current specials, discounts and new products around the clock. As much as social media can build your brand, posting recklessly can easily tarnish your image. Engage with customers responsibly, with great diplomacy and prudence.

In the event of any complaint whether received publicly or privately, acknowledge the problem, apologize, even if you think you’re right, accept responsibility, adjust the situation with a negotiation to fix the problem and assure the customer that you will follow through. Your customers will appreciate this!

Treat employees as you would treat your customers & more tips to improve customer service Click To Tweet

Look after your staff

Treat employees as you would treat your customers. Employees take on more responsibility when they know they are appreciated and are an important part of the team. Unhappy employees will project their negative energy to the customers thus creating unpleasant experiences.

There are many ways to look after your staff besides generous pay and benefits, business owners can show an interest in the employees’ welfare, families and their future, throw them office parties or give various incentives.

It is also important to offer public recognition to employees who have done well for example, have an “employee of the year” award ceremony. This will go a long way in boosting Staff morale and a happy pleasant environment for customers means more business to you!

Show appreciation to your customers

Always say thank you after each transaction, this will make the customer feel noticed, respected and valued. This is one great way of building customer loyalty.

You may write personalized thank you notes or make a follow-up phone call a month or so later to find out how they are doing, some companies will even send out birthday or holiday cards.

Recognise your most frequent customers!

Give your best Customers the VIP experience, keep track of their preferences and let them know when new merchandise arrives that they are likely to be interested in.

You might also organize appreciation days just for those clients, or invite them to private pre-sales in advance of the public. Far from alienating new customers (who will still be treated with courtesy and respect), these programs demonstrate that loyalty has its rewards.

Debunking the “Marketing is Advertising” myth

#WOCinTech Chat

Advertising is not marketing.

As a marketing professional I encounter clients who usually do not understand that although all advertising is marketing, not all marketing is advertising.

Marketing is an all-encompassing practice, made up of various elements such as strategy, customer research, trend investigation, public relations, social media promotion, product design, pricing techniques, promotional campaign activities, distribution management, competitor research, innovation, concept and service design, content creation, copywriting, and so much more.

All of these efforts need to be working together to build a successful product or service. Advertising on the other hand is really only one form of marketing but that which everyone actively notices. It is the promoting of brand awareness to a large target audience via mass media, such as television, print and radio.

Let me try to simplify this

Think of marketing as a box of crayons with different colors, while advertising is just one color in the entire box.

crayons-21To create a masterpiece that isn’t lackluster, you need to play around with the different colors in your box of crayon.

I thought it was important to establish this because I encounter quite a lot of entrepreneurs and business owners who think that because they have a Facebook or IG page, they are ‘marketing’. While social media is a fantastic marketing tool, it is but one in the arsenal of tools that are available to you.

Nonetheless, advertising works

The big brands have proven this over and over again. They have also proven the fact that advertising needs the support of other marketing elements to deliver good results. So while you would be serenade by Power Oil sachet jingles on radio on your way to and from work (Advertising), you would also find that Power Oil sachet at almost every street corner (Optimized Distribution).

More importantly, advertising alone would not solve all of your marketing problems.

So for example, you can choose to invest your limited funds in a radio campaign or on Facebook sponsored posts but all of these efforts would yield little or no results if you do not have a product that solves a real consumer need.

However, the process to dimensioning & understanding these needs is a marketing process called customer and market research (and definitely not advertising)!

Another example is the lady who sells packaged food items (Say 5kg at 8000) and wants to increase her sales. She might not necessarily need to spend money trying to set up a billboard along the third mainland bridge. What she could do is launch smaller variations of her product (let’s say 2kg @4000) that students and other low income earners can afford. This would help her appeal to more people and broaden her market space. Am I making sense?

The lesson today is single minded: Marketing is much bigger than advertising.

And to be very honest, marketing is a tough concept to get your arms around but that is why I am here. To help you get the hang of it such that you would get actual returns on all investments (time, money and effort) made into this very vital aspect of your business.

The 4 minute guide to SME marketing

4 minutes

The average human’s attention span is… oh look, a notification on my cell phone!

oh my god gifAccording to scientists, the age of smartphones has left humans with such a short attention span even a goldfish can hold a thought for longer. As such it is no longer surprising when people complain that a 1000 or 2000 words post/article is toooooooooo long.  So I asked a couple of friends and acquaintances;

“What’s the most amount of time you would be willing to spend to carefully read an article that piques your interest?”

The answers varied between 2-7 minutes and at the end of the day I arrived at an average of well, 5 minutes! And this was one of the considerations that inspired “The 4 Minute Guide to SME Marketing” series.

What I hope to do with this series is help start-ups and small/medium business owners navigate the rather murky waters of marketing. Because I understand the time constraints we all face as busy professionals and business owners, I plan to keep every article interesting, informative, and most importantly, concise. Pinky swear!

I chose to do a series specifically on marketing because, to be honest, I absolutely love the profession and practice. I always tell people that marketing found me (a story for another day).

After spending years in the advertising industry as a brand and marketing strategist and working on a number of brands across different industries, I’ve gained insights that I believe would be useful to small business owners. It can be difficult to access ready and affordable marketing consulting services so

That said, I guess we can all agree that starting a business is exhilarating. Unfortunately, the “build it and they will come” theory doesn’t hold much weight anymore because while you might have a fantastic, the greatest thing since sliced-bread product, if people do not know about it, who you epp?

The process of letting people know about your product or service is a deliberate one hence an entire academic and professional field called marketing. Again, unfortunately, a lot of startups and SMEs have a flawed mindset with respect to marketing (what it entails and what it can do for their businesses) and this is why most of them do not scale or eventually live up to their full potentials.

I mean in today’s business field, battles are won or lost in the market arena and a good product/service alone would not sell itself. As such, marketing imperatives are no longer an option, but a MUST!

You can choose to think about it this way. Your product or service started as an idea and we all know that ideas need momentum. LaunchSquad’s Jason Throckmorton said “you can have the best idea in the world but if you don’t couple that with a strategy to spread your story, your idea isn’t going to go very far.” I couldn’t agree more.

Still in doubt? You can also choose to think about it this other way. As a start-up, as a new business, nobody knows you yet so you need to get people to care enough to try what you offer.

And this is when marketing becomes a smart investment because it can help you legitimize your business, create excitement, engage potential clients/customers, encourage trials and repeat purchases and even inspire loyalty and advocacy.

You see where I am going with this right? 😀

I’d conclude today’s post by saying SME marketing shouldn’t be a flimsy afterthought. Just as you have been very deliberate about creating a top notch product or service, you need to be equally deliberate in creating demand for that product or service.

Until next week SLAyers!

Cheers!