SMEs: Harnessing lessons from 2019 for a better 2020
CAPE TOWN – The success of small to medium enterprises (SMEs) rests on their ability to learn from their mistakes, harness new trends and give themselves the best chance of achieving their goals.
EasyBiz Technologies Head of Sales and Services, Bridget du Toit, reflects on some of EasyBiz’s major learnings in 2019 and how they can be harnessed by most SMEs to improve operational efficiencies and promote growth in 2020.
Lesson 1: It’s cheaper to retain existing customers than to source new ones
Du Toit says research conducted by the Harvard Business Review suggests that it is five to 25 times more expensive to recruit more customers than to retain existing ones. “Based on this insight, I challenged my team to make a new year’s resolution to give their existing customers even better service in 2020.
“The way I see it is, providing five-star customer service is essential to any business today, but even though a business’s customer service may be great, it is important to work on ways of continually improving it to constantly keep customers happy.
“This is because customers’ needs change every single day. For example, their expectations relating to turnaround times has changed. With more business being conducted online and apps allowing for 24/7 activity, customers want to know they can get 24/7 support from their suppliers.”
This could mean implementing chatbots on the company website, allowing simple queries to be addressed after hours, or engaging with customers on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, amongst others.
Obviously, for more complex queries, the chatbot can be programmed to store the customer’s contact details, allowing a consultant to phone him or her first thing the following day.
Lesson 2: No more ‘same old, same old’ marketing tactics
Businesses that do not keep up with trends, be it in software world or those relating to their marketing strategies will not be able to capture the attention of their users online and convert them into customers.
Du Toit says marketing trends are constantly evolving. “There was the recent introduction of a new checkout feature on Instagram. This is highly attractive to young people and means increasingly more people will be shopping on social media platforms in 2020. My question to SMEs is: Does your business’s social media strategy make allowances for new inventions? For example, are you selling on Instagram? If not, why? The facilities are there. Your competitors will get the edge if you don’t.
“My advice to SMEs is to conduct a marketing audit on what was released in 2019 and early 2020. So much happened in 2019 – think of all small and large changes implemented by Google and Facebook last year. Also, analyse what worked for your business and what didn’t – replace the tactics that didn’t work with new tactics that will help you reach new audiences more effectively in 2020,” she adds.
Lesson 3: Delegate more
“Personally, one of my greatest learnings from 2019 is the importance of delegating more tasks and growing my teams. And, when I say grow teams, I don’t necessarily mean grow them in numbers, I mean train and upskill team members to get them to the point where I can to delegate to them,” says du Toit.
Many business owners tend to do more than is healthy or viable for one person to do. The thinking is often – if I do it, it’ll be the done right way or I won’t need to re-do it.
Du Toit says business owners who do everything themselves don’t often find the time to focus of things such as strategy and marketing. “They don’t get to explore cool, new trends or find out what other people in their positions are doing. Business owners need to listen, read and absorb, but many of them never have the time to do so.”
The solution is to either upskill existing employees, employ additional team members or outsource some of the work.
“They need to think about all of the tasks they have to do in a day and identify the ones they dislike the most, which are actually the ones they probably don’t do their best at. Then they need to start thinking about whether there is anyone else on the team, who may have a talent for those tasks and empower them to do so,” says de Toit.
She suggests that understaffed businesses should do their calculations to determine whether they can afford new hires. “However, if they are not in the position to hire someone new, they should consider outsourcing or enlisting the services freelancers. This has the added advantage of not having to worry about whether they have space or means to accommodate them – the freelancers benefit from the flexibility and the business owners benefit from not having to find bigger buildings or increase their rentals.”
Lesson 4: Over to you
“Whatever your goals are, whatever you want to achieve throughout the year, make sure you give yourself the best chance of achieving them – make sure they are SMART goals, that is, that they are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely,” says du Toit.
“I read an article in December that encourages business owners to make their goals or resolutions SMART, a notion that really resonated with me. It is so easy to make goals that are unrealistic and that cannot be realised by the end of the year. By SMART-checking every goal, business owners will afford themselves more chance of success,” she adds.
Her final words of advice relate to the adage ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’
“My version is, ‘if it works, how can we make it work better?’ We are amidst the fourth industrial revolution. There are so many new technological developments – new software, new apps and new ideas on how other people are streamlining their businesses from old, cumbersome ways of doing things, to adopting new and innovative practices – we should be learning from them,” she said.