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3 Ways to be Smart about Business Expenses as a New Business Owner

New business owners become overwhelmed by expenses, taxes, and financial issues in a short time. With so much to do and manage, it is challenging to keep tabs on expenses. But, if you want to stay in business, you must keep your spending in check, stay on top of your tax responsibilities, and prioritize tasks and expenses. Our tips will show you how to do it all.

  1. Hire a Financial Advisor Specializing in Small Businesses

It seems strange to emphasize keeping expenses in check and then suggest hiring a financial advisor, but it is the best way for you to comply with tax laws, make smart purchases and investments, and protect your assets as your business grows. Your best move is to choose a financial advisor who has ample experience in assisting small businesses and who understands the ever-changing tax laws.

If you work from home, you especially need a financial advisor to help you determine whether claiming your home office is the best way to proceed with your taxes. It also is more challenging for small business owners who work from home to keep their personal and business expenses separate, and a financial advisor will ensure you do things by the book to avoid penalties or fees. Your financial advisor also will help you find areas to save costs and prevent you from using too much of your personal money to grow your business.

  1. Create a Budget… and Stick to It

Your financial advisor also will help you create a budget for your small business or your home office. It is critical that you stick to your budget because you don’t want to stretch your new business too thin in the early stages.

In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that about 80% of businesses with employees survive their first year in business, 66% survive their second year, and about 50% will survive their fifth year. However, only about 30% survive their tenth year. Why do so many small businesses fail? For many of them, the answer is lack of sufficient capital and cash flow problems. One study shows that 82% of businesses fail due to cashflow problems.

The lessons new business owners must learn are that they need to manage their expenses wisely, and they need to have enough capital to grow. The solution to these common issues is to prioritize your needs by creating and sticking to a budget.

If working from home is the best way to start your business, do so to save overhead costs. You’d be surprised by how much you can accomplish with the perfect workspace in your home and the right technology. You’ll likely be able to get off the ground with reliable, high-speed internet, a laptop or tablet, and a reliable printer and phone. There are even online payment systems that allow remote business owners to receive one-time or recurringclient payments from the comforts of a home office. Reliability and convenience are much more important than spending too much for the latest technology, phones, or gadgets.

  1. Make Priorities

As a new business owner, the bulk of the work will fall to you. Because your time is money when you’re in charge, you need to be as productive as possible and make time for yourself and your family. That may be easier said than done if you work from home, so set your hours based on when you are most productive and make time for your family to strike a work-life balance. The perk of working from home is setting your schedule, so do so wisely.

You’ll also need to prioritize your workday tasks. While answering emails is an important part of your role as a new business owner, other tasks will suffer if you spend too much time checking your inbox and replying to emails that are not urgent.

To spend less time on email, set up an automatic response and take advantage of canned responses. You’ll still respond to customers promptly, but you’ll also be more productive if you schedule time for email throughout your day. It’s also important to prioritize record keeping for tax purposes and to create a system for filing receipts and other documents that will support your business expense claims each quarter.

New business owners succeed when they make smart decisions about expenses. Make it easier on yourself by hiring a financial advisor specializing in small business, creating and sticking to a budget, and making priorities.

Guest post: About the Author

Ms. Fisher has spent more than 20 years as a CPA, and is currently working on a book about financial literacy (due out in 2018). She also runs Financiallywell.info.

Money Habits for Business Owners to Employ in the New Year

2018 should be an exciting year for small businesses, with lower taxes and a bubbling economy. This is no time to take your eye off the ball – you must continue to pay attention to your money habits if you want your business to do its best. Here are seven tips to help strengthen your business financials:

Set your financial goals:

You should have short-term objectives and long-term goals that will keep you motivated every day. Your goals should be timely, realistic, measurable, attainable and specific. That means you should have a plan, preferably written-out, on how you’ll achieve your goals. Prioritize these plans and then track your progress against them, using a spreadsheet or word document.

Set annual and monthly budgets:

Include assets, liabilities, income, expenses and equity. Use the IOU Financial Business Budget Smart Sheet as your starting point. Pick out areas where you want to save money, and periods of seasonal challenges that might require an infusion of working capital. We at IOU Financial can help arrange quick financing when you need it, with easy payback terms, so keep us in mind when you lay out your monthly budgets. Track your actuals against your projections and try to keep it real.

Know your cash flows:

You might need to send money out, in the form of payments to employees, contractors, suppliers, taxes, etc., before the money comes in from customers. That’s why you need a daily rundown of cash flows and have sufficient reserves when revenues are late or debts go bad. That’s another reason to establish a relationship with IOU Financial. Lack of liquidity kills businesses, so stay on top of your cash flows and recognize potential early.

Spend to grow:

Managing your money doesn’t mean you have to be a tightwad. You should spend some of your profits to grow and strengthen your company. Send key employees for training, improve your equipment and facilities, hire marketing professionals and attend business events. The up-front costs will more than repay themselves with new opportunities.

Need vs want:

Owners like to dream about all the things they want to do to make the business bigger and better. Never give up on your dreams, but always address your needs first. You might have to sacrifice the ideal for now in order to attain it later. This will reduce your risk of unplanned spending for things you don’t really need now, freeing up capital for later use.

Use debt wisely:

Debt is a tool, to be used wisely when needed and to be paid off when feasible. Look upon the interest you pay as another cost of doing business, one that allows you to meet your obligations and keep the doors open. When you take out a business loan, come to a lender like IOU Financial that will get you the money quickly without a lot of paperwork. We offer a unique daily repayment method so that you never are faced with a mountainous monthly payment, and you can refinance with us after you repay 40 percent. Always insist on affordable rates, no upfront fees and no prepayment penalties – that’s how we operate and so should you.

Protect your income:

Consider disability insurance that will keep the money coming in if something untoward happens to you. Business owners typically don’t get paid sick leave or worker’s comp, so they need a way to protect against the unforeseen. Disability insurance can help you overcome a temporary disability that would otherwise torpedo your business.

Remember, IOU Financial is here to help you when you need money fast. Add us to your speed-dial list for 2018 (1-866-217-8564) and worry a little less about the future.

Tips for Creating Next Year’s Budget

The new year brings opportunities to make your small business more successful. There’s no better place to start than with your annual budget. It encapsulates your revenue and expense expectations in a single spreadsheet. Here are some handy tips for creating your new budget:

Analyze last year’s budget:

How closely did your estimates match actual experience? You probably under- or over-estimated at least some of your cash flows. Learn from your mistakes to set your numbers more realistically, wishful thinking aside. If your data shows a trend throughout the year, incorporate it into the new budget. Some numbers are harder to estimate – if you have a lot of these, try doing a best-, worst- and average-case version of the budget.

Break it up:

You should break down your annual numbers into monthly ones. This gives you the ability to incorporate seasonal differences that more closely match your cash flows. It also lets you apply actuals and revise numbers based on experience.

Budget in a cash cushion:

A good budget will incorporate a cash cushion to help you survive sudden crunches. Near-cash securities such as T-Bills are a fine place to stash the extra cash. Even if it’s an unusual year that doesn’t see unpleasant surprises, extra cash will certainly come in handy sooner or later.

Seek help:

Do you find setting up and working a budget confusing? Don’t fumble through it. There are many resources available to you to assist. We recommend our Business Budget Smart Sheet, which will help you analyze your spending patterns, streamline areas of overspending, gauge the cash flow impact of fixed and variable costs, and much more. If you need more help, speak with your accountant or tax specialist.

Make adjustments:

Are you selling more units each month and losing money on each sale? Bite the bullet and raise your prices (and slash your expenses). Calculate your new revenues based on higher prices and incorporate into your budget. Do the same when you reduce expenses. For example, you might find it cheaper to subcontract out some of the work that you currently do in-house. Your budget should reflect your best ideas for making a profit.

Create recession contingency budget:

At the time of writing, the U.S. is enjoying a growing economy. What would happen to your business if we suddenly fell into a recession? It will happen sooner or later, and you’d best be prepared by creating a recession budget as a contingency. The recession budget is based on conserving cash in the face of lower demand for your product or service.

Remember, budgets are planning tools, not straightjackets. Remain flexible, and you can always turn to IOU Financial if you find yourself short of cash despite your best planning.

 

Best Apps to Use to Better Manage Your Business Finances

Whatever small business you run, there is a core set of financial and related functions that just about every business must perform. In 2017, that means choosing apps that meet your requirements and are easy to use on your computer and smartphone without breaking the bank. Here are some of the top apps that fit the bill:

1. QuickBooks:

From tiny to midsize, your company needs a program like Quicken to manage its books and records. This is an easy to use accounting package with cash management capabilities. You can manage invoices, expenditures and revenue, generate financial statements, pay bills and salaries, and track your bank/credit card accounts. QuickBooks works with Square and PayPal, and lets you mark the tax status of transaction to facilitate. It’s a snap to set up recurring payment notifications, as is autopay and financial reminders, that automatically update your bank account balances. You can also set up alerts if your bank account is running low. Runners up: Wave and FreshBooks.

2. TurboTax:

From the makers of QuickBooks, TurboTax is an electronic tax preparer at an insanely low price compared to hiring a bookkeeper or tax accountant. Filing taxes couldn’t be simpler, even if you have complex transactions. When teamed up with QuickBooks, your company’s tax returns basically generate themselves. Runners up: Tax Act, H&R Block, TaxSlayer.

3. PayPal:

The granddaddy of payment systems, PayPal links to your credit cards, debit cards and bank accounts to move money around and make payments hassle-free. You can use PayPal in conjunction with a card-reading device to create a portable point-of-sales terminal for online checkout. PayPal charges 2.7 percent per card read (swipe or insert), 2.9 percent plus $0.30 for online invoicing and payments, and 3.5 percent plus $0.15 for sales entered manually. You can get standard merchant services for free, but the professional plan, at $30/month, adds features and flexibility.

4. Square:

A great alternative or adjunct to PayPal, Square is a convenient mobile card reading device and payment service that is a favorite among street vendors, food trucks, and farmers’ markets. It works just as well at your retail shop or beauty salon. Simply attach the Square reader to your phone or tablet and you have your own point-of-sale terminal. Square charges 2.75 percent for each card read. For a one-time charge of $49, you can add contactless collections via mobile wallets (like Apple Pay and Google Pay). The cost for a manually entered transaction is 3.5 percent plus $0.15. The app is free.

5. Skype:

You don’t need fancy equipment to have a video conversation or conference with Skype. You can also share files and text messages conveniently. Skype helps with your finances by allowing you to hold meetings with anyone, anywhere, without having to spend money on travel or fancy conference rooms. You can get basic Skype for free or spend as little $5/month for Skype for Business, and you can integrate Skype to run Microsoft Office for word processing, spreadsheet generation, and slick presentations. Runners up: Pushover for message distribution; Slack for instant messaging; Fuze for videoconferencing; and Addappt for remote control of calendars and address books.

6. Tripit:

If you are a businessperson on the go, Tripit lets you consolidate your travel plans into a single itinerary accessible from any device. All you have to do is forward your travel-related emails to Tripit and it takes care of the rest. Who needs a travel department anyway? Alternative: Expensify lets you track your business travel expenses and place them on your expense report. You can also photograph your receipts and let Expensify extract the expenses automagically. It costs $9 a month for each corporate user.

7. MailChimp:

Control you email advertising campaigns with MailChimp in a very cost-effective way. You can create mailing lists, newsletters, response emails and reports that track how recipients react to your emails. These reports can help you craft more effective email strategies and improve marketing performance while saving a lot of money.

How To Tweak Your Small Business for Success

Small-business owners usually don’t have the time or money to routinely make big changes to their businesses. However, you can consider easy changes that have the potential to make a big difference to your company’s bottom line. Here are four tweaks you can make to help ensure you spend your money wisely and increase your success:

Use financial tools:

It’s hard to optimize your business if you don’t perform proper financial management for critical areas such as revenue, taxes and payroll. You can cut this seemingly daunting task down to size by using relatively inexpensive financial tools like these:

  1. QuickBooks: A mobile, cloud-based accounting system that provides real-time insights into your business and accomplish tasks, such as banking and invoicing, via your computer, tablet or smartphone.
  2. Cyfe: A dashboard program that consolidates information from multiple websites you use, such as PayPal, Shopify, QuickBooks and social networks, to save you time and help give you the big picture.
  3. Mint MyBusiness: A business version of the popular financial tracking software that keeps tabs on your spending habits and even suggests budgets.
  4. Couponbox: A coupon calculator that shows the cost-effectiveness of your coupon-based marketing programs, so that you don’t hurt the bottom line with overly generous discounts.
  5. Trigger: Track part-time employees, freelancers, and contractors as they work on projects and tasks, a great way to measure productivity.
  6. TurboTax: The business version helps you prepare your taxes, maximize your deductions, and handle all the forms you need to file.

Streamline operations:

Businesses require more time to manage as they grow. Here are some ways to streamline your business and save yourself precious time and money:

  1. Cut back on email: Set a time limit on the amount of time you spend each day responding to email. Only spend time on urgent messages, and consider programs like Slack to handle internal communications.
  2. Outsource: Use accounting and HR services instead of tying up your own time doing tax prep, payroll, benefits administration, etc. It’s less expensive than you think and frees you up for more important tasks.
  3. Throttle meetings: Some meetings just suck the soul out of your business by being non-productive and boring. Don’t schedule meetings unless they directly contribute to your monthly or quarterly goals.
  4. Hire expertise: It’s easy to begin a company by hiring friends and family rather than expert talent. Fight this urge and hire great people from the outset. It might cost a little more, but it will help you avoid mistakes, wasted time and bruised feelings down the line.

Build company morale:

Happy employees are productive employees. There are many inexpensive ways to build morale, including company picnics, birthday parties, relaxation breaks, good medical benefits, employee discount programs, and allowing pets in the workplace. You might even organize a nearby child care center if you have several employees with young children.

Revamp your image:

Does your marketing image provide the best return on investment. Perhaps you can tweak it to give your brand(s) more oomph. First, conduct an image audit to find out what customers (and demographics) think of your branding. Pick a new logo, font, colors and designs that are more relevant to your target audience. Update your website and employ the latest SEO techniques. Get involved in the community and listen to customer suggestions.

There are many other ways to tweak your business, but these are a good start. If you need extra help organizing your business budget, be sure to check out our smart sheet. 

 

Is Keeping a Debt Tracker Beneficial to Your Business?

If you run a small business, especially one in which you’ve empowered others to spend company money, you know how important it is to manage your cash flow. It comes down to a question of solvency: Does your business have enough short term cash to meet its obligations, including debt payments due throughout the next several months. One of the unfortunate things about most debts is the big monthly repayment that always seems to threaten your cash balance. We say most debts, because as we’ll explain below, some loans, like the ones offered by IOU Financial, avoid mammoth monthly payments altogether.

A debt tracking tool, which centralizes information about debts and debt payments, is therefore an excellent idea for the busy owner on the go. The tool can take the form of a downloaded computer program, online software, or a mobile app:

  1. Computer program: You can purchase or rent financial management software, such as QuickBooks, that provides debt tracking functionality, along with a host of other features. If you use a computer-based accounting system, you should be able to generate reports about cash and debt, but they might be less timely.
  2. Online software: A program like Mint provides information about your upcoming bills and warns you if your cash is running low.
  3. Mobile apps: Several apps exist for tracking debt, including Debt Tracker, LearnVest, Unbury.me and others. These have the advantage of always being available, even if you aren’t at your computer. Mobile wallets not only include debt information, but also provide mechanisms to make payments.

Functionality

So, what should a debt tracker do for you?

  • Accounts: The program should have full information about each debt account, including account number, method of payment, payment calendar, interest rate, outstanding balance and so forth. It should be able to sort the account display by various criteria, such as date, amount of next payment, interest rate and more.
  • Payments: Debt trackers should be prepared to give you full information about each payment you make, including penalty fees and interest. Comprehensive trackers also serve as a means to schedule and make payments, by generating online checks or performing real-time bill payment.
  • Cash management: Trackers should be able to report your available cash and near-cash reserves, and alert you whenever a payment will create a low-balance or overdraw situation. You would like a tracker to suggest the order in which to pay off debts, according to criteria that you set, such as remaining balance or interest rate. A nice feature is to have an earmarking function, in which you allocate a portion of cash inflows to specific objectives, such as building up a fund to act as equity for a property purchase. Naturally, part of cash management is to report who owes you money and when to expect it.
  • Usability: A debt tracker, whether standalone or a function of a larger system, should meet certain usability standards. It should be easy to operate, secure (using encryption, PINs, etc.), offer flexible reporting, and, if you choose, a method to make payments. Ideally, the tracker will be integrated with the rest of your company’s financial data, including all payables and receivables.

The Joy of Daily Repayments

We mentioned earlier how monthly debt payments require you to ensure you have sufficient cash when the payments come due. That’s a major benefit of debt trackers. IOU Financial takes a different, and better, tack. Instead of hitting you with a monthly lump-sum repayment, we evenly spread your payments over all the business days within the month, and we automatically debit your bank account so that you don’t have to take any special steps. Your debt tracker will show you how your balance goes down gently each day. IOU Financial can lend your business up to $150,000 in as little as 24 hours, so contact us today to experience the joy of daily repayments.

How to Get Your Finances Ready for Your Slow Season

Many small businesses experience one or more slow seasons each year. For a B2B business, the year-end holidays might be a slack time, while tourist-related businesses might have little to do during the coldest (or hottest) months. Although challenging, a slow season is at least predictable, which means you can make preparations to see your business through the lean months. Here are some suggestions:

Assess your cash needs:

Most businesses have a mixture of fixed and variable costs. You’ll need enough cash to cover your fixed costs and that portion of your variable costs that you can’t avoid. Your monthly and quarterly budgets should give you a good indication of an impending cash crunch and thus how much money you must have on hand.

Husband your cash:

In the months just prior to the slow season, accumulate excess cash, if any, in a bank account. If you have a lot of money tied up in unpaid invoices, consider factoring them for immediate cash. Cut your expenses and purchases during the slow season. If you hire contractors, it’s easy enough to reduce staffing. That’s a little harder to do with employees, but many places do furlough workers or give them unpaid extra vacation time. In the worst case, you can let go of some employees, but that may cause more problems in the long term. A better idea is to hire only the number of employees you need all year round, and then hire seasonal workers during the busy months.

Take a vacation:

If you run a mom and pop store, schedule your vacations for the slow season(s) and shut down the store during those times. For example, if you own a frozen yogurt store in Washington DC, the three coldest winter months might be an excellent time to take an extended holiday. This will cut your variable costs to the bone.

Make credit arrangements:

A short-term loan or line of credit can be just the ticket for smoothing out a choppy selling year. IOU Financial can lend you up to $150,000 on short notice and favorable terms, without all the hassles associated with a bank loan. Since the loan is short term – the length of the slow season – the total interest paid will be relatively modest.

Negotiate better terms with suppliers:

If your slow season is well defined, you should be able to work with your suppliers to loosen their terms during the slack period. It’s reasonable to ask for due dates to be extended from 10 to 90 days, especially if your payment record with the vendor is good. A good supplier will understand your business cycles and offer you flexible terms when you need them. It’s important to reach these agreements well in advance of the start of the slow season, so that you can adjust your budget accordingly.

Increase your social presence:

Use your extra time during the slow season to increase your social media footprint. It’s an excellent time to publish articles and send out newsletters or emails containing useful information. Update your entries in LinkedIn, Facebook and other outlets. You can even advertise over the web by buying ads from Google, LinkedIn and other social sites.

Plan sales events:

If you can’t close up shop during the slow season, why not schedule major markdown events for the period? Lower prices, suitably advertised, should draw in customers. You can also plan fun events, like raffles and free donut days, as well as instituting a buyer loyalty program.

IOU Financial is your source for affordable small business loans of up to $150,000, funded in as little as 24 hours. There are no upfront costs, and daily fixed repayments avoids large monthly payments. Let us see you get through your slow period and help you grow your business year-round.

Business Budget Basics: 5 Things you MUST be Doing to Ensure Success

Whether you are a startup or a seasoned company, small businesses rely on cash flow to stay in operation. Budgeting is the primary weapon a business owner has to control cash flow and predict possible shortfalls. If you want long-term success, you must maintain a budget and adjust your operations when budget tracking indicates the need to do so.

A budget that both estimates and matches expenses and revenues helps a small business forecast its cash position in the short and medium term. You need a cash forecast to ensure you can operate as planned, expand the business if the opportunity exists and verify that you can generate enough earnings to pay yourself a viable income.

What to Do

Don’t worry too much about how to do a budget. You can use an online spreadsheet, such as the IOU Financial Business Budget Smart Sheet, to make all the entries and generate reports. It’s more important to concentrate on what you must do to get the most from your budget. Here are five tips that you’ll find useful.

Check out industry standards: Every industry has its own characteristics regarding how much of your revenue you’ll have to allocate to various cost groupings. Retailing is quite different from refining, and you need to know the right numbers to use when constructing your budget. You can glean this kind of information from several sources, including the IRS website, the library, and other local business owners. You don’t have to be too precise, because small businesses tend to be volatile – what’s important here is to understand the industry averages.

Leave some slack: It’s great to budget, but it can be self-defeating if you aim for precision down to the nickel. Predictions are often unreliable and the future is uncertain. Bearing this in mind, it’s better to underestimate revenues and revenue growth relative to expenses when projecting the next three to 12 months. Better to have some extra cash on hand then to be caught short unexpectedly.

Sharpen your pencil: That’s old bookkeeper lingo for finding ways to cut costs. To do so, you’ll need to identify budgeted expenses that you can control. Fixed expenses like rent and insurance usually can’t be changed in the short run, but other items can, including non-critical maintenance, adjustments to labor usage, discretionary purchases and so forth. Remember to take advantage of your suppliers’ payment terms. In some cases, you might be able to reduce retirement plan contributions for the current year.

Review your budget frequently: Big businesses often work on an annual budget cycle. That makes sense, since their size requires a complex and time-consuming budget process. You, on the other hand, need to review your budget at least every month. A small business doesn’t have the kind of resources that the big ones use to smooth out surprises in the company’s cash flows. The more volatile your environment, the more frequently you will need to review and update your budget.

Comparison shop: It’s your responsibility to conserve your cash, and one of the best strategies is to shop around for new suppliers and service providers. There is never a bad time to do this, but the start of a new budget cycle is a natural point to comparison shop. It’s also important to do this when you are planning a change in operations.

In sum, budgeting is an essential part of running a business. A cash crunch can kill a small business, so stay ahead of the curve by tracking your budget closely and revising estimates as you gather new information. Finally, establish a relationship with a lender so that you can borrow money when you need it, whether budgeted or not.

DIY or Hire an Accountant?

Many owners of small business do their own accounting, usually with the help of a software package such as QuickBooks. This can make sense if you run a one- or few-person operation, are familiar with basic accounting, and have the time and inclination to take on the work yourself. For you DIYers out there, we recommend our IOU Financial Business Budget Smart Sheet to establish and track your budget.

For some, the question of hiring an accountant is confusing. Here are nine signs that indicate you should go ahead and hire one: 

  1. Knowledge: If you aren’t familiar with accounting terms, financial statements or report creation, you might need an accountant, at least in the beginning, to teach you what you need to know. If you don’t think you have the time to study the subject, you can keep the accountant on as long as needed.
  2. Taxes: Tax law is complicated, and one of the worst mistakes a business can make is to overpay its taxes. But even worse is to underpay and get caught, because then you’ll be hit by penalties and interest. Use an accountant if you don’t understand which deductions and tax credits to take, and/or if you don’t want to file your tax return on your own.
  3. Time: Let’s face it, bookkeeping can eat up your time and divert you from more important tasks. You need to operate the business, make staff decisions, market your offerings and troubleshoot problems. It shouldn’t be surprising that bookkeeping would be low on your priority list. You can hire a bookkeeper who knows how to do other accounting tasks – they usually charge less than full-blown accountants.
  4. Growth: Congratulations, your business is experiencing rapid growth. However, that also means you have more customers to attend to, more staff to hire, more vendors to negotiate with, and so forth. These activities require more paper pushing, number crunching and meeting time. With these management challenges, why not let an accountant lift some work off your shoulders?
  5. Profit margin: It’s nice when revenues grow, but less nice if profits don’t follow. The reason is invariably that your costs are too high. You could use an accountant with a sharp pencil to evaluate your overhead costs and suggest ways to save money. The savings could easily pay the accountant’s salary and hopefully a lot more.
  6. Investors: Have you grown to the point that you have investors? Well, they’re going to want to see professional reports that lay out the current financial condition of the business. Professional financial reports are also useful in recruiting new investors. An accountant can produce the reports you need and make them look professional – that will help keep investors happy.
  7. Expansion: If you are thinking about expanding into a new state, an accountant will help you meet the regional reporting requirements for payroll tax, income and sales. Expansion to a new state may include opening new locations, creating new distribution logistics and hiring new staff. An accountant can help you track the costs of these moves.
  8. Merger/acquisition: If you are looking to buy or sell your business, you’ll need an accountant to evaluate the entities involved and how to structure the transaction in order to minimize taxes.
  9. Audit: If the IRS has signaled that it wants to audit you, a CPA or other qualified accountant will be able to represent you to the IRS. This can help prevent you from making mistakes as well as lower your stress level. Generally, you don’t want to face the IRS on your own.

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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