Holistic Marketing and Small Business

Holistic Marketing and Small Business

Holistic Marketing and Small Business

As Aristotle spread, “the whole is more than the sum of that part.” This ancient philosophy has recently become more accepted in marketing. According to this concept, a business is not a combination of several departments that must function separately. Rather, all departments need to work towards the same goal, and marketing needs to be integrated into all departments. This concept sees marketing as a very important factor that every member of the business needs to participate in. The end goal in most cases remains the same: Higher customer acquisition with a great customer experience along with a positive brand image.

Before we go any further, let us first understand the different principles of holistic marketing:

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Relationship Marketing

The strategy is to get acquainted with customers, employees, partners and competitors. Creating a Customer Persona is one strategy as we shared earlier. Many businesses are moving from a purely transactional approach to an emotion-based approach, from pure product communication to experiential selling.

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Integrated Marketing

This involves a unified message that a business sends to its customers involving product, pricing, placement, promotion and communication.

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Internal Marketing

Internal marketing is turning an employee into a brand ambassador. This is a cross-departmental marketing form consistency, where each department speaks the same language for its customers. The common goals remain the same as those mentioned at the beginning.

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Societal Marketing

Also known as socially responsible marketing, this aims to attract customers who want to make a difference with their purchases. Customers are also getting attached to products or services where part of the proceeds goes to a noble cause or/and are promoting sustainability.

Holistic marketing comes naturally to Small and Medium Businesses thanks to a flatter structure, faster decision making, a participatory interdisciplinary approach, closer interaction with customers, and multitasking in a smaller business. Another very important factor for SMBs is tighter budgets as compared to bigger brands. This compels them to develop a comprehensive marketing strategy that can provide desired results without burning a hole in the pocket. Hence, rather than focusing on just one aspect of marketing their business such as social media campaigns, small businesses improve the customer experience, rethink pricing strategies, and connect them to current causes.

Data Analytics

Why is Data Analytics Important?

What gets measured, gets managed." -Peter Drucker

This quote by the late management guru, Peter Drucker, represents why most companies invest in data analytics. How can you manage or optimize your business initiatives if you are not measuring their outcomes? Just because you measure something does not guarantee that you will manage it, however, measurement is the starting point.

What is Data Analytics?

Data analytics is the science of analyzing raw data to draw key insights, draw valuable conclusions and take action to increase business efficiency. Techniques of data or business analytics can reveal trends and metrics that would otherwise be lost in the mass of information. This information is used to optimize processes and increase efficiency of a business or system. That sums up why data analytics is important.

Data Analytics Types

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Data analytics is broken down into four basic types.

  • Descriptive analytics describes what has happened over a given period. Have the number of views gone up? Are sales stronger this month than the last?
  • Diagnostic analytics focuses more on why something happened. This involves more diverse data inputs and a bit of hypothesizing. Did the weather affect beer sales? Did that latest marketing campaign impact sales?
4 Types Of Data Analytics

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  • Predictive analytics moves to what is likely going to happen. What happened to sales the last time we had a hot summer? How many weather models predict a hot summer this year?
  • Prescriptive analytics suggests a course of action. If the likelihood of a hot summer is measured as an average of these five weather models is above 58%, we should add an evening shift to the brewery and rent an additional tank to increase output.

Business Context

So data analytics is important because it helps businesses optimize their performance. Adopting analytics into a business means better business decisions and better understanding of market trends. This means better products or services made available more efficiently & cost effectively.

Importance Of Data Analytics

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Analytics is a powerful tool in today’s marketplace. Industries and organizations are generating vast amounts of information which has heightened the need to interpret and analyze that information to gain competitive advantage in the market. According to a recent study by MicroStrategy, companies worldwide are using data to:

  • Boost process and cost efficiency (60%)
  • Drive strategy and change (57%)
  • Monitor and improve financial performance (52%)

Research also shows that, over the next three years and beyond, 71% of global enterprises predict their investments in analytics will accelerate.

These statistics further ascertain why analytics is important for organizations of all sizes. Another way to look at it is to evaluate what it would be like to NOT have information on your business. The following quote by Arthur C. Nielsen, the founder of ACNielsen, highlights that any investment made in Business Intelligence & Data Analytics will be less than the price you’ll pay if you don’t know how your business is performing. Consider the missed revenue opportunities and potential cost savings you would be giving up.

The price of light is less than the cost of darkness." -Arthur C. Nielsen

References:

American Rescue Plan for Small Business

American Rescue Plan for Small Business

President Joe Biden signed the American Rescue Plan Act into a law on March 11th, 2021. Officials of the administration and leaders of various associations have claimed that the $ 1.9 trillion plan should be transformational. The key will be to fully utilize all provisions of the American Rescue Plan for Small Business.

I had the opportunity to attend a White House Briefing organized by Small Business For America’s Future, Business Forward & other partner organizations. The briefing included a conversation with Bharat Ramamurti, Deputy Director of the National Economic Council. The conversation focused on American Rescue Plan for Small Business. One highlight was that spreading the information was most essential for the success of this law.

I have tried to put together all relevant information and benefits of the American Rescue Plan for Small Businesses & Startups. Let us start with some highlights:

American Rescue Plan Highlights

Paycheck Protection Program (PPP)

UPDATE: PPP LOAN DEADLINE EXTENDED TILL MAY 31 2021.

Paycheck Protection Program commonly known as PPP is a loan offered by the Federal Government. Purpose of this loan is to incentivize small businesses to continue paying wages to their staff. The scheme comes with a high possibility of loan forgiveness if the funds are utilized as desired.

PPP loans were originally being offered till March 31st, but both the House & Senate have passed the PPP extension act. This has also been signed by the President pushing the deadline to May 31st.

The American Rescue Act opens PPP to more underserved business with the following changes.

  • Revised funding formula for sole proprietors, independent contractors, and self-employed individuals.
  • Allowing small business owners with prior non-fraud felony convictions to access PPP.
  • Allowing small business owners with student loan delinquency to access PPP.
  • Allowing the use of Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) by  non-citizen small business owners who are lawful U.S. residents to access PPP.

Resources

Economic Injury Disaster Loan

This is a low interest loan designed to help businesses take care of their running expenses and other fixed liabilities. This is targeted at businesses who have suffered severe loss of revenue because of the pandemic.

All small businesses including qualifying agricultural businesses (less than 500 employees) and nonprofit organizations in the United States are eligible for this loan. Following are some highlights.

  • Loan amount
    • 24 months of expenses or maximum of $500k for loans starting April 6th, 2021
    • Provision for loan increase in case for prior approved cases
  • Terms
    • Maximum term of 30 years
    • 75% APR for Businesses & 2.75% APR for Nonprofits
    • No pre-payment penalty
  • Funds can be used for
    • Working capital
    • Operating expenses like heath care, rent, utilities, servicing debt etc.
  • Collateral is required for loans above $25000
  • The loan is NOT forgivable

Shuttered Venue Operators Grant

This is a grant, not a loan, designed to rescue venue operators that were in operation as of February 29th, 2020. The grant can be equal to 45% of gross revenue up to a maximum of $10 million. You must be one of the following to be eligible for this grant:

  • Live venue operators or promoters
  • Theatrical producers
  • Live performing arts organization operators
  • Specific museum, zoo, or aquarium operators
  • Motion picture theater operators
  • Talent representatives
  • A Business entity owned by one of the above

These funds can be used as working capital, running payroll and to take care of fixed expenses including marketing expenses.

IMPORTANT: Venue operators who have availed PPP will have this grant reduced by the loan amount.

Resource

SBA Debt Relief

SBA is authorized to pay six months of principal, interest, and any associated fees that borrowers owe for all 7(a), 504, and Microloans reported in regular servicing status (excluding Paycheck Protection Program loans). This debt relief to borrowers was originally dependent on the loan being fully disbursed prior to September 27, 2020 and does not apply to loans made under the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program.

Refer the official website for more details: https://www.sba.gov/funding-programs/loans/covid-19-relief-options/sba-debt-relief

Resource

Restaurant Revitalization Fund

This will be offered as a direct grant to restaurants and other qualifying food businesses. More information is awaited and expected within the next 7-10 days. The administration is hopeful to start accepting applications within the month of April 2021.

Community Navigator Pilot Program

This program is designed for SBA to engage with states, local governments, SBA resource partners, and other organizations in targeted outreach for small businesses underserved communities.

SBA is implementing this initiative by building upon its extensive network of resource partners across the country. To ensure the Community Navigator Pilot Program reaches communities across the country in the coming months, SBA will soon be announcing a new grant funding opportunity that will be open to proposals from SBA resource partners, states, tribes, units of local governments, and other nonprofit organizations.

Resource

References

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Data Analytics And Society

It is high time we started thinking of Data Analytics and Society as two inseparable components of our ecosystem. In the 21st century technology and data analytics with tools like artificial Intelligence, machine learning & deep learning have great potential to impact society positively. Today we have the largest amount of data ever available to us. We also have tremendous capacity to capture, analyze and utilize data and create products & services that solve society issues.

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Collecting strong data sets on a social, health or environmental issue allows academics and researchers to understand the severity and impact of any issue. Then Academics, businesses, NGO’s, and governments can mobilize their leadership & innovative skills to tackle problems identified using data.

Data Science & Analytics has many many buzzwords like “AI”, “Deep learning” and “Big data”. It is a growing field with a lot of potential but it is also important to ask questions like why need for machine learning? What do we use big data for and why? How can we benefit from the technology and help the rest of the world and society?

Volunteer Work

Data Analytics contributes greatly to society through volunteer work with a socially oriented data science program/ organization. Some socially oriented data science fellowships, typically in conjunction with nonprofits and local governments, are available. These platforms offer a closer insight into the myriad of problems that may be addressed through the application of data and analytic tools. There are few data-science organizations that are solely focused on social good and offer numerous opportunities for volunteering. This can be through mentoring or using your data science skills to help solve a social problem in one of their projects.

We can use our analytics skills and contribute through competition platforms. Platforms such as Kaggle hosts competitions intended to solve problems with social & real world impact. Resourceful data scientists and analysts can identify & solve social problems on their own, with the data available to them. For instance, a great resource for data is the GapMinder Foundation which provides statistics to understand global trends and issues.

Governments & Global Organizations

Data Analytics in the form of Big Data is also being used to help improve the world we live in. Urban planning with systems like utilities, energy, housing, transportation, and infrastructure is one such key. Many cities are using big data to convert their municipalities into smart cities and in solving issues related to parking, pollution, and energy consumption.

Big data is playing a key role in protecting the environment. Big data offers alternative solutions to deforestation so that we can lower our carbon footprint. Similarly, it also offers the opportunity to protect endangered species and mitigate poaching.

In Public Health, big data allows scientists with increased ability to predict patterns in diseases and mutations. They are now coming up with algorithms that can help predict infections based on data — hours before physical symptoms appear.

For organizations like UNICEF, big data is key to their success. They can deliver immunization, healthcare, and water to some of the world’s poorest populations by analyzing big data.

There are so many opportunities to use data analytics for society and make a meaningful impact. Data science & analytics work is getting visibility in organizations that are oriented towards serving the public good. Governments, SMEs, NGOs, and other Social bodies are beginning to recognize the importance of analytics, particularly its data driven insights, predictive capability, and evidence-based recommendations. In the 21st century data analytics and society can and should come together to realize unprecedented potential in tackling pressing issues in less privileged environments.

References

challenge

5 Small Business Challenges That (Truly) Matter

When I started working on the concept of Vision Fulfill Digital Consulting, one the first obvious questions I wanted answer was “What problem will I solve for my clients?” Like in most cases these days, my quest to find answers started with a Google search. Search results came back with a bunch of blogs listing various small business challenges & problems.

Some articles were remarkably interesting & informative reads. But most were written with the goal of projecting what the writer or publishing platform had to offer to small businesses. Almost none of them were written from a small business owner’s point of view.

I have tried to put together a list of 5 challenges that truly matter to a small business and what a small business owner can overcome effectively. After all, we should only focus on what we can control and take everything else in our stride!

Cash Flow

Maintaining a positive cash flow is the biggest ask for a small business owner. It is also the most important factor that makes a difference between success and failure for small businesses. A big number of businesses shut shop not because they are making losses but because they do not have cash to pay their bills.

Never take your eyes off the cash flow because it’s the lifeblood of business." —Sir Richard Branson

The simplest definition of cash flow is “The difference between money coming in and money going out in any accounting period.” I prefer a 30-day accounting period so I can track cash flow monthly.

Overcome this challenge

  • When starting a business, have enough cash to cover first 6 months of your expenses.
  • Maintain a positive Operating Cash Flow (OCF) – OCF is the cash generated by a business through regular business activity without any external financing. A positive operating cash flow mean that the business is self-sustaining and is an ideal situation for any business.
  • Stack away spare cash equal to 3-6 months of your expenses and call it Contingency Cash Flow. There cannot be a more relevant time to talk about and prepare for contingencies.
  • For businesses dealing in good, nothing eats into your positive OCF faster than an inefficient supply chain or high levels of inventory. Invest in Supply Chain Management tools & teams.
  • Try not to get ahead of yourself when facing a growth opportunity. Consider your cash flow before overcommitting.

Customers Acquisition & Retention

Small business owners have limited time with modest budgets and fewer resources at their disposal. They can end up neglecting customer acquisition & retention without foreseeing that it can be the start of the end.

Overcome this challenge

Acquiring New Customers

  • You cannot cater to everyone with limited time, budget & resources. Develop crisp & clearly defined Buyer Personas and strive to serve them the best.
  • Never loose view of the problem that you solve for your customer. Always keep stick to that solution in your communication & messaging.
  • Commit 50% of your time towards fuelling your sales funnel with new leads. Remember only a handful of them will convert into real business. But you need them all at the top to acquire a handful.

Retaining Existing Customers

  • Quality is your best relationship manager and there is no replacement to it. Strive for 100% customer satisfaction.
  • Your customer is your best advocate so listen more than you speak through your communication & messaging.
  • Always treat your customers with Compassion. It will never go unnoticed or unrewarded.

In a nutshell, always Delight your customer by giving more than he expects through your quality, service levels, messaging & communication.

Well done is better than well said." —Benjamin Franklin

Innovation is also important. You may not have the bandwidth to invest in research & development. But continue to innovate your value proposition, service & quality for your customers.

Hiring Talent

Building a capable & dedicated team is a major challenge for small business owners.

The challenge is to first identify candidates who are not only capable & dedicated but also as compassionate and flexible as you because of the demands of a small business. The next challenge is to convince them to take the risk of joining a small business and then retaining them with the company.

Overcome this challenge

When Hiring

Build a core team for which you should:

  • Look for capabilities & virtues beyond the degrees, certificates & resumes.
  • See how the candidate can positively impact your business. Hire someone with the biggest potential impact.
  • Ensure that the candidate’s persona is in sync with the values of your business.
  • Do not be afraid to hire multiple times for a single position in your core team. Keep going till you find the perfect fit.

Retain & Nurture Your Core Team

  • Once you have a core team, nurture it to let it grow.
  • Be a Leader and not a boss – do not threaten or be threatened, instead give them guidance, freedom, authority & sometimes a chance to learn from their own mistakes.
  • Just like a happy customer, your core team can be your best advocate & mouthpiece when you need to grow your team.

Brand Building

As operations take over Brand Building, just like business development, can take a back seat because of limited resources & budgets. But that can throw a business into an ever-growing cycle of obsolescence.

Overcome this challenge

  • Nothing builds a brand better than Satisfied Customers & Fulfilled Employees so you should be on the correct path if those are addressed effectively.
  • Mean what you say and say the same thing every time – honesty & consistency in messaging & communication can contribute amazingly towards building a robust brand.
  • Contribute as a brand towards your industry or society in general. It does not have to pinch the pocket; you can contribute your time or a skill or your intellect.

It comes down to how your customer experiences the brand – and how that brand makes a person feel." —Alex Allwood, CEO of The Holla Agency

Scaling

This is a happy challenge to have but a double-edged sword. It is common for businesses of all sizes to fail during a growth cycle. But small businesses have limited resources to fall back on and are more prone to this syndrome.

Overcome this challenge

  • Do not overcommit or get a head of yourself – choose your opportunities wisely. Nothing sucks like letting go of a juicy opportunity, but overcommitting will not get you anywhere. Always weigh an opportunity with following in the backdrop.
    • Cash Flow – Make sure you have enough cash to cover any increased expenses during the growth phase.
    • Supply Chain – Make sure your supply chain is capable of handling increased demands.
    • Exit Cost – Make sure you can bear what you will lose if it fails in the worst case.
  • Quality – Always ensure that your quality levels are not compromised because of a growth spurt. Quality should always supersede growth. Poor quality will not get you new customers and you may let go of existing ones.
  • Customer Service – Growth should not come at the cost of customer satisfaction. A dissatisfied customer is too high a cost for any opportunity.

Government regulations, taxations, healthcare are some common small business challenges but do not find a place on my list. That is because:

  • They are either beyond your control and so worth little active effort.
  • All you must do is to remain on the correct side of law.
  • It is best left to the experts.

So, my approach is to engage a capable service partner who can align with your values and take care of all legal requirements while you focus on the actual job at hand.

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