Category Archives: Business

Getting the most out of business expos

With the current economy looking dubious at best, 2014 is set to be a year of innovative business thinking and creative challenge management. For small businesses to survive in this climate they have to be a part of the buzz, and at the forefront of industry innovation.

Staying ahead of the pack means any opportunity for networking should be grasped with both hands. This is where trade shows and business expos can make all the difference. These occasions offer opportunities to collaborate with other members of the industry, and connect with your market. With all the exciting trade shows coming up, Johannesburg and Cape Town conference centres will be the place to go if you want to be part of the buzz.

Making the best of your presence

Being part of an expo or trade show is only the beginning, and since it can cost a pretty penny to get there, you want to get the most out of your investment. The most important things to consider are the nature of a trade show, and what you want to get out of it. Is a particular expo targeting consumers, or is it an opportunity to make business connections? Know your strategy beforehand, and set yourself a goal. If high stall rental puts you off, speak to the organisers. Perhaps you can negotiate a lower fee by working at the event, or by helping out with promotions.

Once your goals are set, you need to prepare accordingly. Draw visitors to your stall by creating a good first impression, and having the goods to back it up. Your product or service should be evident at a glance and handy if possible. Make sure all your displays, banners and props are neat, and of the highest standard. Remember, you are part of your stall, so dress sharp, smile, and make potential clients believe in your brand.

You’ll have to step away from your stall at times to rejuvenate or meet other traders. Make sure there is someone covering your post at all times, but not just anyone. The person who stands in for you is a brand ambassador, so they have to know the product inside out. Also coach them in being hospitable, and representing your business in the same light as you would.

If your product or business has won awards, make sure they are on display at your stall. Print more than enough business cards and fliers to hand out, and give visitors incentive to keep them. Offer a discount to tradeshow goers for a week after the show. If they have to produce a particular card or flyer to prove they were there, you can ensure your contact details make it all the way to their homes.

Lay some groundwork

Send out a newsletter or bulk email to let existing customers know about your stall. Offering special tradeshow prices gives them incentive to stop by. Small business guru, Denise O’Berry recommends setting up a raffle two months in advance. It creates excitement around your brand, and you can pull a crowd by drawing the winner at the show. Get a local radio station to cover the draw and you’ll receive some free advertising.

Visiting a trade show can be exhausting, especially for the elderly, so having comfortable seating at your stall is another way to make visitors linger. Tell them about your product while they have a rest, and offer them a drink. Handing out cups of water, paper fans, or gift packs with your name on it ensures your logo will be visible throughout the venue. Have plenty printed in advance, and use it as bait for visitors.

Follow up

Have a plan in place for getting back to clients and industry members you met at the show. They might have lost your details, but make sure you have all of theirs. Ask visitors for their email addresses and collect business cards from other stalls. Get back to them right after the show; the sooner the better, so you’re still fresh in their minds. You might experience a rush in demand after the expo, so be ready with stock, or get someone to help handle quotes and phone calls. This is where you reap the benefits of investing in expos and tradeshows, so be ready to make it worth your while.

6 Top Tips for Planning a Business Event

Planning and hosting a business event can really reap you benefits if done right, from making connections to gaining publicity. The process that lies before you may seem daunting, especially if it’s your first time, but with a few tips you can end up enjoying yourself while pulling off a successful event that makes an impression.

Give yourself enough time

The single biggest stress inducer when planning an event is the worry that you’re running out of time to get everything organised. Give yourself enough time to get everything done that you want to. Remember that everything will take longer than you think. Six months, even a year, is not too much time to give yourself.

Choose a venue first

People often make the mistake of thinking that the first step is to select a date for their event. But after publicising the date, they might realise that an appropriate venue isn’t available. It’s far easier to first choose what venue you want, and then see what dates are available in the general timeframe you want the event to happen.

Know your purpose

There are many goals you can have for a business event or conference. From offering a platform for top tier energy industry executives to network at oil events, to gaining publicity for your new software product. Settle on what you really want to accomplish, and don’t lose sight of that by trying to make your event cater for everything.

Know why people are attending

On the other hand, it’s not all about you. Bear in mind what your target audience’s reasons for attending might be and try to accommodate that where you can. For instance, you might want to facilitate networking opportunities for them, as that is a popular reason to sign up for conferences and events.

It’s not all work and no play

Yes it’s a business event, but that doesn’t mean it needs to be dull. You still want your attendees to have a good time, because that generates more positive feedback and reflects well on your business. Consider providing some entertainment in the form of music, an MC who knows how to inject some humour into the occasion, or a meet-and-greet dinner.

Be true to your theme

Having a theme can be very useful. A theme will make branding your entire event much easier, giving you ideas for everything from the invitations to food. Having the right theme can also help you draw in attendees and target a niche market.

Use social media

To get word out about your event and boost attendance, it’s vital that you make use of social media channels. Don’t make all your posts or tweets about your brand or event details – the majority of what you put out there should be meaningful and engaging. Also, take note that the different social media platforms – Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook etc. – each have their own culture.

Even if you don’t think of yourself as a natural event planner, with these few tips, you can put together an event that will reflect well on you and your business. One final piece of advice, try not to stress too much about it. Enjoy yourself on the big day – you deserve to.

The Benefits of an Internship Programme

At times when your business is short on staff, you have two options available – you could incur the costs of advertising and recruiting for employees, or you could team up with a tertiary educational institution and take interns on board. The latter makes sense financially and operationally, and could benefit your business greatly.

You get more for less

An internship holds significant financial benefits.

First is that the set-up costs are nominal. You won’t spend much more than the money it takes to make a few phone calls to set up meetings. After this, there might be some expenditures involved, but it’s also very likely that the college or university will instead be interested in other mutually beneficial arrangements.

Then, second, is the fact that it’s not compulsory to spend money on salaries. It’s understood with students that pay is the exception and not the rule during internships. Do take note that offering remuneration, however small, will mean that your interns will be much happier and thus be more willing to put in extra effort.

Business will run better

Extra hands on deck at a time when you need them most will free up full-time employees, giving them more time to concentrate on important or creative tasks, or to simply take a breather now and again. This will not go unnoticed and you’ll reap the benefits for long after, because your staff will see that you care about them.

Consider as well that interns, fresh out of a business college, come to your business with up-to-date knowledge and skills. They’ll infuse your business with all of their cutting-edge know-how and will most likely have innovative ideas. This will give you a competitive edge in the marketplace.

Pay-offs now and in the future

Taking in interns is a great way of accessing the best talent the industry has to offer. What’s more, you can then shape those individuals and make them perfect fits for your company. Even if you’re not convinced that a candidate is right for your company at that moment in time, you still have a made a connection and you can use that connection in future to network.

Your internship programme will also polish your company’s image in the eyes of the public, because you’ll establish yourself as a business that cares about people and their futures. Even more so if your interns are from the community you operate in.

Keep in mind that your interns also have to benefit from the arrangement, so don’t do them the injustice of only tasking them with menial job functions. They want to learn and they want to make the most of the time they spend with you. So offer them valuable experience and they’re likely to not only return, but to also recommend you to others in the industry.

 

The strangest businesses

We’re so used to businesses because we all tend to have large assumptions about what people want and do. Businesses cater to needs and wants that people have: whether you need a computer fixed, papers researched, or a Mandarin translation of books, there are many businesses and individuals to cater to those needs. Yet, we would be naïve to think we know what every person wants or needs, just basing it on what we know or on things that are popular. Sometimes, strange businesses give us insight into the desires of other people – and therefore broadens our knowledge of other people – in important ways.

Virtual Dating Assistants

In recent years, the online dating world has taken off enormously. Initially, online dating was regarded as the domain of the desperate and the lonely, but increasingly the stigma is being erased. As online and “real” life are now recognised as the same thing, online dating is being used more frequently, by busy people and those who realise that the internet isn’t some magical, distant place. However, sometimes we are too busy or shy to try online dating despite wanting the results. That’s why there are such things as virtual dating assistants: These people are trained to learn about you, what kind of people you’d like to meet and make the connection without you going through frustrations. This service has proven successful to many clients and it’s a smart person who saw the gap in the market for this.

Ultra Cleaning Companies

What happens after a particularly messy event, say a scene after a film shoot that involves lots of liquids and stains; or perhaps a particularly expensive party involving lots of guests and food and wine. There exist professional cleaners who come in not just to tidy, but do a thorough job of removing and disposing everything in a hygienic way that can make any environment liveable again.

Celebrity Photo Broker

Celebrity culture is a strange beast that exists in cultures; famous musicians, performers, and so on, are regarded as god-like beings walking among mortals. Fans cry and lose their minds in their presence. Thus it should be of no surprise that there are magazines that are solely devoted to tracking the movements. However, they can’t be everywhere. Non-reporters also see celebrities and snap photos. Recognising that magazine and sites would want such photos, there exist services that can broker a deal between the non-reporters and the celebrity inquirer.

Cardboard box resellers

Almost everyone has cardboard boxes lying around, but no longer use them; companies are always needing cardboard boxes but don’t want to keep spending enormous sums on them. Thus, seeing the gap, BoxCycle allows for selling and buying of cardboard boxes. By listing the area you’re selling, it makes it easier for suppliers to pick up the boxes – after assessing a range of options for pick up. Everyone benefits and it also is a nice bump to the environment since less boxes are being requested to be made.

All these are slightly unusual but once you acknowledge what they’re catering, you can see why they make sense – and are actually rather smart.

 

Tips for presenting your business

The saying that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover has never been an easy one to apply in real life. We make snap judgements based on first impressions of people, places and products. This is especially true when we walk into a business or shop.

Having the right first impression can make all the difference when converting visitors to your business into paying customers. Here are a few ideas to consider when designing your shop and presenting your business:

Think logically about signage and windows

Your signage should be appropriate to your product and convey an image your target market can relate to. In the same sense, make sure your window displays are inviting, and a good representation of the newest products in store. Be mindful not to clutter up your windows, and change them often to keep things fresh.

Your brand image should be clear and consistent throughout your shop, so keep your identity in mind every time you change promotional displays.

Provide enough “white” space

Finding a middle ground between too much and too little stock in your shop is tricky. You don’t want cluttered shelves and display cases that make it difficult for your client to find what they are looking for. If your shop is too empty and minimalistic, you run the risk of your client assuming that you won’t have what they want.

The best layout for your shop is one where clients can move freely and see your selection clearly. It is important to showcase your whole range of options, but you can always store access stock in a back room to avoid cluttering up your shopfront.

Keep your shop presentable

A low standard of cleanliness creates an assumption that you apply the same low standards to product quality. Visiting your shop has to be a pleasant experience for your client, so keep all the floors and counters as clean as possible. Most importantly, your product should always be in a presentable state, and fully functional when demonstrated to a client.

Your shop’s outside is as important as its inside, so make your on street appearance a priority. Wash the windows often, and tend to any plants or ground cover you have at the entrance regularly.

There is nothing worse than peeling paint when it comes to portraying a sleek image, so invest in proper maintenance for your building. You can make this easier on yourself by installing windows and doorframes that are weather resistant and easy to clean. The environment around your shop has to be taken into account. Consider aluminum cladding in South Africa; since the climate can be quite harsh, protective barriers over doors and walls prolongs the lifespan of finishes and is easy to keep clean.

The personal touch

Every time a person walks into your shop, they will either feel welcomed or unwanted. The attitude with which you greet potential customers can mean all the difference when closing or losing a sale. Be friendly and helpful, but not overbearing. Dress appropriately to your brand so your client can relate, and be mindful of personal grooming.

You are an ambassador for your brand and your shop is the vessel, so make sure your business is not hindered by creating the wrong impression.