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Five Precious (strata)Gems of Business in a ‘Still-water’ Economy (continued)

By Oleg K. Temple, June 18, 2013.

With the global economy down for the count, many entrepreneurs have faced the tough realities of how to stay afloat and is mere survival worth the increased wear and tear on their nerves and accounts? With belts tightened so far that the corset has become the new waistcoat, businesses are finding it hard to breathe, let alone find the vigour and flexibility to expand. While for others, the necktie has become a noose.

This article attempts to analyze and address benign business practices that can mean the difference between playing musical chairs on the job market and expanding your enterprise. In part 1 of this article we have established that incorporating the following elements into your business strategy can attract new clients and business contacts:

1) BRAND IDENTITY AND BUSINESS ANALYSIS
2) SECTOR GROOMING
3) ENRICH YOUR OFFERING

So without further ado, here are the last two gems of this particular treasure-trove:

4) ADVERTISE AND CONNECT WITH CUSTOMERS
A business that does not advertise is fueling its own demise. In business, promotion is the life. In promotion, advertising is king. Word of mouth and social media will only get you so far—they require constant active participation to continue working. So-called viral campaigns are expensive and complex to orchestrate—much more so than conventional advertising, if they are to be effective, that is. Thus, more often than not, you get the value you have paid for. Only failure is free. As entrepreneurs it falls to us to ascertain the value vs. cost of promotional opportunities and select the best options for our company. Social media is a great ‘free’ option for those who put a price tag of $0:00 on about 1000 hours per year of their time. But those of us who have a real-world business to run, create a special position or outsource the virtual social visibility, at a very REAL price. Hence, SMEs are faced with a choice: focus on improving your product/service to stay competitive or blow a large chunk of your time on ambiguous social media gimmicks. Of course, many advertising opportunities are grossly overpriced, but if you take the Benefits of Membership on this site for example—you get an all-inclusive and manageable promotion for your company set up (in half an hour) for under $35 per year. How many hours of your time is that worth? The point here is seek out to maximize the value from your advertising budget and do not underestimate the value of your time.


During and after your campaign, be reachable and available to hear and respond to what potential clients think.


Secondly, seek ways to engage and connect with non-customers also, i.e. specifically, people who opted for a competitor’s product. Finding out why these prospective customers bypassed your product or service, is an excellent way to improve your business formula. Was the price a tad too high, the product too complex, the website incomprehensive or perhaps the after-service policy unclear? All of the above are critical sale-or-bail hurdles that can run your business ship aground. In exchange for this constructive, critical feedback, give out discount coupons, promise to address the prospective buyers’ concerns and, ideally, get permission to contact them again once you have done so.

5) STAY CURRENT
Whatever your sphere, you’ve got to keep up with the times. Anticipate and adapt, as client expectations evolve. Strive to incorporate and accommodate the changes in trends you perceive into your business plan and corporate culture as a whole. Modern entrepreneurs must remain active to stay afloat in the hyper-competitive business arena.


Take the time to project and anticipate market trends to avoid being caught off balance when your ‘business boat’ is rocked by the inevitable, yet sudden-for-some economic chops.


Don’t bet on ‘The One horse’, diversify your holdings and interests and set up long- and short-term safety-nets, backups and fail-safes to ensure that when the economic storm does strike, you have the time and resources on hand to bail out the rising losses and keep your company’s hull afloat without drastically changing course. As the saying goes, “Forewarned is forearmed”. Keep in mind that times of austerity and hardship are an ideal climate for business growth and expansion for those who have prepared to welcome the opportunities they present during the times of plenty.


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