What does it take to survive as an entrepreneur in 2024?
Tips for all businesses whether booming or busting
Samantha Hogg-Brandjes, CEO of GinjaNinja
Over the past 21 years of running GinjaNinja, an integrated communications agency, the one commonality I have noticed between many entrepreneurs is that they have not spent enough time nor money defining the business and its purpose.
As a country with a multitude of mavericks that plot their own unique and very independent way forward, structure and strategy is not often embraced. They have fantastic ideas, great solutions, or products but when it comes to taking these to market their approach differs a lot. Whether it’s planned on the back of a cigarette box or in the shower, this short-cut can be costly in the long run, and especially when going through a series of funding rounds.
At the heart of any business is its identity, who it is and why what it does is relevant. I have seen far too many businesses who have not spent the required time and money trying to launch and engage with target audiences without having put the work in to properly define its marketing and communications. The biggest misnomer is that most business owners think it is about what is relevant to them, but it is not. You need to communicate why your business is relevant to your prospective customer, it doesn’t matter what you think, rather, what it is that will resonate with the end user. How is your business helping them?
Over the years, I have only done a handful of strategies because customers either don’t have the budget or time for this to be completed. Often, it is both, so the rubber hits the road and in true South African style they push forward with a hope and a prayer. What is frustrating for us communicators are that these businesses are so often absolute delights, full of stories and personalities that would add immense value to their brand equity if harnessed correctly.
While the University of the Western Cape says that South Africa has a higher start-up failure rate than anywhere else in the world. Between 70% and 80% of local small businesses fail in the first five years. There is a myriad of reasons why this happens, but one reason that is often overlooked is that of an intelligent marketing and communications plan. For me, it is almost ludicrous to put so much spend into starting the company and yet when launching it and building sustainability, the spend on marketing and communications is often too small, and all too often, cut when cash flow issues hit the business.
"If I was down to my last dollar, I'd spend it on public relations."– Bill Gates, Microsoft Founder. A well-known quote but not always considered by local businesses. There are many examples of leading entrepreneurs that have learnt that the power of communications is often the silver bullet needed when business is both booming or battling.
In 2024, let’s consider the following for your business because it is never too late:
- Know intrinsically who your business is? What exactly is the offering based on your target customer?
- Do you know what you want to achieve with communications, or should a strategy be put in place?
- Have you developed a corporate identity? What is the personality of the business? The tone, image, values, and mission?
- Who is the face of this business and what should he/she/they say? What are your key messages, and do they link back to a strategy?
- Are you prepared for any negativity or a crisis? Things can, and do, go wrong. Do you have a team to help you and put a plan in place.
The best sales tactics in the world will fail if your potential customers don’t know that your business exists. Unless you make people aware of what value you bring to them, it will take a lot more work (and in some cases, luck) for customers to find you.
This is why communication is crucial – you need to spread the word!