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Kiwi SMEs: Prepare for challenging times now

New Zealand SMEs need to prepare now for the possibility of future challenging times, by ensuring their networks are robust enough to withstand any form of economic slowdown, increasing marketing and strengthening hiring strategies.

This is according to Graham Southwell, BNI NZ national director, who has responded to the recent MYOB Business Monitor Survey of more than 1,000 Kiwi businesses.

Increase marketing

More than half of New Zealand’s SME operators are expecting the economy to slow over the coming year, according to the survey.

Southwell says, in challenging times, rather than slashing the marketing budget, it’s crucial for businesses to increase their marketing efforts.

“The economy always has its rises and dips, but as things start to get more difficult, businesses need to get more proactive with their marketing,” he says.

In the past two years, BNI has seen a large increase in the number of SMEs getting far more proactive and hands-on with their marketing strategies, Southwell says.

“This includes bringing on board business development and marketing specialists.

“Most SMEs are in business for the long term, so it’s important that they have foresight and keep investing in marketing strategies that deliver growth,” he says.

Deepen networks

The survey noted a number of businesses are expecting revenue to drop over the next 12 months.

Southwell says deepening business networks rather than just relying on brand awareness is a key strategy for SMEs who want to maintain consistent revenue growth.

“Joining a networking group is one way to get introductions to new prospects.

“Customers don’t just appear out of thin air. Businesses need a clear strategy for meeting new people and developing relationships with these people,” he says.

Smarter hiring strategies

According to the survey, 9% of businesses in the survey said they planned to take on more full time staff in the next year, rising from 7% in February.

Furthermore, 11% will hire more part time employees, and 20% plan to put more in their employee’s pay packets in the year to August 2016.

Southwell says that those businesses considering bringing on new people need to think about those peoples’ key skills.

“Networking has become now a core competency for employees and contractors,” Southwell says.

“It’s not just what they know, it’s who they know. Businesses need to consider this when they formulate their hiring strategies.

“They need to ask questions of new hires like: how can your networks advantage the business by attracting new customers, how can they add value to relationships with the existing business connections? Questions that need to be part of a business’s larger growth strategy,” he says.