3 Cost-Effective Strategies for a Modern Online Business

StrategyDriven Strategic Planning Article |Online Business|3 Cost-Effective Strategies for a Modern Online BusinessImplementing a strategy-driven paradigm for any business has never been more important as more and more businesses come to rely on online interfaces with an up-to-date IT infrastructure. Embracing and utilizing new and emerging technologies is always a viable and trusted method of engaging with the public and taking your business into an optimal configuration that both clients and employees alike will expect.

For most companies, however, managing and maintaining the vast infrastructure of a modern IT-based business is a perplexing challenge, expensive and in most cases not even possible when such things as qualified technicians, complex integrations, and the cost of equipment are considered. For these reasons and more, it might be time to think about employing the services of such providers as:

  • Managed IT services
  • Live chat systems
  • Call center operators

Managed IT services can be a godsend when it comes to the installation, maintenance, and monitoring of your computer and network systems while live chat can bring your website firmly into the 21st century while call centers offer an inexpensive method of dealing with call volume.

Managed IT Services

Simply in response to the growing reliability of most businesses on computer and network systems, managed IT services have become an almost essential and integral part of a modern business. Companies such as BlackPoint IT Services are able to provide complex IT infrastructure and maintenance services that cover such things as network configuration, PC setup, license management, hardware as a service, and cybersecurity.

As useful as all managed IT services are, the last two mentioned, HaaS and cybersecurity are the most important in the modern business world. Hardware such as PCs that are required for any office as well as printers and specialized hardware are all very expensive and can be a major cost for a business. Cybersecurity is highly relevant right now with many smaller businesses being targeted by malicious hackers in order to steal company and personal data that is then sold on the dark web. In 2017 in the UK alone, 46% of small businesses reported a cyberattack of some kind.

Live Chat Systems

One of the most expected services on any modern website is now the option of a live chat interface between your company and a client. While around 50% of people still prefer to use the telephone system, the other half opt to choose a website interface using their PC or smartphone for communication through channels such as live chat, email, or ticketing.

Live chat comes in various forms that offer something for almost everyone so that they can have an issue resolved.

Proactive live chat provides audiovisual cues for a user to click and can be operated through either a human or AI interface and reactive chat waits for a user to engage manually. While they both offer advantages depending on the nature of your business, most users expect an AI to human proactive engagement and these can be easily integrated using third-party software.

Call Center Operators

Still a primary and effective public communications branch of any business, a call center offers customers a tried and tested method of raising queries with the correct department. While many people will choose to communicate via online channels, there are cases where calling is necessary and many of the older generations have been shown to prefer traditional telephone communications.

Employing your own full-time call center would be an enormous expense, not least for the installation and maintenance of a complex PSTN system that is soon to be outdated, but the wages for staff alone would be astronomical. There are however outsourcing companies that provide call center services for a relatively small fee, providing only the services you need such as the correct number of staffing, forwarding services, and even receptionists.

How to strategically plan for your business’s future

StrategyDriven Strategic Planning Article |Strategic Plan|How to strategically plan for your business’s futureBusiness planning can save time and money in the long run. Refresh your fundamental values, key growth areas and sectors you want to target. Sharing your business plan with your employees can help to direct and motivate them as well.

A business plan should be a flexible and dynamic template that changes with the industry. Say goodbye to your static method, and hello to a continuous business planning cycle. Here are a few tips on how to create a strategic business plan for your future.

Keep it simple!

Employees and investors are unlikely to read your business plan if it’s long-winded and tedious. Keep it simple with a one-page document that is easily digestible and accessible. Use a list format to present your marketing aims, mission statement, objectives, strategies and action plan.

Update and change it

You should refresh and check in with your business plan every few months or so. Remind yourself of your goals and identify which direction you want to go in.

Potential investors will want to read your business plan to see how you would use the money and allocate resources. A business plan is not just for investors – it should forecast the lifespan of your business.

Consider taking out a small business loan to prepare for future expansion, equipment, refurbishments and any unexpected expenses. Preparation is essential.

Go digital

Two-thirds of managers reported an increase in productivity from their remote workers. Video conferences are great for having a personal face-to-face meeting without the added travel cost. Digital communication is an innovative industry that businesses need to invest in!

Going green is becoming more important

Consumers are starting to notice green companies and want to purchase products that have environmentalism at heart. More than 70% of consumers are willing to pay at least 5% more for sustainable products. Don’t get left behind – invest in green products now.

Furthermore, renewable energy is becoming more affordable and can save you high costs later down the line.

Think about automation where possible

Automation processes can drastically increase the productivity of your workforce. Automate mundane tasks that distract your workers from the more important, urgent work at hand. Many industries are using automation services to store email templates and perform tedious customer service responses.

Take the time to identify which processes need to be automated before launching into a new automation strategy—research how your competitors use automation to improve workflow and develop a strategic approach.

8 Things Every Small Business Needs To Consider When Expanding

StrategyDriven Strategic Planning Article |Small Business|8 Things Every Small Business Needs To Consider When ExpandingExpanding your business can be a daunting time as a small business owner or entrepreneur but at the same time, it can also be very exciting. The fact that you’re even considering some form of business expansion must mean business is going well, and that you’re doing something right. However, there are many things to consider when taking your small business to the next level, especially if you don’t have any prior experience with business expansion. Luckily, it’s far from impossible and today we’ve put together a guide on things that every small business owner needs to consider before expanding.

Affordability

One of the first things you have to consider is how much expanding nationally and internationally will cost your company. It comes with a variety of costs to conduct your operations overseas, from commercial space to travel, customs, shipping, and production. These expenses range considerably across countries and international regions, as well as unique expenditures that apply only to international expansion.

You don’t want to face unforeseen cash flow problems, so it’s a good idea to build a list of all the expenses to ensure that they balance with the future income and profits you will earn. If expanding your business financially seems like a good idea, then with the right planning it might prove quite successful.

But if it appears that costs, including start-up costs, would take years to recover, it makes more sense to concentrate your resources on local expansion or diversify your products/services instead of entering the international market. Sometimes starting smaller and gradually working your way up proves to be a smarter financial option with business expansion.

Employment regulations and tax laws

When it comes to taxes and employment, various countries and regions have different regulations. For example, through OSHA, the US has stringent regulations on employee safety, while other nations may have relaxed laws regulating workers’ safety. And, it isn’t always that easy. For example, Mexico has a variety of different entities that control employee safety, each with its own laws that are often inconsistent.

You also need to think about other laws when it comes to health and welfare benefits. It is now more important than ever for employers of all sizes that sponsor group health and welfare benefits, to have a formal plan document (ERISA Section 402) and Summary Plan Description (“SPD”) (ERISA Section 102). To remain compliant, all employers must also issue various required notices to employees. For these health and welfare benefits, you will need valid Compliant Wrap Documents to ensure you’re abiding by the law.

You can not afford to disregard these legal rules, since they affect everything from the recruitment and selection of employees in each country to the proper filing of your tax returns. You will need to remember how your home country handles internationally earned money, as this could have a direct effect on earnings. When planning an expansion, minimise risk and look at these regulations earlier instead of later. The sooner the procedure regulations reach the decision, the better.

Brand consistency

If you’re expanding your business overseas, there’s a large chance that your brand is brand new and will have little or no recognition. Your brand consistency is important, but you also need to think about how your brand will appear in foreign languages. What might mean something great in your native language might not in another and therefore could directly affect sales of your product. Take the time to conduct thorough research on how your brand is going to appear internationally to those that might not have heard of your brand before.

This doesn’t, however, mean that you need to change your branding. It simply means that you may have to tweak the wording or names of your products to suit the new audience. You should continue to try and keep your branding as consistent as you would normally, as changing it could directly affect sales in other areas. Keeping your brand as recognisable as possible is imperative.

Marketing efforts

Clearly, your marketing efforts have been pretty good so far, especially if you’re planning on expanding your business. Much like with your brand consistency, you need to adapt the marketing strategies and messaging to match standards (and laws) in different countries while expanding internationally. Language is an obvious factor, but success can be greatly affected by the deeper sense of messaging across some cultures. There’s a rule in marketing: think internationally, behave locally, which translates into a single brand that adapts advertising to suit distinctive aspects of the culture. Also, hiring a local marketing company allows locals to put the brand in the best light.

StrategyDriven Strategic Planning Article |Small Business|8 Things Every Small Business Needs To Consider When ExpandingDon’t leave existing customers behind

It’s important not to forget the customers that have helped your business this far, and this is often forgotten by expanding businesses. If they now turn away from you, expanding might end up being an expensive catastrophe. While an expansion is a great time to make a fresh start with your business, don’t do so at the expense of the people that helped you get to where you are today.

It will always go down badly with some people if you implement some kind of change into your company. There is no such thing as the perfect plan, but to make your expansion a success, you can’t let this fear stop you from introducing the improvements you need. Strike a balance between your new market being pursued and your current one being preserved.

A great way of keeping your existing customers involved in your business expansion is by rewarding them for their loyalty. You could send a mass email out to your customers providing them with a small discount on their next purchase. Not only will it show that you’re thankful for their custom, but it will help drive more sales to your business. Noone can resist a discount!

What are your competitors doing?

No matter what kind of industry you’re in, you’ll always have competitors. Even if you’re not physically at war with them, the simple fact is that it’s your business against theirs. What are they doing right? Who are they targeting? What are their marketing efforts like? Have they expanded overseas? Is there anything you could use as inspiration for your expansion? There’s nothing wrong with keeping a close eye on your competitors to better your own business.

Business collaborations

Businesses collaborate to help expand their market and of course, make more profit. Therefore, if you’re trying to transition out of the small business category, collaborating with another business could really help boost your visibility, especially if you’re teaming up with an already-established international business. Approach businesses that you could see yourself working with, and make sure you have an idea or two in mind! For example, if you’re a smart home technology distributor, you could approach events organisers with the intent of letting them use your technology at their events. Be creative!

Preparation is key

Nothing bad has ever come from preparation for something, and the same goes for your business. Detailed research into the marketplace you are planning to enter should be involved in your preparation, along with product testing (if applicable) and marketing research.

Ultimately, the last thing you should be doing when it comes to expanding your business is rushing into things. Take the time to make sure it’s the right decision financially and lawfully and you’ll find that things begin to fall into place. After all, Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither will your business expansion.

Coming Up With an Alternative Business Model

StrategyDriven Strategic Planning Article |Alternative Business Model|Coming Up With an Alternative Business ModelRight now, a huge number of people are looking for new jobs. This is pretty understandable. At the end of the day, we’re in the midst of a worldwide pandemic, where coronavirus and Covid-19 are spreading at a rapid rate and we’re doing the utmost we can to slow its transmission. Governments around the world are requesting that people work from home, reducing their contact with others and minimising fatalities and the burden on healthcare services. This means that countless companies have collapsed, had to make redundancies, or are asking staff to work for a reduced rate or reduced hours. On top of this, many people have spent time away from their current job while the company gets back on its feet and have realised that the role and career path just isn’t for them. If you fall into either of these categories and are looking to pursue something new, the good news is that you can go ahead with it! Sure, it can feel daunting to start your own business in these difficult times where established companies are visibly struggling. But if you have the right idea and there’s demand for what you’re providing, you could actually experience profound success. There are businesses out there that are flourishing and profiting right now. If you are going to take this path, you are going to have to work to stand out from the crowd and consider an alternative business model though. Here are some suggestions that can help you to achieve this!

Consider What You’d Really Enjoy Doing

All too many people simply look where the money is when starting a business. But this isn’t all you should consider when choosing what you want to do and sell. Sure, it’s important to provide something that has demand. But you also need to make sure that your business is based around something that you’re genuinely interested and invested in. This will make each and every working day easier and will see you put more effort into the venture. Commitment and positivity are more likely to drive success.

Remember You Don’t Have to Do the Same as Everyone Else

You also need to remember that you don’t have to stick to the flow when it comes to setting up your own business. There are some business models that are more popular than others, but this doesn’t necessarily mean that they are better. For example, selling products often proves to be more common than selling services. But you could find that during times like these, where people are looking for support, setting up a coaching business and using services that can revamp your coaching business for the current times could prove pretty successful!

Make Things Easier for Yourself

You should also make things as easy as possible for yourself. Chances are you aren’t going to be committing to hiring full or part time staff straight away. These are unprecedented times and many business owners don’t want to commit to paying out salaries at the minute. But that doesn’t mean you have to bear the weight of every aspect of your business’ operations on your own shoulders. Remember you can outsource.

Running your own business right now is going to be a challenge. But it is possible! Hopefully, some of the steps outlined above will help you along the way!

Create A Business Strategy That Works

Having a business strategy is more important now than it ever was before. As a small business you might find yourself in hot waters at the minute due to the current economic climate, and the fact that many small businesses haven’t survived the pandemic. When the world shut down and nobody was trading, business profits obviously plummeted and a lot of small businesses that were already on the brink have had to cease trading. So if you’re here reading this as a trading business then you’ve already done far better than many small businesses before you. Unless you’ve found some way to have a huge cash injection from somewhere you will no doubt be feeling the pressure to perform at the minute, especially if you’ve got staff employed under your belt. So, we’re going to try and help you create a business strategy that we think works during these current turbulent times.

StrategyDriven Strategic Planning Article | Create A Business Strategy That WorksA Financial Plan

This is the most important one that you need to be thinking about. Your financial plan now will be far different to the one that it was at the start of the year. Our advice is to be a little more cutthroat with the cuts you make. It’s like with your personal spendings, you get used to the money you have to spend and it’s hard to change back from that. Business is no different, areas of your business are used to receiving a certain amount of money and it’s hard to change that. So one area we would suggest making cuts is with employees, if you need to. If times are really testing, you should consider joining the many businesses who have had to make their staff redundant. Although it’s such a hard thing to do, it’s the easiest way to save a lot of money for the year.

A Marketing Plan

The quickest way to get your business back on track is to sell sell sell, and the quickest way to do that is to get people thinking about your business again. One we think small businesses in particular seem to not focus on, is SEO. Everything is online at the minute and most people will Google your business, or keywords related to it, before they decide to work with you. But what if they can’t find you? Or what if competitors beat you in the search? That’s where SEO comes in. ECommerce SEO might be a little more expensive compared to some marketing methods, but it’s going to prove the most effective if you want to gain attention. So are simple marketing techniques such as billboard advertising. It’s the sort of in your face advertising that you need!

A Sales Plan

Finally, make sure that you have a solid sales plan. One idea might be to go through your directory of old clients or customers and get in touch with them. Just a courtesy phone call or email to see how they’re doing and to put your business back in their mind. You don’t have to push sales or make multiple calls, that’s when your business gains a bad reputation.