The Importance of Using Storytelling in Your Marketing Efforts

Who doesn’t love listening to a good story? Storytelling has been helping brands around the globe connect with their customers and increase brand loyalty. An essential part of content marketing, storytelling is a useful technique that helps business owners craft their message to their clients in the most engaging way to capture their attention and increase revenue.


What is Storytelling Important?

Storytelling is a strategy that brands utilize in order to help their target audience not only learn about their products and services, but form an emotional connection that will lead them to remain loyal to the company for years to come.


While traditional corporate messaging simply spews out ads about new offerings, sales, and other company news, storytelling helps the business owners or marketing team to focus on one overarching theme, and craft all of the messaging (text and imagery) around that topic.

As explained by Bryan Eisenberg, professional marketing speaker, “Facts tell, but stories sell.”

A great example of a corporation that is using their storytelling effectively is Weight Watchers. By creating ads showing real people discussing their weight struggles and what losing weight has meant to them, this company managed to create an emotional connection with the people that are looking to improve their health.

What Does Storytelling in Marketing Involve?

In order to incorporate storytelling in your content marketing strategy, utilize the all of the elements of storytelling, as identified in the book, The Power of Visual Storytelling, by Ekaterina Walter and Jessica Gioglio. The seven essential elements of storytelling are:

  1. Design:

    • Use captivating and interesting imagery as part of your storytelling. This can include photos, drawings, videos, etc.
  2. Personalization:

    • Although it’s important to keep a consistent narrative, it is beneficial to customize the story to each platform or channel used to deliver it.
  3. Usefulness:

    • Explain to your audience why your product or service is useful to them. You must solve a problem they are experiencing, or don’t yet know they are experiencing, in order to connect to your customers.
  4. Personality:

    • Don’t just release generic and boring content; instead, consider what personality your brand would have if it were a person. Would you be a young, fun millennial or a caring, wise parent? Pretend like you’re speaking directly to one person instead of marketing to thousands or millions of people, and concentrate on personalizing your image to your target audience.
  5. Storytelling:

    • Before releasing any type of message, consider how it fits into the conversation you hope to be having with your audience. Does it tell the same story as previous marketing tactics?
  6. Share-Worthiness:

    • Make your audience work for you by sharing and promoting your content. In order to do that, you must make sure it is worthy of sharing. This action can be encouraged by a call-to-action (CTA) urging readers to share your content.
  7. Real-time amplification:

    • Utilize the content that your audience is already interested in for your benefit. To do this, “take owned content that people are already engaging with and add it to the targeted paid inventory to further maximize the reach of content that people already find interesting,” according to a source.

When creating your brand’s story, remember to be honest, creative and engaging! If you need financial help to make your story a reality, contact IOU Financial, who can loan your company up to $150,000 in 24-48 hours.

Are you Using your Social Media Platforms Effectively?

There are innumerable benefits of using social media to promote a business online, such as communicating with your target audience, increasing brand exposure, and increasing inbound traffic to your website. The problem is that many business owners encounter don’t know how to use social media effectively. To create the best strategy for your business needs, you must utilize the following two steps.

Pick the Most Relevant Platforms

There are a multitude of social media platforms: Pinterest, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+, etc. Most business owners don’t have the time or the resources to utilize all of them effectively; as such, they do a subpar job trying to market on all the channels rather than concentrate their efforts on the most relevant platforms for their business.


The way to determine which social media platforms are best suited for your brand is to assess which site gives you the best access to target your ideal audience. For example, 81 percent of Pinterest users are female; while the median age is 40, most of the users are under 40. This is a great channel to contact younger women. Also, as Pinterest allows users to upload high-quality images and videos and organize them on virtual pinboards, the brands that would most benefit from using this platform would be ones that have good visual imagery, such as travel companies or fashion brands.

Companies that want to target professionals should focus on LinkedIn, a networking site for working individuals. Businesses that offer services for professionals, such as accounting and marketing groups, can join the online conversation by establishing themselves as experts in the groups and discussions on LinkedIn.

Measure the Return on Your Investment 

 
Social media provides plenty of opportunities for users to invest in marketing their products or services. However, measuring the return on investment (ROI) of social media is not something all business owners know how to do. In fact, one study found that 41 percent of businesses did not know whether they were getting a good ROI on their social media strategies.

How do you analyze whether your social media tactics are effective? Follow these steps:

  1. Track how much you invest in social media; this doesn’t just include the fees of marketing, but also the time you spend utilizing these channels.
  2. Pinpoint your goals; different companies will have different aims for using social media – some will want to lead users to their websites, while others will want to generate newsletter signups; obviously, the ultimate goal of any action will be to generate sales.
  3. Create campaigns; instead of expecting various results from your combined social media actions, create individual campaigns for each goal. This way, you can track the precise result of each campaign, measure the resources and time you put into it and how much you earned as a result.
  4. Track the results; every single social media platform has a system that tracks activity and provides results. You can also connect most platforms to Google Analytics, which will provide detailed information for each campaign.
  5. Calculate results against the amount spent (money and time) to analyze whether the campaign was successful.

In order to invest in creating relevant social media campaigns, you may need financial help. IOU Financial can help you market your brand with a small business loan. You may qualify to borrow up to $150,000 in 24-48 hours! Click here to find out more!

Email Marketing Tips: How to Engage with Your Customers Successfully

Email is one of the most affordable and simplest way for business owners to communicate with their customers. One of the biggest problems of using email as a marketing tool is the inability to cut through the clutter of the multitude of other emails in customers’ inboxes. How do you get your readers to actually open, read and take an action upon receiving your email? While there is no single solution, there are ways to improve email marketing techniques to more efficiently engage with your clients.

Start with the Subject Line 

Reduce Pet Shedding by 25% with Our New Brush That’s Under $10!

PetsGalore Introduces a 5-Star Rated Pet Brush

Between the two subject lines above, which email would you be more likely to open (if you had a shedding pet, that is)? Most people would open the former, simply because of the subject line.

Other than the sender’s information, the subject line is the single most important determinant of whether an email will get opened. Therefore, it is imperative to think about what you want to write in this space. An engaging email title should:

  • Be Relevant – If you want a prospective client to read your email, you need to tell them why it matters to them. How can your email change their life for the better? In what ways can it help them? In the example above, the first email quickly gets to the point by letting readers know that a product can solve a certain problem – excessive pet shedding. The second emails fails to do that, as it simply announces a new product, but doesn’t explain its exact purpose.
  • Be Authentic – With the mass amount of spam email most people receive on a daily basis, it is essential that your subject line sounds authentic. Don’t make unfounded claims such as 5-star, Effective, Proven, Fan Favorite, etc. Individuals are so bombarded with false claims that your email will read inauthentic and will likely be ignored.
  • Contain Numbers – How do you grab the reader’s attention? Try to incorporate numbers into the subject line, as they help to fixate attention versus subject lines that only contain text. A study found that because numbers represent facts, it helps to stop the readers from looking away from the content as fast as they would if it contained just text.

Keep it Personal

By perfecting your subject line, you have hopefully enticed the readers to open your email. Now what? People are bored by the standard, blue-print mass emails; to stand out from the mold, make your emails personal.

Pretend like you’re writing to a friend, and address the reader directly by using the word “you.” If you make the reader believe that you are communicating directly with them, you will spike their interest level and peak their curiosity.


If you want an even more effective strategy, incorporate the reader’s name into the email. Brain studies have proven that seeing our names in print activate sour brains unlike anything else. When you address a person by their name, you lead them to become more engaged and trust you more.

Include a Call-to-Action

Just as a great subject line is imperative to getting readers to open your email, a call-to-action (CTA) is a must to get the reader to take action. After all, there must be a reason you are emailing your customers – whether you want them to complete a purchase, visit your blog, or enter a contest – you need to guide them to complete that step. One source found that a CTA increased email clicks by 371% and sales by 1617%.

The bottom of your email should always contain a simple and concise call-to-action, which can include the following text with a link:

  • Click here to purchase the product
  • Visit our site to learn more
  • Enter this contest by August 31st!
  • Share your comments on our Facebook page

To make your email marketing strategy even more effective, consider purchasing email marketing software. This tool can help you personalize your emails, add imagery and provide detailed results about how many people opened your email and what actions they took after reading it.

If you need financial help affording this software, IOU Financial can help! Apply for a small business loan by visiting our site! (Did you like our call-to-action, by the way)?

 

Continued Expansion with Small Business Funding

Atlanta Movie Tours got its start because Owner Carrie Sagel Burns wanted to show off all the great filming locations around Atlanta and beyond. Since its beginning five years ago, the business has expanded to showcase all the great filming that happens around the Metro area, and has a retail gift shop downtown. Not only has it grown from one tour a week to over 20 with 40,000 guests, the organization also has 1,200+ reviews on TripAdvisor. “With that growth came overhead and personnel, investment in the business and capital and funding became necessary at times,” said Carrie. Carrie has borrowed from IOU Financial a few times.

“The IOU capital has helped consolidate our existing loans and get our daily rate under control for greater growth this year,” explained Carrie. “It helps me sleep at night!”

According to Carrie, what makes IOU different from other lenders is the commitment to excellent customer service, particularly the communication and online portal.  “I’ve worked with other small business loan companies and spoke with a few others and know that there are plenty out there who you can’t reach for questions, don’t have a way to check your status, etc,” said the small business owner.

“With IOU, you know you can always talk to someone. Plus, the online dashboard is a great way to keep an eye on the account without having to contact IOU directly.”

Here at IOU Financial, we can’t wait to see how Atlanta Movie Tours grows even further in the future. Looking for something fun to do in Atlanta? Check them out! Click here to book a tour: http://atlantamovietours.com We’ve got our eye on The Walking Dead options.

Carrie was able to expand her business with an IOU Financial loan.  Why not you?  Learn more about business lending and have a Small Business Loan Consultant call you today!

 

How to Successfully Market Your Small Business on a Tight Budget

Television ads, billboards, direct mailers — these are all common ways world-known companies market their products and services. However, if you don’t have thousands of dollars to invest into your marketing budget, how do you engage with your potential clients?


Small business owners often find it difficult to stretch their tight budgets to effectively market their offerings. However, with a little creativity, there are ways to advertise your business on any budget!

Referral Program

Multi-million dollar companies hire marketing experts, PR gurus, and sales executives to advertise their products and secure sales. Although a small business owner with a handful of staff cannot compete with that, they can “hire” existing customers to help them market their brands.

One way to do that is with a referral program, where you reward your customers for bringing in new business. Offering discounts or freebies to those that help you generate sales has been a strategy many businesses have relied on for their success.

For example, Dropbox’s referral program, which offers 500MB of free cloud storage to individuals who refer their friends, increased their sign-up rate by 60 percent! PayPal’s financial incentive for referrals helped them achieve “7 to 10 percent daily growth” and “turned out to yield better marketing ROI than traditional marketing channels.”

It’s free to start a referral program, and the discounts or expenses of paying for the referrals will be offset by the new sales!

YouTube Videos

Another low-cost marketing tactic consists of creating self-made YouTube videos showcasing your products or services. All you need is a device with the ability to record and upload videos, and you’re ready to start marketing!

Skateboarding shoes company, DC Shoes, took this approach in 2009, when they started uploading short videos of Ken Block, the company’s co-founder, “driving a tricked-out race car around closed-off airports, theme parks, and even the port of San Francisco… the stunt driving is interspersed with glamour shots of footwear.”

These efforts paid off immensely, resulting in “180 million views—and in 2011 alone, sales jumped 15%.” Experts say this type of marketing would cost about 5 million dollars had it been done through traditional methods.

Cross-Promotion

Form a team with other, non-competing business owners to market each other’s services. Visit other small businesses in your area, and form agreements that will benefit each party involved. You can leave business cards or flyers in each other’s locations, cross-link on each other’s websites, and/ or create bundled promotions (get a haircut at Moe’s salon and a manicure at Lee’s Nails, and get 10 percent off both services!)

Cross-promotion is an beneficial tool that doesn’t just benefit your business, but your community by helping small businesses succeed.
There are times when you will need the funds to invest in marketing your business. When this situation occurs, contact IOU Financial to provide you with a business loan up to $150,000 in 24 hours!

Building a Brand: The Basics

If you are a small business owner, you should be aware that the key to growing your business is to create a solid brand. Instead of simply concentrating on day-to-day sales, it is imperative to create a story to help your target audience connect with your business.

While you may have a hit product one day, creating a strong brand identity will help you maintain customer loyalty after the product’s life cycle has ended. Today’s customers are different than ever before; they aren’t as interested in shopping at random retailers, but want to build connections with business they know and trust.


What is a Brand?

A brand is a mix between “psychology and science brought together as a promise … Brands convey a uniform quality, credibility and experience,” according to Forbes.com.

A brand identity consists of many different factors, such as a company name, logo, slogan, marketing materials, as well as all the actions you conduct on a daily basis.

What Are the Three Basic Steps to Creating a Brand? 

 

Concentrate on Your Audience

The first step to creating a brand identity is determining who your potential clients will be; this group is your target audience. Before trying to connect with these individuals, you need to figure out who they are – their age group, location, gender, marital status, shopping trends, income, hobbies, etc. The more you know about your main customer base, the easier it will be to create a strategy to market to them.

For example, if you are developing a software to help retirees manage their retirement income, your messaging should not be as “techy” as if you would be targeting millennials. Knowing your target audience provides you with a blueprint for crafting your identity in the most strategic way to engage with your customers.

Research the Competition

In order to stay relevant in your niche market, you need to stay ahead of the competition. The way to do that is to research your competitors when creating a brand image, and continue that research on a regular basis.

It is beneficial to know who the other players in your industry are, and how they are crafting their message. In order to create a strong brand identity, you need to be able to separate yourself from competing businesses, which is why you need to know everything you can about them.

Make note of how your competitors design their websites, what products or services they sell, how they write their offering descriptions, how they market themselves, etc. If you find a problem that none of your competitors have solved yet, that will be your ticket to establishing your identity in that space.

Stay Consistent

Once you determine your target audience and research the competition, it’s time to craft your brand identity. The secret to this process is to stay consistent in all the messaging you put out about your business.

Consider Target’s clever branding – all of their advertisements, online, on TV and in store – have white backgrounds, bright colors, simple designs and their red and white logo.

Having a consistent brand identity makes it “so synonymous with your product experience that when a consumer sees your signature brand logo they are already thinking about making their next purchase from you without you even having to ask,” according to a source.


When customers feel they can rely on your company to be consistent, they are able to form emotional relationships with your business, which leads to long-term clients and a successful business!
If you want to invest into creating a strong brand identity, but need financial assistance to develop your marketing materials or hire an expert in this field, turn to IOU Financial, which has been instrumental in helping small business owners secure loans in under 24 hours!

Nine Things That Separate Good Business Lenders from Bad Ones

If you’ve ever had a bad experience applying for a bank loan, you understand how demeaning it can feel to be turned down. Regulation and low interest rates have made it tougher for banks to lend to small business. The tight-fistedness of the banks after the 2008 mortgage debacle created a vacuum which was filled by online business lending companies of varying quality. The best are a pleasure to work with, the worst are disappointing. Here are nine things to look for to distinguish the good from the bad:

Direct lender:

A direct online lender is a company that actually supplies the money it lends to borrowers. Many business-lending websites are mere matching services that send out your application to a network of lenders. That might sound good, but it’s not, because you end up paying much more for you capital. You see, the matching broker collects a fee from network lenders, who pass that fee onto you in the form of higher loan cost.

Ease of application:

Some lenders want extensive paperwork and documentation. A few operate over the phone, which is tedious. Look for a lender with a streamlined, paperless online application process that can be completed in minutes. And, perhaps it should go without saying, but we’ll say it anyway: Never pay an upfront fee to apply or qualify for a small business loan!

Quick approval:

There are two aspects to this. The first is that you’d like to be approved, so you will want to borrow from a direct lender with a high rate of loan approvals, say 85 percent. Secondly, you want the decision, and the money, quickly. A good lender looks beyond your credit score, makes a decision in minutes and gets you your money the next business day. A good lender will not do a hard pull on your credit. A bad lender may require extensive underwriting, which can waste days and still end up in a denial.

Sufficient amounts:

A business lender with a maximum loan limit of $25K or $50K won’t satisfy many small business borrowers who need more. Look for a direct lender who is willing to lend up to $150K.

Affordable rates:

A lean, efficient online business lender isn’t saddled with large overhead expenses that can drive up the cost of loans. Look for an interest rate well below the cost of a merchant cash advance. Merchant cash advance are not loans and can be very expensive.

Convenient repayment terms:

Hate that big monthly repayment that always seems to leave a gaping hole in your working capital? The best lenders take fixed daily loan payments directly from your bank account. It’s amazing how much more comfortable it is to spread the repayment over 20 daily installments rather than to pay it once a month. Only use lenders who offer fixed pay-back loans, so that you aren’t surprised by suddenly higher repayments.

Renewals:

Cash management is dynamic, and sometimes you need to renew a loan before the old one is paid off. Bad lenders won’t do this, but good ones will approve renewals after a certain portion, say 40 percent, of the original loan is repaid. This gives you the flexibility to take advantage of opportunities as they occur.

No prepayment fees:

Avoid a lender who soaks you with a prepayment fee or who charges you compound interest on your loan. Compound interest means you pay interest on your interest. Ouch! Go with a direct online lender who charges simple interest on your unpaid principal balance, and who never penalizes you for paying off your loan early.

Ratings:

Check a potential lender’s score from the Better Business Bureau and TrustPilot. If the score isn’t great, keep looking.

Not sure which online business lender to call? Try IOU Financial, a leading, publicly-traded small business lender. Contact us today for a no-strings-attached consultation.

How To Tweak Your Small Business for Success

Small-business owners usually don’t have the time or money to routinely make big changes to their businesses. However, you can consider easy changes that have the potential to make a big difference to your company’s bottom line. Here are four tweaks you can make to help ensure you spend your money wisely and increase your success:

Use financial tools:

It’s hard to optimize your business if you don’t perform proper financial management for critical areas such as revenue, taxes and payroll. You can cut this seemingly daunting task down to size by using relatively inexpensive financial tools like these:

  1. QuickBooks: A mobile, cloud-based accounting system that provides real-time insights into your business and accomplish tasks, such as banking and invoicing, via your computer, tablet or smartphone.
  2. Cyfe: A dashboard program that consolidates information from multiple websites you use, such as PayPal, Shopify, QuickBooks and social networks, to save you time and help give you the big picture.
  3. Mint MyBusiness: A business version of the popular financial tracking software that keeps tabs on your spending habits and even suggests budgets.
  4. Couponbox: A coupon calculator that shows the cost-effectiveness of your coupon-based marketing programs, so that you don’t hurt the bottom line with overly generous discounts.
  5. Trigger: Track part-time employees, freelancers, and contractors as they work on projects and tasks, a great way to measure productivity.
  6. TurboTax: The business version helps you prepare your taxes, maximize your deductions, and handle all the forms you need to file.

Streamline operations:

Businesses require more time to manage as they grow. Here are some ways to streamline your business and save yourself precious time and money:

  1. Cut back on email: Set a time limit on the amount of time you spend each day responding to email. Only spend time on urgent messages, and consider programs like Slack to handle internal communications.
  2. Outsource: Use accounting and HR services instead of tying up your own time doing tax prep, payroll, benefits administration, etc. It’s less expensive than you think and frees you up for more important tasks.
  3. Throttle meetings: Some meetings just suck the soul out of your business by being non-productive and boring. Don’t schedule meetings unless they directly contribute to your monthly or quarterly goals.
  4. Hire expertise: It’s easy to begin a company by hiring friends and family rather than expert talent. Fight this urge and hire great people from the outset. It might cost a little more, but it will help you avoid mistakes, wasted time and bruised feelings down the line.

Build company morale:

Happy employees are productive employees. There are many inexpensive ways to build morale, including company picnics, birthday parties, relaxation breaks, good medical benefits, employee discount programs, and allowing pets in the workplace. You might even organize a nearby child care center if you have several employees with young children.

Revamp your image:

Does your marketing image provide the best return on investment. Perhaps you can tweak it to give your brand(s) more oomph. First, conduct an image audit to find out what customers (and demographics) think of your branding. Pick a new logo, font, colors and designs that are more relevant to your target audience. Update your website and employ the latest SEO techniques. Get involved in the community and listen to customer suggestions.

There are many other ways to tweak your business, but these are a good start. If you need extra help organizing your business budget, be sure to check out our smart sheet.