Up Your Social Media Strategy with These Tips

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

1.    Create a Comprehensive Content Marketing Plan

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

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

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

2.    Distribute Content to the Right Platforms

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

3.    Use Video Content

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

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

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

4.    Consider Using Influencers

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

5.    Measure Your Outcomes

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

Conclusion

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

4 Resolutions to Set For Your Small Business in 2020

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

Establish Your Social Presence

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

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

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

Streamline Your Finances

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

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

Take Out a Loan

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

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

Give Back

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

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

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

Content Creation Tools for Small Businesses

Content used to mean the words and pictures on your website. Over the years, the scope has widened and now includes email marketing, social media, videos, motion graphics, slideshows, blogs, podcasts, webinars, chatbots, and infographics. In addition, you need to generate ideas for all of these forms of content. That covers a lot of ground, far more than we can discuss in this article. Therefore, we’ll zoom in on the core content creation tools you might need to get started producing great content.

Tools for Developing Ideas

You might need help developing new content ideas, especially if your website is mature. Here are some tools to help you collect, develop, and deploy ideas to drive content creation:

  • Feedly: Streams articles from sources that span the web via RSS. You can configure it for the sources and types of information that you need.
  • Buzzsumo: Lets you find trending social media topics. This is a paid service, but you can get a few free searches daily.
  • Evernote: A digital notebook that lets you create notes, save web pages, save links, and more. You can save interesting ideas for future use.

Tools for Bloggers

These tools help you create content for blogs, website pages, and other marketing channels.

  • Playbuzz: Helps you create interesting blog content, plus provides tools to craft features like games, quizzes, tests, predictions, and stories.
  • ClearVoice: A well-rounded package that helps you come up with new content ideas, find professional freelance writers, and manage the workflow to create content.
  • HubSpot: A complete inbound marketing service with many tools, including ones to generate blog topics and titles. Includes a top marketing distribution platform, with features for building emails, integrating social media, and generating chatbots.

Image Creation Tools

Use these tools to develop professional-looking images.

  • Canva: A free image creation tool for those who don’t want to invest the time to learn Photoshop. It is very versatile, easy to use, and comes with templates to help get you started. Beyond blogs, you can use Canva for presentations, banners, and much more.
  • Giphy: This is a Chrome extension that finds GIFs for any search term you enter. You can then drag the GIF into social media platforms. With Giphy, you can add visual content to your website and then share it across multiple platforms.
  • Nimbus Screenshot: Have you ever wanted to capture just a portion of a screen? Nimbus does this easily. You can take full or partial screenshots of web pages or any other browser content. You can also edit, crop, and annotate the image using a rich set of editing tools.

Infographics Tools

Infographics are a powerful way to impart information quickly.

  • Visual.ly: An excellent internet repository for infographics. It provides the ability to create good, concise infographics that allow readers to assimilate information in an easy-to-digest format. This tool will help you add interest and increase traffic to your website.
  • Easel.ly: This infographics tool contains many useful templates. You add data to accompany the template images. This lets you generate professional-looking infographics quickly and conveniently. A must for beginners.
  • Animaker: Spruce up your content with animated infographics. Animaker contains a vast repository of charts, maps, icons, and other useful images that you can use for a video infographic. This is an excellent marketing tool that allows you to tell your story with motion and emotion.

Conclusion

We’ve barely scratched the surface regarding the many tools, often costing little or nothing, available to content creators. We advise you to consider using best-in-breed tools to add pizazz to your content, which can help you attract more visitors and ultimately sell more of your offerings. After all, that’s what your business is all about.

6 Ways to Make Sense of Your Small Business Financial Statements

Running a small business usually means doing many different things simultaneously. As a solo entrepreneur, you are probably dealing with everything from sales to marketing, but the majority of business owners consider financial tasks to be the most difficult.

After all, this is exactly why only 50% of companies survive their fifth year in business. Financial statements are one of the features that particularly bother small-sized companies.

By definition, financial statements are written records that convey the business activities and the financial performance of a company. In other words, it is a document that clearly reveals the overall condition of your company.

Financial statements consist of three basic elements – balance sheets, income statements, and cash flow statements. However, it takes more than that to design a meaningful record of business activities. In this post, we are going to show you six ways to make sense of your small business financial statements.

Create an Accurate Income Statement

We already mentioned the three elements of a financial statement, so let’s open the list with the first component. We are talking about income statements, also known as the profit and loss statement.

This is a major feature because it reveals the profit gained and all of your expenses in a given timeframe. For instance, you could be creating a quarterly or annual income statement.

The income statement helps you and your clients to understand the nominal value of your small-sized business simply by comparing the revenue with the sum of expenses that took place in the same period.

Mind the Balance Sheet

Although very important, income statements cannot compare to balance sheets. The second item on our list is the real indicator of professional success, so you have to pay special attention to it. Bearing this in mind, it’s not a surprise to see clients and investors asking for this document in particular.

Unlike income statements, balance sheets reveal the current situation of your finances. The document applies to the specific date, thus showing the company’s situation in terms of liquidity and stability. A balance sheet should pinpoint three features:

  • Business assets: This includes everything your organization owns.
  • Liabilities: It reveals everything your organization owes.
  • Owner’s equity: This one allows you to see what’s left for the owner once you’ve nullified all of the liabilities.

Don’t Forget a Cash Flow Statement

The third component of a financial statement comes in the form of a cash flow statement. This is another very important feature because 60% of failed small and medium enterprises cite cash flow issues as the main reason.

For instance, your sales results might be flourishing, but you could still be struggling with delayed payments and the way cash flows into your business. In this case, you could be spending more money than you can afford due to the underperforming cash flow cycle.

You can analyze cash flow whenever you want and craft anything from annual do daily cash flow statements.

Make a Revenue Forecast

So far you’ve seen the essentials of creating a financial statement, but we must add three more elements to the equation. The first one is called a revenue forecast and it represents a critical report if you want to take a glimpse into the future of your small business.

To put it simply, the revenue forecast is the evaluation of the profit and loss in the next year or any other period in the future. If you make a realistic estimation, you can make additional plans related to marketing investments, sales strategies, operational costs such as salaries, and so on.

If you don’t want to enter the following year blindfolded, then making the revenue forecast is the only way to go.

Conduct an ROI Analysis

Too many small businesses are not able to calculate return on investments (ROI), especially in the field of sales and marketing. According to the report, only 50% of marketers believe their organization can correctly calculate ROI.

If you want to keep the business profitable in the long run, you have to be clever enough to measure performance on a regular basis.

The idea is simple – you just need to divide the outcome/benefit of your investment with the actual cost of the same investment. If you get in return more than you paid for in the first place, then you can consider the investment to be worthwhile.

Hire a Professional to Make Financial Statements

The last tip on our list is clear and direct – if you find the abovementioned tasks too difficult, then you should hire a professional to do it on your behalf. A lot of entrepreneurs hate to admit it, but the truth is they cannot handle financial reporting single-handedly.

If you are one of these small business owners, we strongly recommend you to stop experimenting and start taking things seriously. Hiring a professional accountant might cost you at first, but you won’t have to worry about possible mistakes that could have a devastating effect later on in your business.

Conclusion

Small-sized businesses are often struggling to get things done timely and efficiently. With too many duties and not too many workers, you can hardly find enough time to take care of financial statements and do it without making substantial errors in the process.

In this post, we discussed six ways to make sense of your small business financial statements. Can you do this job single-handedly? Do you have other useful tips to share with your peers? Feel free to write a comment – we would love to see your experiences with financial statements!

Guest Post: About the Author

Becky Holton is a journalist and a blogger at essay writing service australia. She is interested in education technologies,  assignment help and is always ready to support informative speaking at resume writing service. Follow her on Twitter.

Are You Ready for Your 2020 Budget?

You can’t put it off any longer. The time has arrived to prepare your 2020 budget that’s so necessary for important activities such as:

  • Projecting cash flows
  • Preparing for taxes
  • Identifying borrowing needs
  • Evaluating growth opportunities
  • Assessing performance

The stakes are high, because 50% of small businesses fail during their initial five years. You can increase your chances of success by budgeting your company’s income and expenses. Here are some suggestions to help you get started:

Review the previous budget:

Your 2019 budget contains a wealth of information. The most important is the line-by-line comparison between budgeted and actual expenses and income. This exercise should point you toward any significant adjustments to your 2020 budget.

Estimate your income:

You need a realistic picture of monthly income. If your company is brand new, speak with other small business owners to build a rough mental picture of your cash inflows. Don’t overestimate, as it encourages overspending, and don’t underestimate income, thereby inhibiting growth and expansion.

Estimate your expenses:

Start with fixed expenses, typically including rent, salaries, insurance, utilities, and taxes. Naturally, these can vary from one year to the next. Prudence suggests you pay about 30% of your income on estimated tax payments. You owe these on the 15th of April, June, September, and January. You don’t want to get dinged for underestimated tax payments.

Pay attention to unexpected items:

These may include vehicle maintenance and fuel costs, office supplies, shipping costs, meals and entertainment expenses, and professional dues/subscriptions. Also, allow for events like equipment breakdowns, rent increases, and other contingencies. Put aside a contingency fund so that surprises don’t blow your budget.

Consider capital expenditures:

You may be able to increase productivity by purchasing a new machine or system. The budget should include the amount of current cash inflows that must be allocated for these expenditures versus using funds from retained earnings. You may also want to use excess capital to pay down debt and thereby lower your interest expenses. On the other hand, you might want to borrow money to finance growth or to plug a gap in your budget. IOU Financial can provide you with a business loan of up to half a million dollars and get funding in as little as one day.

Concentrate on return on investment (ROI):

When you have multiple funding opportunities, choose the one with the highest ROI that exceeds the weighted average cost of capital. You can use internal ROI calculations to see which ones provide the most benefits. The same is true for marketing ROI, in which you direct your dollars toward different channels and media.

Create a review routine:

If you don’t already have one, set up a monthly budget review process that can allow you to make course corrections as soon as possible. For instance, if your fixed costs are higher than anticipated, you might have to cut variable expenses until you can find a way to lower your fixed costs.

IOU Financial offers our Business Budget Smart Sheet to help you get a grip on your business budget. With it, you have a sophisticated yet easy-to-use tool that will help you plan and analyze your cash flows. If your budget forecasts shortfalls in the next 12 months, turn to IOU Financial for a convenient business loan that can put money into your bank account quickly. In many ways, IOU Financial is an important resource to help your business succeed.

Modern Tools for the Modern Small Business

Digital technology is the driving force of change in today’s small business landscape. Compared to even a few years ago, SMBs have become wholly integrated with technology, with an overwhelming 92% of small businesses using cloud-powered technology in some capacity.

Compared to larger competitors, which have more time, energy and resources to research the latest trends, small businesses often struggle to keep themselves and their business practices up-to-date. As an increasing number of companies look toward online solutions for their everyday tasks, it’s more important than ever for your business to rise with the tech tides.

To help you stay in the loop, here are some modern tools that small businesses can leverage to streamline their business models and stay afloat amongst their larger competition.

Cybersecurity

As more small businesses are choosing to communicate with teammates, share information and store data through the internet, cybersecurity systems have become an essential line of defense. In the past, corporations and franchises were the primary victims of online attacks, but moving online has meant that several small businesses now attract the unwanted interest of hackers, scammers and malware viruses looking to obtain your confidential information.

Many SMBs don’t have cybersecurity policies or strategies in place, despite 61% of breaches in 2016 hitting smaller businesses. Cybersecurity software fortifies your online presence on a number of fronts—from spotting phishing emails to deterring ransomware—which can help ensure your customer, company and employee information stay out of the wrong hands.

Invoice and Time Tracking

Invoicing technology takes the mystery out of billing your customers. Whether you need to juggle multiple tasks at once or manage a large team, time tracking software helps you collect accurate information on the amount of time and resources you dedicate to each of your customers. Many solutions integrate seamlessly with billing applications, allowing you to quickly transcribe this information into an invoice that can be emailed right away.

Late payments cost small business $3 trillion each year, as business owners spend their valuable time and resources following up with tardy customers or are forced to write off late payments as bad debt. By using automation software, your invoice system can track the status of payments and send reminders to your customers when payments are due, helping ensure you have the capital you need for continued growth.

Contact Centers

 Although call centers are often synonymous with larger businesses, small businesses can utilize contact center tools to better manage their customer’s calls, ensuring no one’s messages are missed during high-volume times. Today’s consumers utilize more digital channels than ever to contact your company—including social media messaging, phone calls, emails, website chats and SMS texts. By using omnichannel routing technology, call center software helps you streamline all these methods of communication through a single, organized platform.

In the age where social media and the internet give us instant access to any information we need, 60% of customers believe that waiting on hold for even a single minute is too long. During periods of high call volumes, small businesses especially struggle to minimize wait times as their limited staff members try to work through their call queues. With the support of contact center tools, you’ll be better prepared to manage inquiries of all kinds as they arrive for an improved customer experience.

Virtual Offices

Modern technology has not only transformed the digital landscapes businesses use but the physical ones as well. The traditional office, where employees work a regular 9-to-5 workday, is no longer what the typical schedule looks like as virtual workspaces quickly become the new normal. Designed to give you all the functionality of an in-office workspace, these tools give small businesses greater flexibility when it comes to where, how and when they work.

Sixty six percent of businesses in 2019 offer some variant of remote work benefits—from a few hours each week to full-time virtual employees. If you are looking to retain your current employees and attract new talent to your business, then a virtual workspace can give you the mobile compatibility you need to deliver on the flexible work opportunities that today’s workforce craves. And thanks to integrations with virtual reality technology, mobile phone compatibility and gamification options (which can turn any menial task into a competitive “game” for employees to participate in), many virtual office solutions will help your remote teams feel just as engaged and involved as they would be at their office desk.

Artificial intelligence

AI technology has only recently entered small- and medium-sized business markets, but its use-cases are already producing benefits as tech-savvy SMBs begin to integrate these features into their day-to-day workflows. The most prominent examples are AI-powered chatbots, which seek to streamline your work in a number of ways—from answering preliminary customer inquiries on your website to pinging your team on important reminders.

While artificial intelligence and automation software were first met with a reasonable amount of skepticism from the small business community, over 50% of SMBs believe that AI functionality is an important factor to consider when choosing new technology. With only so much time in your schedule, many small organizations have realized that the amount of time they save on menial tasks each day justifies the investment on these new tools and services. Chatbots and other smart technology help you cut out the busy work so you can focus on what’s really important in order for your small business to thrive.

Guest Post: About the Author

Fiona Lanson writes within a number of online business communities. As a small business tech expert, she is primarily focused on highlighting the ways that technology and work culture continue to impact the ways that SMBs conduct business.