4 Proven Ways your Business can cut Costs this Holiday Season

It’s no secret that the holiday season can be a stressful one for business owners. Although it is a time to reflect, be grateful and celebrate, some businesses see a decline in sales, which, coupled with typical employee raises and bonuses during this time, can make it a financially burdensome time for owners. However, there are ways your business can cut costs this holiday season with these four proven strategies:

Adjust Employee Schedules

While some companies experience their busiest seasons during this time, others aren’t so lucky. Colder weather prevents many people from shopping and dining out, while holidays encourage others to spend time with family indoors.

It’s not uncommon to enter a store, restaurant or hair salon during November, December and January to find them empty. There is no reason to commit to paying salaries when there is no business, which is why you should plan to adjust your staff’s schedules during this time.

Analyze your past few years and determine your slowest times and how many employees you actually need working at a time. Just be sure to provide your staff with enough warning so that they are not surprised about their reduced hours.

Cut Down or Eliminate Your Holiday Party

Holiday parties are annual traditions for many businesses, but they can also get expensive. Although it is important to show your employees how much you appreciate them during this time, consider ways to do more cost effectively.

Instead of taking out your staff members to a restaurant or renting out a banquet hall, move the festivities to your office or business space. A meeting room or lunch area can be enough space to share a meal.

Instead of catering food, ask your employees to bring in their favorite dish, arranging a potluck. If you don’t feel comfortable doing that, you can still cut costs by hosting a breakfast instead of a dinner. Bringing in bagels and cream cheese is a lot more affordable than catering dinner!

Introduce Secret Santa

Business owners always want to make their employees feel special by showering them with gifts around the holiday time. Even if you try to be frugal, these expenses add up to be hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars.

Try something different this year to cut costs by introducing Secret Santa. Write down all of your employees’ names on pieces of paper and put them in a bucket or hat. Ask each staffer to pull out a name and purchase a present for that person. Set limits on the presents to be no more than $20 or $40 each. This way, every individual in your company goes home with a gift, but your company has saved a significant amount of money.

Focus on Free Marketing

One of the most expensive strategies during the holidays tends to be marketing. Businesses that offer specials during this time want to spread the word to their customers, and the way to do that is through marketing.

To be cost sensitive during this time, consider ways to market without breaking the bank. For example, you can email holiday cards and announcements to your customers absolutely free instead of spending funds on printing and mailing them!

If you have tried all of these strategies, but are still finding it difficult to sustain your business during the holiday time, turn to IOU Financial. We make it a priority to support small and medium-sized companies with easy loans up to $300,000. You can get funded in as little as 24-48 hours.

Getting Your Finances Organized Before the Holidays

It happens every year. The holiday season is suddenly upon you, and yet your business is not in optimal condition to take full advantage of this very special time of the year – shopping season!

Getting an Early Jump

The best way to extract maximum profits from holiday shopping is to have a large inventory of items that will be hot sellers in the last two months of the year. To some extent, this can be a test of your predictive powers, because normally you will have to decide what to order, and then order it, about six months in advance if you want to be sure of receiving what promises to be the season’s blockbusters.

Therefore, you must combine budgetary and marketing data to make reasonable forecasts of:

  1. How much sales volume I want to achieve during the holidays?
  2. What merchandize do I want to stock this holiday season?
  3. How aggressively can I set prices to fight for holiday sales?
  4. How should I spruce up the shop to get customers into the holiday buying mood?
  5. Will I need temporary workers, and if so, how many and what types?
  6. How will I store the early shipments of holiday merchandise I receive? Will I need to rent temporary warehouse space?

There are many other questions you can ask, but this is a good start.

The outcome of this brainstorming should be any changes to your 12-month budget, laid out month by month.

Strengthen Your Working Capital

Next, examine your current debt situation. Do you owe money from last year? What interest rate are you paying on existing debt? What’s happened to interest rates in the last 12 months? Check your working capital situation – you’ll need plenty of cash and credit to finance holiday inventory, but you don’t want to spend a lot of time managing accounts payable for a lot of different vendor accounts. With sufficient cash on hand, you can pay vendors right away and benefit from purchase discounts. The answer is to consolidate your debt through a low-cost commercial loan. It’s much easier to manage a single creditor rather than contend with demands from a gaggle of vendors and creditors. That way you don’t have to spend much time figuring payments, because we will debit small amounts every day from your bank account. This removes the pain and worry you might feel if you had to face a large monthly payment.

To order sufficient inventory in, say, June, when sales may be weaker due to the summer doldrums, may put quite a strain on your working capital at precisely the wrong time. The easiest solution is a business loan form a commercial lender such as IOU Financial. By consolidating your old loans and adding fresh borrowings to the mix, you have the opportunity to optimize your debt and your working capital for the upcoming holiday season.

Get Your Technology Up to Speed

If you are not happy with your current accounting and point-of-sale software, well before holiday season is the time to either fix it or replace it. If you find any part of your current system holding you back from tracking real-time sales, shipping and restocking activity, it might be time for new solutions. You will also want to ensure you have installed the new chip-card readers throughout your store, so that you bypass any liability for fraud caused by lost, stolen or counterfeit credit/debit cards. Estimates are of about $450 to install each new card-reading terminal, so make sure you figure this expenditure into your budget.

The bottom line – you want to have sufficient funds ahead of the holiday season in order to optimize your revenues once the end-of-year frenzy gets under way. If you need any additionally working capital, contact IOU Financial and learn how quick and easy it is to whip your finances in shape for the lucrative holiday season.

Four Proven Marketing Strategies for the Holidays

The holiday season is the perfect time for businesses to attract new clientele and connect with existing customers. With buyers scouring for Christmas presents, many stores experience a significant surge in sales. Service-oriented companies, such as gyms and beauty salons, report an influx of new customers around January, when people make New Year’s resolutions to get in shape or become better versions of themselves. All in all, the holidays are a great time to market your services to potential customers by utilizing the following four proven strategies:

Charitable Giving

Thanksgiving and Christmas are popular times for donations to local shelters, philanthropic organizations and community events. Companies can combine doing a good deed with a marketing advantage by making a donation to a charity or sponsoring a local soup kitchen event.

Allowing the community to associate your company’s name with giving creates a positive view of your brand, encouraging them to shop with you during the following year.

Holiday Cards

Everyone loves getting a holiday card from a friend or family member, but there is no rule that holiday cards can’t be sent from businesses. Realtors are already aware of this strategy, sending holiday cards to potential and past clients to increase loyalty and foster customer relationships.

Sending holiday cards to your existing roster of clients and surrounding residents creates an emotional connection between you and your customers, which has been proven to increase brand loyalty and increase sales.

Keep in mind that your customers may celebrate different religious holidays, so sending a generic holiday card rather than one specific for Christmas may be more advantageous to avoid offending anyone.

Utilize Holiday-Themed SEO

Search engine optimization (SEO) should always be a priority in your marketing campaign. The holidays are a great time to re-evaluate your target keywords and add holiday-themed alternatives to help potential clients find you.

Keywords such as “holiday gifts,” “unique Christmas presents,” “ugly sweaters” and “corporate holiday gifts” trend around the end of the year. Utilize these keywords in your pay-per-click (PPC) Google campaigns and in the content of your website and blogs to capitalize on seasonal searches.

Holiday Events

People love to attend holiday events where they feel jolly and get in the spirit of the holiday season. This is the perfect time for businesses to open their doors, encouraging new clients to learn more about them and regular clients to feel appreciated.

Consider hosting an annual holiday party for your top customers to wine and dine them and help them feel valued by your company. You can also host a holiday open house at a salon, store or restaurant attracting families with a visit and photos with Santa and his elves, free cookie decorating events and carolling.

Whatever event you plan for your business, focus on using that time to help visitors connect with your company, learn more about your products and services and create an emotional connection with your brand.

The holiday season can be a strenuous time for business owners as it calls for a lot of expenses. IOU Financial is committed to helping you during this and any other time with an affordable business loan. Get instant pre-approval and funding in as little as 24-48 hours!

3 Ways to Strengthen Your Business Credit Score

Similar to a high FICO score, it is important to have a strong business credit score. In order to qualify for loans or get approved for trade credit, you must prove that your company is a safe bet for investors, banks and private lenders.

A low business credit score signifies that your business carries a significant amount of risk to lend funds to, which will result in either a denial of a loan or unfavorable rates and terms based on the level of risk. Additionally, you can qualify for lower insurance rates with a higher credit score.

How is Your Business Credit Score Calculated?

Your business score is calculated by credit-reporting agencies that utilize an algorithm based on various factors. Although your score can fluctuate slightly depending on the agency and its scoring model, similar factors are taken into account when determining your score.

Your business’ creditworthiness is rated on a scale from 0 to 100 based on the accounts in your company’s name. It is important to note, however, that business lenders may consider your personal FICO scores in their decision-making process.

How to Strengthen Your Business Credit Score

In order to improve your business’ creditworthiness, you must strengthen your business credit score. There are three effective ways to do so, which include:

Monitor Your Credit Report

The first and most effective way of strengthening your credit score is regularly monitoring your credit report. No system is created perfectly, and errors are common between lenders and credit reporting agencies.

If you don’t monitor your credit report, you will not be aware of discrepancies that can significantly plummet your business credit score. Get in the habit of requesting annual credit reports from the three credit reporting agencies, Experian, TransUnion and Equifax, which will alert you to issues that you must address to improve your score.

Pay Bills on Time

It is no easy task to manage your personal and business expenses, which is why you may not have enough funds every month to pay all of your bills on time. There are sources that may advise you to lag behind on payments, later agreeing with collection agencies on repaying lower amounts just to settle your debts.

While this may benefit you in the short term, not paying your bills on time can significantly affect your business credit score. Not only will you be obligated to pay a late fee and possible interest on the outstanding balance, a payment that is over 30 days late will be reported to credit agencies, possibly lowering your business credit scores. One source states that “payment history information typically accounts for nearly 35 percent of your credit score, making it one of the single most important factors in calculating your score.“

Paying bills on time will boost your credit score; in fact, paying bills ahead of the due date will play an even bigger role in strengthening your score!

Raise Your Credit Limit

Your business credit score is calculated by factoring in your credit utilization ratio, which considers available credit in relation to debt. It is advisable to keep the ratio under 30% to have a high credit score.

Although you may not be able to limit the amount of debt your company has, you can improve the credit utilization ratio by increasing your credit limit. While many credit cards will do so automatically after a certain period of time, you can make proactive efforts by contacting lenders and requesting an increase in your credit limit to better your business credit score.

Increase your credit limit in order to raise your business credit score by securing a small business loan from IOU Financial! Contact us to inquire about a small business loan of up to $300,000 in just 24-48 hours!

3 Ways to Advertise Your Business for Free

Whether you have an online or brick-and-mortar business, you must advertise to create brand awareness for your company. Even if your store or business is located in a high traffic area, not advertising to potential new clients can significantly hinder your sales.

A portion of small business owners don’t believe they have the funds to advertise, but the fact is that with some effort, you can advertise completely free! We list our favorite three free ways to advertise your business for maximum results.

Google My Business

Google is the most used search engine around the world, and while many companies spend thousands or even millions of dollars on pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, it is possible to do so without spending a cent!

Google is constantly working on improving its Google Maps and local search results, which is good for business owners! By inputting your business name, address, phone number, website, description and hours or operations, you can increase your inbound advertising for free!

When individuals search for services or products they are looking for, such as “hair salon in Dallas,” “best French food near me” or “tutoring services Miami,” Google will direct them to your website.

Simply add or claim your existing business listing on Google, verify your account and optimize your Google+ page with reviews and visual and written content to attract new clients! The best part is that even online businesses can benefit from this free advertising feature by listing their company as a service in a particular area.

Write Press Releases

Forming relationships with the press can be extremely beneficial in getting the word out about your business on local blogs, newspapers, news channels and magazines.

Anytime you have news — which can include a new service or product, a new hire, a sale or promotion — write a press release to announce it. Press releases do have specific formats, so it’s helpful to learn how to write a press release to appear more professional in the eyes of the local press.

If you need a starting point, be sure to check out this template.

Utilize Social Media

No article about advertising strategies can omit social media, as that is likely the #1 way to connect with customers online. Using popular platforms — such as Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn and Instagram — can create significant exposure for your business.

In order not to spread yourself thin and create various profiles on social media without sufficient time to interact with your followers and submit relevant content, choose one to three platforms to focus on.

Start by figuring out where your target audience is, and devote your efforts there. The younger generation is likely on Instagram, mothers are on Pinterest and working professionals spend time on LinkedIn.

Add photos and videos, share news and communicate with your followers in order to create brand loyalty and increase sales! Go a step further by creating contests or offer internet-only specials!

The following three free advertising resources can go a long way in attracting new clients to your company; however, no one can dispute the power of paid advertising. Whether you want to invest in PPC advertising on Google, create paid content on social media or purchase a subscription to a press release distribution site, these efforts require capital. IOU Financial wants to be your partner in growing your business. We are ready to finance your strategies with a loan of up to $300,000 in under 48 hours!

 

5 Free or Inexpensive Online Classes Small Business Owners Can Take

The business world is ever changing, and it’s important to be at the forefront of innovation in order to run a successful business. It is in the best interest of small business owners to continue to brush up on their business skills to keep their competitive advantage. While business owners have enough expenses without committing to pricey programs and degrees, there are plenty of free online resources on various helpful topics. We have included five of our favorites for you here:

MIT OpenCourseWare (OCW)

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology shares some of their undergraduate and graduate course content online, providing a great resource to small business owners without the hefty price of MIT admission. You can learn accounting with their Introduction to Financial and Managerial Accounting and Management Accounting and Control classes; learn how to file a patent with by following the advice in the Inventions and Patents class; brush up on Entrepreneurial Sales and learn about Pricing from the comfort of your home or office!

The Open University

The Open University is a UK non-profit group that offers over 1,000 free courses and videos on different topics, such as business! There are 104 free courses in the area of money and business, such as:

HubSpot

HubSpot helps its customers grow their sales by providing marketing, sales and customer service tools. The site offers an 11-hour course that helps small business owners with inbound marketing (marketing with the goal of attracting new business) and sales.

Learn about the full inbound marketing methodology, content marketing, sales, design and contextual marketing with their free tools and courses!

U.S. Small Business Administration

The SBA provides a multitude of free resources for small business owners, including online courses, the option to web chat and other helpful videos. Courses cover topics such as mentorship programs, getting a competitive advantage, winning a federal contract, taking a product to market, etc. You can view the list of classes or search in a catalogue, finding more information about each course when you click on it.

Fundamentals of Operations Management

Another free course that highlights the importance of operations management. Learn about how to plan, find a facility, schedule and conduct inventory and quality management for effective operations.

The course has four modules:

  1. Operations management
  2. Operations management strategies
  3. Applying operations management
  4. Assessment

If you come across other courses or classes for small business owners that require a financial contribution, IOU Financial can help. We provide small business loans of up to $300,000 to help you grow your business. Contact us today!

3 Ted Talks Small Business Owners Should Listen To

As a small business owner, would you appreciate the opportunity to get advice from accomplished and world-known leaders? Would you be especially interested if this advice was free and accessible from a computer, tablet or smartphone? If you answered yes to the two questions, you will love Ted Talks — videos from leadership experts that specialize in various industries.

Ted Talks originated in 1984 as a conference on Technology, Entertainment and Design, and has grown to a collection of  short videos (18 minutes or less) that are available in over 100 languages. The following three Ted Talks are particularly beneficial to small business owners as they can help them become better leaders:

How Great Leaders Inspire Action

This Ted Talk is hosted by Simon Sinek, a famous author, marketing consultant and motivational speaker. He is responsible for books such as Start With Why and Leaders Eat Last on the topics of inspirational leadership.

In this video, he tries to explore answers to how leaders can promote trust and cooperation and encourage and accept change in organizations. He utilizes real world examples that don’t only focus on the world of business, bringing to light successes from people such as Martin Luther King, Jr. and brands such as Apple. Sinek focuses on similarities between inspiring leaders in how they act and think, and shares them with his listeners.

The video has gotten over 34 million views, and is the third most successful Ted Talk of all time!

Why It’s Time to Forget the Pecking Order at Work

While many of the inspirational leadership Ted Talks are hosted by authors or motivational speakers, this video is hosted by someone who has actually walked the walk! Margaret Heffernan was the CEO in five businesses. Her experience is diverse – she worked as a television producer, headed IPPA, a trade organization that represents independent film and television producers in England, worked on public affair campaigns, ran Internet businesses and wrote a book.

Heffernan shares what she learned throughout this time, which is that company leaders should nix the “the superchicken model” that only values the highest-performing employees, and instead focus on cohesion and the empowerment of every single member of the team to truly create change and success within the organization.

Learning From Leadership’s Missing Manual

What do the leader of the Ashaninka Nation, a leader of an NGO from Bangalore and a Chinese businessman have in common? They all provide inspiration for motivational leadership skills to the presenter of this Ted Talk, Fields Wicker-Miurin.

This social entrepreneur looks for leaders in unique situations and places, and shares what knowledge she was able to get from their stories. She is a director of Savills, an international property advisory company and CDC group, a UK development finance institution, as well as the co-founder of Leader’s Quest, an organization that connects leaders and encourages them to not only analyze their positions and roles, but to seek inspiration from leaders around the world.

In this Ted Talks, Wicker-Miurin provides examples of non-traditional leaders in order to help business owners consider their own leadership roles and how they can help their teams in a better and more productive way.

IOU Financial is committed to helping small business owners become the best leaders they can be! If you want to attend leadership conferences or take business classes, we can help you finance that goal with a small business loan in under 48 hours! Contact us to learn more.

 

Instagram – Is It Right For My Business?

It should be no surprise to any business owner that social media is the latest and greatest tool for connecting with existing and potential customers. Although there are a multitude of platforms, one of the most effective and popular ones is Instagram. Read on to determine whether this social media platform is right for your business.

What is Instagram?

Instagram allows users to share photos and videos along with captions and a link with their followers. This platform has a total of 800 million users around the world, 500 million of which use it every single day.

If you do not utilize Instagram to market your business, you’re in the minority, as 91% of all of the world’s biggest brands utilize this platform for business purposes. These include Nike, Adidas, Michael Kors and Gucci.

Is Instagram Right For Your Business?

While Instagram may be the fastest growing social media platform, it is not the right solution for every single business. Marketing on a platform requires a time and financial commitment, and business owners should pick the platform or platforms that are most suited to their business needs rather than spread themselves thin advertising on a multitude of platforms. Answer these questions to see if Instagram is right for your business needs.

Can You Share Captivating Images or Videos?

Although Instagram is a great marketing tool, it may not be the right solution for all businesses. Instagram users crave creative, original and quality images and videos to capture their attention. It is best suited for businesses that offer food and products that can be captured via images.

Businesses that offer services, such as accounting or cleaning, may not be able to come up with enough images or videos for this visual platform, and, therefore, should focus their marketing efforts on other platforms which are not as image-based.

Is Your Customer Target Base on Instagram?

Depending on your offerings and the demographics of your clientele, Instagram may not be the right solution for you. It is important to truly know your customer base; based on that information, you can determine if marketing on Instagram would be advantageous for you.

Sixty-eight percent of Instagram users are female, with 59% of them being between the ages of 18 and 29 years old and 33% are 30-49 years old. Less than a third of American women and less than a fourth of American men are active Instagram users; 80% of users are located outside the United States.

These demographics allow business owners to determine whether Instagram is the right place to target their customers. This visual platform is a definite must for companies that target younger females, such as hair salons, restaurants, makeup brands and clothing stores. However, businesses that target older males, such as accounting firms or body shops, should consider other platforms for more efficient marketing strategies.

Are Your Competitors on Instagram?

A third question to ask yourself is whether your competitors have an Instagram presence. Search this platform for your competitors by name, as well as hashtags that are relevant to your brand to see what is currently being shared on Instagram.

If you notice a lot of competition,  it may be worth while to build up your own Instagram presence so that your competitors do not grab the entire market share in your industry.

Instagram requires a careful strategy, consistent posting and well-shot, unique images and videos to distinguish your company from the clutter. If you need financial help to hire a professional photographer or videographer, pay for Instagram ads or hire a social media marketing expert, IOU Financial can help you with a small business loan of up to $300,000 in 24-48 hours. Contact us today!