When a Loan Is the Right Move for Your Business

Every business needs adequate funding to survive and grow. Ideally, your operations provide enough cash flow to handle all your funding needs. But for many a small business, cash flow isn’t always enough to satisfy the need for working capital. That’s when it’s time to consider a business loan. Let’s look at a few scenarios in which a business loan is the prudent decision.

Purchasing Equipment

Your business may require expensive or specialized equipment. In addition, you may already own equipment that no longer provides the performance you require. If you feel you are losing sales or profit margin because you lack the right equipment, you owe your business the opportunity to compete using the most appropriate gear. Sometimes, equipment manufacturers or commercial suppliers will offer financing, sometimes not. A business loan used to finance much-needed equipment is a terrific idea.

Expansion

Your product or service is selling like hotcakes, and you know you could grow the business by expanding operations and/or enlarging your selling floor. If you need more or better space, it’s going to cost money. For example, you might benefit by making leasehold improvements to your brick-and-mortar store. Or you might want to open additional stores or move from your current location to something larger and more upscale. You are looking at a number of one-time costs, which is the type of challenge that a business loan can solve. The extra profits you earn through expansion will help you accelerate your loan repayment.

Unexpected Opportunities

It really hurts when a rare opportunity comes your way but you don’t have the capital to take advantage of it. For example, one of your suppliers might have cash flow problems that causes it to offer you inventory at a sharply marked-down price. You need money to purchase the inventory, and perhaps to pay for additional storage space. You know that this will pay off handsomely, so you arrange a business loan to grab the deal before someone else gets it. That’s a smart move.

Fresh Talent

Perhaps you run the type of business where the caliber of your top employees is critical to your success. If you’ve been the typical owner, you’ve had to wear many hats to launch your business and keep it running. You and your staff are overworked, and you can’t afford anyone to burn out, including yourself. In other words, you need to recruit some fresh talent because you know it will increase your revenues and/or reduce your expenses. A business loan can help pay for incentives to hire the right employees. Remember, if you don’t hire the person, your competitor might.

Acquisitions

If you’ve been successful running your business, it’s possible you’ve taken some market share away from the competition. Or perhaps you’ve been eyeing an operating business that complements your own. In many circumstances, a business merger/acquisition is the right way to go. It makes sense to fund an acquisition with debt if it will lead to increased market penetration, greater geographic scope, obtaining key assets, or expanding your business to related markets. You’ll need funding not only to buy the target company, but also to make changes to your own operations to accommodate your revised environment. You may need to increase your marketing budget or add management talent. A business loan is completely justified under these circumstances.

Seasonality

If your business suffers from uneven cash flows due to seasonality, a business loan can provide cash to help you withstand slow business periods. You should be able to repay your loan once the busy season returns. For example, you might need to furlough some employees, but want to continue to offer them health insurance. Or you want to buy inventory during the slow season because it’s cheapest then. Use a business loan to smooth out the seasonal revenue ebbs and flows that would otherwise threaten your company’s survival.

Conclusion

There are many circumstances that justify a loan for your small business. What is never justified is settling for a slow, overpriced loan. IOU Financial offers fast loans with convenient repayment options that won’t disrupt your operations. Our loan rates are extremely competitive, and we can say yes when banks say no. Contact us today to discuss how we can help you fund your business quickly and efficiently.

9 Books with Advice to Make Networking Less Excruciating

Very few people truly enjoy networking, which is why so many experts have created a cottage industry out of offering advice. But how do you know what strategies are legit and which aren’t? We’ve done the legwork for you and rounded up nine books on networking by experts from both the business world and academia. Pick up a highlighter and get ready to note all the great tips you’re about to read.

How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

First published in 1936, this book is a worldwide bestseller that has sold tens of millions of copies. Carnegie was a lecturer and writer who taught self-improvement courses on topics such as sales, corporate training, and public speaking. This book covers his important tips for accomplishing exactly what the title says, from becoming genuinely interested in others to showing respect for others’ opinions. It’s a classic for a reason, and we’d be remiss not to start our list off with this book.

Networking Is Not Working: Stop Collecting Business Cards and Start Making Meaningful Connections by Derek Coburn

If you’re sick of endlessly swapping business cards with people who immediately forget your name as soon as you shake hands, this book is for you. It’s a quick read, only covering 163 pages, but it will quickly help you rethink how and why you network. Coburn covers essential topics such as identifying the core group of people you want to focus on, enhancing the value you deliver to your best clients and positioning yourself for more quality introductions to ideal prospective clients.

The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn’t by Robert I. Sutton, PhD

Sutton is a professor of management science at Stanford University’s School of Engineering where he researches evidence-based management. While this book isn’t about networking per se, it’s an excellent guide to spotting toxic people that you want to avoid—and how not to become one yourself. Sutton explains 12 warning signs of toxic workplace behavior, including sarcasm, humiliation, interruption, backbiting and snubbing. Then he delves into the frequency, costs, and damages of this sort of behavior, highlighting case studies from real life companies. If you ever wanted an argument for being a nice person in professional contexts, this is it.

Superconnector: Stop Networking and Start Building Business Relationships that Matter by Scott Gerber and Ryan Paugh

The most successful networkers don’t just meet people for networking’s sake. Instead, these Superconnectors focus on building relationships and providing value through making key introductions and helping their contacts solve problems. Gerber and Paugh advocate for a three-pronged Vision-Execution-Profiting approach to help you build these connections and create mutual value in the age of social media. They cover the dos and don’ts of introductions, finding your own community, Google-proofing your reputation and more in this book.

The 20-Minute Networking Meeting by Marcia Ballinger, PhD and Nathan A. Perez

This tactical guide will teach you how to network and get a job using real-world scenarios, short stories, meeting examples and dozens of tips and observations. Depending on where you are in your career, you might opt for the Professional edition or the Executive Edition. In either one, you’ll learn how to master the five most important parts of a networking meeting, break into the hidden job market, maintain your new network throughout your career and more.

Never Eat Alone: And Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time by Keith Ferrazzi and Tahl Raz

Originally published in 2005, an updated and expanded edition of this popular book was released in 2014 to incorporate the rise of social media and new management styles. Master networker Ferrazzi shares his networking mindset and then breaks it down into basic, easy-to-follow principles that readers can replicate, such as “don’t keep score” and “never eat alone.” Throughout, he also shares tips from some of the world’s best connectors, including Bill Clinton and the Dalai Lama.

Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success by Adam Grant, PhD

Organizational psychologist Adam Grant teaches at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. He has authored multiple best-selling books, including Give and Take, which was a New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestseller and was eventually translated into 30 languages​. In this book, Grant investigates how our professional success is becoming ever more dependent on how we interact with others. Grant investigates how three particular styles (taking, giving, and matching) play out and which ones the best networkers use to develop connections.

Giftology: The Art and Science of Using Gifts to Cut Through the Noise, Increase Referrals, and Strengthen Retention by John Ruhlin

Many people use branded gifts to create and nurture relationships with their clients. But if done wrong, these gifts can waste your money and even backfire, negatively impacting the relationship. In this book, Ruhlin teaches readers how to give gifts the smart way, harnessing the power of radical generosity to create goodwill and increase their connections in the process. If people aren’t returning your calls and emails and you don’t know why, this book might have a solution for you.

Taking the Work Out of Networking: An Introvert’s Guide to Making Connections That Count by Karen Wickre

Silicon Valley veteran Karen Wickre has worked for Google and Twitter, among other major companies, and she also counts herself as an introvert. Wickre wrote this guide to share her passion for connecting people and to show introverts that they too can be good at networking. Wickre teaches her readers how to “embrace the quiet side” and coordinate networking opportunities that work for them, such as one-on-one coffee dates instead of big professional mixers with dozens of people.

If you’re feeling stuck in your networking activities, or feeling nervous about attending an upcoming trade show, try reading one or more of these books to inspire yourself and learn new strategies. Good luck at your next mixer or coffee chat, and remember that you never know when a stranger might turn into a mentor or colleague.

Guest Post: About the Author

Lee Becknell serves as the Senior Digital Marketing Manager for Pinnacle Promotions. Lee oversees digital marketing from the Atlanta, GA headquarters. Lee has been with Pinnacle for over six years. Lee enjoys spending time with her husband, son and golden retriever, running and taking naps.

7 Ways to Avoid Financial Stress When Running a Business

Running your own business requires careful thought and planning. But even with all that, it’s hard to avoid feeling financially stressed from time to time. Handling the stress productively can help your business succeed. But avoiding it in the first place can also make your job far more enjoyable. Here are seven ways to sidestep financial stress before it appears:

  1. Establish good accounting habits:

    You can avoid much financial stress by knowing your exact financial condition every day and tracking your cash flows against your budget. You should purchase either a good accounting system in-house, subscribe to an online accounting package, or hire an accounting service to do your books. You should stay on top of your accounting entries and generate reports frequently to see where you stand. Using this information, you can respond to upcoming cash crunches early and take actions, such as delayed spending, to reduce the problem.

  2. Invoice promptly:

    Always invoice immediately when providing a service or sending goods. Encourage prompt payment with terms like 2/10 net 30. That is, you’ll grant them a 2% discount if they pay in 10 days, but in any event, the full amount is due in 30 days. After sending out invoices, remember to follow up promptly. You can automate your email and SMS service to help you maintain contact with the people who owe you money.

  3. Adopt money-saving ideas:

    For example, consider renting equipment rather than buying it. This can avoid an enormous outlay of cash that you can instead deploy elsewhere. Also, renting equipment relieves you of repair costs should it break down. You can rent office space, or better yet, work from home if possible. If you have staff, see if they are interested in working remotely, as this too can save you (and them) money. Put on your thinking cap and we’re sure you’ll discover dozens of smart ways to spend less money.

  4. Keep it legal:

    One temptation some business owners succumb to when finances get tough is to cut corners and adopt shady practices. Besides being unethical, it will surely elevate your stress level rather than reduce it, and in the long run can lend you in hot water. Keep it honest, and whether you succeed or fail, you’ll know you did so legitimately.

  5. Use an LLC:

    A limited liability company can reduce stress by protecting your personal assets from your business creditors. If you run a sole proprietorship, a creditor or legal opponent can sue you in court and if they win, seize your home, car and other assets to collect the money due them. An LLC shields you from personal liability for your business debts without having to set up a corporation.

  6. Do your own marketing:

    It’s become much easier to manage our own public relations, thanks to the internet and social media. You have the opportunity to effectively engage with people on a personal basis. Social media accounts are free, and you can do online advertising in any amount that is comfortable. Build up your website with good content to improve your position in web searches. Learn the ways of the SEO masters to help build website traffic, increase prospects and convert them to customers.

  7. Use debt wisely:

    Cash flows in a small business are often uneven. This is compounded by any seasonal aspects to your business. The wise use of debt can mitigate these problems by providing injections of cash when you need it. Moreover, a short-term loan can let you take advantage of opportunities that pop up from time to time. For example, you might have a supplier who offers you a great deal on inventory. A loan could allow you to buy up the extra inventory and then use the increased profits to easily repay the loan.

Conclusion

The key to reducing financial stress is to spend less, earn more, husband your cash and rely on credit when you need it. If you are interested in a low cost, convenient business loan, contact us at IOU Financial — we’d love to hear from you.

Simplify Your Content Marketing Strategy with a One-Page Plan

The recent Content Marketing Institute release, a B2C content marketing report, took the attention of all content marketers. It’s an important annual study because it helps shed light on various aspects of content marketing that we’d otherwise be blind to.

B2C marketers with a documented strategy were found to be more effective than those without one in every aspect of content marketing. But yet, only 39% of marketers have a documented content marketing strategy.

Why do you need a one-page strategy?

We’ve already established that having a documented content strategy is far better than the alternative. For people that don’t have a written content marketing strategy, having a simple one is a great place to begin.

On the other hand, if you do have a detailed strategy but are having a hard time with it, simplifying it is going to help you figure out where the weaknesses are and possibly seal them.

A one-page content marketing strategy is advantageous regardless of the size or stage your business is in, because it helps in the following concrete ways:

  • It helps clear up holes in your overall business plan.
  • Content producers can all be sure of what exactly is expected of them.
  • It gives the business a more focused vision.

For smaller business, it might end up being all you need. Most times content strategies end up being too convoluted and ineffective.

Pinpoint the organization’s needs and goals

The first step in creating a simple content marketing strategy is to find out what the organization aims to achieve in that year. Since almost every company’s ultimate goal is growth, they share almost the same objectives. This should be outlined in documents like internal memos. They should help you outline:

  • The profit target
  • Revenue target
  • How growth is to be achieved

With all this data, the next step is to figure out what role content marketing is supposed to play in helping the company achieve those three goals. Don’t forget to have a way to measure the kind of impact content marketing will have had on the company’s end goals at the end of the year.

What to include in your one-page strategy

Having been used to writing five pages of more worth of details for your strategy, how do you know what to include and what to leave out? The following are the most important aspects it will normally boil down to:

Goals

Business goals are the most critical achievements your business should reach in the near fiscal year or over a 5-year period or so.

Examples of goals that could be outlined in your content marketing strategy include:

  • Increase market share of your product from XX% to XY%.
  • Grow percentage of sales from new products

Objectives

There is understandable confusion among marketers when it comes to differentiating between goals and objectives of a business. Goals are the general guidelines that are going to direct you over the long term and reflect the mission statement and vision of the company.

Objectives are meant to define how the goals are to be achieved – think of them as measured steps towards achieving your final goal. These should optimally have a measurable impact, should be specific and, preferably, have a completion date.

For instance:

  • Increase revenue by XX% over the next 12 months.

Strategy

This part of the document should detail how exactly you plan on achieving your goals and objectives. What qualitative impact will content marketing have on the business over the course of the next year? For example:

  • Increase awareness of the new product by launching an ad campaign.
  • Create a better customer service experience by retraining company representatives.
  • Increasing brand engagement by launching a social media campaign.

Metrics

This section should detail how you are going to measure what the content marketing strategy has achieved in the course of a year or so. These should directly reflect on the goals, objectives and strategies the business has put in place for itself.

It’s important to note that all details included in this section should be concrete and measurable. For example:

  • Awareness of the new product was increased by XX%.
  • Customer satisfaction rating improved from XX% to XX%
  • Sales revenue jumped from XX% to XY%.

Other useful details to have at hand

Once all of this is said and done, there are a few more factors you might have to consider when it comes to a content marketing strategy. A one-page strategy is a great rough guide for how the business should achieve its goals, but you may end up leaving out some finer details that are required to get to the end result.

These include:

The type of content to produce

There are several different kinds of content that can be used to reach the eventual end goals.

  • Blog posts: Blog posts are an excellent way to increase search engine presence and make your business discoverable on the internet.
  • Case studies: Case studies usually coincide with testimonials and are an excellent way to let potential customers know how your customers feel.
  • Videos: Videos have risen to the top of the content marketing world because they are one of the most engaging forms of content that can be produced. According to the data presented by HubSpot, videos are 40 times more likely to get ahead on social media than other kinds of content. Granted, it needs a larger amount of investment, but it has a proportionately higher ROI.

If you want to outsource your content to an expert, find the best essay writing service through essay review and domywriting reviews online. It will help you focus on your core areas and get you better results with the help of professional online writing experts.

To sum up

A Content Management System (CMS) is a program that helps to manage all the content you create and could have a lot of bearing on how your content appears and what kind of analytics you can harvest from your visitors.

Some of the most popular CMSs out there include WordPress, Contentful and HubSpot. Your business strategy might include new ways you can use and implement a new CMS or how you can leverage the power of the old one to your advantage.

Guest Post: About the Author

Lilian Chifley is a digital marketing expert working mainly with online writing services. Her current assignments are with Assignment Masters, Dissertation writing service and Custom writing services. When she’s not at work, she loves to go out for jogging or cycling, read motivational and inspirational books and spend time with her two young daughters.

6 Practical Tips to Manage Your Small Business Finances

Even experienced business owners can benefit from improving the way they manage their finances. This is especially true if your expertise in your product or service doesn’t extend to managing business finance. It would be a shame not to realize the full potential of your company, so we’ve assembled six practical tips to help you stay on top of your business finances.

1.   Remember to Pay Yourself

Especially in the early days, your desire to make your company a success can cause you to plow every dollar back into the business. While the impulse is admirable, it is also unsustainable. The fact is, you need to ensure that your personal finances are adequately handled so that you aren’t distracted from your business. You are central to your startup and deserve compensation for your efforts. Remember, if for some reason the business fails, you don’t want to be in a position where you never received any pay for all your hard work.

2.   Budget for Growth

After paying yourself, it’s crucial to plan for the growth of your company. For many businesses, if you are not growing, you are dying. So put aside some money to fund growth opportunities and to take advantage of favorable circumstances. Besides increasing the scale of your business, your commitment to growth will have beneficial side effects. For example, it might be easier to recruit quality employees if they see your willingness to invest in the future. Your customers will welcome improved service, and your business will realize additional value.

3.   Optimize Your Billing Strategy

Billing is part of your central accounting package, but unlike some other areas, billing can involve extra operations beyond bookkeeping. We’re talking about dealing with those occasional clients who are slow to pay. These semi-deadbeats put a dent in your cash flow, and if the problem gets out of hand, your business could be jeopardized. You can improve your billing strategy by adopting discounts, such 2/10 net 30. This gives your customers a 2% discount if they pay within 10 days. Another strategy is to sell off your problem accounts to a collection agency. You’ll take a small loss, but you’ll free up your time to concentrate on more important tasks.

4.   Be Ready to Pounce

Ideally, you will have sufficient funds put aside to take advantage of unusually favorable opportunities. For example, one of your wholesalers might offer you a special discount on inventory. Or perhaps a desirable piece of equipment suddenly becomes available at a good price. It would be a shame to lose out on these opportunities simply because your money is tied up elsewhere. Therefore, be ready to borrow money on short-notice from a convenient and fast source, such as IOU Financial. Typically, the profit opportunities from a good deal far outweigh the interest costs of a short-term loan.

5.   Stay on Top of Your Tax Payments

Taxes might be the bane of your existence, but you had better keep current with your tax obligations to avoid disastrous consequences. You will owe income tax, sales tax, maybe even property tax, that must be remitted on time. If you have trouble making quarterly payments, then switch to monthly payments. In this way, taxes become a routine monthly expense, just like all your others.

6.   Monitor Your Books

You should review your books and records at least weekly. This is your best bet for quickly becoming aware of potential problems. Part of monitoring your books is being able to diagnose any weaknesses in several important areas, including liquidity, efficiency and return on investment so you can respond quickly as problems arise.

Conclusion

There are many ways to improve your business finances, but they require vigilance and prompt action. Ensure you have enough resources available, including access to working capital, to help you fund your efforts to grow your business and remove impediments to growth. If you’d like to discuss a strategic loan from IOU Financial, we’d love to hear from you.

How To Optimize Your Business For The Digital Age

Nowadays, everything and everyone is digital. But how do you keep up? With a few simple tips on how to optimize your business, moving it online and utilizing the cloud for example, you can be on your way to fitting in seamlessly with today’s ‘phone-zombie’ crowd.

Be Realistic

You have to consider the pros and cons of doing a full-on move to the online world vs. just dipping your toe into the digital revolution. Not every business will need to drop everything and go entirely online, so consider the scope of your business and the degree of change which will be necessary. Taking down a checklist of your personal goals for your company, and seeing how many of these could be made easier or achieved by going online, might help – do you want to reach global customers easily and cost-effectively? A website would be a good idea. Do you want to become a quaint local business, and cater to the surrounding customers? Maybe the internet isn’t quite for you, or at least you shouldn’t put too much of your budget into building the perfect, modern website.

Consider Employees

“Employees are the backbone of your business, so you can’t make any major changes without considering them,” Charlie Miller, a marketer at Lastminutewriting and Writinity, says. “If you have a fast-paced, modern set of staff, then they will, most likely, have no problem with some hardware and software updates, and will most probably welcome the modernization. However, older and more conservative employees may be harder to convince, and need specific training or even just less change altogether in order to keep the office running smoothly.”

Plan Frugally

Of course, moving online isn’t going to be an inexpensive process, but you can make sure that your bank account takes the least amount of damage possible by planning ahead and making your budget stretch as far as possible. If you’re working with freelancers – which is a cost-effective method in itself since it eliminates a lot of the cost associated with traditionally hiring – make sure that you communicate and only hire at a reasonable rate. Hiring someone – traditionally or otherwise – to keep your finances in order might be a sensible idea, so that you don’t splash the cash and end up running low on funds for your business after a digital buzz.

Keep Security In Mind

“Although the internet is a wonderful place, it can also be very dangerous.” Izzy Hicks, a business writer at Draftbeyond and Researchpapersuk, warns. “Hackers are constantly trying to access normal people’s information, so businesses are a higher risk, higher reward target to them. If they can get into your data, which your digital transformation (if you don’t consider security) will give them more access points to, then it could be horrible for your security, and cause you to lose massive amounts of customer trust and possibly even money.” Invest in cyber-security, possibly even hiring some employees specifically for this purpose, to make sure that your digital move is secure.

Work With Your Employees

Not all employees will be as happy about the digital move as you are, so make sure that you don’t just sweep their concerns under the rug and actually deal with them head-on. Staging meetings where all employees are welcome to voice their opinions and ask any questions about the digital move which they might have. If you’re certain about the level of your digital changes, then make sure that you can bring all employees up to speed, and not just some. Everyone needs to feel welcome and like they can contribute and work with the digital changes to the office.

Automation Is Key

Once you’ve started your digital change, something you should consider is automation. Ideally, automation should be so stream-lined and smooth that a customer doesn’t even realize it exists in the first place – the difference between a human response and your automated response should be minimal at best. Emails and social media can benefit from automation, and giving your employees some training on implementing and working with automation could do your business a world of good.

Mobile

Finally, mobile phones are key. Almost everyone now carries a smartphone in their pocket everywhere they go, so you need to take advantage of that and make sure that you are catering to the huge mobile phone-using audience. Many prefer a smartphone over a laptop, so you’ll need to make sure your website is optimised for viewing on a smartphone screen, or perhaps even invest in the creation of an app (which could be commissioned by a freelancer) to appeal to this very modern, digital audience.

Guest Post: About the Author

Ashley Halsey writes professionally at Lucky Assignments and Gum Essays, while being involved in many projects throughout the country, which focus on both writing (and the English language) and business. As the mother of two beautiful children, she is well-used to working through adversity and getting her job done alongside bringing up the kids, and yet she still finds time for travelling to amazing places, reading fantastic novels and attending business training courses – her schedule is almost as busy as the creative insides of her mind, which is really saying something!

 

 

How Small Business Can Use Technology to Serve Their Customers Better

Without doubt, the service component of your small business can greatly influence your overall success. That’s obvious if you are a service-oriented company, but it’s just as true if you sell goods. Technology is a key asset you can employ to improve your customer service. The question is, how well do you deploy technological solutions to meet your operational challenges and improve customer service? In this article, we’ll give you several tips for upping your capabilities and responsiveness using tech solutions. Use these to build loyalty and help improve your customers’ experiences.

  1. Social media:

    You often think of social media as a part of your marketing strategy. But it can also serve to help improve your customer service. Use social media to elicit opinions from customers about what you could do to improve your business, and carefully evaluate the (non-crank) suggestions. You can also post customer satisfaction surveys and announce special sales on Facebook and other social media platforms.

  2. Ticket system:

    Add a ticket system to your website’s help desk for handling customer issues. Assign a ticket number to each customer inquiry / complaint that you can use to track progress toward and achievement of a solution. The system should use email and/or instant messaging to keep customers updated on their issues and provide a way to receive feedback.

  3. Online appointments:

    Consider using an online system to schedule and manage appointments if this is appropriate for your business. You can use this kind of system to help manage the personnel who will be guided by the schedule.

  4. Mobile office:

    Your business may require you or your employees to be out in the field. You can establish a mobile office and netword with the right choice of portable computers, reliable internet connections, filesharing capabilities, and time-saving solutions such as bar-code readers. You can use systems that support and track any service people you deploy to customer locations.

  5. Website:

    Add functionality to your website that offers value to current and potential customers. This might be some kind of calculator that helps customers figure out how much to order, or perhaps a series of videos that instruct customers about the products and services you offer.

  6. Extend reach of brick and mortar store:

    If you run a small storefront, explore how much of your business you can export to the online environment. Maybe you haven’t yet considered selling your products online, or if you do, haven’t had good success. A new or better system might be just the answer for creating new income streams online.

  7. Email:

    How effectively are you leveraging your database of customer email addresses. There are marketing systems available that create and deliver email to customers based on their previous purchases. For example, you might offer special discounts to your most loyal customers or announce special programs available only through invitation.

  8. Service kiosks:

    One way to improve customer service is to offer self-service kiosks in your store and elsewhere. These can be geared to helping customers with various tasks, such as inquiring about previous orders, establishing new accounts, and even making purchases. They also can provide valuable information regarding the technical aspects of your products and services, perhaps leading customers through a series of questions to better understand which of your offerings would be right for them.

  9. Improve warehouse operations.

    If your business involves warehouse storage and shipping, make sure you are using the latest high-tech solutions to manages customer shipments. Customers will appreciate the shorter time to receive deliveries, and you’ll waste less time keeping tracking of your inventory.

Conclusion

Many technological solutions are not expensive, but some might be. For those that are, consider a short-term loan from IOU Financial. We’ll help you afford the latest tech solutions through our fast, no-hassle loans with convenient payback options. Stay competitive! Leverage the power of technology to keep your customers happy and in a buying mood.

Social Media Tricks That Can Bring a Fresh Breath to Your Business

Growing your small business through social media should not be that stressful. If you know which tools to leverage and you are equipped with ample knowledge of online marketing, especially social media marketing, it will be easier to attract prospects and gain customers. Social media is a huge platform where you can promote your business in fun, simple and cost-effective ways. If you have a small business and want to conquer all social media channels, here are some social media tricks that can bring a fresh breath to your business.

Cinemagraphs

If you want to keep the interest of your prospects online, don’t bombard them with lengthy texts since they will only find these overwhelming and boring. Instead, make visual content your weapon in increasing engagement. For one, use cinemagraphs or still images with some animation. Unlike actual videos, they are very easy to make using programs like Fixel and Fotodanz. Using these apps, you can make beautiful cinemagraphs which your audience will surely find interesting and engaging.

Stock Photos

If you don’t have enough time to take your own pictures or you just want to save some bucks from hiring a professional photographer, you can always take advantage of stock photos. They can increase your business’ visual appearance and make your content more appealing. Stock photos are easy to find, save and upload to your social media page and they have the same quality as the photos taken by professionals.

Hello Bars

Also known as floating bars, hello bars are simply notification bars that prevent your visitors from being disturbed when browsing your page. These will notify your customers and prospects when you are making announcements, offering a lead magnet, showcasing more content, asking your prospects to subscribe to your email list or running a limited-time offer. By using a simple floating bar, you can easily promote your business without annoying your prospects.

Free ‘Click to Tweet’ Option

The click-to-tweet option is a good way to promote your brand and boost your sales. This is free and you can put it on your website or anywhere there is text on your page. If people like your content, they will click it and share it on Twitter, where more prospects can see it. A lot of people use Twitter and when people start sharing your content in this platform, you’ll have a higher chance of gaining customers.

Shopping on Instagram

Every month, more than 800,000 consumers use Instagram to shop and business owners around the world have been using this platform to share their products and stories. Now, you cannot just use Instagram to share content, but you can actually sell your products here. You only need the approval of Facebook shop and you can start tagging your products on your posts. This is a great way to increase your revenue since more people can now see your products and go to your website when they find any interesting item from your shop.

Killer Captions

Whether it’s on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, always make sure that you use killer captions. Don’t post your content right away without making an interesting caption or checking each word you wrote. If you’re not that good with wordplay, you can let your social media manager take care of it or hire a copywriter to improve your captions. Killer captions are made with some storytelling using captivating words. Just make sure the captions are free of clichés and focus on quality instead of quantity.

Catchy Hashtags

Hashtags are also a great way to increase your audience so make good use of them all the time. To garner a broad interest, use popular hashtags in your industry and include your company’s name in the list of hashtags you use. However, avoid using too many hashtags and only put relevant ones. Try to shorten your hashtags since long ones are difficult to read due to the lack of spaces.

Giveaways

Everybody loves freebies and even though giveaways are very traditional, they hardly fail marketers in boosting their sales and engagement. Because people are always on social media, it is a great place to run all these contests. Take advantage of holidays and celebrations and run a contest where you can give some nice giveaways. The rewards may come from your shop or you can also offer other appealing and valuable items. It is also a great way to thank your customers for their patronage and encourage them to buy more of your products.

Fun Facts/Inspirational Quotes

Sometimes, you can rest from posting videos and other visual content. You can also post some fun facts or memes to entertain your customers or share some inspirational quotes to cheer them up. If you’ll notice, most fitness coaches use this trick but even if you’re not in the fitness industry, you can always do this to increase engagement and motivate your customers and prospects.

Guest Post: About the Author

Lidia Hovhan is Digital Marketing expert and SEO guru. She contributes articles about how to integrate digital marketing strategy with traditional marketing to help business owners to meet their online goals. You can find really professional insights in her writings.

A Good First Website Visit: 4 Non-Negotiables You Need

Maybe you’re just about to launch your own business, and the next task on your to-do list is to set up your website. Or maybe you already have a website, but you don’t seem to be getting very many leads from it. The truth is, a good website can make all the difference to the success of your business. And by good, we mean a website that makes a favorable first impression, draws repeat visitors, and leads to increased sales. To make a good first impression, you must insist on several non-negotiable items. We can divide those items between content and design. Read on to learn more.

Content-Oriented Items

Content is king. That is, good content doesn’t guarantee a sale, but bad content invariably costs you one. Good content requires several non-negotiable items.

1.     Language

The single most important item for creating a successful first website visit is the quality of the language you use. Nothing turns off potential customers faster than the poor use of language, which includes:

  • Spelling and punctuation mistakes
  • Bad grammar and syntax
  • Clunky or run-on sentences
  • Passive voice
  • Long paragraphs with too many themes
  • Missing text elements, such as captions

2.     Ideas

The reader wants to feel assured that you are reputable, knowledgeable and worth their time. You can’t achieve this if you litter your website with problems like:

  • Factual mistakes
  • Unclear ideas
  • Unconvincing arguments
  • Unrealistic promises
  • Stupid jokes
  • Unbridled boasting
  • Lack of fresh content every week or two
  • Lack of call to action

Different websites have different purposes. If your purpose is to promote your business, your pitch has to sound convincing. Include evidence to back your arguments and by all means add footnotes and/or links to reputable sources. Humor is a great tool, but a tricky one too, so use it advisedly. Always include a call to action, perhaps backed by a free goodie, such as a special report, eBook, coupon or promotion code.

3.     Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

The most important task in ensuring a good first website visit is a first website visit. Sure, you can pay for ads on Google and elsewhere. But in the long run, you’ll maximize your marketing return on investment by organically ranking high for search engine results on specific keywords. That means creating a website with authoritative content, but it also means making it easier for Google to classify your content. That’s the job of SEO, and includes:

  • Keyword research: Pick three to five keywords that express the purpose of each page on your website. You can use Google’s Keyword Planner to research the most effective keywords and the amount of competition you face for each one. Populate your website content and titles with your keywords. Use them throughout the page, but don’t overuse them.
  • Logical organization: This includes easy-to-navigate menus with well-organized items. It also includes the use of compelling titles and paragraph headings, linkages between different pages on your website, proper use of captions, and creation of a website map that the search engines can easily scan.
  • Technical items: SEO comprises many other technical issues. If you don’t have the expertise yourself, consider hiring an expert to get things right.

4. Design and Style

A well-designed website invites visitors to read the contents. Using thoughtful style elements can draw readers down the page and make information easier to comprehend. Some important items regarding design and style include:

  • Attractive theme: There are thousands of website themes available for free or at a modest cost. You can also use a website builder with built-in themes that are appropriate for your purposes.
  • Interesting style elements: These include your choice of fonts, images, graphics, colors, and on-page organization.
  • Welcoming landing page: Your home page and/or landing pages should be especially strong, with plenty of images to supplement a relatively sparse use of words. Your job is to draw visitors into your website, not bombard them with tons of information on one page.

Conclusion

A good website requires a lot of thought and a fair amount of expertise. If you don’t want to personally handle the task of creating and maintaining your website, consider hiring contractors to help you with content, design, and style.