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Why Now is the Time to Move Online

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

Brick-and-Mortar Locations are Declining

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

E-Commerce Requires Less Overhead

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

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

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

Ability to Target a Specific Audience at Lower Costs

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

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

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

Online Presence is a Necessity

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

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

Is Email Marketing the Right Business Solution for You?

When operating a small business, how do you increase brand exposure to try and compete with the bigger, better-known companies? While large corporations and established business can have multi-million dollar advertising budgets, many small business owners cannot afford to spend 1 percent of that. However, one marketing tactic that any business owner can implement is email marketing.

What is Email Marketing?

Emailing a current or potential client to solicit their business, advertise your services, make an announcement, or simply check in is all considered email marketing. Using electronic mail to increase your client base and sales has become one of the most popular ways to market your brand.

What are the Benefits of Email Marketing?
Affordability

Email marketing is one of the most cost effective ways to market your brand. Many small business owners ask clients to submit their emails to receive online newsletters or to join reward programs, and utilize them to send out mass emails without spending a cent.

Investing into a customer relationship management (CRM) program is another inexpensive way to collect, store, and manage customer information for email communication. A multitude of CRM platforms, such as Salesforce, HubSpot, Insightly and Zoho, offer low-cost, monthly subscriptions that allow users to send out customizable emails to their list of contacts.

Precision

One of the most appealing factors about email marketing is that it allows you to target a specific audience. While a billboard is seen by all people in a given space, and a television ad is viewed by all individuals tuned in to the channel at a specific time, email campaigns can be sent to specific groups of people.


You can select recipients based on location, shopping patterns, or likes and dislikes.  Many CRM programs even allow you to create A/B testing, where you select two different campaigns and see which one generates more sales or clicks to your website.

Effectiveness

Email marketing can be extremely effective; in fact, one source claims that email marketing can provide a 3,800 percent return on investment (ROI); companies can make $38 in sales for every $1 they spend on effective email marketing.

Making the emails personal, such as addressing the recipients by name, sending them congratulatory emails on their birthdays, or making personal recommendations based on their personal preferences makes the emails even more effective- improving click-through rates by about 14 percent and conversions by 10 ten percent, according to a source.

If you are looking to increase your customer base and grow your brand identity, and would like to achieve it with a strategy that is affordable, definitely consider email marketing; it is trackable, customizable, and effective.

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

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

Business Who Need to Verify a Person’s Identity

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

Business Who Need to Notify Customers of Any “Confirmations”

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

Businesses That Involve “Timing” of Anything

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

Businesses Offering Consumer Sales or Discounts

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

Businesses Who Have a Consumer Demand

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

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

Generating Additional Income for Salons with Product Expansions

Once a salon is able to compile a roster of returning clients, the business is off to a good start. However, many salon owners and hairstylists focus solely on providing services, such as cutting, blow-drying and styling hair, without considering other ways of generating additional income.

A salon is limited to the amount of clients you can service daily, depending on the the number of stylists available and their operating hours. Each stylist can accommodate a certain amount of people in a day, generating a profit based on those numbers. When you add a retail element to your existing services, you bring in additional profit that is not limited to the number of stylists or hours in the day.

There are numerous benefits to introducing a retail element to a salon; according to Cosmetologist Life, retail has a higher profit margin than services offered, and selling a product to an existing client base increases the client retention rate by up to 30 percent!

How can you introduce retail products into a salon?

Use the Products During the Service

The best way to introduce new products to your clients is to use them during their appointment. When your customers have had a chance to test the items for themselves, they will be much more likely to buy them. Make sure to market the product when you use it, getting the customer excited about it.

Explain that you just got a new product that will provide a benefit to them, such as shortening the time it takes to blow dry their hair, making their hair look fuller, helping their hair color last longer, etc.

Give Away Samples

Consider offering small samples that your customers can try at home, and follow up with them the next time they come in to see if the item proved to be effective.

“Sampling continues to rank among the most effective tactics in the history of direct marketing, in part because of its ability to do what no other medium can: put a physical product in customers’ hands,” according to An Post. In fact, this source reports that a United States Postal Service-sponsored study conducted by Opinion Research Corp. found that “61 percent of those polled said that sampling a product is the most effective way to get them to try a brand.”

Offer a Deal

Offering a deal on a product is another way to encourage your customers to buy it. When you lower the price of an item, you provide your clients with a sense of urgency to purchase it since they are aware that if they don’t purchase it now, it will likely go up in price. Deals also create a sense of excitement; a 2012 study conducted by Claremont Graduate University found that coupons actually raise individual’s oxytocin levels, creating happiness and lowering stress levels.

There are various deals you can offer, such as:

  • Buy one, get one free (BOGO)
  • A percentage off (20% off)
  • An amount off ($10 off)

Adding a retail element to your salon by selling products will generate more income for your business. However, you will need to have the funds to purchase the products and organize shelf space to display them in your salon, which may be a financial strain for many salon owners. IOU Financial can help you secure a small business loan in under 24 hours! Contact us today to learn more about investing in your business.

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3 Factors that Can Make or Break a Business Expansion Plan

Business expansion is an exciting endeavor for any small business owner. Taking this step means that you have successfully sold your product or service, and it has been well received by the public. You now know that scaling your small business up could bring in some real profits. However, many small businesses fail after their first or second year because of their lack of planning.

Before you try to secure financing, take some time to reflect honestly on whether you will be able to maintain sufficient funding, execute the right marketing campaign, and hire the right employees. Without planning for these three factors, you could find that your attempt at business expansion creates a drain on your limited resources.

 

Sufficient Funds

It takes money to make money, and your expansion project will need funds to ensure your business continues to grow while maintaining normal operations. Calculate how much capital you would need to ensure your added revenue from expansion will make up for the costs associated with the project. Crunching the numbers will help you avoid either taking on too much debt or finding yourself short on funds. For information about the right questions to ask about your business’s cash flow and how to start securing financing, check out “3 Steps to Plan for Successfully Expanding Your Business.

 

The Right Marketing Campaign

While you may have had success with word-of-mouth referrals or small online campaigns to generate initial profit for your company, you will need to inform customers of the changes you are making to drive more traffic for your business. A targeted marketing campaign can help grow demand for your products or services, and even a small budget can make a big impact. Don’t know where to start? Check out our recommendations for getting the most out of your small marketing budget. If you don’t have the time or expertise to coordinate a campaign yourself, consider hiring a marketing professional or a PR firm to create and spearhead this marketing campaign for you. If you opt for this route, make sure to budget for these costs when you lay out your business expansion plan.

 

Experienced Employees

While you may have started your small business out of your garage with one great idea, make sure you plan ahead for hiring. Spend some time reflecting on your own strengths and weaknesses so you know when to ask for help. Depending on your area of expertise, there may come a time when you will need to hire managers to run certain aspects of your business so you can focus on new product development or customer acquisition.

Skilled and hard-working employees can often mean the difference between success or failure because you have to delegate tasks as you grow. Take interviews seriously and hire individuals who show high levels of drive to help your business succeed. Don’t overlook the dollars and cents of hiring as well. Taking time to estimate and plan for the costs for hiring staff can be just as important as getting the right employees in the door.

 

Taking on a business expansion project needs to produce a significant revenue boost to ensure the time, money, and energy are all well worth it. With some planning ahead and estimating the costs of things like hiring and marketing, you can set yourself up for success.

For more tips about how to jump start your expansion, contact one of our Small Business Loan Consultants. We are here to sort through your ideas and see how you can get financing to make your goals a reality.

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