Every new year brings with it an array of business challenges and opportunities. The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic has had devastating consequences for business owners across South Africa. 

As the country now enters another year of the pandemic, but with the green shoots of a recovery starting to appear, SMEs can take the lessons learned and adapt to the “new normal” by remaining flexible and strategic in their approach to the year ahead. 

“It is safe to say that the biggest factor contributing to the survival of SMEs during the pandemic has been a business’ ability to adapt quickly to the challenges it faces. 

Flexibility and a willingness to learn and change will determine a company’s longevity,” says Tom Stuart, Chief Marketing Officer at SME services provider Lulalend. 

1. Become and remain adaptable 

The COVID-19 pandemic is here to stay, along with its impact on SME’s. To survive, businesses will need to continue adjusting their approach to remain relevant to their customers. 

While another hard lockdown seems unlikely, and the government continues to ease certain restrictions, the virus continues to mutate into new variants and remains highly infectious. 

“SMEs are likely to find that customers want to continue doing business with their preferred service providers differently and more flexibly. They also want to feel safe while doing this. Thus, it’s vital to ensure that your business remains aware and adherent to any guidelines to help your customers feel safe and attuned to what they need,” adds Stuart. 

2. Digitise your business 

Digital transformation will be critical to adapting to the current business landscape in South Africa. As more consumers turn to mobile and online resources to procure goods and services, it’s vital that SMEs adopt an online platform where customers can easily do business with them. 

Digitisation can also enable SMEs to conduct day-to-day business more seamlessly. Choosing business partners who are fully digitised can enable SMEs to manage business finances more efficiently and deliver services to their clients more effectively. 

3. Ramp up your marketing strategy 

Content marketing will play a valuable role in raising awareness of your business’ products and value. Changes in consumer behaviour and the need for accurate information are an opportunity for SMEs to add a layer of value to their clients through marketing. 

Content marketing typically revolves around using storytelling techniques to educate your target market on what your brand stands for and how your products can solve their problems and add value to their lives. 

A marketing strategy should aim to create an effective brand presence through engaging content, and measuring the success of that story by collecting and analysing feedback and data from your audience. 

4. Set up a financial plan for the year ahead 

Sound financial planning and management is vital to a business’ survival. Developing an understanding of how factors such as tax, business loans and cash flow impact your financial health, is imperative to running a sustainable business. 

By working closely with a financial services partner that understands the financial pressures of running an SME, business owners can take control of their finances and improve their chances of growth. 

“SMEs can become well-positioned for success when they begin to master their finances. Suppliers who have experience and a deep understanding of the financial pressures of running an SME are ideal partners for business owners,” concludes Stuart.