Business Credit Scores vs. Personal Credit Score

Starting a business takes money, and that money typically comes from financing. But in order to get approved for a business loan, entrepreneurs need to meet certain lending criteria, including having decent credit. Lenders will not only look at your personal credit score but also your business credit, both of which play a role in your ability to obtain financing for your business.

But how exactly does business credit and personal credit differ? Let’s dive into each to understand the difference.

Business Credit

Business credit – also referred to as commercial credit – helps lenders to determine your creditworthiness and candidacy for financing. A high business credit score can boost the odds of securing a business loan and obtaining better favorable terms. On the other hand, a low business credit score can make it more difficult to obtain financing and secure more favourable terms.

Not only do lenders look at our credit score, but so do vendors and suppliers before agreeing to deal with your company. Business credit is also required to obtain business insurance, and in many cases, it’s also needed for purchasing goods and services.

While your personal credit may be able to be used for some of these, in many cases it can’t. And even in cases where personal credit may be used, it really shouldn’t, as using personal accounts can make accounting a lot more confusing and difficult.

Who Creates Your Business Credit Score

There are three major credit bureaus in Canada that are responsible for determining business credit scores: TransUnion, Equifax, Dun & Bradstreet. Each of them uses a set of factors to determine a business credit score.

TransUnion

TransUnion offers both business credit reports and business credit scores. TransUnion uses business credit data and public record information to create their business risk score. This score takes into consideration a number of factors, including insolvencies or delinquencies, available credit limits, business bank accounts, credit cards, and collection.

Equifax

Equifax works a little differently than other credit bureaus in that it assigns a business three different scores. The first is a conventional credit risk score between 100 to 992, which assesses a company’s credit history. The second report from Equifax contains a “Payment Index” range from 0 to 100, which is a measure of payment history to past creditors. A score of at least 90 means that a business pay their bills on time, on average. Thirdly, Equifax’s “Business Failure Score” ranges from 1,000 to 1,880 and assesses the risk of businesses dissolving.

Dun & Bradstreet

The Dun & Bradstreet PAYDEX score is a rather straightforward business credit scoring model that’s based on how promptly payments are made and is scored up to 100. This credit score assesses the average number of days needed to pay off a debt. A score of 100 means that bills have been paid at least 30 days or more before they’re due, on average. Scores of 80 mean that bills are being paid the day they’re due, on average. Generally speaking, the longer it takes for you to pay your bills, the lower your score will be.

Personal Credit

Personal credit scores are used by lenders to assess a borrower’s creditworthiness and financial health. These scores represent numerical expressions that are based on an assessment of a person’s credit information.

Lenders use credit scores to assess whether or not consumers are able to qualify for a loan, the interest rate charged, and potentially even the loan amount. Missing bill payments and taking out too many loans can bring a credit score down, which can make it more difficult for a borrower to secure a loan.

A high credit score, on the other hand, means the individual has been much more responsible with his or her finances. Payments are typically made on time, credit limits are not maxed out, and debt loads are relatively healthy.

In Canada, personal credit scores range from 300 to 900. The closer the score is to the upper level, the better. Generally speaking, lenders like to see a score of at least 650 to 680 before they agree to extend a loan to an individual.

Who Creates Your Personal Credit Score?

In Canada, there are two major credit bureaus, Equifax and TransUnion. These bureaus compile the information found in your credit file to calculate your credit scores.

Certain factors are used to calculate a credit score, including:

  • Payment history – A history of timely payments will help increase your credit score, while a history of missing payments will do the opposite.
  • Debt load – The amount of debt you carry relative to your income will impact your credit score. Higher debt loads are often associated with lower credit scores, while lighter debt loads are typically associated with higher scores.
  • Credit utilization ratio – The amount of money that you spend relative to your credit limit will be a factor in your credit score calculation. It’s generally recommended to keep your spending to no more than 30% of your credit limit in order to keep your credit score healthy.
  • Age of your credit accounts – Older credit accounts are usually a good thing for credit scores, especially if they’re in good standing. Further, a longer credit history will help credit bureaus better assess your credit health.
  • Credit mix – Having a few different credit accounts – such as a mortgage, personal loan, car loan, and credit card – can be a good thing for your credit score, as long as you are responsible with all bill payments associated with each.

How to Establish Business Credit

In addition to keeping all of your business finances separate from your personal finances, there are other ways to establish business credit:

Open a separate business account – As already mentioned, mixing your personal and business finances can make things more cumbersome. Not only will a separate business checking account make things easier for bookkeeping purposes, but it can also help you build business credit when you use it strictly for business expenses.

Apply for a business credit card – Using a business credit card responsibly can help you build good credit, much like using a personal credit card responsibly can have the same effect. With each timely payment you make, your business credit can be improved.

Apply for a small loan – Every payment you make will be reported to the credit bureaus, which can help you build good credit.

Establish credit lines with suppliers and vendors – Since Dun & Bradstreet needs a minimum of four vendors to generate its credit report, it would help to establish credit lines with suppliers and vendors and build up relationships so they can eventually turn into future trade references for your business when you apply for a business loan.

Regularly keep tabs on your business credit – It doesn’t take long for your business credit to change, so it’s important to keep an eye on it on a regular basis. By identifying any changes in your business credit report, you’ll be able to spot any strange issues that you can deal with right away before they negatively impact your credit rating.

Should You Ever Mix Business and Personal Credit?

While we don’t recommend using your business credit card to pay for personal expenditures, your personal credit score plays a key role in your business. Having said that, lenders are still going to look at your personal credit score if your business is relatively new and will require a personal guarantee when applying for financing, which means you’re still responsible for the loan. If you ever default on your business loan, the lender has some more recourse aside from going after your business.

It’s important to still maintain your personal credit score while you’re building your business credit since they can both be important when applying for a business loan.

Guest Post: About the Author

Loans Canada is a financial technology and media company that connects Canadian consumers to financial service providers and educational resources. Loans Canada is one of the nation’s leading online destinations for information on loans, debt relief, credit building, and commercial financing. Their technology platform allows consumers to search for the best lenders and credit providers in Canada.

2020 Technology Trends for Small Business Owners to Anticipate

At last check, America was hosting more than 30 million small businesses. The ones that plan for the latest technology trends will hold a distinct advantage over their competitors. Here are six tech-related trends that business owners should anticipate. Perhaps one or more will have a direct impact on your business.

1.    The Growth of Automation Software

Artificial intelligence (AI) and related automated technologies were once considered too big to affect small businesses. That’s rapidly changing now. The evolution of AI is making it a viable option for small businesses in a number of business processes, including:

  • Email marketing
  • Customer service
  • Data entry
  • Accounting

As AI apps filter down to small businesses, the businesses that climb on board will be better able to compete with larger companies. In addition, the growth of automation may create a startling new number of business opportunities that will interest entrepreneurs.

2.    Work from Home

Futurists predict this trend will quickly become the new normal for millions of small business employees. Attitudes toward remote work are changing. Once, owners and managers feared that it would lead to lower productivity. However, the facts indicate just the opposite. Studies show that employees who work from home are more productive, thanks to fewer distractions and time saved on commuting. Small businesses will increasingly experiment with telecommuting, at least for part of the week. Owners may actually save some operational costs, and employees will save on commuting. The result should be a more productive environment.

3.    Social Media Marketing

The number of small businesses who latch on to social media technology to market their offerings will continue to accelerate. Platforms such as Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Facebook continually refine their technology to improve marketing return on investment for their customers. Small business owners are becoming aware of the value of social media influencers. These are professionals who have large followings and who can help bring your offerings to the attention of their many followers. If you want to get the biggest bang for your marketing buck, consider engaging a social media influencer to help with your marketing campaigns.

4.    Freelance Economy

The same technological progress that animates telecommuting makes it easier for millions of people to develop side hustles that form the genesis of new small businesses. The freelance, or gig, economy allows folks to monetize what were once hobbies and to work as consultants/contractors to multiple clients. As telecommunications becomes faster and more reliable, it becomes easier and cheaper for professionals to compete online as graphic artists, writers, webmasters, marketing consultants, and many other gigs. For example, one leader in the field, Upwork, provides complete support services to facilitate small business gigs for freelancers, and its influence should grow in 2020.

5.    Customer Support

Consumers increasingly favor online customer support over phone calls. Real-time chats allow specialists to handle customer inquiries and complaints. This has a couple of side effects. First, it encourages customer interaction among people who don’t like to talk on the phone or to wait in queue for the next available representative. Second, the growing use of AI provides online capabilities to solve many problems online before the intervention of a human. Third, it allows easier rationing when customers need to speak to a person to solve a problem.

6.    Shifts in Investments

Small businesses may have to replace aging technology to successfully compete. The growth of cloud computing and the introduction of 5G networks are but two examples of where business owners may need to revamp antiquated equipment and unproductive practices. Although this may require an initial investment in hardware, software, and expertise, the cost will be well worth it. Companies who rely on older technology will find themselves at a disadvantage to nimbler, tech-savvy competitors.

Conclusion

It will require increasing investments in equipment, software, and expertise to compete in 2020 and beyond. If you would like to explore the financing you might need to help your business thrive, we invite you to contact us at IOU Financial. You’ll find it easy to borrow the money you need quickly, economically, and with convenient repayment options. Don’t let tight cash prevent you from seizing the promise of advancing technology — contact IOU Financial today for a fast small-business loan.

How to Celebrate Women’s Small Business Month

October is Women’s Small Business Month (WSBM), and truly deserves to be celebrated. Women have made tremendous strides as small business owners, although there are still many challenges ahead. Here are some ways you can draw personal meaning from WSBM as you celebrate the occasion.

  1. Learn About the National Women’s Business Council (NWBC):

    The Council was formed in 1988 with the mission to help end discriminatory lending to women. The Council continues to this day, giving important non-partisan advice to the federal government about issues vital to women business owners. It’s refreshing to see how much progress has been made as people of good will dedicate themselves to extending progress to today’s and tomorrow’s challenges.

  2. Identify Your Business as Woman-Owned:

    You can get the word out on your website and on social media. Include figures and statistics about the rising presence of women-owned small businesses. For example, did you know that almost 40% of U.S. businesses are owned by women, comprising more than 11 million female business owners? Add a page to your website discussing how you created an innovative service or product, and any obstacles you had to overcome as a woman.

  3. Offer and Encourage Mentorship to Young Women:

    If you are a role model for female entrepreneurship, consider mentoring the next generation of women business owners. You can speak to local groups, form an organization with other local businesswomen, and bring in interns to learn how a business works.

  4. Schedule Special Sales and Promotions:

    Make October a month your customers will remember by sponsoring sales and promotions tied to WSBM. This can be especially effective if you offer products or services that are helpful to women and families. Consider running an essay contest and awarding prizes to young women who describe their passion for starting and running a business.

  5. Get Involved in the Political Process:

    There is still a lot of work to be done to ensure that women get equal pay for equal work, and that businesswomen get the same access to credit that businessmen do. Support candidates and initiatives that can help women overcome obstacles and increase the availability of capital.

  6. Publicize Grants to Women Owned Businesses:

    There are many national, state, and local grants available to female entrepreneurs, such as these five leading examples:

      1. InnovateHER Grant:
        This grant, sponsored by the Small Business Administration, awards three grants annually totaling $70,000 to businesses that develop offerings that empower and influence women and their families.
      2. Eileen Fisher Women-Owned Business Grant Program:
        Ms. Fisher had but $350 when she launched her clothing business in 1984. The company now annually earns more than $300 million in revenues, and it pays its success forward with 10 annual grants totaling $100,000.
      3. FedEx Small Business Grant Contest:
        Although not exclusively for women, females have had great success receiving hundreds of thousands in grant money, including several women grand prize winners.
      4. Girlboss Foundation Grants:
        Since 2014, the Foundations has granted over $120,000 to women entrepreneurs in the fields of music, design, fashion, and the arts. Grants are awarded quarterly in amounts ranging from $500 to $15,000.
      5. Amber Grants:
        WomenNet launched Amber Grants in 1998 to commemorate a young woman who died before achieving her entrepreneurial dreams. Grants are small, numerous, and easy to apply for.

The ways you can recognize WSBM are limited only by your imagination. If you are a woman growing your own business, remember that IOU Financial is an equal opportunity lender that has lent millions of dollars to female entrepreneurs. Contact us today if you’d like to take your business to the next level!

Team Building Ideas to Strengthen Your Business

As a business owner, you ultimately must ensure that new recruits mesh well with your established team. Unfamiliarity can breed problems and inefficiencies, and it hampers proper communication. One way to bring new employees into the fold is through team building exercises. These activities help foster interdependence and trust among your employees. New employees learn to work with each other and with old-timers for the good of the team. In the end, the time and money spent on team building should be repaid many times over. What follows are several team building ideas that can strengthen your business.

Charity Run

In a charity run, sponsors donate money based on how many miles are covered by walking, running, or biking. This idea has several strong points. First, it helps a worthy cause, such as medical research or victim support. Secondly, it gets employees out of the office and helps establish interpersonal relationships. Thirdly, it’s a fantastic marketing tool that will raise your social profile. Finally, it helps promote fitness and reduce stress for your staff. Consider creating T-shirts for your staff to wear during the run and see if you can involve other organizations as well. Usual course length is a few miles or kilometers, but any length will do.

Christmas Tree Decorating

Malls, hotels, and other venues often host displays of Christmas trees during the holiday season. You might participate by having a decorating contest for teams of employees, with the winning selection submitted to the sponsor for display. Each team could be given a tree, a budget, and a few hours to acquire and apply decorations. Perhaps you’ll emphasize a theme, such as environment responsibility by allowing only recycled materials for decorations. Reward the winning team with some prize, such as free pizza. Even though there is only one winning team, everyone wins by participating in a competitive and enjoyable activity.

Scavenger Hunt

Teams of employees compete with each other to be the first to collect a list of items. A newer twist is to have each team also perform some tasks as well. A proper scavenger hunt requires a decent amount of preparation, but employees seem to love them, especially when you hand out prizes in the end. You can conduct the hunt at your office, but its more fun to pick an outdoor venue, such as a local campground. With proper preparation, this can be a hugely successful team-building activity.

Karaoke Night

Employees who would never individually go up and sing at a karaoke bar might be willing to sing in a group. You can set up teams of participants and make arrangements with your local karaoke bar to sponsor a contest. Winners should receive a fun gift, and all participants should be acknowledged.

Paintball

What better way for your staff to work off their aggressiveness than with a paintball contest. Your town probably has a nearby paintball course you can hire for the day. Organize teams of employees to compete for prizes and recognition. Paintball rewards strategic thinking, bravery, and common sense — all traits you should cultivate among your staff.

Conclusion

Team-building is well worth the expenses involved in promoting it. You can set up activities that range from modest to challenging, with negligible to substantial budgets. If you plan something elaborate that you’d like to finance with a loan, contact us at IOU Financial for a quick business loan that’s easy to repay.

7 Tips for Boosting Your Tax Refund

The tax season is slowly kicking into gear. It’s a constant struggle to keep up with the legal changes, leaving many of us with missed opportunities, pondering just how much we could have gotten in tax refunds.

In this article, we aim to help you with a few simple tips. Each of them offers a glimpse into the current law, more like a lead you can use to further find out how you can benefit most from tax refunds this year. Interested? Keep reading. 

The Power of Tax Credits

Tax credits are often mentioned to be better than deductions themselves. This is because they subtract from your tax bill in a 1:1 ratio, and not in proportion to your rate. It’s a pure “dollar-for-dollar” deal.

There are several tax credits for which you can qualify as a business owner:

  1. Work Opportunity – a credit for employers who hire candidates facing significant employment obstacles, such as food stamp recipients or ex-felons;
  2. Disabled Access – similarly to the first one, a credit for employing candidates with disabilities;
  3. Qualified Research Activities – credit for resources spent on research and development – whether for a product, software, or a patent.

Look into the tax credit regulations to know which ones you are eligible for.

Prepay

If there are any fees that should be paid in January of the following year, try to pay them off by the end of December.

However, don’t get carried away in the race to pre-pay everything and run your account balance low. Look for smaller expenditures in membership fees, software subscription renewals, office space rental, warranties, etc.

Track Mileage

Whether you are an employer or an employee, track your commute to work. Over time, the mileage can add up to a significant tax deduction. There are two ways to go about it:

  • The Standard Deduction Rate – which covers the actual mileage (the IRS adjusts the rate each year, so make sure to stay informed), and
  • The Actual Expense – which covers everything else: gas, parking fees, insurance, etc.

According to a lot of firsthand online testimonials, many have found that the standard deduction rate works best for them. If you’re having trouble tracking mileage, there are smartphone apps that can help you get accurate tracking. Plus, it’s easier to turn it into a habit.

Stay in the Loop

When it comes to taxes, changes are being implemented every year. More so for businesses than for private households. It’s expected that most of it will be difficult to follow, especially when we’re busy.

Luckily, you can hire a tax expert to help you. Together with them, you can look over your current state, where the missed opportunities are, and how to fix any possible mistakes you’ve been making so far. It’s a great way to get a leg up on your finances and to make the taxes work for you, not against you.

Your 401K

“Investing” in your 401K or IRA (Individual Retirement Account), is a great way to ensure your future money is safe from taxation. It stays that way until you make your first withdrawals, which can be a few decades from now. Look into maxing out your contributions each year, and if the company you work for has a specific percentage for matching your investment, be sure to take advantage. 

If you are a business owner, your follow-ups to the employees’ contributions can also be written off as tax-deductibles. Just make sure to consult your tax expert beforehand, because the return value depends on the payment method.  

Employee incentives

We all know about the health and retirement plans, but there are also company picnics, gifts, bonuses, and even educational assistance. These can all be tax-deductible. Again, the best way to go about it is to visit the IRS webpage and check which ones are eligible for your business.

Write off Bad Debts

While many are already familiar with bad debts, it doesn’t hurt to remind: you can write off bad debts from clients that didn’t manage to pay you out. However, this comes with numerous caveats. It depends on how much time has passed for your request to be valid, and also on how well the business is doing financially. You’re more likely to get the debt written off if the company is near foreclosure and bankruptcy.

In the End

The secret to boosting your tax deductibles lies in your knowledge. Get informed as thoroughly as you can. A lot of the abovementioned tricks are known among experienced business owners and employees as well. If possible, hire an accountant or a tax expert for help. Look for advice among your peers, as firsthand accounts give great insight into what is possible and what isn’t.

Guest Post: About the Author

Michael Deane is one of the editors of Qeedle, a small business magazine. When not blogging (or working), he can usually be spotted on the track, doing his laps, or with his nose deep in the latest John Grisham.

5 Webinars for Small Business Owners

Small business owners and entrepreneurs know that they can never stop learning. Webinars are effective learning tools, whether its filling in knowledge gaps, learning the latest techniques, or networking with industry leaders. Good webinars are definitely worth your investment in time. You can find a wide range of topics available, including product development, selling and marketing, administration, and e-commerce. What follows is a list of free online webinar providerss and courses to help build your business skills.

U.S. Small Business Administration

The SBA’s mission is to help develop and support small businesses, startups, and entrepreneurs. One important way it expresses that support is through a large catalog of online courses and webinars. You’ll be able to find materials covering topics such as:

  • Planning a business
  • Business launch
  • Management
  • Growing your business

The course material is immensely helpful for new entrepreneurs, because you can learn how to write a business plan, observe legal requirements, and explore financing options. You’ll also find courses on sales, marketing, savings plans, social strategies, and many other topics.

National Federation of Independent Business

The NFIB is a member-driven organization that advocates for small and independent business owners. It runs live webinars that cover a variety of issues important to small businesses. You can find many webinars of great practical value, such as these recent ones:

  • Drugs in the Workplace: What Small Businesses Can and Should Do Now
  • Personal Branding on LinkedIn
  • 6 Ways to Use Local SEO for Your Small Business
  • Technology Trends Critical for Small Businesses
  • Is the Sun Setting on the US Economy and Small Businesses?

Recorded webinars are available at all times on topics spanning finance, taxes, healthcare issues, marketing, and much more.

SCORE

SCORE is the country’s biggest network of business mentors dedicated to launching and growing small businesses. It is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and a resource partner of the SBA. SCORE offers free online workshops, live and recorded, covering many topics such as:

  • End the Year in Good Legal Standing
  • A Practical Approach to Small Business Budgeting
  • What Small Businesses Need to Know About Cybersecurity
  • 5 Easy Marketing Tricks to Grow Your Business
  • Funding Options for Veteran Entrepreneurs

To attend, you simply register online for any of the webinars that interest you.

Small Business Expo

The Small Business Expo is dedicated to helping small businesses thrive across the nation. SBE hosts annual shows in 17 major U.S. cities. The shows include exhibitions, workshops, seminars, and product demonstrations. You need not physically attend to participate in live webinars, and recorded webinars are available on demand. A typical show hosts more than 25 free workshops where you can learn business-critical skills and strategies to grow your company. Some examples include:

  • Managing Credit for Business Success
  • Linking HR to Your Business Strategy
  • Franchising 101
  • Artificial Intelligence for Business
  • 3 Super Powers of CRM

Bizlaunch

Founded in 2003 by Andrew Patricio, Bizlaunch teaches entrepreneurs how to build profitable businesses. It hosts online webinars, workshops, and seminars to mentor small business owners. Recent webinar offerings include:

  • Low-Cost and No-Cost Marketing Tools You Can Use to Grow Your Business
  • How to Use Offline and Online Networking to Grow Your Business
  • How to Build a Laser-Focused Strategy to Grow Your Business
  • Franchising — What You Need to Know
  • The Secrets of Writing a Great Business Plan

Conclusion

The webinar providers we’ve listed here are but a small sample of what is available nationwide. All they require is your time and attention. If you are looking to grow your company, you’ll find webinars an invaluable resource that can save you from many rookie mistakes.

Speaking of growing your company, IOU Financial stands ready to finance your growth with business loans up to $500,000 featuring instant pre-approval and fast 1-to-2-day funding. Our loans are quick, flexible, and convenient, with affordable rates, fixed loan payments, no upfront costs, and available loan renewals. Contact us today!

Be a Better Leader — 9 Podcasts to Listen to

As a business owner, you face many conflicting forces. For example, there is the pressure to be the best business leader you can be versus the need to work 26 hours a day growing your business. One way to resolve this conflict is through podcast listening. The beauty of a podcast is that you can listen while driving to work, eating lunch, or performing some mindless chore. By carefully selecting which podcasts to audit, you can gain insights on leadership topics that will help you become a more effective businessperson. What follows is a list of some of the best leadership podcasts for your listening pleasure:

  1. The Go-Giver, Host Bob Burg:

    This podcast grew out of the bestselling book of the same name. Its central thesis concerns ways to provide value to your customers and others, and how this can increase your profits. It’s also a fulfilling way to live. Each episode brings you a useful short interview with a business leader or expert that will make a valuable point you can apply to yourself and your business.

  2. Leaders in the Trenches, Host Gene Hammet:

    The host has interesting background, having built and lost the business he always wanted. He knows how to delve deep into business discussions with top leaders who can share successful strategies. It’s a fascinating way to learn more about marketing, sales, and leadership.

  3. Online Marketing Made Easy, Host Amy Porterfield:

    The host is a powerhouse media influencer who has helped many entrepreneurs build their online businesses. She has been featured on cable and in business magazines as a marketing expert with insights on how to overcome obstacles holding back your business.

  4. The Nice Guys on Business, Host Doug Sandler:

    This is a wide-ranging podcast that touches on a variety of subjects gleaned from real life. It casts a truthful light on the good and the bad of running your own business, with advice on how to use your positive instincts to inspire yourself and others to do their best. The podcast is a welcome respite from the toxic attitudes currently poisoning our society.

  5. Mixergy, Host Andrew Warner:

    This is a podcast featuring startup stories of business owners and entrepreneurs. Every episode includes an interview with a successful business leader who describes how they grew their businesses and overcame failure. New episodes appear three to four times each week.

  6. Leadership and Loyalty, Host Dov Baron:

    Here is a refreshing podcast that teaches you to be fearlessly honest when need be, yet to temper that honesty with emotional intelligence. The host interviews leaders and authors across a wide range of organizations but who share strong ideas on how to inspire loyalty.

  7. This Is Your Life, Host Michael Hyatt:

    This podcasts offers specific and useful advice to driven entrepreneurs on how to succeed in business and in life. He gets down to brass tacks on how to set and achieve your goals while encouraging productivity and loyalty from others.

  8. Masters of Scale, Host Reid Hoffman:

    The host of this podcast is the co-founder of LinkedIn and knows a thing or two about building businesses from the ground up. He features discussions with founders of popular companies, including Starbucks and the Huffington Post.

  9. Coaching for Leaders, Host Dave Stachowiaki:

    The host understands that you must learn leadership skills — it isn’t inherited (or inherent). Experts come onto the podcast to offer advice you can translate into concrete action. Every month, the podcast devotes one episode to answering listener question. You can become a free subscriber to the host’s weekly leadership program.

These podcasts should get you off to a good start. Once you begin listening, you’ll be hooked. Podcasts have become one the most valuable tools for the dissemination of information in today’s fast-paced environment. Listening to a few can make a big difference in your company’s success and in your personal life.

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.

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.

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.