Strategy

How to start 2013 with a bang

Nina Hendy /

feature-fireworks-200Everyone in business returns to work with the best intentions to make big picture improvements. We look at the challenges you’re likely to face in each facet of your business and ask some experts what you can do to overcome hurdles.

Marketing

The biggest lesson we can learn from last year was the misplaced obsession with social media as the next big marketing phenomenon, says Andy Bateman, global CEO, strategy and customer insight firm, The Leading Edge.

While social media is beginning to emerge as useful for some aspects of marketing, it’s not a universal solution. And it’s definitely not something you should simply outsource, as it’s very easy to get wrong, Bateman says.

“With social networks acting as the daily and often hourly voice of your business to a highly engaged and public market, the risk is high that formulaic posts patronise your audience, or worse that they become clumsy salesmanship that annoys customers into leaving you.

“Entrusting that voice and every single post to someone who isn’t on the lookout for the impact it can have on your business is a big mistake,” he says.

Collecting data was also a big trend last year, but many businesses ended the year with more facts and figures about people, attitudes, sentiment and behaviour than they knew what to do with, Bateman says.

Most in business will spend this year trying to categorise this data into meaningful buckets and bundles and look for patterns and answers to various business problems, he says.

“While last year was about collecting and creating structured data, 2013 is about adding the integration and analytics later to drive something useful from the data.

“My advice to businesses this year would be to get to know your customers. Not what they said they do, but what they actually do. Then compare the two and find opportunities,” Bateman says.

SEO firm Reload Media’s digital strategy manager Rhys Furner adds that businesses also need to rethink search marketing this year.

“At the end of the day, there are only 10 spots on the first page of Google, so businesses need to be aware that with more companies competing for these spots, you really need to be smart with your keyword selection and ensure that your website converts as best it possibly can,” Furner says.

Finances

This is the year to get a strong handle on your working capital, advises

Wallace Fan, principal of Sydney strategic corporate finance consultancy, Fidens Partners.

“The rule of thumb is: lengthen your payment term to your creditors and shorten your collection term from your debtors. Of course, this needs to be managed in a way that will not negatively affect your relationships with your customers and suppliers,” Fan says.

When approaching a lending institution, be over-prepared, he adds.

“Banks have become very risk adverse and thus, strict in their lending requirements, especially toward the SME segment.

“With that in mind, it is paramount to present yourself as a strong business manager with a strong understanding of your industry who is able to steer the ship safely through tough times,” Fan says.

This means having your financial reports ready in a neat, up-to-date and well-managed format.

Clearly articulate the cashflow cycle of your business and the risks facing the industry. And be prepared to offer tangible assets as security, he adds.

“Remember, banks are interested in getting their interest payments and their loan repaid, not interested in the blue-sky growth of your business,” Fan says.

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