You Have A New Lead — What’s Next?

Leads are great, but only to the extent that you convert them to customers. It’s not rocket science, but you do need some smarts about motivating leads to purchase your goods or services. In this article, we’ll give you some tips on how to qualify and convert leads, thereby increasing your sales and growing your business.

There are plenty of useful tools for nurturing and converting leads. You can use a customer relationship management (CRM) app to keep track of leads, customers, and interactions. You can use a tool to automate your email campaign, or perhaps use an entire platform such as HubSpot, which offers a suite of tools for inbound marketing.

To simplify the discussion, let’s say your small business acquires leads by collecting the email addresses of website visitors. Perhaps you have a free offering that requires a visitor to enter an email address to qualify. Now, some leads are more promising than others. Here’s how to identify good leads and engage them:

  1. Optimize product pages:

    Your website should clearly describe what your company does and what it offers. Visitors should be able to easily navigate to product pages for the particular goods and services that interest them.

  2. Always include calls to action (CTAs):

    You use CTAs to collect email addresses and other basic information when visitors request a free download, demonstration, or some other goody. This is the most common way to collect leads. You can also buy sales lead lists from list brokers who deal in your industry.

  3. Nurture leads via email streams:

    You can create streams of automated emails to nurture leads. You start with emails that offer generally useful information and then slowly introduce your sales pitch in later emails. Using email management software like Mailchimp can help you track the progress and effectiveness of your email campaigns. Software can vary the mail stream depending on the lead’s responses. You want recipients to open their emails, so include compelling information, special deals, and other enticements.

  4. Schedule a meeting:

    The email campaign should help you identify the most promising leads. These are the ones that would benefit from a personal contact, such as a phone call, meeting, or an invitation to a seminar. You should try to schedule the follow-up interaction as soon as possible before the lead loses interest or is otherwise distracted. You can automate a Google Calendar entry that leads can post.

  5. Institute a reminder strategy:

    The reminder strategy involves contacting a lead via an email, phone call, text message, etc., about a scheduled interaction. A gentle reminder can reduce the number of no-shows. You will want to confirm their preferred method of communication, including their best phone number and email address.

  6. Offer a deal:

    You should understand your competitors’ offerings and prices so that you can offer an enticing deal at a defendable price. That means ongoing market research so that you can always present a competitive price.

  7. Track your sales reps:

    If your business is big enough to have sales reps, you must track their performance over time. Underperformers may need training and additional support.

  8. Collect statistics:

    Your marketing return on investment (ROI) can only be measured if you collect meaningful statistics on your marketing and sales efforts. There are many stats to track, but of course the most important one is leads who make a purchase — your conversion rate.

Conclusion

Leads are valuable, don’t let them go to waste. Review your marketing and sales strategies over time by way of conversion ratio and other metrics. And if you don’t feel like you’ve got a handle on this aspect of marketing, there are many resources available to you, including books, websites, videos, courses, seminars, toolkits, and so forth.

5 Tips on How to Boost Your Business With Webinars

If you’re looking for new effective ways to promote your business, webinars are certainly worth giving a try. Webinars have proven to be an effective tool that generates high-quality leads quickly. One of the great advantages of webinars is that even small businesses and startups can afford them.

If you own a small business, the chances are that you like to learn something new and you already know what webinars are. And if you don’t, here are some great webinars for small business owners. However, webinars are not only a good educational tool but also a very effective solution for businesses that want to promote their products or services, gaining visibility and attracting a fresh audience.

What Webinar Marketing Is

Webinar marketing is based on the use of online seminars in order to reach out to a wider audience and to promote products or services. Usually, webinars provide valuable information for free, giving the participants an opportunity to purchase services and products offered by the company that created the webinar.

Just like downloadable ebooks or checklists, webinars act as lead magnets. However, they offer more value and they can also bring you better leads. Usually, webinars include a presentation and a Q&A session. The video format allows you to establish effective communication and to demonstrate your services and products in real-time.

Webinar marketing is an approach that benefits you while also educating your audience, which adds value to your marketing efforts. Besides, video content is extremely popular. Experts predict videos to make up 82% of all internet traffic by 2022. Besides, 72% of consumers like to learn about new products from videos. Compared to other types of video content, webinars are relatively cheap to produce. That’s why we mentioned webinars in our list of the best types of video content for small businesses.

Although webinars are often aimed to get the audience interested in purchasing something, it’s important to understand that they shouldn’t look like a sales pitch. A successful webinar provides value. Relevance and quality of the information that you provide determine the effectiveness of your marketing efforts. Here are some tips that will help you make your webinars interesting and effective.

How to Boost Your Business With Webinars

Choose the right topic

The main thing that determines whether or not people will want to attend your webinar is the topic. First, you should choose the right words for your title so that it will appeal to a wide audience. Secondly, you should determine what topic is most likely to generate interest.

When choosing a topic for your webinar, you can research keywords related to your niche and determine what people are searching for. The chosen keywords must be not only popular but also unique. Offering something unique is especially important for new businesses that face strong competition.

You may also check your existing ebooks and posts on social media or blogs to find content that has performed well. This way, you may find an engaging topic that will be interesting for your target audience. The main thing so to research your niche and not to choose a topic simply based on your instincts.

Plan your webinar properly

Successful marketers know that they shouldn’t rely on luck. You cannot improvise when your goal is to create an effective marketing product, especially if you’re creating educational content. You need a well-designed strategy and a clear plan.

First, you should understand why you need this webinar. You can use webinars for various purposes, and your purpose determines what strategy you should use. For example, you may want to launch a new product, to attract new leads, or to establish your brand as an expert in the niche.

When planning a webinar, think of your audience and determine what types of content might be most valuable and engaging for them. Focus on a single topic and plan the structure of your seminar. Usually, seminars are one-hour long. You may dedicate 45 minutes to the presentation so that you can spend the remaining 15 minutes answering your audience’s questions.

Do your best to create high-quality content

First, we recommend that you approach this step as a continuous process. Even if your marketing strategy has already demonstrated some success and some people showed up, you won’t be able to make them come back if you don’t produce more great content. Your content must be exciting and fresh.

We recommend that you offer useful information and a solution to the problem you’re helping your customers with. Always try to provide the ultimate solution but make sure to focus on helping your attendees, without being too self-promotional.

You should also make sure that your webinars will reach the widest audience possible. If you’re selling your products internationally, you may want to make your content understandable for people who speak different languages. Although it’s difficult to translate webinars in real-time, you can record them and add subtitles. Just make sure to use the right translation service, such as The Word Point.

Keep your audience engaged

Your presentation shouldn’t be boring. Thanks to modern technology, you have plenty of opportunities to grab your audience’s attention and to keep them engaged. Make sure that you’re broadcasting high-quality audio and video. Look at the camera so that your viewers can maintain visual contact with you.

The pacing of your presentation is also important. We recommend that you switch slides quickly so your audience will pay attention. Otherwise, your webinar may become boring. Your slides must be to the point and not overloaded with text. Just write the key points and keep your presentation simple and straightforward.

Promote your webinars

Even if your webinar is very informative and engaging, you may still have to do a lot of work to get enough participants. First, don’t promote your webinar at the last moment. According to statistics, only 33% of your audience is likely to register on the day your webinar goes live. We recommend that you start promoting your webinar in advance.

If you want to get the biggest number of participants, we suggest that you start to promote your webinar at least one month before it goes live. We also recommend that you promote your webinars on Tuesdays, as it turns out that 25% of people who attend webinars register for them on this day of the week.

When promoting webinars, try to use as many channels as possible. Promote them on social media and run email campaigns. According to research, 70% of people sign up via email. Don’t forget to create a nice registration page and send reminders before your webinars start. You may also edit your thank you message to add a link to the registration page.

Wrapping Up

Webinars are a great marketing tool that allows you to not only promote your business but also sell your products. However, the success of your webinars depends on your ability to create valuable and engaging content. Follow our tips, and you will take your marketing strategy to the next level, creating winning webinars that help your audience and generate sales.

Guest Post: About the Author

Frank Hamilton is a blogger and translator from Manchester. He is a professional writing expert in such topics as blogging, digital marketing, and self-education. He also loves traveling and speaks Spanish, French, German and English.

4 Reasons Why You Should Hire a Tax Accountant for Small Business

Tax accountants do much more than only handle your tax return. They advise on legislation that could affect your business. They oversee and prepare your company’s tax compliance reports. And they give feedback about budgetary concerns. If you’re running a business without a tax accountant, you can probably already see why adding one to your firm is a good idea. Not convinced? Then check out these four reasons.

A Tax Accountant Can Be a Good Investment

You may be worried about the cost of hiring a tax accountant, but an accountant can actually save you money in the long run. Most tax accountants have a wide variety of accounting knowledge and skills, so your accountant could be the perfect fit for the other accountancy tasks of your company. By getting invaluable tax and general advice from an accountant, you are sure to see your profits grow more than they previously did. A tax accountant could be the best investment you make in your business. If you run a more significant company, it’s worth investing in hiring a certified public accountant. CPAs are qualified and highly experienced. So, they can assist in tax issues and a variety of other accounting elements like financial planning, mergers, acquisitions, and investments.

You Can Avoid the Nightmare of Doing Tax Returns

Tax accountants obviously deal with tax issues. So, if you’re unsure about your taxes, you should hire a professional. After all, doing your company’s tax returns can be an outright nightmare. You need to know what tax codes mean, which forms you need to fill out, how to fill out the complicated forms and a hundred other things. With so much time and stress focused on your tax return, you’ll probably also be worried about incurring hefty fines from getting your return in late. If you’re not an expert in tax, it’s best to hire a tax accountant. He or she will ensure you avoid any late-fines and put your paperwork in order.

A Tax Accountant Helps You Stay Legal

If you don’t fully understand your taxes, you could end up overlooking a critical detail which could result in a severe fine or even an illegal action. If you want to ensure you stay on the right side of the law, hire a tax accountant. He or she will be able to advise you on other legal matters too. There are a lot of rules and regulations for business owners, and understanding all of them can be tricky. For instance, you may not know that you legally need to take out employers’ liability insurance. Having an accountant as part of your team ensures your business meets all applicable rules and laws.

You’ll Have More Time to Focus on Other Things

However large or small your business is, you’ll know that it takes up a considerable amount of your time. On top of full-time working hours, you’ll probably be doing other tasks like maintaining your firm’s website, ordering stock, looking for new contracts, or looking over any other business fundamentals. Indeed, running a business can often mean you have little leisure time to spend with your family and friends. Taking time out is essential for any business owner, but with a seemingly never-ending list of tasks, how do you find that extra time? Of course, the answer is: get a tax accountant. Hiring an accountant to handle your taxes and organize your finances means there’s a huge chunk of your work-life that you suddenly don’t have to handle. Instead, you can focus more on other critical areas of your business and spend more time with your loved ones.

Guest Post: About the Author

Erika is an independent copywriter and content creator. She is an avid reader who appreciates unread books more than read ones. You can follow her on Twitter.

SEO in 2020 — How to Rank as #1

SEO is in a dynamic phase right now, thanks in part to the evolution of Google’s ranking algorithms and in part to the move to optimize visual, voice, and Facebook Search channels. If you are a webmaster or a business owner (or both), now would be a good time to re-evaluate your SEO practices with an eye toward bringing them up to date. Here are a few areas to consider:

  1. Beneficial Purpose:

    Google now places a heavy emphasis on the beneficial purpose of a website during the ranking process. Pages should be user-centered to achieve their intended purposes. This includes sharing topical, personal, or social information, sharing various forms of media, expressing opinions, entertaining visitors, selling services and products, running a forum, and facilitating user interactions. Pages that seek to make money without helping users are now considered to be of low quality.

  2. YMYL Content:

    YMYL stands for “your money or your life.” Broadly, this is critical information that your website must get right. Specifically, inaccurate or deceptive YMYL content might affect a reader’s financial stability, safety, health, or happiness. Google now places greater scrutiny on the truthfulness of YMYL pages, including ones that cover news, legal issues, governmental developments, financial and medical advice, shopping information, and information on groups of people.

  3. EAT Factors

    EAT, or “expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness,” was once the entire basis of page quality, but now is one of several factors. YMYL content must meet a higher EAT standard, demonstrating the credentials of experts and generally recognized authorities that are considered honest and accurate. EAT factors are of the highest importance on pages containing medical, scientific, financial, legal, and other information that supports decisions.

  4. Scaled Content:

    Important, high-quality information should be shared in a coordinated way, including long-form articles, press releases, videos, podcasts, multiple platforms, chatbots, and Google Actions. The trend is to develop original, expert content and then distributing it through multiple channels and media.

  5. Avoiding Staleness:

    You can help your ranking by updating old content, something that Google notices. For many websites, that means updating or archiving pages that are six months to two years old. Google will downgrade a page that loses relevance because the information is dated. You should update your content to include the latest links, statistics, and external resources. Also, you should regularly audit your pages for duplicate, conflicting, or sketchy content. There are audit tools (e.g., DeepCrawl, SreamingFrog, SEMRush, etc.) available to help you identify problem areas.

  6. Facebook Search:

    Paid social and paid search are increasingly intertwined. Is your Facebook search-ad strategy up to date? All brands can now place Facebook ads that automatically receive Automatic Placement support. That means your ads will appear in the Facebook Marketplace as well as primary search results. Your strategy should include using niche keywords targeting less saturated audiences.

  7. Sharpening Backlinks:

    Backlinking continues to be an important tactic to boost the credibility of websites. Your backlinks should target competitive keywords, especially in highly-competitive markets. These should be quality backlinks that promote specific marketing outlets, such as digital marketing platforms that serve similar audiences with high domain authority. By the way, these same considerations also apply to guest postings, encouraging long-term recurring contributions.

  8. Schema Use:

    The joint facility Schema.org provides websites with a structured data markups that major search engines interpret page information. You need Schema to provide snippets that serve as zero-click results on the search results page, a good strategy to keep searchers from traveling to another site to answer a question. Also, Schema supports voice-based queries such as those available through Google Assistant.

Conclusion

We’ve given you eight tips to help you improve your SEO practices in the new decade. Space limitations prevent us from exploring additional tips that you should check out on your own, including Accelerated Mobile Pages, page speed, Google Search Console, different language hreflang tags, and more. So saddle up, cowpokes, and git that SEO done – don’t let your competitors get the jump on you.

Relocating a Business: 5 Factors You Need To Know

Relocating a business can be a very complex issue, whether you’re moving to another state or just down the street. To make everything run as smooth as possible, you need to plan the move carefully. The stakes are very high and there are a lot of things that could go amiss if you don’t organize everything down to the last detail. There are some factors you should make your priority in order to avoid future trouble.

Proximity to Transportation and Accessibility

When picking a new location for your business, one of the most important things to take into consideration is transportation options. In metropolitan areas, a large number of people rely on public transport, so if you have access to metro or bus stations it is good for both your customers and your employees. It provides the staff with a convenient and easy way to travel to work. Plenty of them might even be happy that they don’t have to get behind the wheel every day! Some people, however, find public transport intimidating and foreign so you should inform your employees about their options ahead of time. Organize a meeting with the staff before relocating and let them know about the nearby public transit options.

As for customers, you need to make sure they know how to find you and that they have easy access to your facility. Measure the doorways to make sure they aren’t too narrow and look for any step-ups that make it difficult for people to enter. If some concerns are raised, discuss them with your landlord before you sign a lease or your company could be subject to a lawsuit.

Staffing

There are a few main factors you need to consider concerning your staff.  First, you need to figure out the number of employees you need at your new location. If the new facility is bigger than the previous one, there might be a need for increased staff numbers. Is it feasible to hire more people with the current profit?

Second, can you attract a new workforce? Chances are you will have to let go of some of your trusted old employees as you move to a new location and you might need to hire new staff. If the living conditions in the area aren’t so good, you might find it difficult to find new people to hire. Looking for and training a new group of qualified and skilled workers can take some time at first. Do not forget that new people in the workplace might need some help fitting in. Team building exercises will bring your workers closer together and they will have fun in the process!

Hidden Costs

Looking at the rental price of your new building can be deceiving. Make sure not to take every expense at face value when relocating, as it can be easy to overlook many of the less obvious costs. When comparing two locations price-wise, don’t forget to also include expenses such as utilities, parking lots, flooding possibilities and snow removal costs. The new location might seem more expensive when you first look at the rent, but it could be the more economical choice overall if the price includes heating, cooling, wifi, parking and so on.

This requires a lot of research, especially if you’re moving to another country. Some things to look into are good infrastructure (you don’t want to deal with common power outages!), legal and regulatory structure and the culture. Ensure that the people have adequate education and if local universities provide courses that fit your company’s needs.

The move itself can also be costly and sometimes won’t go the way you planned. To avoid any hassle, you could hire a reliable logistics management services provider. They will do all the heavy lifting so you don’t have to.

Keeping Both Locations Running

This is a thing that can seem obvious at first, but keeping both locations running during the move is extremely difficult and requires a lot of cautious planning. If you don’t think this through properly, you might end up with a lot of unhappy customers! Either figure out a plan to keep the business running during the move, or make sure your customers are notified ahead of time that you’ll be taking a break for some time. Explain the issue to them and let them know when you will be open again. You will probably still end up with some complaints because not everyone will see the announcement in time, so beware!

Apart from the customers, it is also crucial to update your corporate address if you want to avoid orders and mail going to your old facility. Check if all suppliers and delivery services have your new location in mind.

Proximity to Amenities

While access to transportation options may be the most important thing to consider when looking at the facility’s surroundings, it is also a good idea to check if there are local amenities available in the area.

Having lunch options within walking distance is a sure way to keep your staff happy. Inform them about any shops, convenience stores, cafes or gyms you find nearby. Having the ability to run some errands or do some quick grocery shopping after work will be much appreciated by your workers. Keeping employees satisfied isn’t only a responsibility, but a pleasure as well.

Conclusion

Moving can cause a lot of headaches for both you and your staff. This list doesn’t cover all the issues you might face when dealing with such a complicated task, but it will surely help keep you on the right track. It is a risky business, but if you plan ahead carefully and strategically, success is nearly guaranteed.

Guest Post: About the Author

Nick is a blogger and a marketing expert currently engaged in projects for Media Gurus, an Australian business and marketing resource. He is an aspiring street artist and does Audio/Video editing as a hobby.

8 Proven Methods for Small Businesses to Save Money

Small businesses frequently go through cycles of strong and weak profits. When profits are low, you probably will want to find time-tested ways to save money. You do this by cutting costs and reducing your overhead without sacrificing sales. Here are 8 proven ways for your business to save money:

  1. Outsourcing:

    You can save money by outsourcing tasks that are not central to your business mission. This keeps your full-time staff as small as possible while outsourcing work not performed by staff. You can hire contractors and consultants as needed for specific tasks, often at a lower all-in rate than needed for an employee with the same skills.

  2. Advertising:

    You can continue to reach customers without traditional advertising. Rather, low-cost alternatives are available that will save you money. One alternative is to spend your marketing money on public relations rather than advertising. For example, a good PR strategy can get your company mentioned as authoritative sources in media outlets and publications. Inbound marketing using SEO and social media can be just as effective as conventional advertising in increasing traffic to your website.

  3. Vendors:

    Review your relationships with your vendors to see whether you can negotiate lower costs. Vendors want to keep their goods and services flowing to their customers and might be willing to charge less if that allows them to maintain their business volume. You can negotiate on a huge range of costs, from phone service to office supplies. The nice thing is that there is no penalty for trying to lower vendor prices, whereas forgone potential savings are the penalty for failing to negotiate.

  4. Cloud:

    If you don’t already live in the cloud, now is a great time to move in. Cloud-based solutions can save you big money compared to the cost of acquiring and operating your own expensive hardware. Cloud-based systems host your databases and software. SaaS (software as a service) costs an annual fee that can be much cheaper than developing or running your software in-house, such as payroll and ER systems.

  5. Telecommuting:

    Everyone can win when you embrace telecommuting if that’s possible for your business. You can save on office costs and ongoing operating expenses. Your employees save commuting costs and enjoy a better work experience. The result is to produce work products with minimal overhead. You can start with some of your office staff and work towards expanding telecommuting as convenient.

  6. Green:

    Happily, the moral imperative to go green coincides with cost-cutting. You’d be surprised how little things can add up to big savings. For instance, turn off machines when not in use, and use a printer that prints on both sides of the paper. Better yet, reduce your use of paper by adopting a paperless office concept. Where feasible, buy recycled supplies and equipment, utilize efficient lighting, and recycle your own waste for money.

  7. Debt:

    It might save you money to consolidate your various debts into one, convenient loan that charges a reasonable interest rate. If you have to make several debt payments per month, consolidation can cut it down to a single lender. If you choose a lender like IOU Financial, you can have your payments deducted daily from your bank account, keeping your payments affordable and automatic.

  8. Maintenance:

    Are you paying for daily cleaning services at your office? Perhaps you can cut back on this expense by training staff to keep things clean and neat. With proper staff training, you may be able to cut back to weekly cleaning without noticing the difference.

Conclusion

We’ve touched upon several ways for you to cut your business costs with little or no sacrifice to your operations. There are many more methods to save money, and we will no doubt return with additional suggestions in a later blog. Remember, it takes just a little extra effort to implement money-saving protocols that will continue to save money for your business over the long run.

Does Your Small Business Need a Legal Team?

As with most business advice, the answer to whether or not your small business needs a legal team isn’t a straightforward ‘yes’ or ‘no’.

There’s no doubt that your business needs some form of legal aid, as trained attorneys and paralegals can help ensure that your business is legally sound. They’ll be able to spot issues in your operations that you might not have considered, and they’ll work with you to come up with solutions. But at what capacity is necessary for your business?

Legal Considerations to Keep in Mind

Picking the right legal help requires understanding the potential roadblocks you might face. So, with that in mind, here are some common legal issues for small businesses:

Business Structure
Entrepreneur cites failing to choose the right business structure as a huge issue small businesses often face. Setting your business up as a sole proprietorship versus an LLC or S Corporation has its own set of disadvantages and benefits, for example, that not many account for.

Copyright
There’s no shortage of small businesses nowadays, with new ones popping up almost every month. Protecting your name, branding, and products under copyright laws (remember that each of these is protected by different laws) allows you to differentiate from your competition.

Cybersecurity
A strong cybersecurity protocol is important in any business, especially in today’s tech-heavy world. Having lax cybersecurity policies could lead to a huge data breach, thereby slowing down operations and costing your business.

Factors you Need to Consider

With these situations in mind, here are some ways to help you choose the legal aid that suits your business best:

Understand the landscape
Many business owners shy away from seeking legal services because of the misconception that they cost lots of money. Small Business Trends’ list of low-cost legal services can be a great starting point for your business, as you’ll be able to get a quick overview of where your business needs help. Using these resources narrows down your selection of law firms that can tackle the issues that you need help with.

Set a budget
Most investments start with a budget, and seeking legal help is no different. Once you’ve surveyed the landscape, you’ll have a better price range in mind. You should also remember the different kinds of solutions available to you. A full-blown legal team costs more than a sole business lawyer, which then costs more than a quick consultancy or ad hoc team.

Keep trust in mind
You want to make sure that you trust whoever is handling your company’s legal affairs. After all, they have to know the ins and outs of your business—and they might even represent you in key meetings. An article by Special Counsel on ‘How to Choose Outside Counsel for Your Company’ points out that the best legal teams will get to know their clients on a deeper level. Firms who are worth partnering with understand the importance of cultivating a lasting relationship in order to give the best assistance. Working with someone you trust also makes it easier for you to let them into every nook and cranny of your business.

Our post on the ‘7 Ways to Avoid Financial Stress When Running a Business’ outlines that adopting shady practices can end up causing you stress in the long run. Investing in the right legal protection is exactly that—an investment—but it’s one that will save you a lot of heartache.

There are lots of factors that come into play when deciding what kind of legal aid you need. A legal team is but one of the many solutions you can adopt, so picking the right one comes from understanding the scope of your needs.

Guest Post: About the Author

Working as a business consultant for over 4 years, Alaia Catherine has found a passion in writing. Working as a freelance writer on the side, Alaia provides business advice to a variety of blogs and websites. When she isn’t writing or working, she’s trying out new restaurants with her husband near their home in Seattle.

Prioritizing Your Business Goals in 2020

The new year is here, and with it comes a fresh opportunity to re-evaluate your business goals. This is a useful annual exercise because goals and priorities can change. You need to ensure everyone is on the same page in the new year. Take the time to look at your objectives and to apply lessons learned from 2019.

Here are some important things to consider as you review your 2020 goals:

  1. Assess 2019:

    Start by figuring out what you did right and what you did wrong in 2019. The right stuff should serve as the basis for the growth of the company. But the bad stuff is possibly more important because it tells you where you must take action to improve performance. The actions you take depend on the nature of the problems you encounter. Typically, you will have to redirect and/or increase resources allocated to the problem areas, whether it be management, sales, marketing, finance, or operations. Your assessment should be accompanied by specific plans to exploit strengths and remediate weaknesses.

  2. Emphasize training:

    Growth in 2020 will require an investment in professional growth within your company. Sure, you need to train onboarding employees, but you must also make sure that management, including yourself, receives the latest information regarding changes in the business landscape, including technical, tax-related, best-practice, marketing, and regulatory developments. Group training options may be the most cost-effective. You should also utilize your in-house and consultant experts to deliver training courses where needed. Naturally, you can save money by training on-premises rather than paying for travel.

  3. Set SMART Goals for 2020:

    SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-Bound. To make your goals SMART, you must state them in detailed language that leaves no doubt as to what constitutes success. You must specify what is to be done, using which methods, by what deadline. You should also specify how you will prove that the goal is achieved. For example, you can use financial ratios to prove you’ve improved margins, reduced inventory turnaround time, or attained dozens of other possible goals.

  4. Use high-quality data:

    The adage is “garbage in, garbage out.” Now more than ever, you need to be operating using accurate and timely data. Bad data can result in bad expenditures that hurt your business. It might be a good idea to bring in a data consultant to assess your current databases to see that they are internally consistent and clean. Prioritize which data is the most important for your business and verify it is of high quality. You should have key performance indicators that help you assess data quality.

  5. Evaluate your leverage:

    Many companies short-change their growth prospects by failing to employ enough leverage (i.e., debt). Often, owners are too conservative and miss opportunities that would enhance growth. They are afraid to take on debt even though their businesses throw off more than enough cash to easily repay the debt. By taking prudent loans, companies can make new investments, pay off old liabilities, and recruit needed talent. You may want to spruce up your financials in anticipation of merger and acquisition activity. Perhaps you want to relocate a store, or open new stores, or upgrade your inventory mix. If you have carefully designed plans, don’t let them wither just because you can’t finance them internally.

Conclusion

We’ve outlined a few important priorities to address for the new year. To the extent they require expenditures, our last point is critical: Use debt to grow your company. We can help. Please contact us at IOU Financial for quick, affordable business loans that are easy to repay. We have the experience and expertise to get you the money you need on terms that will please. We look forward to hearing from you soon.

Up Your Social Media Strategy with These Tips

Social media has burrowed into the population’s psyche as an indispensable source of news, opinion, and gossip. Approximately half of the earth’s population uses social media via platforms like Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube. The average time a social media fan spends on these platforms exceeds two hours per day. The message is clear: You need to include social media in your business’ marketing strategy. Here are some handy tips to up your social media presence.

1.    Create a Comprehensive Content Marketing Plan

You begin by asking yourself some probing questions to help you determine the type of content to adopt:

  • Who is buying your offerings? Define your market in terms of income, age, gender, location, needs, likes, behaviors, and challenges.
  • What subjects interest your market?
  • What social media platforms do your customers use?
  • Do they prefer a particular type of content?
  • What content do you have to revamp or add?

Use the answers to guide the creation of your social media content. For example, a distillery might target an audience that is interested in drink recipes and food pairings. At the very least, begin a blog that addresses your market with relevant content. Then, share your blog and other content across multiple social media platforms. Include videos, SlideShare presentations, infographics, and visual content. Use scheduling tools (SproutSocial, Buffer, Hootsuite, etc.) to push out and publish content on various platforms. After posting, continue to engage your audience by answering questions and responding to comments. Consider features like contests, surveys, and promotions to spark additional interest in your content.

2.    Distribute Content to the Right Platforms

Pick the right platforms for different types of content. Start with Facebook to post news and entertaining information, including videos. Use LinkedIn for content appealing to your B2B audience, and Instagram for high-quality videos and images. You get the idea. Also, share your content with a schedule tailored to each platform. For example, you might want to add Twitter and Facebook content twice per day, whereas a few times per week for LinkedIn.

3.    Use Video Content

Nothing beats the power of video for engaging your audience and making a memorable impression. It’s a great way to tell your story and promote conversions. Consider these video ideas:

  • Animation
  • Listicles
  • Product videos
  • Interviews
  • How-to videos
  • Live-streaming videos

You might try to turn your most popular blogs into videos. Also, identify your top keywords to drive interesting subject concepts. There are tools that generate visuals from keywords as well as video creation tools to help you share your story, including AnswerThePublic, Promo, and Wave.video.

4.    Consider Using Influencers

Studies show that the marketing plans that include influencers have a higher return on investment. The right influencer can boost your exposure to your target audience. You can save money by using niche influencers rather than general ones because they charge less and are more effective if chosen correctly. There are several tools (Awario, Upfluence, NinjaOutreach, BuzzSumo, etc.) that can identify the most relevant influencers for your business. Niche influencers should have a good-sized following and a proven ability to stimulate engagement. Trust your influencers to shape their contributions, because they have the experience to resonate with your audience.

5.    Measure Your Outcomes

This is a must. Use tools to monitor and measure the effectiveness of your social media strategy. These tools include TweetDeck, Awario, Talkwalker, and Mention. You can track likes, comments, and shares to gauge involvement, and dig deeper by using UTM parameters and A/B tests to gather detailed data on traffic and conversions. You should also monitor your competitors’ marketing activity. Consider performing a social media sentiment analysis to help you understand what is motivating conversations among your audience members.

Conclusion

There seems to be no end to the growing influence of social media. That escalates the stakes for an innovative social media marketing strategy to increase your presence on the popular channels and boost sales. You want to outshine the competition, and the tips presented here can get you going on the path to success.

4 Resolutions to Set For Your Small Business in 2020

As a small business owner, it’s likely you’re aware that things in the business world are ever-changing. Whether you’ve been in business for 10 years or 10 months, the new year is a great time to set some goals and resolutions in order to maintain and increase your success. While there are many ways in which you can go about setting goals, below, we’ve listed five tips we feel are crucial to help small business owners like yourself achieve success this coming year.

Establish Your Social Presence

These days, digital is the way to go. It’s rare anyone picks up a newspaper to find out what’s going on in the world, and if that’s where your business is being advertised, it’s pretty unlikely many people are hearing about it. If you’re thinking to yourself, “I already have a Facebook or Twitter account so that should be enough,” think again! While having these platforms is great, they’re doing absolutely nothing for your business if you’re not utilizing them strategically.

Depending on what’s happening within your business, make it your resolution to post weekly, or even daily, in order to engage with your customers. When you’re creating these posts, you’ll want to be sure they are consistent across the various platforms you’re utilizing. Because your social platforms are connected to your business, you want their presence and tone to be a reflection of that. Be sure to use language that is professional and on-brand and if you post photos, make sure they are appropriate and tell a story that relates back to your product or service.

If you’re someone who is not super tech savvy but would like to learn, there are courses you can take, many of which you can find online for free. On the other hand, if you do not have the time to devote to familiarize yourself, hiring someone may be in your best interest. If you’d like to learn more about various titles and job descriptions to make sure you’re hiring a candidate to meet your specific needs, visit this page for a breakdown.

Streamline Your Finances

While there are many reasons to start a small business, one of the main motives is to, of course, make a profit. Once you’ve established your business and start to see a profit, it’s important to keep your finances secure. A lot of business owners make the mistake of mixing their personal finances with their business. Having a shared account may work in the early stages, however, over time, things can get tangled leaving you with a big mess that could have been avoided had you kept your accounts separate from the start.

This year, look into opening a business bank account, more specifically a digital business bank account, to handle all your small business needs. Going digital provides you with 24/7 access to your accounts, the ability to make deposits and receive transfers at your fingertips, avoid waiting in lines, and you’ll even be able to loop your bookkeeper in on your finances, making tax-time and making sense of your financial statements a little less stressful. A digital bank account is a great option for owners or employees who are required to travel as they can access their banking information anywhere, anytime. To learn more about why you should go digital with your small business, check out this article.

Take Out a Loan

This may seem like a backward tip since you’ve already gotten your business up and running, however, taking out a small business loan may be exactly what you need to do in order to expand your growing business in the new year. Maybe you’re in the market for some new, more ergonomically correct office furniture, or maybe you’ve grown so quickly that you’re considering a second location. Either way, a small business loan can help get you there.

In the business world, opportunities come and go in the blink of an eye. That said, once you discover something lucrative for your business, you must act quickly. You’ll want to take this into consideration when selecting a company from which you borrow. At IOU, we understand this sense of urgency and do what we can in order to approve loans up to $500,000 in 24-48 hours leaving you with less time to worry about money and more time to focus on your business needs.

Give Back

Being a small business owner requires lots of hard work, patience, dedication, and perseverance and is oftentimes a thankless job, especially in the beginning. However, waking up each day knowing that you’re heading to work to do what you love has to feel pretty great. Why not share this energy with the community in which your business is housed?

As a small business, there are a number of ways you can give back to your community and they don’t all involve donating financially. For example, you and your team can select one day per month to spend time volunteering at a local animal shelter or a food pantry. It may seem like a lot to ask of your employees, but the intangible reward of helping those who are in need will make it all worthwhile. If you happen to be in a position where you can give back financially, consider sponsoring an event or even a youth sports team. Your contribution to the people in your area will be appreciated and although it is not intended to be a means of advertising, you may gain some new customers as a result!

The new year is a time for change and growth within your business and some of your practices as a business owner. It’s time to perfect your craft and welcome new ideas into your flow. Taking the time to make resolutions and actually sticking to them can be imperative in the success of your business. These tips we shared are just a few of the ways in which you can start 2020 off on a strong foot and continue to have a profitable business for years to come.