Retail Businesses: Improve Your Instagram with These Tips

Instagram is a leading video- and photo-sharing platform that belongs to Facebook. It includes many business-friendly features, including ads, analytics, business profiles, tagged products, purchase page links, shopping lists, support for e-commerce purchases, and more. Instagram is characterized by more engagement and less competition than other social media titans such as Twitter or Facebook. That means you can market your offerings at reasonable ad rates. Check out the following tips to extract maximum value from your commitment to Instagram.

1.    Let Your Creative Juices Flow

To start with, concentrate on solutions rather than products. If you’re a service organization, discuss the processes underlying your offerings. Remember, Instagram is a visually-oriented platform, so you have to look good as you explain the value you provide. Like it or not, you’ll sink or swim based on your visual content. Liberally sprinkle your presence with photos and videos that celebrate your company’s mission, culture, and ways you help your customers.

2.    Optimize Your Entries

You have limited space per posting, so don’t try to cram in too many ideas. Rather, give a single focus to each posting, such as a special promotion, a new product, or a company event. Frequently update the single clickable link (in the Bio section) to point to new content on your website or elsewhere. Use Instagram Business Profiles to give out your phone number and collect comprehensive analytical data.

3.    Make It Meta

You can use Instagram to give viewers a behind-the-scenes glimpse of your company. You can show them how you build your products or deliver your services. Highlight special characteristics of your offerings, such as sustainability and fair trade practices. If you are a manufacturer, show each step in the fabrication process, from raw inputs to production to distribution. Get creative by showing pictures of brainstorming whiteboards and other inside information. As you get feedback, sharpen your postings to reflect the types that work better than others. And to prevent clutter, archive your older posts.

4.    Use Hashtags

Hashtags can increase your reach. You can tailor them to specific campaigns or topics, but always keep them relevant to your content. Set up your main hashtag (e.g., #yourbrandname) and use it occasionally on Instagram and other social media sites such as Twitter. Hashtags help folks find the content they desire. Don’t overuse hashtags — three to five are a good number, even though you can add 30 per post. Also, try some popular ones like #instagood or #tech. Vary where you work hashtags into your postings, from inline to comments to the end of your post.

5.    Share Customer Success Stories

You can @mention others to showcase successful customers and clever collaborators. After all, you can let their excellence reflect back upon you. It’s good marketing (and just good) to support a charity or two, and you can tag them to show your commitment to a worthwhile cause that aligns with your company’s values. You don’t have to be an “official sponsor” of a charity in order to tag them. This technique supplements hashtags, which aren’t necessarily monitored by some visitors. Also, use reciprocal unpaid “shout-outs” to and from your partners. If you prefer, you can use paid shout-outs if your marketing budget permits. Typically, these require payments to a popular brand or influencer in return for their shout-out to you. This can increase your viewership quickly and efficiently.

6.    Offer Exclusive Content to Loyal Followers

Give your Instagram followers first access to exclusive content and upcoming promotions. Let them know that they are being singled out to early information about new events, services, and products. You can even tease upcoming events with enticing photos to build anticipation. Satisfy their curiosity about new offerings, offices, or stores. Try to make your Instagram followers feel special.

7.    Use Analytics to Build Success

You won’t know whether your marketing is successful unless you can measure results. You can use Instagram’s analytics and/or those available from third-parties to measure followers, click-throughs, and engagement. Integrate your Instagram analytics with that from other social media sites.

Conclusion

Is your marketing budget sufficient to meet your needs? Marketing is an essential ingredient when you want to grow your business, but it can get expensive. IOU Financial can help you bulk up your marketing budget for a special push. We feature friendly terms, fast funding, and convenient payment options. Contact us today to get a business loan that you can use to elevate your company to the next level.

10 Ways to Get Traffic to Your Website

The buzz word for increasing sales and conversions for any website is traffic, traffic, traffic. As a small business owner, one of the most significant digital assets you have is your website.

When it comes to driving quality traffic to your small business website, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. There is also no single set-it-and-forget-it tool that is capable of driving quality traffic to your site on auto-pilot.

You’ll need to combine a mix of different channels and approaches with the aim of driving the right visitors to your website, increasing conversions, engagement, and sales for your small business.

In today’s online business world, competition is cut-throat. The internet today has over 1.5 billion websites, and over 200 million are active. How can you generate the much-needed quality traffic to ensure that your small business stands out like the North Star?

As a small business owner, you may not have the big marketing budget to undertake expensive marketing campaigns and paid ads aimed at driving quality traffic to your website.

Are you looking for simple, budget-friendly, and highly effective ways to get more traffic to your small business website? Here are some guidelines you should consider.

Create quality content.

When it comes to generating the right traffic for your website, good quality content is sacrosanct. Content is indeed King, and it ranks as one of the top 5 factors for generating quality traffic to your website as outlined by Google.

You can use a mixture of short and long-form content, infographics, or video formats depending on the kind of audience or readers you are targeting with your content.

Your readers should also be able to share your content on various social media platforms easily. Including a share button in your content would be a great way to achieve that.

You can create top-quality content in various forms like;

  • Webinars
  • Whitepapers
  • Emails and Newsletters
  • Podcasts
  • Articles or Blog content
  • Videos
  • Infographics
  • eBooks, and many more.

Although you may not need to use all these formats, having a plethora of content formats at your disposal will help you to reach a wider audience. Good quality content is a great way to keep your visitors engaged.

Imbibe SEO best practices.

Making your website content friendly to search engines is a great way to drive quality traffic to your small business website. Make sure you leverage both off-page and on-page SEO to get the maximum benefits for your website. When it comes to maximizing SEO for your website, here are some must-haves you’ll need to consider;

  • Title tags: This is the unique title or clickable headline given to a particular web page on your website.
  • Meta Descriptions: This is a summary of about 155 characters that describes a particular web page.
  • Keywords: They are relevant words and phrases added to your online content to help improve rankings on search engines.
  • Image ALT tags: They are used to describe images on your website.

Optimizing your website with proper SEO practices is a great way to drive high-quality organic traffic to your site.

Use Hashtags.

Using hashtags in your posts on social media is a great way to extend your reach to a broader audience. When users search for products and services with your hashtags, you’ll get more quality traffic to your website.

Ensure your website is mobile-friendly.

There are lots of visitors who want to access your website through the use of their mobile phones, tablets, and other devices; you need to make sure that your website caters to their needs by ensuring that your website has a responsive design.

Research undertaken by Statista revealed that over 52% of website traffic was generated through mobile phones in 2018. Today, more and more users are accessing websites through their mobile devices; you don’t want to miss out on a large amount of traffic all because you do not have a mobile-friendly website.

To check the mobile-friendliness of your website, you can use this Google tool.

Use email marketing.

If you’re looking for a cost-effective way to drive quality, organic traffic to your website, then email marketing will quickly be your best friend. A lot of marketers today say that email marketing is dead, yet, it is still one of the most powerful tools to create awareness for your offer and drive a ton of traffic to your small business website.

Do you know that a staggering 72% of customers prefer to receive information about products and services through their emails? As a small business owner with a limited marketing budget, email marketing is a pocket-friendly approach you can use. If you are yet to take advantage of email marketing, you need to start building your email list now.

List Your Business on GMB, Bing Places, etc.

Creating and optimizing a free Google My Business (GMB) listing is a great way to drive traffic to your website. In fact, you can get as much as 7 times more visitors if your Google My Business listing is well optimized.

A lot of potential customers are looking for businesses daily on Google My Business and other online business directories such as Bing Places and Yelp. Make sure to link your website to these online business directories so that you can drive more traffic to your website and grow your business.

Leverage social video sites

Videos are valuable assets and great tools that can be used to attract new customers and keep your existing customers engaged. Thankfully, social video sites like YouTube or Vimeo are great platforms you can use to host your video content online.

When you create captivating and engaging video content, you can add your website address in the video description column on the social video site. This way, you’ll get traffic back to your website when visitors click on your website link.

Always make sure you post interesting, captivating, and informative video content online. Do not forget to include a call to action (CTA) so your audience can take a particular action.

Use Guest Blogging

Guest blogging is another way to increase traffic to your website. Guest post on reputable blogs in your niche; invite other prominent business owners in your niche to guest blog on your site. You can use both ways to drive blog traffic to your small business website.

You can post content on relevant blogs in the local language of your target audience with the help of online translation services like The Word Point and other brands. Guest blogging also portrays you as an industry leader in your niche.

Be Active on Social Media

The enormous role played by social media in driving traffic to websites of business owners and entrepreneurs cannot be over-emphasized. Your social media audience can quickly become visitors to your website when you share engaging content on your social media page from time to time.

As a small business owner, you should endeavor to maximize the use of top-performing social sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube, Linkedin, etc. Being active on social media is also a cost-effective way for you to interact with your target audience and build a community of loyal customers.

A survey carried out by Campaign Monitor revealed that 69.6% of small business owners use Facebook to drive traffic to their website, while 48.3% and 47% of small business owners use Instagram and Twitter, respectively.

Build Backlinks

Create links on other reputable websites of industry influencers in your niche that points back to your site. This way, your business is exposed to a larger audience, and your website will reap the benefits in terms of quality traffic.

Moreover, when reputable websites link to your small business website, Google trusts your site more. Here are some link building strategies that you can use to kick start your link building campaign;

  • Ask your friends to refer to your website from theirs.
  • Have a working business relationship with other brands.
  • List your business on reputable and trustworthy online business directories such as Yelp, Thumbtack, Yellow Pages, Better Business Bureau, etc.
  • Post content on aggregator websites like Reddit, Popurls, AllTop, Feedly, etc.

Wrapping things up

Generating quality traffic to grow your small business website can seem like a hard nut to crack if you do not know how to go about it.

If you do not want your website to become a glorified business card, then you need to start using the tips mentioned above to ensure that your website gets the right amount of traffic.

One thing is certain; you need to find ways to grow your small business irrespective of the marketing budget available to you. You need to start seeing good returns from your small business website, and generating quality traffic is one way to ensure that this happens.

Guest Post: About the Author

Thomas Lore is a 23-year old translator. He is also a creative and diligent freelance blogger, who is always seeking for new ways to improve himself. Thomas is very versatile and he wants to reach the tops with his writing skills.

Taxes in 2020 — Small Business Checklist

As we ease into the next tax year, it’s the right time to assess what’s new for businesses:

  1. Minimum wages:

    They went up in 13 states. You’ll need to refigure the withholding and deductions on affected employees.

  2. W-4 forms:

    They’re new for 2020, reflecting the removal of allowances for calculating paycheck withholdings.

  3. Overtime rules:

    About 1.3 million additional workers will now get overtime if they earn less than $35,568, up from last year’s threshold of $23,660.

  4. Retirement plans:

    If you offer a 401(k) or similar plan, you can:

    1. More easily recommend annuities.
    2. Collect a larger ($500) credit to set up a retirement plan if you have 100 or fewer employees.
    3. Collect a $500 credit for the adoption of auto-enrollment.
    4. Increase the maximum default percentage of compensation from 10% to 15%.
    5. Include more part-time workers in your retirement plan by reducing the minimum requirement from 1,000 hours to 500 hours in at least three consecutive years.
    6. More easily establish Multiple Employer Retirement Plans among two or more employers.
    7. Set up a new plan by your filing date in the following year rather than December 31 of the current year.
    8. Face higher penalties for failing to file returns and employee benefit plan reports.

As you assimilate these changes, you should prepare your checklist for 2020 taxes.

The 2020 Checklist

Hopefully, you’ve already started on your 2020 Tax Checklist. Here are the items we recommend you include:

  1. Mark your calendar for important deadlines:

    1. January 31, 2020: W-2/1099-MISC form distribution.
    2. March 15, 2020: S-Corporations and partnerships filing deadline.
    3. April 15, 2020: Deadline for sole proprietorships, single-member LLCs and C-Corporations.
    4. October 15, 2020: Deadline for filing extension returns.
  1. Identify the required forms for company filings:

    1. W-2 and 1099-MISC for employees and independent workers.
    2. Sole proprietors require Form 1040 and Schedule C.
    3. S-Corporations require Form 1120-S.
    4. C-Corporations require Form 1120.
    5. Partnerships require Schedule K-1 and Form 1065.
  1. Assemble your information:

    1. Bank statements
    2. Credit statements
    3. Income and expenditure reports
    4. Accounting documents
    5. Gross receipts
    6. Sales records
    7. Previous year’s return
    8. Depreciation schedule

 

  1. Compare business and personal expenses.

    • You need to avoid inconsistencies and overlaps between the two. Be careful to explain when you used personal funds to pay business expenses and business funds to pay personal expenses.
  2. Get on top of your 1099s.

    • You may be issuing them to contract labor and vendors. Also, you’ll be receiving them from some customers. Keep tabs on all of these in case of audits.
  3. Review your deduction opportunities.

    • This is best done with or by your CPA or bookkeeper. You must properly account for your business deductions, including items like equipment, travel, and supplies. But you should also search out less obvious deductions. If you work at home, make sure you take the maximum home office deduction. The same is true business mileage. Keep good records in case the IRS seeks proof.
  4. Review your estimated payments and payroll deposits.

    • You don’t want to overpay these items, because you can use the surplus payments for other reasons.
  5. Consider an extension.

    • If you find yourself facing complexities you hadn’t anticipated, you can file for an extension to work out the solutions. You’ll still have to pay your taxes on the due date, but you’ll be able to take the time necessary to file a clean return.

What If You Owe Taxes?

You may find that you own significant taxes for 2019. Maybe its because you earned more than estimated, or that you failed to take sufficient payroll withholdings. If you are a sole proprietor, you might have posted insufficient quarterly estimates.

Whatever the cause, if you have an additional five- or six-figure tax bill, a business loan will allow you to meet your tax obligations without draining equity from the business. Turn to IOU Financial for fast, easy funding with convenient repayment terms. We can take some of the sting out of owed taxes by allowing you to pay the IRS on time and then repaying your loan in affordable installments. We look forward to helping your business sail smoothly through this year’s tax filing.

Business on a Budget: Smart Spending Tips for Business Owners

For new and experienced business owners, balancing income and expenditures is never as easy as it seems. There is a qualitative cost to every decision made, and extreme cost-saving measures can make it hard to attract employees. Spending too little on marketing can cause a business to become invisible to potential customers, too.

Short-term profits can inspire investor confidence but sustaining a company over the long term requires a different kind of thinking. Retaining employees that can grow a company is hard, especially in an era when the internet allows employees to search for a new job with a click of a button. Employees need to be motivated to maximize their output—and that motivation often comes from feeling like they’re being invested in.

Cutting corners isn’t worth it if it kills a business’s image or employee morale. Here are the basic ways owners can spend their money wisely while still investing in the future.

Employee Benefits That Matter

Sometimes business leaders assume that “networking opportunities” are a great way to attract young professionals. While this is true for extroverts who want to build a name for themselves, many entry-level employees are more concerned with basics like health insurance. Older employees may also be seeking good 401k contributions, and time off matters to employees who have kids or want to travel—but one thing is for sure: Free luncheons and gym memberships don’t retain employees.

Health insurance is expensive, but it’s a much better use of money than catered networking events and yoga classes. Even if your labor force isn’t facing a high turnover right now, remember that employees’ priorities change as they have families or start to face health problems. They may seem to enjoy working for you, but they may seek out employers that offer better health insurance benefits, leaving you scrambling to find their replacements.

Keep Travel Costs Low

Travel can seem like an inevitable cost of wooing new clients and establishing trust with suppliers, but now it can often be replaced with video calls. While sometimes in-person meetings are necessary for inspecting supplier facilities or other manufacturing-related work, they are often just to make meetings clearer and more efficient than the standard conference call. Video calls offer a perfect balance of coordinated visuals and reduced costs for all parties. Travel can also burn out employees with families at home, so it’s not always a perk that attracts or motivates employees.

If clients begin to expect visits from executives, then it can be hard to stop those visits later on, so it may be best not to start them in the first place. Plus, the money saved by minimizing travel can be passed on to customers. Since travel is such an avoidable cost, it makes sense to keep it low at first, and then increase that budget if managers insist that it is needed.

Buy in Bulk

While buying in bulk requires some foresight and planning, it can be well worth it in the long run. Basic office staples like paper and printer ink cartridges have a near-indefinite shelf life, so stocking up on them is an excellent option for reducing long-term costs. It can also make it more worthwhile for you to do specific tasks in-house—like printing large quantities of newsletters and other essential documents.

Coffee and other cheap food items should be kept around the office as well. Instead of having someone run out for coffee ahead of meetings, encourage employees to use a basic stock of coffee, sugar, and creamer to avoid wasting time or being late for the meeting. For employees who are on a deadline or simply forgot to eat lunch, having granola bars stashed in the kitchen can make a huge difference in how quickly they’re able to get back to work.

Avoid Catering

Catered lunches are nice for meetings on a tight schedule, but they’re ultimately a waste of money. In many metro areas, even having sandwiches and chips delivered can cost over $15 per serving. Pizza can be cheaper but can still add up to hundreds of dollars per month for large departments.

Catering is only necessary for meetings with clients when the meeting location is far from most lunch options. It’s great for offices in a far-flung industrial park, but for urban offices with a variety of sandwich shops nearby, it’s better to give employees time to grab their lunch. Plus, catering for a large group can be tricky due to allergies and other dietary restrictions.

Choose the Right Location

Having office space in a high-traffic area is important for businesses that need to regularly attract new clients and customers. However, the exact location of that office can be tricky to figure out, especially in expensive metropolitan areas. While downtown offices can be great for visibility and networking, they might not be feasible for new startups or companies with razor-thin profit margins.

For businesses that have a strong manufacturing focus, offices near an industrial park can be just as good as downtown space. Opening a store downtown may seem like a great way to grow a business, but if most local shops are closer to the suburbs or in another trendy area, then that downtown location may be a waste of money.

Getting the best value possible will come down to a balance of location, size, and available amenities, so be prepared to sacrifice one of those three. Depending on the location, parking and other auxiliary costs could be more expensive as well.

Seek Employee Development

Sending employees off to special training can seem like an unnecessary cost, but it can be a huge asset to a growing business. Clients care about reliability and skill and being able to tout your employees’ certifications can help significantly in competitive and crowded industries. Even if the training doesn’t matter to clients or customers, it could be worth it for small businesses that need to run more efficiently on a shoestring budget.

Carefully research training in your industry to determine which ones will offer a significant return on investment. A vaguely titled training provided by a random consultant may not be worth the money, but a certification course offered by a university could be a game-changer. Of course, local and online options are preferable to far-flung training with high travel costs.

Negotiate with Everyone

Suppliers, vendors, landlords, and even lawyers all come with a price tag. However, that price tag can be surprisingly flexible—especially if you have a long-term healthy relationship with them. In economic downturns, landlords are particularly willing to negotiate a cheaper lease instead of risking losing a major tenant.

Negotiation is an art, so special training may be necessary to get results without hurting relationships with clients and suppliers. Plus, it’s far easier to negotiate cheaper hourly or per-unit costs when buying in bulk, so start with your biggest bulk expenditures. While your savings may not seem like much at first, they’ll add up after just a few months.

Your business’s overall outlook can improve quickly with negotiation skills and other tweaks to spending practices. Even businesses with low overhead can see savings when per-employee expenditures are taken into account.

Guest Post: About the Author

Tania Longeau serves as the Head of Services for InkJet Superstore. Tania oversees a team of Operations and Customer Service Reps from the Los Angeles headquarters. Before joining InkJet Superstore, Tania was a team leader and supervisor working for one of the biggest mortgage and real estate companies in the country. She is a happily married mother of one who enjoys spending time with her family and reading in her leisure hours.

Finance 101 for Small Biz: Debt vs Equity

Small business owners trying to grow their businesses need sufficient capital (i.e., money) to pay for inventory, marketing, equipment, and other vendor-related items. But owners must also have enough capital to pay for operational expenses like rent, utilities, and labor. And let’s not forget about the owner’s salary or draw. After all, most owners rely on the income from their businesses to live on.

So, the question is how to pay for company growth. Basically, you have two funding choices: debt and equity. Here’s how to decide between the two.

Equity

Equity is the money you and investors would have leftover if you liquidated your company and paid off all debts. In other words, it’s the business’ assets minus its liabilities.

Many small businesses have a single owner, meaning that 100% of the equity belongs to the owner. In this case, the owner’s equity is equal to the business’ retained earnings, which is the accumulated profits of your company after you pay all your bills and draw your own income.

Some small businesses have investors. You issue shares of stock to investors and pay them dividends in return for their equity investment. Then, the total equity of the company is money contributed by investors (including yourself) plus retained earnings.

Unlike debt, equity does not have to be repaid. Equity investors are willing to risk their money in return for a return on their investment. You can use equity capital to pay for the growth of your company, but you need to know the cost of doing so.

The cost of equity is equal to the return demanded by investors (including yourself) for investing in your company. Because small businesses are risky, equity investors usually require a higher rate of return than lenders do. The reason is that lenders have the first claim on the business’ assets if it goes bankrupt. For instance, you might be able to get a commercial loan at, say 10%, but have investors requiring a 15% return to justify their investments.

Dividends and owner’s draw are not tax-deductible to your business.

If you want to grow your company without debt, then the amount available for you to pay yourself and perhaps pay dividends to investors is decreased by the money you spend on growth.

Debt

Debt is the capital you borrow. The cost of debt is the interest rate, but since business interest is deductible, you must adjust the interest rate by your tax bracket.

For instance, suppose you take a 10% commercial loan and you are in the 20% tax bracket. Then, your after-tax cost of debt is 0.10 x (1 -0.20), or 8%.

Unlike equity, you have to repay debt. If you are taking a loan to finance growth, then you expect that the increased revenues from growth will allow you to pay the loan interest and repay the loan principal.

Owners looking for financing often prefer debt to equity because they don’t want partners. Lenders have no say about how you run your business, whereas equity investors may want to have input on your decisions. If you don’t want investors questioning or disputing your decisions, you will prefer debt financing.

Weighted Average Cost of Capital (WACC)

If you use both debt and equity to finance your company, then WACC is the percentage of each times the cost of each. For example, if your capital structure consists of 50% equity with a cost of 14% and 50% debt costing 8%, then WACC is 11%.

Preferred Shares

Sometimes, a business will issue preferred shares to equity investors. Preferred stock is a hybrid of equity and debt because it pays a relatively high dividend that must be paid before common stock dividends. The cost of preferred shares is, therefore, a complex calculation.

Conclusion

For many reasons, business owners turn to debt rather than using their own money or that of investors to fund their business’ growth. We at IOU Financial provide small businesses affordable loans of up to $500,000 with instant pre-approval and funding within a day or two. We invite you to contact us today to arrange financing that will help you grow your company and increase your revenues.

Make the Most of Your Emails: What to Include

More than ever, when it comes to your marketing emails, content is king. That is, you can (and should) make your emails look attractive, but if they’re lacking compelling content, you can bet recipients will shuffle them off to the spam folder. Now, that doesn’t mean you need to be a Hemingway to create effective emails, but you can observe the following tips to make get the maximum value from your email campaigns.

Start with the Subject Line

Pity the poor subject line — it has the weight of the world on its shoulders. A good one will greatly increase the chances that the recipient will actually open and read the email. A bad one is a one-way ticket to oblivion. Do the following to nail the subject line:

  • Use a verb: Your subject line should be actionable, calling on the reader to do something. Examples might be “Get the funding to grow your company” or “Order flowers for your mom this Mother’s Day.”
  • Customize the subject line to the segment: You should be segmenting your mail lists to make them more targeted. For example, if you own an insurance office, you will want to segment customers and potential customers by the appropriate type of insurance, such as life, automobile, or rental. It would be malpractice to offer homeowners insurance to a tenant when you should offer rental insurance instead. Your subject line should reflect the different needs of different segments.
  • Make the topic clear: It’s all well and good to make your subject line catchy, but your top priority is to make it clear. If recipients don’t immediately understand the purpose of the email, they are less likely to open it. If you can state your topic clearly and cleverly, so much the better. For example, “Think plant burgers taste like grass? Think again!”, which is clear, catchy, and commanding.
  • Ensure subject line and email copy align: Recipients don’t appreciate emails in which the subject line doesn’t match the email content. The email should deliver on whatever the subject line promises. Failure to do so crushes the chances that the recipient will click-through any link in the email. And it might exile your subsequent emails to spam jail.

Craft the Email Content

OK, you’ve created a killer subject line. Follow through with well-crafted content by observing these tips:

  • Establish relevancy early: You’ve used your segmentation strategy to create a targeted subject line. Apply that same strategy again in the opening paragraph in order to establish the email’s relevance to the reader. For instance, use the first paragraph to remind recipients that something is about to expire, or that they’ve just earned enough loyalty points to graduate to a higher reward tier. These examples make the relevancy to the reader clear and personal.
  • Address recipient as “you”: That is, write in the second person. “You”, “your”, and “yours” are second-person pronouns that should predominate over third-person words (“we”, “our”, “us”, etc.). This focuses the content on the recipient rather than the sender. Subtle but effective.
  • Emphasize benefits, not features: The recipient wants to know the value of whatever it is you’re hawking. If you just talk about the latest whiz-bang features of your offering, you can leave them wondering about the value of the email. For example, don’t just plaster “25% off all domain names” without explaining how having multiple domains can increase web traffic and return on marketing investment.
  • Say it succinctly and lovably: You can probably go on and on regarding the email’s message, but don’t. Assume your recipients are busy people, so get to the point quickly and don’t belabor the topic. Instead, offer a click-through link for readers who want more information. While you’re at it, make your copy delightful to read. Let your business’ personality sing out and show your recipient a little love.

Conclusion

We’ve discussed ways to improve your emails. End them with a call-to-action (CTA) that is, well, actionable. Make CTAs easy to recognize, perhaps incorporating a button that links recipients to a dedicated landing page you’ve created just for this email. The CTA can offer many things, such as more information or access to a special deal. The bottom line is that your emails should be the complete package, with optimized subject lines, contents, and CTAs. Now, go get ‘em!

Want more business tips? Check out our FREE resource: 7 Secrets to Small Business Success!

How Small Businesses Can Book Clients Through Social Media

Social media has become one of the go-to ways for businesses to connect with people, be they current or prospective clients. There are a number of reasons for this – advertising on social media can cost less than traditional advertising, and the biggest social media platforms have millions or billions of users. In order to fully appreciate the value of booking clientele through social media, it’s worth taking a deep dive into some statistics about the users of the major platforms.

The Statistics

Instagram has over a billion monthly active users and over half visit the site daily. 80% of those users follow at least one business page and 72% of users have purchased something they’ve seen on the platform. For those doing the math, that’s 720 million people who have purchased something they’ve seen on Instagram –  an enticing number for any business. Facebook (which owns Instagram) has over 2.3 billion monthly active users, 74% of whom visit the platform daily. That means a hefty percentage of the world’s population uses the platform every day, so if you have products you’re looking to ship to a global audience, Facebook is the place to be.

Twitter’s statistics are a little different. They look not only at daily active users but monetizable daily active users – in other words, the users who actually see ads (many people use ad-blocking software). There are 145 million such users every day. The company also reports that ad engagement is up and the cost for advertising is down.

Which of these platforms should you set up for online booking? Preferably, all of them, but that may require more resources than you’re willing to commit. Should that be the case, it’s important to understand where your customers are hanging out. You want to focus your efforts on the platforms that host the most users of your target demographic and you want to post during the hours those users are active – but we digress.

In order to book clients, you’ll need a business page on all of the platforms you want to use. Setting up these pages is fairly straightforward. For those who don’t have a business page, you can check out this handy guide that explains how to create a business page on Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.

How to Implement

With your business page set up, it’s time to start booking clients. The simplest way of doing this is to incorporate a link to a booking page on the business page of your main website. Each platform has a slightly different way of going about this. 

When using Twitter, you’ll log into your account, go to “Profile”, click “Edit my profile” then add the link to your booking page in the Web section. Simple!

Want to book clients on Facebook? You have a number of options: The most commonly used is going to your business page, clicking “Add a Button”, selecting “Book with you”, then “Book now”, then clicking “next”, then selecting “Link to Website” and adding your link. Recently, however, Facebook has added its own appointment booking software which you can use for free by clicking “Appointments on Facebook” and following the prompts.

How about booking clients on Instagram? The process is fairly straightforward: go to your business page, then edit profile, change your URL to your booking page, then change your Bio to something like “Click here to book!” (or a more exciting, emoji-filled call-to-action).

It’s worth noting here that there are many types of booking software available and they can save you a lot of time. Researching this software and finding the one that best suits your needs can drastically improve the efficiency of your business, especially if you find yourself suddenly flooded by a swell of social media requests. This software can automatically sync with your Google calendar, they can send you text message alerts, and they can even accept payments on behalf of your business. While their utility depends heavily on how much of your clientele books online, they can be incredibly useful.

Getting Clients to Book

Now that we’ve gone over the mechanisms of how to set up booking through social media, it’s worth taking a look into how to get clients to actually book. We could write whole manuscripts on the topic, but we’ll take a brief look now.

Consistency is key on Instagram and on other platforms. You’ll want to post at the same time of day, every day, at least once a day, in order to grow your following. Remember, every person who sees your profile sees your booking call-to-action, so each view is a prospective client. You’ll want to be careful not to oversaturate followers with posts, however, or they might unfollow you. Quality, not quantity, is key. This is especially true on visual platforms like Instagram; a couple of tweets in a single day doesn’t hurt as much as a barrage of image posts.

You’ll also need to learn how to use hashtags properly. In brief, you want to use hashtags that are common enough to be searched for, but uncommon enough that you’re not drowned out in a bunch of noise. You might also find value in following trends being set by the platforms’ power users. In essence, you’re looking to carve out a niche on the platform. There is a lot of room on most platforms to use multiple hashtags, so don’t be shy about using multivariate testing to see which ones have the most pull. 

Finally, you’ll want to make sure your call-to-action is eye-catching. Depending on what business you’re in, that could be something as simple as “Book Now” (seniors, for example, are often not looking for wacky call-to-actions). An amusement park, however, might have firework emojis and “Start your adventure here!” as a call-to-action. Know your industry and tailor all of your social media marketing appropriately. 

Guest Post: About the Author

Kiara is a natural organizer and she understands how important time and resource management are for small businesses. That’s why she is the perfect Content Manager for BookedIN – because BookedIN software is the perfect way to organize your business life. She enjoys spending her time reading and learning new things.”

You Have A New Lead — What’s Next?

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

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

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

  1. Optimize product pages:

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

  2. Always include calls to action (CTAs):

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

  3. Nurture leads via email streams:

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

  4. Schedule a meeting:

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

  5. Institute a reminder strategy:

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

  6. Offer a deal:

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

  7. Track your sales reps:

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

  8. Collect statistics:

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

Conclusion

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

5 Tips on How to Boost Your Business With Webinars

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

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

What Webinar Marketing Is

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

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

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

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

How to Boost Your Business With Webinars

Choose the right topic

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

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

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

Plan your webinar properly

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

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

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

Do your best to create high-quality content

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

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

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

Keep your audience engaged

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

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

Promote your webinars

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

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

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

Wrapping Up

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

Guest Post: About the Author

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

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

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

A Tax Accountant Can Be a Good Investment

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

You Can Avoid the Nightmare of Doing Tax Returns

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

A Tax Accountant Helps You Stay Legal

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

You’ll Have More Time to Focus on Other Things

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

Guest Post: About the Author

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