Women in Business: Five Podcasts for Female Entrepreneurs

Women are increasingly gaining a rightfully earned space amongst entrepreneurs. In fact, in 2017, more women started businesses than men (47% of women compared to 44% of men).

Female entrepreneurs know that they tend to face unique challenges and barriers that most men don’t have to think about in the business world. As such, it’s important for women to group together to support one another and provide advice. Podcasts are a great way to connect female business owners and professionals around the world: below are five of our favorites:

Recode Decode

With just 26% of professional computing positions in the U.S. held by women, it’s vital for female technology professionals to connect with other female colleagues. Recode Decode is a podcast by well-known tech journalist, Kara Swisher.

Each week, Swisher interviews business leaders and journalists, politicians, investors and other entrepreneurs with her brazen questions and comments. She is not afraid to discuss controversial topics or voice her opinions, which is a breath of fresh air for women, many of whom think they have to stifle their voices in the business world to get ahead.

ZenFounder

The ZenFounder podcast is a great resource where Sherry Walling, Ph.D. and clinical psychologist, shares strategies for finding a good work/life balance for females. This podcast helps listeners with facing their fears, managing their stress levels and growing their businesses!

Failure Factor

One source found that females disproportionately fear failure more than men, which affects their success at work! Failure Factor is a podcast by psychotherapist Megan Bruneau that addresses this very issue.

Bruneau interviews successful figures in the business world as they explain how failure offered up new opportunities and reconfigured their thinking process. She provides tips on dealing with failure to come out on top and not letting it stop you from fulfilling your dreams.

Women Taking The Lead

Jodi Flynn helps women stop doubting themselves and trying to be perfect, and simply try to be the best versions of themselves. Her podcasts cover topics such as conflict resolution, networking, goal setting, branding and more!

She interviews other business leaders who discuss their struggles to succeed in their professions, and how they overcame them.

Boss Girl Creative

This podcast targets those women who are considering starting a business, or are in the start up stages. Reina Pomeroy and Christina Scalera provide ideas on how to turn a mere idea into a successful company.

The hosts and their guests offer advice on branding, social media, planning, networking and marketing to get your brand known worldwide.

Looking for other resources to help your business grow? Check out IOU’s Business Budget Sheet to get a grip on your finances!

The Pros and Cons of Mass Messaging for Small Business

If you’re a small business looking to get your message out to a large audience, email blasts aren’t always the most effective mode of communication. While you may think to yourself, I’ve put thought and effort into the perfect newsletter; who wouldn’t want that? The truth is, emails can become like unsolicited phone calls. Many individuals sign up to receive a business’s correspondence, but never actually open an email because they’re too busy or don’t believe the message will appeal to their interests. Let me propose another marketing solution: text message service

Here are some advantages and disadvantages to incorporating a text messaging campaign into your marketing strategy.

Pros:

People Sign Up for Text Messaging

Consumers need to opt in for text messaging when providing their number to a business. This means that those who receive your text messages have specifically stated that they want to hear from you. This eliminates the worry that your text messaging will be regarded in a negative light. They are most likely happy to receive a text from your business.

Email Companion

Due to character limitations, there is only so much you can cram into one text message. You may have an entire newsletter full of relevant and valuable information that a text message simply cannot support. However, using text in conjunction with your email is a smart, effective strategy for optimizing audience engagement. For example, you can send out a text message to advise customers to lookout for an upcoming email.

Current News

With emails, a lot of people will see that they have a notification, but if it is not something urgent, they will leave the email to look at for a later time. Text messaging typically receives a much more immediate response as people keep their smartphones on them throughout the day.

Cons:

Let’s talk about the drawbacks. As mentioned earlier, text messages must be brief. You can’t put a lot of information in your mass messaging blast because you don’t want to annoy your customers with a multi-text message. Also, there’s no room for elaborate graphics or to include the company logo, which is important for brand recognition.

Standing Out

Take into account that consumers may sign up for scores of text messaging blasts. Even the large department stores have text message updates. How can you stand out while contending with these large corporations? You will have to exercise some creativity so that when your text message gets to their phone, they find it unique and enticing and are prompted to take action.

 Getting Volunteers

As we said before, people need to opt into text messaging. People feel more inclined to sign up for email blasts as it is less personal. Even though everyone gets emails on their phone, receiving text messages from businesses can feel invasive to certain people. It’ll be your loyal customers who look forward to text message updates.

No matter if you own a bakery, a flower shop, or a liquor store, you will have to find new ways to reach your local patrons. By implementing a business text messaging campaign, you’re opening up a way to communicate with people and add that old personal touch that has almost been forgotten in this large, technological era. If you’re in need of some extra funding to implement a mass-texting service, IOU Financial can help! With up to $300,000 available in 24-48 hours, you can get the funds you need to grow your business quickly and easily.

Guest Post: About the Author

Ron Kinkade is the Director of Marketing at Call-Em-All, an automated calling and group texting company that provides solutions for small and medium sized businesses, large corporations, membership organizations, community groups, and individuals. Ron has more than 15 years of experience with a proven track record of success. Ron is a graduate of Illinois State University.

Save Time With Tools for Small Business Social Media Management

No one can ignore the power of social media in creating and sustaining a successful business. The problem is that there are so many different platforms, and managing all of them requires a team that most small business owners cannot afford.

The good news is that there are tools for small business social media management which are inexpensive and easy to set up. Read on to find out what your options are and choose the one that’s most appropriate for your business needs.

Buffer

When you want to share some exciting news about your business, or a photo or video, it can be incredibly time consuming to post it on each individual platform, like Pinterest, Instagram and Twitter. Buffer is a great resource that can automatically share content on a multitude of platforms, and offers both free and paid plans.

You can add all of the content at a time that is convenient for you, such as early morning or evening, and then create a schedule to stagger the posts to be shared at optimal times. After the content has been shared, Buffer will offer analytics of how well each post performed.

Hootsuite

Hootsuite is a great resource to help you with social media that may take may take some time to learn to navigate, but it’s well worth it. Although there are limited free features, you will have to pay for most services.

Hootsuite lets you to add content and store it in their Cloud, that will allow your team to share it when the time comes. However, the tool’s main benefit is its comprehensive analytics, which allows you to analyze conversations and results across channels and compare them. You can even utilize demographics to filter conversations about your brand by location, language, etc.

Agorapulse

Calling itself a Hootsuite alternative, Agorapulse offers some great features. It analyzes your social media platforms 24/7 and alerts you in real time when something needs your attention. Plus, you have the ability to automate the moderation process by creating certain rules.

This tool helps you maintain good relationships with your audience by storing all of the interactions you have had with your followers, such as their comments, likes and messages.

Plus, you can compare your page to that of your competitors to give you an idea of what is working or not for them and help you improve your social media reach.

Feedly

The main point of creating social media pages is to engage with your target audience. However, most businesses don’t have enough information to come up with several posts a day, and different ones across various platforms at that! However, that is what’s needed to keep the public interested.

An easy way to fix this challenge is to share other interesting and relevant content that your followers would enjoy. This is where Feedly comes in—instead of subscribing to dozens of other sites or platforms and perusing their content, this Feed Reader collects content from various sites and presents it to you in an easy to read format. You can then instantly share it on your social media!

There are many great tools and resources that can take your social media management to the next level and help you engage with current and potential customers. The truth is that it may take a financial investment to set up accounts with some of these resources, which is why a small business loan can help. IOU Financial is committed to helping small businesses grow and thrive; contact us today to learn more.

Email Marketing Stats You Need To Know

Email marketing is a key marketing tactic for any small business. It’s a great way to stay in touch with customers and drive business at the same time. In fact, for every $1 spent the return is about $44, fantastic for any business. And by using an email marketing service it’s easy to make emails that your subscribers want to read. But there’s so much more that emails can do to help keep your customers interested and engaged in your business.

And the infographic 24 Email Marketing Stats You Need to Know is a great resource to get ideas. To help you get started, here are a couple of ways you can use this information to make your emails better.

Email personalization

Personalization can have a big impact on how your subscribers interact with your emails and your business. Just by adding a first name to a subject line makes your email 26% more likely to be opened.

In order to be able to add a first name to an email, or any kind of personalization, you need to make sure you have data on your customers. The easiest way to ensure you do is by checking your email sign up form. A name and email address are basics, but if you want to personalize with other information, you’ll need to make sure that’s included in your form.

You can use data collected from your email marketing – such as who is opening emails or what links are being clicked on, data from your website analytics or even surveys- to get what you need. One of the easiest ways to add the data you need is to send an email and ask for it.

The more information you know about your email subscribers, the more you can tailor and personalize your emails to your customer’s needs. 50% of marketers feel they can increase email interaction with personalization, try it and see how it works for you.

Automation

With a good email marketing program, you can add automated emails to your marketing for even better results. These are emails that can be created ahead of time and sent out when someone takes an action to trigger them. Examples are welcome emails, transactional emails, or shopping cart emails.

By using automation, you can get emails to your customers when they need to see them. They won’t need to wait for you to create them. The less time they have to forget your company, the better the chance they’ll stay connected.

Wrap up

The value of email marketing goes beyond just sending emails about sales. Taking a little time to collect some data on your customers can make your marketing easier and more effective. For more useful email stats, take a look at the infographic below.

Guest Post: About the Author

Shane Phair is the SVP of Marketing at Campaign Monitor, an easy-to-use email marketing tool that allows every marketer to send targeted newsletters to grow their business. With beautiful templates, a drag-and-drop interface and engagement-based segmentation, Campaign Monitor has helped more than 200,000 growing businesses take their email marketing to the next level.

 

Go Green! 5 Tips for Sustainably Responsible Retail Businesses

In this day and age, most of us know the importance of going green. We recycle at home and have switched out plastic bags for sustainable totes when going to the grocery store. However, not as many green efforts are being made in retail businesses, even though it’s easier than ever to do so.

There are so many reasons to go green, with the most important one being that it is beneficial for us, the future generation and our planet. However, it’s also good for business! Going green helps you both save and make money.  When you make small changes, such as becoming energy efficient, you save money every month on your utility bill.

Plus, consumers are demanding more than ever that the companies they are loyal to become more environmentally sustainable.  By showing your customers that you are committed to going green, you can attract a new audience base, thereby increasing your sales.  Below are five easy tips on a sustainably responsible retail business that you can start implementing today:

Make it Part of Your Corporate Culture

It’s not enough for you to decide to go green, you must encourage your entire team to do so with you. Incorporate an environmentally-friendly initiative into your corporate culture. Discuss ways to be more sustainable with your employees and how you can reduce, reuse and recycle, and then implement the strategies into your everyday life. Purchase blue recycling bins so that your employees remember to recycle. Reward them for biking, taking public transportation or carpooling to work.

Reduce Paper Use

Over 30 million acres of forest around the world are destroyed every year to make paper. This is why it’s important to reduce paper use as much as possible. Encourage your employees to email or write something down on a small post it rather than print an entire page when it’s unnecessary. Teach them to print on both sides instead of single sided.

Ask your customers if they prefer an email receipt over a paper one; this will also give you the opportunity to collect email addresses to stay in touch with your clients. Reward your customers with a small discount for bringing in their bags instead of giving our plastic ones.

Create a Green Wall

In many retail businesses, air is recirculated throughout the ducts and becomes stale. Instead of using the A/C even more or investing in an air purifier, create a green wall! This will allow you to create a unique space that is affordable and will improve air quality. Spider plants, common ivy and sword plants are the best options for cleaner indoor air and a cool look.

Turn Everything Off

It’s likely that you leave computers, cash registers and lights on when your business is not operating, which wastes electricity and raises your utility bill. If you don’t want to go through the trouble of turning each and every item on and off daily, invest into a smart plug. This way, you can control your devices from anywhere with an app or with voice control through Alexa or Google Assistant.  

Green Marketing

Once you commit to making sustainable changes in your retail business, spread the word!  Concentrate on effective green marketing strategies to let your customers know all of the new initiatives you’re putting forth.

Why not host an event to celebrate you going green, and educate your customers about your efforts? This is an excellent way to increase foot traffic and help new customers get acquainted with your business.

IOU Financial works with small businesses to help them finance their needs. If you need a small  business loan in order to help your company go green, visit us today at www.ioufinancial.com.

Are You Interviewing Wrong?

When a valuable employee has moved on from your organization, or there is a need for additional manpower to handle growing responsibilities, management may want to fill that position as soon as possible. However, it is imperative to give this process the time it deserves in order to hire a candidate that would fit all the criteria needed to make a valuable addition to the team.

It’s frustrating when a new hire doesn’t work out, and this can negatively affect the team’s productivity and company culture. If your department doesn’t seem to be able to hold onto new hires for a reasonable time, it’s time to consider if you may be interviewing wrong. Learning better strategies to this process will help you choose the right candidate from the get go.

Interview Mistake #1: Choosing Someone You Like

As people, we tend to gravitate towards people we like, typically those that are similar to us. You may bond with a person because they are from your hometown, or like the same sports team. While it’s important to like your colleagues, you must strive to use objective criteria instead of subjective criteria during the interview.

It may be advantageous to utilize a job screening assessment when recruiting new employees. This is a test that evaluates a potential candidate’s knowledge and skills in a specific area. Whether you choose a computer test or a paper test, the answers will give you a comprehensive view of the person’s expertise in the area, and a preview of how valuable they could be to the team.

That being said, it’s also not a good idea to hire someone when you have no gut feeling that they will work out. If a person seems rude, arrogant or simply disinterested, don’t hire them just because they aced their job assessment.

Interview Mistake #2: Not Asking for Input From Multiple People

Most employees don’t meet their new colleague until their first day on the job, which is too late for them to provide their input. Instead of single handedly selecting a new employee, utilize the peer-to-peer interviewing technique, which allows existing employees to interview potential candidates on a one-on-one-basis.

This provides several benefits to both the interviewer and the interviewee; your staff members can evaluate their potential new coworker and ask questions to see how they would fit into the team. The interviewee can use the opportunity to ask questions about the working hours, management style, and typical day on the job which they may not have been comfortable asking leadership.

Improving your interview process with simple adjustments can help you make a better decision about bringing on the right candidate. Remember to discuss the criteria most important to the team, and focus on assessing whether the individual meets those criteria.

Guest post: About the Author

Grace Ma is a Managing Director at Ex-Consultants Agency (ECA). ECA is a specialized executive search firm that focuses on placing former management consultants into project-based and full-time roles. Before joining ECA, Grace worked as an Engagement Manager at Strategy& (formerly Booz & Company) and VP of Strategy at JPMorgan Chase & Co.

Are you Monitoring Your Online Reputation? How to Get Started.

The advent of the internet age has made competition for all businesses a bigger challenge than it ever was before. As customers are no longer constricted by time or distance, they’re able to purchase goods from around the world.

Since it is difficult to compete by offering unique products or lower than average prices, business owners should strive to provide the best customer service, which goes a long way in keeping current customers loyal and attracting new clients.

It’s important to monitor your online reputation to see what is being said about your brand online because 74% of shoppers base their purchasing decisions on positive online reviews. That means that if you have poor reviews about your products or services, you may be losing out on ¾ of your potential sales! Read on to see how you can get started with monitoring your online reputation to help your business succeed!

Set Up Google Alerts

Google offers an incredibly useful tool that all business owners should become familiar with; and the best part is that it is completely free! Instead of dedicating hours of your time on a weekly basis to scouring the web, Google Alerts will email you when your business is mentioned online on websites, blogs, etc.

Setting this up is easy; simply log into or create a Google account and set up words or phrases that you want Google to track. This can include your company’s name or the names of products or services you offer.

Know Where Your Audience “Hangs Out”

Although Google Alerts is a great resource, you can’t rely on it to report 100% of what goes on online. This is why it’s important to know your audience—customers, employees, investors, etc., and learn where they hang out online.

If you have a physical location, such as a restaurant, body shop or hair salon, it’s likely that your customers tend to frequent review sites, such as Yelp.

If you target a younger demographic and/ or offer products or services that are presented well in photos and videos, such as a travel agency or a clothing boutique, your target audience may be found on Instagram.

On the other hand, if you offer professional services, such as bookkeeping or accounting, you may find your company being mentioned on professional sites, such as LinkedIn or Glassdoor. Remember that your employees may also leave reviews about the experience of working at your company, which can influence shoppers!

Verify Your Information is Correct

While the internet offers a multitude of benefits, it also often takes the control out of business owner’s hands. You can’t regulate what a person or a company posts online, and that may lead to wrong information about your business being posted.

Yext is a helpful tool that can help you manage listings on review and location sites, such as Yellow Pages. It automatically reviews these sites and alerts you when a mistake is found or there is no information at all.

This will help you keep your contact information, address, business hours and link to your website current so your customers can always find you.

Monitoring your online reputation is the first step; however, the most important step is the second one. If you notice a bad review or wrong information about your business posted online, do something about it! If a customer had a negative experience shopping on your site or visiting your brick-and-mortar location, reach out to them and attempt to make it right. Showing your online audience that you are invested in your brand’s reputation and committed to providing the best customer service will go a long way in setting you apart from the competition!

If you need financial assistance with establishing your improving your online presence, turn to IOU Financial. Our company specializes in small business loans of up to $300,000 in as little as 48 hours.

Six Tips to Raise Your Business Credit Score

A high business credit score will allow you to secure more financing for your business. Business credit scoring works almost like personal credit scoring—credit lenders will report business loans and repayment history to credit agencies, who will then calculate a business credit score.

Because a good business credit score is essential for securing business loans, it is important to keep it as high as possible. If your business has accumulated too much debt and failed to repay some loans on time, your credit score may have suffered. However, it is still possible to improve your score by following six simple tips.

Check Your Credit Report

Having a clear understanding of your credit history is the first step towards building a healthy credit profile. You can talk with a credit reporting agency to assess your credit score—some, like Equifax Small Businessoffer consulting services to help you manage your business credit profile.

Once you get your report, you will know where you stand and what you have to work with. Credit reports will also show you which accounts harm your credit score the most; these will be your first targets. Make a list of all the high interest loans that you had trouble paying off and prioritize which accounts to focus on first.

Pay Your Bills On Time

Building up a reputation for consistent and timely repayment is essential to improve your business credit score. Your late payments may hurt your credit score more than your current outstanding debt.

You should always strive to pay all your bills on time, even if you have to stick to the minimum amount. If possible, pay in advance. Keep up this consistent repayment behavior and make sure that vendors report it to the credit bureaus to raise your score.

Don’t Close Your Accounts

Although it is important to reduce your overall debt, closing all of your accounts will not improve your credit score. Do not only think about the money you owe, but also consider the money you could borrow. This is where credit utilization comes into play, which is a way of measuring how much debt you have versus how much credit you could take on.

For example, if you apply for a business credit card account, your available credit will increase, thus reducing your credit utilization. Moreover, you can use a balance transfer credit card to move debt from a high-interest credit card and pay off the loan at zero percent interest.

If you have credit accounts that you don’t use anymore, do not close them. Having a relationship with several lenders will give you access to more financing sources.

Try to capitalize on your good relationship with lenders and repay high-interest loans that you’ve had for a while. In fact, credit reporting agencies will rank you higher for having long-term accounts with several lenders.

No Credit Equals Bad Credit

If you do not have any credit, you cannot have a credit history. Lenders and financial institutions want to see your history of paying off loans to give you more loans. If you have no history of this, they don’t know if you’ll be a good financial candidate. If you have no credit history, start with taking out and repaying small loans.

Build on Your Positive History

 Lenders are more likely to report a bad experience to credit bureaus than a good one. If you have been a loyal bank customer, ask them to report on the positive experiences. The more lenders assess your creditworthiness, the better your business credit score will get.

If you have failed to repay some lenders on time, do that as soon as possible. In fact, negotiate with them, and, if possible, offer to repay the debt in full in exchange for withdrawing any information about late payments that they have provided to credit bureaus.

If the positive experiences outnumber the negative ones, even at high debt levels, your business credit score will improve.

Keep Your Personal Finances Separated

Your low personal credit score may have an impact on your ability to find financing for your business. One way to prevent your personal credit score from lowering your business credit score is to keep your accounts separated. Do not make personal purchases on a business card, and then write them off as a business expense. Your company’s bank account should be completely independent of your personal one.

If your business is going through some rough times, do not be afraid to take out a small business loan. Of course, the final goal should be to grow your business, so choosing the right option is important. Get your credit score report, identify the worst “offenders,” prioritize, create an action plan and start working on removing those black spots from your credit history. By being consistent, you will be able to bring your business credit score to “excellent.” It’s always worthwhile to consider hiring a professional to help you improve your business score. Talk to a representative from CreditRepair.com to discuss your options.

Guest Post: About the Author

Renata Ilitsky is a writer and editor for CreditCardsReviews.com. She is a freelance content writer with over 10 years of experience. She specializes in creating unique and engaging content for any industry. To read some of Renata’s other work, please view her writing portfolio.