How turnstiles and other security barriers will save you during Christmas

Christmas is a few short weeks away and shoppers are preparing for it. As a business person, you need to be more prepared than anyone, as late shoppers’ desperation will take them anywhere and everywhere. The festive season is always filled with enormous numbers of shoppers, often more than any other time of year. People often take their leave days to spend with family, but it also might be the first time they’ve even had an opportunity to shop. Thus, you shouldn’t view all shoppers as merely being late, in terms of procrastinating. Instead, you should recognise that there might be these mitigating factors for their desperate attempts to bring joy to their loved ones through gifts. To help reduce problems, both for yourself and the horde of shoppers, you should consider interventions that can help manage crowds.

What is crowd control?

As Lavi Industries points out: “When crowds are ‘controlled’ everyone can enjoy themselves and a business or event can be more successful.” After all, in order to reach customers to help them, you need to know where they are, listen to them and so on. If all you encounter is noise, shouting and desperation, everything will be a mess. Order helps everyone, including customers though they may feel otherwise.

The difficulty is how to enforce order amidst this chaos. You have to rely on staff, who can become overwhelmed. It’s ideal, then, when hiring to look for those who are capable of handling themselves in tense situations, which is what every holiday season tends to be, especially in busy places like malls. Indeed, as the American National Retail Federation notes:

“For stores that do not have dedicated security or loss prevention staff, the on-site store team is
often tasked with coordinating, planning, staffing and executing the event. These staff
members provide retail companies with outside expertise and know-how that can be beneficial
in emergency situations. However, this arrangement can also pose some challenges. It’s
imperative for retailers to provide clear lines of communication, access to a top-ranking loss
prevention executive who has key decision-making capabilities and a store manager with
access to local law enforcement and the mall/property management company.”

But people can only get you so far. You must consider other interventions.

Turnstiles

One of the most popular forms of crowd control, often used in the largest stadiums in the world, are turnstiles. Turnstiles are so popular there’s even a Turnstile band. What matters to you however is what a turnstile does. This is a mechanical gate that turns horizontally, allowing for individual entrance and exits, making for free flow of people. A turnstile gate can become your most important asset in managing a large crowd, since it prevents them from flooding in en masse.

In this way, people basically control themselves, since they cannot simply force their way through. Instead, they must operate carefully and thoughtfully. This slows down flow, which makes movement easier.

Staff training

As noted, staff will often be essential. They will need to help customers faster and get them to tills and out the door. You should assist not merely by handling tills yourself, but by training your team in advance. Staff should know who to call, where products are, how to answer common questions and so on. Obviously, by virtue of being staff, they should already be trained in these. However, everything will be turned up to eleven so they must work faster and be able to react quickly.

One of the most common problems during the festive season is an increase in customer complaints. As Elaine Allison, a consumer expert, notes:

“From buying gifts, food, alcohol parties and everything in between, we all need the extra time and strategies – including the staff who are working during the rush. Most people are not on their regular clock and they are getting pushy and cranky out there. This includes service staff in any of those industries that won’t breathe until about January 5th.”

Thus, you should expect one cranky person to encounter another, as a desperate customer meets obstacles and staff who are overwhelmed by the numbers around them. You must establish protocols, such as having a senior member on staff available at all times. Don’t ever let it escalate to the point where a customer makes a public display and vows to never return. Instead, isolate the customer, speak softly and assure them any problem will be solved. Sometimes, all customers want is someone in some position of power to hear their complaints – they don’t particularly want a solution right now, as much as they want a sympathetic ear to hear their frustration. Be prepared to play therapist!

By taking these kinds of precautions, you can create a smooth transition from the normal year into the festive one.

Why your New Year’s resolutions should include taking business training courses

At the end of every year you hear the same story around the office and braai. Everybody feels like this has been the longest year, they’re ready for it to end and they know they said that last year but this year was a real kicker. And, this is likely the reason why the outdated tradition of creating New Year’s resolutions still exists. Everyone needs something to look forward to so setting goals, making promises to learn from mistakes and to just be better feels good.

A common resolution that many commit to is upping their game at work

By doing so they hope to nab that promotion they’ve been after or sign that massive client they’re chasing or even start their own business. However, the nitty gritty of actually achieving these types of goals can include some real leg work. And so the adage of “if you always do what you’ve always done you’ll always get what you’ve always got” rings true.

Whether you’re a business owner or an employee, making your mark in the business world requires effort

And, that means more than just turning up each day and ticking off a checklist of tasks. It means increasing your skillset to such an extent that some might find you an irreplaceable resource. In modern work environments those who are a jack of all trades are well positioned for success and while being a master of none sounds negative, it’s no longer the case. Your amazing degree won’t mean anything if you haven’t kept yourself updated in new developments within your industry. For instance, pretty much the entire business world has become digital in varying degrees and being able to understand digital business activities means you must be able to analyse numbers. Your BCom is not going to help you but having completed business analyst training courses just might.

Training courses are the first point of call if you want to nail it at work in the new year

If your focus for the new year is on your business or your career then one of your New Year’s resolutions should be to tackle some part-time training courses. The best part of business training courses is that they’re quick and they’re pragmatic in their approach. You won’t have to wade through text books and files on theory. Part-time business training courses are designed to assist the participants in finding solutions and tools that are easily implemented, applicable to real time scenarios and easy to understand.

If you’re a budding entrepreneur then small business training courses can be an incredible help

Anyone with the goal of opening their own company would do well to attend this type of course where they’re able to ascertain exactly what is needed to get started, what is needed to succeed and then to expand. What’s more, by continuing your education you’re giving yourself a competitive edge. In the startup game, knowledge is power and by having insights into marketing strategies, best practice social media plans, efficient accounting solutions and the like you’ll be one up on much of your competition. Entrepreneurs more than anyone else must do the necessary to become a jack of all trades so they have a handle on all aspects of their business.

Managers must find continued education options for their team if they themselves want to succeed

Anyone in a managerial position who’s looking to be considered for an executive position or wanting in on the profit share must consider that their performance is dictated by their team’s work ethic. As a manager you should spend some time at the beginning of the year pinpointing areas of weakness in your team. Then create a training programme of business training courses for them to undertake and present to the board for sign off. In this way, everyone is aware of your intentions for your team and your team members will feel invested in and valued. Ultimately, as a manager you can rest assured you’ve done your part to up productivity and ensure your position is strong and you’re worthy of being considered for promotion.

Completing a couple of business training courses is a great New Year’s resolution for just about anyone to have. They’re quick, simple, informative and look great on your CV. No one can afford to sit back with a lackadaisical attitude towards how they make their money.

Top marketing tips for 2017

Every business wants to stand out from others. If a company is noticed more easily, it can draw attention and therefore customers, leading to profits and success. Being the best is meaningless if no one knows about your business.

With today’s technology, standing out is both easier and harder. This is due to the wealth of tools available, letting more people engage in smart ways to raise brand awareness – but this also means stiffer competition.

No wonder some companies are considering such drastic steps as artificial intelligence (AI), to help manage their marketing. CMO investigated these very recent developments, especially since they stem from some of the biggest tech companies in the world:

“Recent months have seen technology providers such as Salesforce, Oracle and Microsoft bring new AI-based technologies to market, promising to derive insights and improve conversions by mimicking the processes of the human brain in software. Salesforce, for example, is rolling out its Einstein AI technology to provide functions such as product recommendations within the Commerce Cloud, email content recommendations within its Marketing Cloud, and predictive forecasting tools for sales managers with its Sales Cloud.”

This ties in to wider considerations of what marketing trends can teach the modern business, to help broaden their appeal and reach greater audiences. These are some top marketing tips for business in 2017.

Document everything

It’s important to focus on tracking buyers’ behaviour. This lets us see how they got to their eventual purchases, what tipped them and so on. Of course, that depends on them reaching our site in the first place. But, once they’re on, it’s important that we know their movements, using tracking software.

But documenting isn’t enough, we also need to interpret the data properly. One of the most important lessons taught in marketing courses is knowing how to interpret a user’s behaviour. With more data in our hands, we have more basis on which to make informed conclusions. This is also the very data that AI can help manage in future.

Think wider

The world has become more connected thanks to the Internet. This is why we can do marketing courses online, gaining insight from all over the world. Whether we’re studying marketing courses in Egypt or marketing courses in London, there’s a universality to these ideas that lends itself to wider thinking. But, far more interesting, is to glean insights about particular populations and their behaviour.

For example, what matters to the average Londoner or Egyptian citizen might differ when it comes to certain categories of interest, such as sports or entertainment. Payfort, for example, points out that most Egyptian shoppers are under 35 years of age and its female shoppers do most of the online purchasing. Last year, the Royal Mail Group researched how the average UK shopper operated:

“86% of non-grocery shopping budget is now spent online, up from 80% in 2014, and the average spend is increasing. Consumers spent an average of £287 per person online in the last three months vs £274 spent online in the same period in 2014.”

Given our move toward online sales, it’s important we do not limit our research to only a few locations – we should be looking wider, tapping into what unites and differentiates shoppers around the world.

Social media

Everyone by now realises the importance of using social media for business. Not only does it provide legitimacy, but it also allows us to engage with customers. Indeed, social media can lead directly to sales, since we can announce deals, answer questions and so on, all of which leads to customers making a purchase.

However, in 2017, marketing experts have suggested we expand further. As Forbes’ Jayson DeMers notes:

“People are also starting to demand social media as a conduit for more vicarious experiences. It’s no longer enough to post your sentiments about an event; you have to show your users what it’s like to be there. You can do this with things like live video, 360 images and recordings, and even just more real-time posting. The idea is to make your users feel like they’re a genuine part of the experience, as it’s unfolding.”

New technology

As we already noted, marketers have shown an interest in AI as a means to help them deal with enormous amount of data. Yet, it’s not only the future technology of AI that is being regarded within marketing. Augmented reality and virtual reality are in homes all over the world and the average consumer is able to engage with new forms of interaction.

Jay Shemenski examined what these new technologies could mean for brands:

“In all of these applications, VR, AR, and 360 are giving brands opportunities to create remarkable experiences that are pushing the boundaries of content as we know it. But it’s important to remember that novel tricks will not build and nurture audiences. Instead it’s the enhancement of stories and value these technologies enable that is so powerful.”

Of course, they can only enhance content that is already good – they cannot themselves conjure up quality on their own. These are merely platforms, but it remains dependent on marketers to use them in innovative, creative and positive ways.

In the end, the trends that matter for 2017 are concerns we’ve had throughout 2016. Now is the time to reflect on what we can do to enhance these goals, making our businesses stand out in the years to come.

 

What businesses must know about websites in 2017

The internet has changed the world dramatically in innumerable ways. People communicate instantly across the world, run businesses from their cellphones and make careers out of filming themselves for passionate fans. It’s changed how businesses market themselves, consider their products and interact with customers. Furthermore, everything has become faster. Businesses can face enormous PR disasters that dominate the news for days, before people move on to newer blunders. More than anything, businesses must know what it means to exist online. To that extent, businesses must know what it means to run a website. It’s both more complicated and less complicated than many might think, according to designers and website experts. Let’s examine what it means to have a website in the internet age.

Purpose

As with all projects, the first question any business leader must be able to answer concerns purpose: what will putting money, time and resources into this yield that’ll benefit the business? As Entrepreneur highlights, the point of a website is broaden the business’ reach.

“You should at the very least have a presence on the web so that customers, potential employees, business partners and perhaps even investors can quickly and easily find out more about your business and the products or services you have to offer.”

Naturally, people found and invested in businesses before the internet. But the point isn’t whether those interactions were possible, but rather how much the internet has changed the landscape. A business can, of course, opt to have no internet presence, but that only means being overshadowed by competitors who’ve chosen the broad, far-reaching and constant marketing an internet presence provides. If business leaders would opt for billboards to market their business, it makes no sense to refuse a platform that will reach more people and can provide more information, leading to higher chance of customer conversion.

Design

One of the most important aspects of a website is how well it’s designed. Summarising website research, Forbes’ Drew Hendricks noted visitors to a site will often point to bad design, not bad content, as a reason for being turned off a company.

“Design elements are exponentially more powerful than content, in terms of mistrust. When asked to describe why they mistrusted a website, 94 percent of comments were directly related to web design elements, while only 6 percent referenced specific content. While the study was directed towards health sites, it seems practical that the same basic principles would carry over to other industries.”

Ideally, a website should be simple enough for anyone to use, but complex enough to answer any question. It’s essential that our sites host a number of important features: search functions to help visitors navigate, contact details including email and phone numbers, Google Map locations and so on. Many businesses also recognise the importance of establishing themselves as thought leaders in the industry. As Risdall notes:

“Thought leaders … take content to the next level by serving as their industry spokespersons, taking a stand on issues or giving away a little of their intellectual property to establish their usefulness. Instead of just sharing content around products and services, thought leaders share expertise around the broader challenges they face in their industries.”

In terms of online content, this also provides individual business sites with original material, not merely static pages or adverts. This means it will “rank” better (i.e. land up as one of the earliest hits after a person uses a search engine) when people search for terms related to a business. As Skyword points out:

“If you aren’t constantly pinging search engines with new content, there’s nothing to entice the spiders to crawl your site and rank your webpages higher than those of your competitors. Publishing and updating content to your site frequently means that search engines will more readily find your pages, potentially resulting in higher rankings and increased viewership.”

Security

One of the most important aspects of using the internet is security. This is why it’s important to really consider who will be doing the business’ domain hosting. Naturally, there are a range of well known companies that offer domain hosting services – and even additional services, such as domain email hosting – but it is imperative to put security first. In terms of registering the domain, it’s also important that business leaders recognise the various laws and requirements involved, such as registering their name on a public database. Entrepreneur has a very useful guide for securing a domain name, which has proved helpful to countless people.

For example, they advise putting in geographical or keywords in the name. They also suggest focusing on obtaining a “.com” above everything else.

“When you register your domain name, you’ll be bombarded with offers to purchase other versions like .net and .co. For most small businesses, that’s not needed. Investing in other extensions becomes important when patenting something or protecting a trademark… If you think a competitor might want the .net version of your domain name, for example, consider taking it first.”

Using a website might differ slightly from other forms of marketing, but it is essential for the modern business. A business simply doesn’t really exist if they don’t have an online presence. And a website, which businesses themselves control, helps to establish their brand on the wild domain of the internet.  

Social media marketing benefits for your business

There was a time when social media was considered by some as a passing fad. Something that the kids were using that businesses couldn’t really benefit from. Over time, the skeptics were proved wrong. Popular social platforms have become marketing giants, offering businesses valuable data about their customers and a free way to reach them. Social media for businesses is no longer optional.

Businesses big and small are realising the huge benefits of social media marketing and its increasing importance in the race to stay relevant and attract new customers. Long gone are the days when your secretary was the first point of contact between the outside and your company – that role is being replaced by websites and social media profiles.

Here are a few benefits of social media marketing for your business.

Increased brand awareness

Social media is one of the most cost-efficient digital marketing methods used to syndicate content and increase your business’ visibility. Implementing a social media strategy will greatly increase your brand recognition since you’ll be engaging with a broad audience of customers. To get started, create social media profiles for your business and begin interacting with others. Get employees, business partners and sponsors to like and share your page. Simply having people interact with your content will increase brand awareness and begin building your reputation as a business. Each post that’s shared will be introduced to a new network of individuals. Which then can lead them to becoming potential customers, and the more people who know about your business, the better.

More inbound traffic

Without marketing your business on social media, your inbound traffic is limited to your usual customers. The people familiar with your brand are likely searching for the same keywords you already rank for. Without utilising social media as part of your marketing strategy, you’ll have much more difficulty reaching anyone outside of your loyal customer circle. Every social media profile you add to your marketing mix is a gateway to your website. Also, every bit of content you post is another opportunity to acquire a new customer. Social media is a melting pot of different types of people with varying backgrounds and behaviours. With different people come different needs and different ways of thinking.

Higher conversion rates

With increased visibility, your business gains more opportunities for conversion. Every blog post, image, video or comment may lead viewers to your company’s website and increase traffic. Social media marketing allows your business to give a positive impression through a humanisation factor. When brands are interactive by sharing content, commenting and posting statuses on social media, it personifies a brand. People prefer to do business with other people, rather than companies. People use social media platforms to stay connected to their friends, family and communities. Since people are already talking, why not throw your brand into the mix? More likely than not, they’ll mention your brand to a friend when your products or services are needed, overall providing your business with social proof of its quality.

Better customer satisfaction

Social media is a networking and communication platform. Creating a voice for your company through these platforms is important in humanising your company. Customers appreciate knowing that when they post comments on your pages, they’ll receive a personalised response rather than an automated message. Being able to acknowledge each comment shows that you’re attentive of your visitors’ needs and aims to provide the best experience. Every customer interaction on your business’s social media accounts is an opportunity to publicly demonstrate your compassion for your customers. Whether an individual has a question about mining equipment finance, social media allows you to address the matter using interpersonal dialogue. A brand devoted to customer satisfaction that takes the time to compose personal messages will inherently be viewed in a positive light, even if responding to a customer complaint.

Improved brand loyalty

One of the main goals of almost all businesses is developing a loyal customer base. Considering that customer satisfaction and brand loyalty typically go hand in hand. It important to regularly engage with consumers and begin developing a bond with them. Social media isn’t just limited to introducing your brand’s products and promotional campaigns. Customers see these platforms as a service channel where they can communicate directly with the business.

Thought leadership

Posting insightful and well-written content on your social media is a great way to become an expert and leader in your field. There’s one way to become a thought leader – it requires work that can be supported by online networking tools. To establish yourself as an expert, be sure to utilise social media platforms and build your presence. Be communicative, connect with your audience, share content and promote your authority. When your social media campaign is aligned with other marketing efforts, your skills will be highlighted and followers will look up to you.