Implementing Technology Solutions on Your Own!

Competing in today’s business environment requires entrepreneurs to constantly keep up with technology in order to gather the necessary information to make the best business decisions. Integrating technology awareness into a business’s day-to-day agenda, will allow a company to flow more smoothly and efficiently.

Research has shown that companies can incorporate into their business a technology awareness strategy in four simple steps. Businesses can easily ensure that they have a competitive edge by following these four steps:
1.      Identifying their business needs
2.      Assessing the resources available to them
3.      Ranking the resources in order of usefulness
4.      Making the time to use the resource

Technology is an essential aspect of every business and “Do It Yourself (DIY) Web Technology” has recently become extremely popular with entrepreneurs in fulfilling their fundamental start-up needs. For example, Twitter’s new Bootstrap application offers entrepreneurs at any skill level an easy framework for web development. Bootstrap allows anyone to create a website on their own from start to finish, while minimizing the expenses that go with hiring a third party to carry out tasks that could easily be accomplished on one’s own!

Similarly, AfriDesign is an African company where business owners can monitor, track, and report their own business processes without the use of a third party. Similar to Twitter’s application, with AfriDesign business owners have the mobility and control over their own business operations, thus limiting costs. AfriDesign allows entrepreneurs to collect data more quickly and have information delivered to them in real-time anywhere and at anytime! This application is a great way to heighten tech awareness within a company as the business and its employees monitor all business processes themselves.

By identifying business needs and learning how to meet those needs on one’s own, companies can increase technology awareness and independence. Try integrating the technology awareness strategy to your business!

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Does Your Business Need a Social Media Makeover?

When was the last time your company updated its social media presence? If you’re not sure how to use social media to market your products and services, you aren’t alone. Many small businesses across all industries don’t have the budget that allows for extensive funding for marketing, leaving their social media presence to be minimal or even nonexistent. It’s okay! Since traditional marketing can be costly, social media marketing is extremely low-cost and can give you a direct line to current and prospective customers. Use this simple six-step guide to help you understand how marketing on a budget can work for you!

1.      Do your homework: Identify your target audience and specify your company message. What message are you exactly trying to address and how do you want your audience to react?
2.      Start small: Choose one or two social media platforms to start with and focus your energy on being consistent. Facebook and Twitter are a great place to start—they are both very easy to use almost everyone and every company has an account. You want to use platforms your readers are familiar with and you want to help your readers become familiar with your company so make sure you allocate enough time to providing them with necessary and sufficient information.
3.      Be cohesive in your efforts: Make sure all of the social media platforms that you choose to work with relay a similar message. Make sure that all social media outlets ultimately lead your audience to your company website.
4.      Stimulate conversation: Social media conversations are important. You want your audience to comment, ask questions and share information with others. This type of feedback and activity from readers allows the company to engage with both current and prospective customers. This also gives you the chance to turn any negative feedback into something positive.
5.      Get your days organized: Make sure you are updating all social media platforms daily. You should be commenting or adding content to Facebook every day and/or tweeting/retweeting 3-5 times per day.
6.      Get involved: Once you have established your presence online, join groups or communities and start following other companies. Initiate and participate in more conversations by asking questions and posting comments on other companies’ posts. This will help to target specific demographics. By doing this you are making your brand more personable and welcoming to new followers.

When using social media for your startup or small business, remember to start slow and take your time. In order to revamp and strengthen your company’s online marketing efforts, you don’t need a huge budget. All you need is time and focus in order to deliver your target audience the right information to ultimately lead them to your company’s website. Spinlet is an excellent example of an African company that started small, utilized social media to increase funding opportunities, and has now reached a global market. Follow the six steps outlined above and set your company up for success!

Read more about the different types of social media platforms your company might engage in here!

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Can You Crowdfund Offline Too?

Last month we introduced the idea of crowdfunding, whereby a startup or small business can collect funding through a number of online donations. Offline crowdfunding can be an excellent testing ground for those startup ventures or small businesses that need to refine their strategies before hitting the web. What’s the best way to do this? Well, in order to collect funding offline, your small business or startup needs to develop a presence in the local community. There are three ways to do this: print advertising, increasing offline incentives, and attending plenty of events and workshops.

Print Advertising
A very traditional method of marketing and fundraising is through print advertising.  Some companies choose to design and distribute business cards, flyers, pamphlets, and posters in order to raise awareness locally. These forms of print advertising should provide all relevant information about the company, including website URLs and any other online profiles the company may have so that locals can access the company if they are interested. If your business has a larger budget, you may consider advertising your business in the local newspaper, local radio station or even putting your business’ name on a billboard. This not only allows your businesses to essentially have an advertising campaign, but it allows you to build brand recognition offline.

Providing Offline Incentives
In order to spread your brand, your business should distribute “freebies,” such as free samples of your product or small gifts that advertise your company logo. These freebies don’t need to be too big or expensive. The idea here is to be creative and think small. Good examples of commonly distributed freebies are Frisbees, key chains, magnets, etc., which display your company logo. What’s neat about giving out free items at events or conferences is that every time a person uses an item with your company logo, whether it may be a pen or a mouse pad for their computer, they are reminded of your company.

Attending Events
You should also make sure to always be doing your research. Find out if there are any crowdfunding events or workshops in your local community and always try your best to attend them. This will allow you to network with other entrepreneurs and small (or medium/large) business owners and increase your number of contacts. Doing so will give you the opportunity to scope out how other companies are implementing their marketing strategies and gathering funding. This will also eventually help you when you do chose to move your crowdfunding efforts online.

Interested in strengthening your fundraising efforts before moving things to the web? Think small and locally! Start brainstorming how you might be able to start crowdfunding offline before hitting the Internet and utilizing all sorts of social media outlets!

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Do You Know How to Prioritize Your Technology Investments?

Starting your own business is not easy. No matter how large or small your company is, the increasing need for more technological investments probably exceeds the amount of available funding. In this case, it is important to then leverage any and all technological investments to bring the greatest value to your company. How does one do this? Here is a brief and easy step-by-step guide for entrepreneurs to start thinking about where to begin in prioritizing tech investments:

First, you need to focus on what exactly would benefit from new technology. For example, let’s say you want to focus on using technology to improve the production efficiency of your company by 60%. Okay? Now what?

Second, you should think about how improving production efficiency will positively impact the company as a whole. Will investing in technology lead you to have to make certain decisions such as reducing the size of the staff or inventory? How will increasing the production pace influence sales, customer service, or the entire brand?

Third, it is important to think about the return on investment (ROI) of any tech investment based on the impact to the customer. By improving production efficiency, the goods and services delivered to the customer would be improved and it is therefore important to always keep the customer in mind.

Fourth, it is crucial to make sure (after calculating the benefits to the customer and company) that focusing on improving production by 60% is not too ambitious or too small of a goal. It is important to consider at this point whether or not there are other areas in need of help from technological investment.

Last but not least, it is important to monitor the progress of the company’s production efficiency until the goal of 60% improvement is met.

If you’re looking to revamp your African startup, use this brief step-by-step guide to help you start thinking about how you might leverage tech investments to add the most value to your company! #businessadvice #businessideas #techinvestments

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Hackathons: Crowdsourcing Creative Ideas Aids Real World Problems

Could your next great idea come from a “hackathon”?  Hackathons are a very intense, face-to-face, and time limited form of collaborative problem solving that originated in the 1990s. These hackathons were traditionally designed to bring together computer programmers from around the world to create new software and tech solutions. Now however, companies such as Facebook frequently host hackathons to create new features such as the “like” button or “poke” feature. Hackathons have essentially become a creative way for companies or groups of entrepreneurs to pool or “crowdsource” ideas from large groups of creative minds.

Companies, organizations, and non-profits are now putting together hackathons to create innovative ideas and products, while also generating new ideas that might solve real-world problems. For example, British Airways recently hosted a hackathon 30,000 feet in the air as part of a new innovative initiative! British Airways flew 130 creative minds from San Francisco to London where they were asked to address the disconnect between talent and job opportunities relating to areas such as science technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Some of the potential solutions that were created are to be presented to the United Nations. To read more about British Airways’ Hackathon click here.

Similarly, in October 2013, a group of South African entrepreneurs launched the idea of a “Startup Bus”, where 30 chosen participants were part of a four-day hackathon on a bus!  The bus left from Zimbabwe and ended up in South Africa and during these four days, the participants broke off into teams and were expected to collaborate and come up with a new startup idea relating to Africa’s current economic state. The aim of the Startup Bus was to give participants some insight into some of Africa’s most challenging sectors, i.e. health, energy and mobile technology.

This type of creative crowdsourcing or idea generation is extremely useful for those interested in starting their own business, but may not necessarily know where to begin. They also provide an excellent foundation for motivated and innovative individuals to come together to collaborate and network in order to solve some of the world’s most pressing issues.

Check out the hackathons that are happening now!

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