Email Marketing Tips: How to Engage with Your Customers Successfully

Email is one of the most affordable and simplest way for business owners to communicate with their customers. One of the biggest problems of using email as a marketing tool is the inability to cut through the clutter of the multitude of other emails in customers’ inboxes. How do you get your readers to actually open, read and take an action upon receiving your email? While there is no single solution, there are ways to improve email marketing techniques to more efficiently engage with your clients.

Start with the Subject Line 

Reduce Pet Shedding by 25% with Our New Brush That’s Under $10!

PetsGalore Introduces a 5-Star Rated Pet Brush

Between the two subject lines above, which email would you be more likely to open (if you had a shedding pet, that is)? Most people would open the former, simply because of the subject line.

Other than the sender’s information, the subject line is the single most important determinant of whether an email will get opened. Therefore, it is imperative to think about what you want to write in this space. An engaging email title should:

  • Be Relevant – If you want a prospective client to read your email, you need to tell them why it matters to them. How can your email change their life for the better? In what ways can it help them? In the example above, the first email quickly gets to the point by letting readers know that a product can solve a certain problem – excessive pet shedding. The second emails fails to do that, as it simply announces a new product, but doesn’t explain its exact purpose.
  • Be Authentic – With the mass amount of spam email most people receive on a daily basis, it is essential that your subject line sounds authentic. Don’t make unfounded claims such as 5-star, Effective, Proven, Fan Favorite, etc. Individuals are so bombarded with false claims that your email will read inauthentic and will likely be ignored.
  • Contain Numbers – How do you grab the reader’s attention? Try to incorporate numbers into the subject line, as they help to fixate attention versus subject lines that only contain text. A study found that because numbers represent facts, it helps to stop the readers from looking away from the content as fast as they would if it contained just text.

Keep it Personal

By perfecting your subject line, you have hopefully enticed the readers to open your email. Now what? People are bored by the standard, blue-print mass emails; to stand out from the mold, make your emails personal.

Pretend like you’re writing to a friend, and address the reader directly by using the word “you.” If you make the reader believe that you are communicating directly with them, you will spike their interest level and peak their curiosity.


If you want an even more effective strategy, incorporate the reader’s name into the email. Brain studies have proven that seeing our names in print activate sour brains unlike anything else. When you address a person by their name, you lead them to become more engaged and trust you more.

Include a Call-to-Action

Just as a great subject line is imperative to getting readers to open your email, a call-to-action (CTA) is a must to get the reader to take action. After all, there must be a reason you are emailing your customers – whether you want them to complete a purchase, visit your blog, or enter a contest – you need to guide them to complete that step. One source found that a CTA increased email clicks by 371% and sales by 1617%.

The bottom of your email should always contain a simple and concise call-to-action, which can include the following text with a link:

  • Click here to purchase the product
  • Visit our site to learn more
  • Enter this contest by August 31st!
  • Share your comments on our Facebook page

To make your email marketing strategy even more effective, consider purchasing email marketing software. This tool can help you personalize your emails, add imagery and provide detailed results about how many people opened your email and what actions they took after reading it.

If you need financial help affording this software, IOU Financial can help! Apply for a small business loan by visiting our site! (Did you like our call-to-action, by the way)?

 

How to Successfully Market Your Small Business on a Tight Budget

Television ads, billboards, direct mailers — these are all common ways world-known companies market their products and services. However, if you don’t have thousands of dollars to invest into your marketing budget, how do you engage with your potential clients?


Small business owners often find it difficult to stretch their tight budgets to effectively market their offerings. However, with a little creativity, there are ways to advertise your business on any budget!

Referral Program

Multi-million dollar companies hire marketing experts, PR gurus, and sales executives to advertise their products and secure sales. Although a small business owner with a handful of staff cannot compete with that, they can “hire” existing customers to help them market their brands.

One way to do that is with a referral program, where you reward your customers for bringing in new business. Offering discounts or freebies to those that help you generate sales has been a strategy many businesses have relied on for their success.

For example, Dropbox’s referral program, which offers 500MB of free cloud storage to individuals who refer their friends, increased their sign-up rate by 60 percent! PayPal’s financial incentive for referrals helped them achieve “7 to 10 percent daily growth” and “turned out to yield better marketing ROI than traditional marketing channels.”

It’s free to start a referral program, and the discounts or expenses of paying for the referrals will be offset by the new sales!

YouTube Videos

Another low-cost marketing tactic consists of creating self-made YouTube videos showcasing your products or services. All you need is a device with the ability to record and upload videos, and you’re ready to start marketing!

Skateboarding shoes company, DC Shoes, took this approach in 2009, when they started uploading short videos of Ken Block, the company’s co-founder, “driving a tricked-out race car around closed-off airports, theme parks, and even the port of San Francisco… the stunt driving is interspersed with glamour shots of footwear.”

These efforts paid off immensely, resulting in “180 million views—and in 2011 alone, sales jumped 15%.” Experts say this type of marketing would cost about 5 million dollars had it been done through traditional methods.

Cross-Promotion

Form a team with other, non-competing business owners to market each other’s services. Visit other small businesses in your area, and form agreements that will benefit each party involved. You can leave business cards or flyers in each other’s locations, cross-link on each other’s websites, and/ or create bundled promotions (get a haircut at Moe’s salon and a manicure at Lee’s Nails, and get 10 percent off both services!)

Cross-promotion is an beneficial tool that doesn’t just benefit your business, but your community by helping small businesses succeed.
There are times when you will need the funds to invest in marketing your business. When this situation occurs, contact IOU Financial to provide you with a business loan up to $150,000 in 24 hours!

Building a Brand: The Basics

If you are a small business owner, you should be aware that the key to growing your business is to create a solid brand. Instead of simply concentrating on day-to-day sales, it is imperative to create a story to help your target audience connect with your business.

While you may have a hit product one day, creating a strong brand identity will help you maintain customer loyalty after the product’s life cycle has ended. Today’s customers are different than ever before; they aren’t as interested in shopping at random retailers, but want to build connections with business they know and trust.


What is a Brand?

A brand is a mix between “psychology and science brought together as a promise … Brands convey a uniform quality, credibility and experience,” according to Forbes.com.

A brand identity consists of many different factors, such as a company name, logo, slogan, marketing materials, as well as all the actions you conduct on a daily basis.

What Are the Three Basic Steps to Creating a Brand? 

 

Concentrate on Your Audience

The first step to creating a brand identity is determining who your potential clients will be; this group is your target audience. Before trying to connect with these individuals, you need to figure out who they are – their age group, location, gender, marital status, shopping trends, income, hobbies, etc. The more you know about your main customer base, the easier it will be to create a strategy to market to them.

For example, if you are developing a software to help retirees manage their retirement income, your messaging should not be as “techy” as if you would be targeting millennials. Knowing your target audience provides you with a blueprint for crafting your identity in the most strategic way to engage with your customers.

Research the Competition

In order to stay relevant in your niche market, you need to stay ahead of the competition. The way to do that is to research your competitors when creating a brand image, and continue that research on a regular basis.

It is beneficial to know who the other players in your industry are, and how they are crafting their message. In order to create a strong brand identity, you need to be able to separate yourself from competing businesses, which is why you need to know everything you can about them.

Make note of how your competitors design their websites, what products or services they sell, how they write their offering descriptions, how they market themselves, etc. If you find a problem that none of your competitors have solved yet, that will be your ticket to establishing your identity in that space.

Stay Consistent

Once you determine your target audience and research the competition, it’s time to craft your brand identity. The secret to this process is to stay consistent in all the messaging you put out about your business.

Consider Target’s clever branding – all of their advertisements, online, on TV and in store – have white backgrounds, bright colors, simple designs and their red and white logo.

Having a consistent brand identity makes it “so synonymous with your product experience that when a consumer sees your signature brand logo they are already thinking about making their next purchase from you without you even having to ask,” according to a source.


When customers feel they can rely on your company to be consistent, they are able to form emotional relationships with your business, which leads to long-term clients and a successful business!
If you want to invest into creating a strong brand identity, but need financial assistance to develop your marketing materials or hire an expert in this field, turn to IOU Financial, which has been instrumental in helping small business owners secure loans in under 24 hours!

Enhance Your Mobile Site with These Tips

With mobile phones becoming indispensable in our daily lives, it may be no surprise that more than 50 percent of online searches are conducted on mobile devices. Simply having a website is no longer enough for business owners as those sites need to be customized to be navigated from a phone or tablet.
Users are demanding a quick, engaging, and easy mobile experience, and companies may lose business if that is not delivered. How should you enhance your mobile site? Consider these tips:

The One Finger Rule

While desktop users can use a mouse or two hands to navigate a website, most mobile users will use one finger (the index finger or the thumb). Therefore, a mobile site must be designed with this in mind. The content, images, and text need to be large enough to be viewed without having to pinch to zoom, yet small enough to fit into the various sizes of mobile screens.
As most mobile users use a touchscreen device, the buttons need to be designed for fingers of different sizes. People with larger-sized fingers often have trouble navigating mobile sites because their fingers cause misplaced clicks. To avoid this issue, mobile interfaces must make targets easy to select. Mark Rattin, executive creative director at Lyons Consulting Group recommends giving “buttons or tap elements at least 45 pixels of space for selection areas,… [as] this allows the targets on screen to be easily selectable and removes many of the accidental taps from the user experience.”

Use Icons


A mobile site needs to be clean, simple, and uncluttered; to facilitate this, try using minimal text  and concentrate on icons whenever possible. There are many benefits to using icons; for example, the standard ones are easily recognizable and don’t need to be translated for international users, unlike text. Icons are also typically designed to be easily finger-operated on a mobile interface, as well as clickable with a cursor.

Speed it Up

While desktop users may spend the time researching products and reading details online, mobile users are usually on the go, wanting a quick online experience. To accommodate the unique needs of mobile users, mobile sites need to be fast. In fact, studies have shown that 57 percent of people will leave a website if it takes more than 3 seconds to load.
To make your mobile site faster, strip it off large media files, such as photos and videos, that will cause it to lag. When using images, use lower resolutions, resize and crop them, so that they require less time to load.

Customize Contact Forms

Remember that mobile users are typing with one finger and usually are on the go, which means that they don’t have the time and ability to fill in tons of information. To make the mobile experience better, design the contact form to require a minimal amount of information. For example, include a GPS component which can track the user’s location so that you don’t need to require them to enter their city, state or zip code.

If you don’t have someone on your team to help, you will likely need to involve the services of a professional web designer to design or enhance a mobile site. IOU Financial can help you improve your online presence with a small business loan in under 24 hours. Click the banner below to find out more.

How Corporate Social Responsibility Can Help Your Business

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is a strategy many small and mid-size business owners should embrace for two reasons: to help society and to help their own image. There are many causes you can choose to support, such as saving the rainforest, helping refugees, or contributing to a local boys & girls club. A source lists the most common causes of US companies as the following:
1. Efforts to protect the environment (74%),
2. End discrimination or restrictions based on sexual orientation (59%) or gender (54%),
3. Improve access to quality education (59%)
4. Protect human rights abroad (49%)
5. End discrimination/restrictions based on gender identity (52%)

Why adopt CSR into your operations? For these three reasons:

Set Your Business Apart

Regardless of what niche your business is in, you have competition. A way to identify your brand and let potential clients know what sets you apart from your competitors is with the adoption of a social initiative. For example, TOMS shoes, is a great example of an owner who built CSR right into the business model. For every pair of shoes bought, the company donates a pair to those in need around the world. This cause helped people connect with the brand, and sales soared!

People like feeling good about themselves and know that they are making a difference in the world by spending their money. If you align your business interests with a social or environmental cause, you can set your business apart and grab more market share away from your competitors.

Staff Engagement

While a CSR can help you connect with your audience, it is also beneficial to your own staff. Although they are motivated to come to work every day to receive a paycheck, they can become more engaged with the company and invested in its success if there is a cause they believe in involved.

For example, some real estate agents participate in a network called Charitable Agents, which donates 10 percent of commission from homes sales to charities. Agents can feel good about not only making a profit from a sale, but also contributing to a cause close to their heart. This benefits the business with more exposure, as people looking to make a difference when buying or selling a home will find an agent through this network, bringing new business to the agency.

Lower Costs

Corporate social responsibility doesn’t only have to involve donating money to causes, it can also benefit you within the confines of your company. For example, companies who pledge to help the environment should start with changes in their own offices, such as recycling, switching to energy-friendly appliances and technology, reducing water usage, etc.

Not only will these actions represent your true commitment to your cause to your clients and employees, but it will cut costs and promote your own sustainability in the years to come.

Oftentimes, small business owners need funds to market their CSR efforts, otherwise their clients may not know about them. IOU Financial is committed to helping business owners make a difference in the world, which is why we offer small business loans in as little as 24 hours.

Why Now is the Time to Move Online

If you do not yet have a business website, you should make this a priority in 2017! Not showcasing your products or services online is likely hurting your company’s bottom line, as you are losing out on potential customers around the world that may not have the ability to walk into your physical location. What are the main reasons to go online this year?

Brick-and-Mortar Locations are Declining

The reality is that e-commerce websites are quickly replacing brick-and-mortar locations. When big brands, such as Sports Authority, Staples, and Macy’s are either declaring bankruptcy or closing down stores, smaller enterprises that don’t have the same advertising budgets and funds to stay open may not fare much better. Brands such as Target and Walmart, which sell goods online as well as in physical stores, are investing funds into their e-commerce websites, which is where the majority of people are shopping.

E-Commerce Requires Less Overhead

For a brick-and-mortar to be profitable, it needs to be in a location with a lot of foot traffic; however, renting or leasing a corporate space in a popular location is expensive. It is much more cost effective to sell goods online than out of an expensive storefront.

Not having to pay rent for a retail space, as well as insurance, electricity, employee wages, etc. can leave more funds for inventory and advertising. All business owners would need is a warehouse, which is more affordable to run than a store, as well as order takers, packers, fulfillers, and shippers… saving money on paying the salaries of customer service representatives and sellers.

Furthermore, moving operations, such as supply chain management, procurement, or billing online can lead to a savings of up to 5 percent on “maintenance, repair and operation costs; this five percent savings can turn into 50% of a company’s net profit,” states The Web Doctor.

Ability to Target a Specific Audience at Lower Costs

While a physical location relies heavily on foot traffic and traditional advertising, such as television and flyers, an online website allows business owners to target who they want to advertise to.

For example, social media platform Facebook provides options to advertise to specific groups of people with 89 percent accuracy. Choose audiences based on location, demographics (age, gender, relationship status, education and employment), interests, hobbies, and behaviors.

Targeted advertising allows owners to save money and efforts by not reaching out to those that would not be interested in their services, and provides a greater return on investment (ROI) on marketing only to a specific audience base.

Online Presence is a Necessity

Companies that choose not to sell items online should still concentrate on establishing and promoting their online presence. Customers are demanding more from the businesses they patronize than a simple financial transaction. They want to learn about the brand and what it stands for. When companies are able to forge emotional attachments between their customers and their brand, they retain loyal customers.

An online presence allows business owners to share relevant company news, information about new products, as well as philanthropic initiatives – all topics that can be interesting to current and potential clients. A small investment into a corporate website can provide a new revenue stream from online buyers. If you need help financing your move online, contact IOU Financial. Our company can provide a small business loan in under 24 hours.

Why Social Media is Beneficial for Small Business Owners: 5 Sites and The Best Ways to Use Them

Keeping up with the growing number of social media sites and trying to put your small businesses mark on the map can seem overwhelming. What platform does what?, How do I use each one?, and Aren’t they all the same? are most likely questions your business has asked when the word “social media marketing” comes up. By understanding the basics on how to best use social media, small businesses can immediately see and benefit from the value these platforms can bring. Lets dive into the top 5 social media sites your business needs to be active on to maintain a presence in the market.

Facebook  

Main Focus: Staying consumer engaged

Facebook hit the scene in 2004 and regardless of what some may think, it still dominates the market for small businesses to stay connected to the “people” who use and support business brands. Facebook for businesses should focus on creating content that keeps the conversation going with the dedicated followers and supporters of your business. When starting with Facebook focus on the following:

  • Use photos with questions. Create a post (preferably an image) and ask questions such as “What would be a good caption for this?”
  • Incorporate people who use your brand. When posting mention a customer who follows the page or “shout out” a person who recently commented.
  • Engage with questions. Keep the content focused on feedback from customers and keep them offering their perspectives.

Twitter

Main focus:  Offering perspective

Twitter is also a long standing platform with 317 Million active users each month. Twitter has become increasingly popular for brands and companies to offer their perspectives on hot topics or using “hashtags” pointing to relevant issues people are talking about on their platform. Twitter offers a short character count method to express a thought, stance, or comment on current events and news. When starting with Twitter focus on the following:

  • Use for news about your niche. Share news or other “stories” relevant to your niche that users can gain insight or information from.
  • Use polls and ask questions. Polling the audience is a great way to keep users engaged and offer opinions. Users will also share those polls with others growing your presence.
  • Ask for a “Re-Tweet” or just say “RT”. A Re-tweet is someone else sharing your “tweet” or “post” giving you credit and exposure.

Instagram

Main Focus: Inside scoop

Instagram was the first platform that simply asked users to post photos and small (if any) captions. Instagram has now expanded to a major source of website traffic referral and business exposure. By sharing photos of your business, companies should use Instagram as a “behind the scenes” look at their brand offering users a view they can’t get on other platforms. When starting with Instagram focus on the following:

  • Share content that is “about your brand.” Post photos of design sketches, a team meeting, or something funny that happened outside your office walls. This brings a “behind the scene look.”
  • Use interesting photos. Post images that look artsy or different to catch your customer’s’ eyes. Have fun with the ideas you can create.
  • Use bio and links to relevant offerings. Update the “bio” section often giving users a direct link and upcoming offering that they don’t want to miss out on.

Pinterest

Main Focus: Educating

Pinterest is a play on the word “Interest” with the idea of “pinning” something that you like and want to save for reading, trying, or even learning more about in the moment or down the road. Users create “boards” that they “pin” items to so people can easily find whatever strikes their fancy. Businesses can use Pinterest to educate their audience on a variety of related “niche” ideas. When starting with Pinterest focus on the following: 

  • Be an educator. Share relevant information and facts that people can learn ideas, tips, tricks, and other facts from simply looking at your boards.
  • Build on networks like yours. Add other contributors to your “board” to further expose your brand and use that exposure as a traffic source to your site.
  • Share inspirational posts. Inspiring other people is one of the most common reason to “pin,” and therefore doing the same can be helpful to your brand.

Google+

Main Focus: Location Location Location

Google+ is a way for businesses and customers to find each other, learn more about each other, and tell other people about each other. Small businesses who tap into Google+ can find ways to increase foot traffic to their storefront, offer visitors a place to share their thoughts, and also allows businesses to share relevant information about their brand to help promote and increase website rankings. Google+ for businesses is created after a business account on Google has been created. When starting with Google+ focus on the following:

  • Bring people to YOU. Google+ offers location services and direct links to your business platform or portfolio.
  • SEO. SEO or Search Engine Optimization is highly crucial to any website for any business. By joining and linking content on Google+, SEO gets a jumbo boost.
  • Use for networking with customers and influencers. Google calls these “circles” which allows you to categorize who are your customers and who are your business influencers. This helps businesses tailor the content to both groups maximizing relevancy on the platform.

As you have read above, there are many social media platforms out there for small businesses and brands. While some may think it’s simply enough to “share the same message” across all platforms, or that “one site fits all” is the stance to take, such is not the case. By understanding the differences between platforms, and the best ways to utilize each, businesses can offer users varied information and a push to follow and engage with your company in multiple ways. Starting out can be daunting, but after the first post, tweet, pin, circle or hashtag, small businesses will find the effort was worth the outcome.

 

Would SMS Communication Help Your Business: Top 5 Business Models That Would Benefit from Text Communication or Notifications

The growing expansion of utilizing SMS (Short Message Service) or most commonly referred to as “text messaging” has made its way into the market in a bigger way than telling a friend you’re running late, or notifying a loved one you made it home safely. SMS is now being used by the most popular businesses out there and has given consumers an even more hands-on way to stay in the loop. But is SMS right or even needed for every business? Let’s dive into the top 5 business models that may benefit from the use of SMS notifications in their communication plans.

Business Who Need to Verify a Person’s Identity

You’ve seen this if you have signed up for a Google email account or signed up for an account involving your identity. You sign up and are asked for a cell phone number to text a code to, which is entered on the account to verify you did in fact sign up, and are who you say you are. Well, if your business involved confirming any form of identity, or wants to safeguard personal information, creating an SMS notification/confirmation system may be right for you.

Business Who Need to Notify Customers of Any “Confirmations”

Does your business confirm reservations for dinner? Confirm a car will arrive in 5 minutes? Do you want to notify customers that their order has been placed and should expect a shipment soon? If any of these are a yes, then SMS services are a huge need. People have their phones everywhere they go, so sending a simple text saying “your table is ready” or a text confirming the order of a new slick gadget has made its way to the shipping dock will ensure a happy customer stays happy, simply because they were notified right when the information becomes known.

Businesses That Involve “Timing” of Anything

Movie starts in 5 minutes, plane will be a little late, or the shuttle that was supposed to be arriving now is not quite there. All of these scenarios require timing and with SMS, many businesses are tapping into the simple method of keeping customers in the loop. If your business has anything to do with timing of anything, from shipment to opening its doors, to notifying the next step of the process they are “good to go”, then SMS services could be a huge method to keep productivity high and clock watching low.

Businesses Offering Consumer Sales or Discounts

Ready to upgrade? Want to cash in on a limited time offer? Want a coupon for your next purchase? If your business has coupons or deals to share that can save customers money, text messaging is one way to approach this with consumers. Many businesses are using SMS notifications to alert its current customers of big sales, eligibility on cool new products, and upcoming deals that they can save for later use. If your business has any sort of deals to be mentioned, get the message out there with SMS.

Businesses Who Have a Consumer Demand

Last but certainly not to be dismissed is the idea that any business that has a customer demand for SMS should consider using text communication. Any business knows that if their customers want it, then one should consider it. If customers are asking or suggesting text communication, consider implementing into your service. Simple to use and powerful means of communication may be an easy solution to consider when looking at other means of staying engaged.

Using SMS or “text messaging” in some business models are more appropriate than others. Knowing the right places, methods, and setup are a whole other bag of tricks. If your business could possibly use SMS communication for reaching their customers and growing their brand, considering the use of such a service may be worth a look. By following the above business models or services that may benefit from SMS is the first place to start in implementing the modern day method for communication to the masses.

Increase Sales in 2017 with a Solid Marketing Plan

Every business owner hopes that the upcoming year will be more successful than the last; but instead of just  hoping, entrepreneurs can create plans to ensure those goals are met. New product launches, expansion and franchising are common way to increase sales, but they are risky and costly. However, implementing a new or improved marketing strategy can benefit a business at a lower cost, or can be budgeted for easily.

What are the Benefits of Marketing?

Blue Cow Creative lists several benefits of marketing, including promoting brand recognition, advertising your services or products to customers, selecting which clients to target, and allowing you to communicate with those individuals in a timely manner.

The bottom line is that a business can offer the most innovative product, or the most cost-effective service, but without marketing the offerings to their intended audience, no sales will follow.

What are the Most Effective Forms of Marketing?

There are a multitude of marketing strategies; there is the traditional, interruption marketing, which interrupts an individual’s day with a cold call, or a television program they are watching with a commercial. Another alternative is permission marketing, which only targets the individuals who give their consent to be contacted.

Research has proven time and time again that permission marketing is not only more cost-effective, as you are not spending funds to contact individuals who have no interest in your business, but is also more effective. It is much easier to close a sale with a person interested in what you have to say, than one who has to be persuaded. Below we list three different types of permission marketing:

Email Promotions 

Emails allow you to communicate with a targeted audience in order to announce new products, sales, special deals and events. There are several ways to ask customers and potential clients to sign up for your email promotions. If you have a physical store or office, you can ask visitors to add their contact information to your list. If you have a website, you can create pop-up advertisements asking people to opt-in to receiving email communication from you. To entice them to sign up, consider offering an exclusive discount or a an entry into a drawing.

Social Media

Social media is an effective marketing tool for any business. It is a form of permission marketing because people have to choose to follow or “like” your business page, and if they always have the option to stop receiving communication by deleting access to their profile.

There are a plethora of social media platforms to choose from; Facebook is the most popular one, allowing access to 1.79 billion monthly active users, but Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest are also beneficial to use to connect to your target audience.

Be strategic about what you post on social media; remember to be honest and ethical, yet make your posts and images eye-catching and creative in order to get noticed. The biggest advantage of social media is that other members can share your posts with their network, providing a form of free advertising.

Influencers

Influencers are individuals that can sway the purchasing decisions of others because of their expertise, authority, or knowledge in a certain area. There are fashion influencers, who curate outfits for their audience, beauty influencers who recommend makeup brands for specific skin needs, etc.

When considering ways to market your brand in 2017, research relevant influencers in your industry. You can contact these individuals through their personal blogs or social media platforms to ask them to recommend your product or service. The best part is that these people already have large fan bases, so your offering would be shared with a multitude of potential customers who want to hear what the influencer has to say. Keep in mind that as payment for their promotion, influencers may request payment in the form of free items or actual monetary compensation.

With the new year quickly approaching, set your marketing budget now so that you can pursue relevant strategies for permission marketing. Get your budget in order before the new year with our Business Budget Smart Sheet.

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Protecting Your Intellectual Property

Intellectual property (IP) is a creative work, such as a design, invention or manuscript, whose rights are owned by your company. Those rights are established through a legal mechanism, such as a trademark, copyright or patent. IP is valuable – sometimes the most valuable asset a company can hold.

Here are the three major ways to protect your IP:ip-blog-image

  • Patents: You apply for a patent at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Patents provide 20 years of protection from the filing date. You can apply for a:
    • Utility patent: Available to anyone who discovers or invents a new, useful process, mechanism, product, or composition of matter. You can also patent a significant improvement to any of these.
    • Design patent: Used for new designs of manufactured items
    • Plant patent: For use when you discover or breed a new, asexually reproducible variety of plant
  • Trademarks: Protect symbols, names, phrases, logos, artwork, colors and sounds used to distinguish your goods and services from others. Registration is not required, but is available. Trademarks remain in effect indefinitely.
  • Copyrights: Provide protection for original works of authorship, including musical, literary, dramatic, and artistic, whether published or unpublished. Copyrights automatically attach to original works, but you can also register them at the U.S. Copyright Office. Copyrights last from 70 to 120 years.

A startup company might, in its rush to get a product or service to market, not fully protect its IP. After all, it takes some time and money to register a patent. However, failure to protect IP can ultimately be very expensive and dangerous to a company. You have to worry about a partner, executive or employee stealing your IP, not to mention the threat of corporate spying. Here are some tips for protecting your IP:

  • Educate yourself and your team on the topic of IP. Learn the differences among trade secrets, patents, copyrights and trademarks. The time you spend up front understanding IP will pay big dividends later on.
  • If you have a novel idea, make sure it isn’t already patented. Do a Google search to see if it makes sense to spend your money on a protected idea.
  • Patent your valuable ideas, even if you don’t necessarily plan to develop them on your own. Someone else may want to buy a patent from you.
  • Use an expert attorney to file your patent. Always insist on a fixed fee.
  • Do not delay filing your patent application. It’s like taking a number at the deli counter – it holds your place in line. After initial submission, you have 12 months to augment your application and fill in any missing details. The approval process requires patience, since it takes up to five years. That’s why you often encounter the term “patent pending.”
  • Identify through an audit your non-patented IP, such as copyrights and trademarks, whether registered or unregistered.
  • You may need to file for international patents, because a U.S. patent won’t protect you from international competition.
  • Use non-disclosure agreements with all employees and consultants to prevent them from stealing your IP.

To research and file patents may cost you tens of thousands of dollars. A commercial loan from IOU Financial is an easy, fast and low-cost way to finance the protection of your IP. We can provide funds within 24 hours of approval, so contact us today.

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