Four Proven Marketing Strategies for the Holidays

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

Charitable Giving

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

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

Holiday Cards

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

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

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

Utilize Holiday-Themed SEO

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

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

Holiday Events

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

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

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

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

3 Ways to Advertise Your Business for Free

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

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

Google My Business

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

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

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

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

Write Press Releases

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

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

Utilize Social Media

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

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

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

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

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

 

Instagram – Is It Right For My Business?

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

What is Instagram?

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

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

Is Instagram Right For Your Business?

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

Can You Share Captivating Images or Videos?

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

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

Is Your Customer Target Base on Instagram?

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

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

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

Are Your Competitors on Instagram?

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

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

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

Four Ways to Ensure You’re Writing Content That’s Engaging Your Audience

If you are spending your time writing content for your customers, you are taking a step ahead of your competition because you understand that online reputation management is important, and that engaging content not only drives traffic to your site and increases sales, it also promotes brand loyalty.

“We see companies who have improved engagement increase cross-sell by 22%, drive up-sell revenue from 13% to 51%, and also increase order sizes from 5% to 85%,” says R “Ray” Wang, Principal Analyst and CEO at Constellation Research, an advisory and research firm. However, how do you truly know if you are engaging your audience, and what do you do if you find that you are not? Read on to find out.

Monitor Traffic

The only way to truly know if your audience is engaging with your content is to monitor traffic that it generates to your site. There are a multitude of free and paid website analytics tools, such as Jetpack, Google Analytics, SimpleReach and Parse.ly, that will give you detailed data about how many people are reading each post, how they are finding that post and how long they stay on each page (the bounce rate).


Once you have this information, you can make an educated decision about which content is most interesting to your readers, and which content provides the best return on investment (ROI) by generating the most sales.

Ask Your Audience

If you want to know what articles are interesting to your audience, simply ask them! It’s easier than ever to connect to your clientbase and start a conversation. You can create a survey on your site, emailing it to your subscriber list and asking people what they want to hear from you. You can also ask these questions on your social media pages or in person. Analyze what your audience wants to hear, and deliver that information to them to create engagement.

Create a Captivating Headline

Online users are so used to being overwhelmed with a flurry of information that they have learned to quickly scan content and pick what they will read in under a second. What grabs the audience’s attention? A captivating and catchy headline!

One study of over 100 million headlines found that the following three phrases led to the most likes, shares and comments on social media:

  • “Will make you”
  • “This is why”
  • “Can we guess”

The study found that emotional headlines that provoked curiosity proved to be the most engaging for audiences.

Create a Call-to-Action

You can write the most useful and interesting blog that will be read by thousands of people, but then what? When you set out to engage your audience, you must always keep in mind what it is you want them to do. Do you want want them to sign up for your newsletter, share the post with others or purchase a product? Tell them to do so!

Including a call-to-action (CTA) in your content will play a big role in turning informational readers into loyal customers! Try including the following proven CTAs in your content:

  • Click here to learn more
  • Enter this contest here
  • Sign up for our newsletter here
  • Click here to purchase this product

You may choose to promote your content via advertising and sponsored posts to drive traffic and increase engagement. Or, you may decide to hire a professional content writer to create unique and relevant content for your audience. If you need help affording these services, turn to IOU Financial. We work with small business owners daily to help them grow their businesses with loans of up to $300,000 in 24 hours!

Why Your Website Isn’t Getting Traffic

If you have a functioning business website, you are on your way to connecting with customers and increasing your sales. The problem is that many business owners don’t realize that website management is not a single step, but a continuous process.

After the website is running, it is imperative that statistics are monitored to make sure that the website is getting sufficient traffic. If you see that there is a lack of traffic to your business site, there are some common problems with easy solutions that can jumpstart your traffic!

Common Problems and Solutions that Inhibit Website Traffic

Broken Links

The online world is constantly changing and evolving; for instance, you may stop selling certain products, rendering the links to those offerings invalid. You may also have linked to another site in your content that has since stopped being active, creating a broken link.

Broken links severely impede website traffic; one source states that “only 23% of users who came to 404 error page, make a second attempt to find the requested page, and the remaining 77% will leave the site forever!”

When Google’s bots peruse websites, they penalize those with broken links, leading your search rankings to suffer. To improve your website traffic, improve search engine visibility by removing 404 error and broken links from your site.

It would be very time consuming to click on every link on your site to make sure it’s working, which is why there are many online tools that can do the job for you. Try Dead Link Checker or Broken Link Checker to quickly and easily find and fix broken links.

Insufficient Content

Another reason that your website may be lacking in sufficient traffic is because no one knows it exists. You must lead online users to your site, and one of the most effective and affordable ways of doing so is with content.

Including product descriptions, website copy, articles, blogs and press releases on your website plays a big role in improving traffic. One survey found that sites that publish 16 or more new articles per month saw 3.5 times more traffic than sites than with 4 or less blogs per month.

Make sure that the content is relevant to your audience, and is informative and engaging. Include photos, diagrams and videos if possible to make your content more interesting to readers.

Poor SEO

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a strategy that tells search engines, specifically Google, what words or phrases are relevant to your brand. By conducting a search on Google Adwords Keyword Planner, you can get detailed information about what relevant keywords online users are searching for, as well as how much competition each word has.

Once you have this data, you can include these keywords in your content, or base your content on the incorporation of these keywords. Ideally, you want to focus on keywords with the highest search rates and the lowest competition.

It may be beneficial to hire an experienced internet marketing professional or content writer to help increase your internet traffic. If you need help investing in this endeavour, IOU Financial can help by providing a small business loan of up to $300,000. Call us today to find out how you can become pre-approved and financed in 24 hours!

3 Marketing Ideas That Won’t Cost an Arm and a Leg

Whether you have just come up with a clever idea for a product or are already operating a business, you must continuously market your brand to stay relevant in your industry. Many small business owners don’t know what marketing channels are available to them that would properly accommodate their budgets. The good news is that there are plenty of marketing ideas that can be implemented that won’t cost an arm and a leg. We present three of our favorites in this blog:

Create Videos

Videos are replacing text as the new medium by which people search for and process information. Many businesses are putting their name on the map by creating instructional videos on YouTube. This platform provides free access to its 1 billion users around the world.

Although you can make the videos elaborate and allocate a big budget to this endeavour, all you really need is a phone with video capabilities and an Internet connection to get started. Make sure that you are an expert in your field, providing useful and engaging advice to your viewers.

More and more companies are utilizing videos as part of their marketing campaign, and finding it to be extremely effective. In fact, one source states that “a user’s positive experience with a video ad increases their purchase intent by 97% and brand association by 139%.” We like those stats!

Focus on Cross-Promotion

Remember that no man is an island and that other small business owners are struggling to market their companies as well. Spending money on marketing materials can be expensive, but it can be affordable if you split that fee with one or two other businesses.

Don’t just involve any company, consider what is relevant to your customer base, and approach those owners. In addition to creating a co-branded advertisement online and in print, you can also increase your advertising exposure to new customers if each business promotes the other one on social media and in house.

Go Where Your Customers Are

You can spend your money on a television commercial, but will your target clients see it? The most effective marketing is targeted marketing, meaning you need to know your customers and where you can find them.

If your customers are local because you operate a store, then you should focus on becoming an active member of your community. Sponsor school events, charities and local little leagues to get your name known in your neighborhood.

If you operate an online business, knowing the demographics of your customers will help you learn how to target them. Younger people tend to check Snapchat and Instagram often, while professionals gather on LinkedIn.

Each and every one of these ideas can be implemented completely free, but having a marketing budget can help you reach your marketing goal faster. IOU Financial is committed to helping business owners start and grow their businesses. Contact us today to inquire about getting working capital up to $300,000 in less than 48 hours.

Two Effective Ways to Ensure Your Business is Generating Word-of-Mouth Referrals

There are so many forms of advertising and marketing today that many business owners forget about the most efficient, tried-and-true form… word-of-mouth marketing (WOMM). Nine out of 10 people seek out their friends and family members’ opinions about shopping experiences, and trust those over any type of ads. Knowing this fact makes it imperative to focus on actively generating word-of-mouth referrals to grow your brand’s reputation and your sales! This can easily be accomplished with these two effective strategies:

Focus on the E’s

Suzanne Fanning, President of WOMMA (Word of Mouth Marketing Association), has the following advice about generating word-of-mouth referrals – “Engage, Equip, Empower.”

Engage

 If you want your customers to talk about your products or services, you must be part of that conversation! The first step is learning all there is to know about your shoppers, their patterns, trends, likes and dislikes. The second step is engaging with them on social media, in stores and online. Respond to reviews, ask for feedback and encourage your followers to keep on talking!

Equip

 If you want your customers to talk about you, give them something to talk about! An ordinary shopping experience doesn’t generate any buzz; however, something extraordinary does!

Consider what strengths your business offers – it can be unique products, exemplary customer service, knowledgeable staff, hassle-free return policies or even some humor tied into the shopping experience.

The best salespeople learn what their customers want, and figure out a way to deliver it to them. Once your customers are happy, their natural reaction is to share that excitement with others around them!

Empower

 Motivate your customers to spread the word about your company! People want to feel needed and valued, and it’s up to the business owners to create that energy for their shoppers!

Make it easy to for your customers to generate word-of-mouth referrals by creating business profiles on sites such as Yelp, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Share your profiles with your customers, asking them to leave reviews, post pictures and share information with their circles.

Reward

Your customers may have a lot of positive things to say about your brand, but not a lot of time to say them. How do you entice them to do so? With rewards!

Consider utilizing your best customers to be your “spokespeople” and spread the word online! If you have a loyal customer write a testimonial, you can share that on your site, email it to your subscribers and upload it to social media! Offer the spokespeople exclusive discounts or special previews of new products and services to make them feel special.

Another way to encourage WOMM is with contests; you can ask your customers to write reviews, testimonials or simply share your social media page with their circle of friends, ensuring them an entry into a contest for each action!

Starting a referral program can be extremely beneficial, as well. You can reward every individual who brings in new business with discounts, free items or other perks. Take Dropbox as an example; they offered both the old and new customer free storage space for every referral – thereby increasing their customer base and sales!

Although word-of-mouth referrals are free, motivating your customers to market your company for you will likely not be! IOU Financial wants to help you fund this goal with a small business loan. Contact us today to find out how to get a loan of up to $300,000 in under 48 hours.

How to Turn Your Negative Customer Reviews into Opportunities

No small business owner wants to receive a negative review. The truth is, if you’re in business, it’s impossible to please 100 percent of the buying public, no matter how hard you try. The most damage occurs when negative reviews are not balanced by positive responses. According to Trustpilot, shoppers are 67 percent more likely to buy after reading negative reviews as compared to the average shopper, but this only works if you have a strategy to deal with the problem. In other words, properly handled negative reviews represent an opportunity to increase sales.

Here are some tips to turn your negative reviews to your advantage:

Respond:

A complaint needs a response. Answering a negative review can actually build consumer confidence, because it indicates your willingness to make things right. However, not all responses are equally effective – they must be timely, personalized and solve the problem. Your quick, polite response tells shoppers you are keenly interested about your reputation and are therefore likely to take complaints seriously. Your reactions will be situational, but the generous use of refunds, exchanges and credits should be a core policy. In the case of service-oriented businesses, offering to do the job over again for free will likely make a positive impression on shoppers.

Use tools:

Complaints can pop up anywhere. To stay informed, utilize social media management tools that send you alerts whenever your product or service is mentioned online. Awareness is the first step toward remediation, and app such as SparksFly consolidate social media feeds using artificial intelligence, allowing you to scan for mentions of your brand(s). You can then post an online response, even as you follow up privately with the customer. Your goal is to leave no negative comment unanswered.

Project a consistent personality:

Readers are sensitive to the tenor of your response. It should be factual, cheerful, honest and sincere. Never put the blame entirely on customers, even if it’s their fault. There is a polite way to inform customers about any misinformation they spread without putting them on the defensive. For example, you might point to product instructions to correct inaccuracies, but also apologize for instructions that confused the consumer and promise to clarify them. Never get into a negative dialog, even when you know you’re right, because it will turn off shoppers.

Publish positive reviews:

We shouldn’t have to say this, but never make up positive reviews – it could be construed as deceptive advertising. If you are doing a good job, you’ll receive plenty of positive comments. Use social media outlets to publicize these, and don’t be afraid to post paid search engine ads highlighting them. Forums are a natural destination to post positive comments, as long as you are transparent about their source and context. Invite your customers to post reviews on your website and on social media channels.

Place your company page on major online review sites:

You can post pictures of your products, store, employees who provide services, and so forth. Add directions, hours of operation and current promotions to help foster consumer interest.

Keep your chin up:

Occasionally, you’ll encounter a sourpuss who is impossible to please. Have faith that shoppers will suss out irrational reviews, especially if your responses are reasonable. Many small-business owners are perfectionists, but quickly learn that some situations are beyond their control. When you get a negative review, take all the right steps and then move on. Have faith in your abilities and your brand’s value, while remaining open to making improvements whenever necessary.

How to Tell if You Need a Website Redesign

Your website is the very first thing your visitors see, and it largely determines if your customers will stay on the site and make a purchase, or decide to leave. Keeping your website relevant and implementing the latest technological advances to make sure it’s innovative is an important investment in your online presence. There are clear signs that can help you tell if you need a website redesign, such as:

High Bounce Rate

The goal of any site is to retain the visitors’ attention, have them browse around and ultimately make a purchase. A bounce rate determines how many people click on a certain page of your site and leave right away to another site. Installing website analytics can provide you with this information; if you find that your bounce rate is high, you should consider making changes to your site. In fact, one source found that 94% of online users base their shopping and trust patterns based on the site’s design.

Site Not Optimized for Various Browsers and Devices

Unless you are a website designer, you are likely not aware that there is no standard one-size-fits-all website design. Your website may look different when it’s accessed from a computer, a tablet or a phone. Additionally, the screen size and browsers, such as Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome or Apple’s Safari, can affect how your visitors see your site.

Verifying that your website has cross-browser compatibility can be time consuming if you go through them one by one, as there are currently over 300; however, there are tools that can provide this information for you. Browser testing tools, such as Ghostlab and BrowserStack, can bring to your attention the issues you need to address.

Not Ranking High on Search Engines

Although a small portion of your visitors may come to your website directly, a large majority would only find it based on search engine results. To verify how your customers find you, check the referral sources which bring traffic to your site.

You should be getting significant traffic from search engines such as Google, Yahoo! and Bing. If not, you need to incorporate more Search Engine Optimization (SEO) into your content. This includes high-ranking keywords into the content, optimized images,videos and links to pages within your site.

Website Not Easily Navigable

A website that is easy to navigate is imperative for low bounce rates and efficient usability. Some websites have so much content, graphics and links that it leaves visitors confused about where they should click or how to move between pages.

Your site should be simple, not crowded and include top and sidebar navigation menus that won’t require guesswork to get the person to where they need to be.

 

Redesigning your website can be a costly expense; plus, this is not a one time solution, but a process, as sites need to be maintained and improved on a regular basis. To help you afford this cost, IOU Financial can provide a business loan is at little as 48 hours. Contact us to learn more today!