CEO Confidential

5 Difficulties Small Businesses Faced in 2017

As businesses around the world begin to wind down for Christmas and usher in 2018, it is important to learn lessons from the previous year. Professional business consultants, Sage South Africa, completed a survey with a number of small businesses and entrepreneurs to discover the biggest issues owners and leaders faced in 2017.

We have compiled the results of this review and given advice for how you can not only avoid these issues next year, but how you can begin setting up your company to tackle new challenges and unexpected issues, as they arise.

1. Building a strong customer base

One of the best ways to instil confidence in potential customers is to get endorsements from premium clients – known businesses and enterprises whose name and logo are synonymous with success and quality. Yet, one of the main challenges for businesses in 2017 was finding and winning these clients.

Focus on promoting marketing material, ensure a strong SEO strategy so customers can find you using search engines, and make sure your website is attractive, mobile-friendly, and intuitive to navigate. Once you win your first business client, get their permission to use their logo and testimony on your site, social media and marketing material, so other customers will associate success and quality with your business services.

2. Choosing the right marketing strategy

Other than the look and feel of your store and website, businesses need to understand who their key customer is and how best to market to them. Normally, this takes time and money to research; something many new startups cannot afford to commit to with earnest.

Instead, understand who your key competitors are and take a look at how they are advertising their services. How are they marketing material on social media? Do they advertise on search engines, billboards or magazines? Do they write a blog or give interviews? Once you understand how they are engaging with their customers, start doing the same – after all, their customers are also your customers.

3. Collecting and managing customer data

The more a business knows about their customers, the better they can cater for their needs and wants. In fact, despite the success of social media as a marketing tool, the most effective means of building a loyal and repeat customer base is by collecting customer’s contact information and marketing to them via email.

Use an automated marketing service so you can include an easy-to-use, non-invasive option to sign up to your mailing list on your website, or place sign-up sheets around your brick-and-mortar store that are visible and offer purchase incentives.

4. Running a business while dealing with admin

Admin is, and will always be, a thorn in the side of any business leader, who simply wants to get back to developing their business and making it successful.

Fortunately, technology is changing quickly, and the capabilities of the latest emerging apps and software are helping business leaders automate those pesky, repetitive tasks that normally take up so much of the working day.

From an all-in-one sales and marketing solution which allows small businesses to monitor campaigns and business data, to integrated customer relationship management (CRM) programs which help businesses manage multiple social media accounts, email and provide consistent and fast responses to customer queries, there is a whole range of software which can speed up and organize admin.

5. Staying informed

Of course, changing technology also raises another issue for business leaders, which is how they are supposed to stay updated and aware of the useful apps, and how to sort them from the less useful ones.

Having already established that most business leaders don’t have much time, the best way to stay up-to-date of the latest best practices and technology trends is to delegate to your teams. Assign team members different areas of expertise for them to read about in their spare time. The internet is full of useful and relevant information for businesses of all industries, so take advantage of this free resource, and gather often to share anything of interest.

Sole traders might not have the advantage of being able to delegate to team members, but they can hire virtual assistants to help them when the workload starts to overwhelm them. From organising and completing admin, to providing monthly reports on relevant industry tips and tools, virtual assistants are an affordable short or long-term solution for businesses that could do with an extra pair of hands.


As you begin a new year in 2018, it will no doubt throw new surprises your way to which your business will need to adapt. However, by implementing these practices and using relevant smart technology to automate repetitive tasks, you can free yourself up to focus on growing your business and securing your customer base.

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Jessica Todd Swift
Jessica Todd Swift is the deputy managing editor of the CEOWORLD magazine. She is a veteran business and tech blogger, journalist, and analyst. Jessica is responsible for overseeing newsroom assignments and publishing and providing support to the editor in chief.
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