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5 Common Money Mistakes and How to Fix Them

The coronavirus pandemic has burdened many small businesses. One of the ways a business survives the pandemic and looks beyond it is to manage its money prudently. That means being aware of money mistakes and avoiding them, or at least fixing them fast. Here are some of the most common money mistakes and ways to keep them under control.

  1. Starting up without a business plan.

    The plan is the foundation of your business, specifying how it will be operated, marketed, and financed. A business plan also helps you recruit investors and secure loans. It lays out milestones, goals, and metrics to measure whether you are succeeding. Without a carefully considered plan, surprises can cause your business to descend into chaos. If you launched your business without a comprehensive plan, don’t panic. It’s never too late to establish a suitable business plan. If you need assistance, contact your local SBA SCORE chapter – they have the expertise you’ll need to ensure your business has a proper foundation.

  2. Insufficient cash:

    The two main culprits are overestimated receipts and underestimated expenditures. When cash runs short, you face a liquidity crisis in which you can’t pay your bills on time, if at all. This will eventually lead to bankruptcy or a fire sale unless you take steps to prevent it. Start by developing several worst-case scenarios to see where you are most vulnerable. For each scenario, map out a series of steps you can take to correct the situation. And make sure you have a convenient loan source that you can trust, like IOU Financial. Loans can help you navigate through a cash crunch, but you must first work out a plan to use the money wisely and to repay it on time. Luckily, IOU Financial offers extremely flexible repayment terms that our borrowers can live with.

  3. Intermingling business and personal funds:

    This leads to disaster. Paying expenses with your personal credit card or checking account makes it difficult to track your business’ performance. You can also expect problems sorting out personal and business deductions when you file your next tax return. This problem is compounded if you are audited by the IRS or by angry investors. Finally, intermingling business and personal funds will make it exceedingly difficult to obtain a business loan. The fix is to establish a separate business account at your bank and to procure a business credit card. Use these to record all business income and expenditures. If you need to use personal funds for your business, create and document a formal transaction. If you have business partners, include them in your money management strategy.

  4. Falling behind on your bookkeeping.

    Sure, paperwork is a pain in the neck. But you won’t know real pain until you face a financial problem with incomplete, inaccurate, or non-existent records. For example, if you hurriedly stash your purchase invoices in a drawer, you may forget to pay them and/or reap any discounts offered for prompt payment. Conversely, how will you stay on top of your receivables when you can’t locate the invoices you sent out? Will you be able to substantiate your business expenses like travel & entertainment? You can use a friendly software package like QuickBooks to keep your books and records. If you can’t or won’t do the bookkeeping yourself, hire a part-time bookkeeper to whip your business into shape.

  5. Mispricing your offerings:

    Whether you sell a product or a service, setting the wrong price has a significant impact on your business. If the prices are too low, you may increase the total volume of sales while losing money on each transaction. Set your prices too high and you’ll suffer reduced sales while your competitors steal your business. The fix is to do some research and reassess your pricing strategy so that it’s in line with your current local prices.

Cash is your businesses’ lifeblood. You must nurture it if you want to remain in operation, especially during times like these. When the time comes for a loan, please contact IOU Financial first. We can fund you quickly and provide you with flexible repayment terms. Don’t wait until it’s too late – remember, government stimulus packages are unreliable at best, but we’ll still be here at your side fueling the growth of small business.

Mid-Year Financial Checkup: 11 Tips

Usually, we at IOU Financial share financial checkup tips with our readers every half-year. In normal times, we would discuss the prudent steps you should consider to increase revenues and cut costs.

Then, along came Covid-19.

So, this installment is dedicated to ways for small businesses to survive the pandemic in the second half of 2020.

  1. Don’t panic:

    Millions of business owners are going through the same problems that you’re facing, so you are not alone. There are a couple of problems with panic. First of all, it wastes physical and emotional energy that would be better applied to solving problems. Perhaps even worse is that panic begets desperation, which leaves many vulnerable owners to consider bad advice. Carefully think through your decisions using your good common sense.

  2. Don’t count on more government help.

    We can’t KNOW that the government will come out with another stimulus package or relief funds.

  3. Be proactive:

    It’s hard to stay ahead of the pandemic because it keeps on changing. New hot spots pop up and old ones cool down. The best you can do is to pay attention to what’s in front of you and figure out if there’re any actions you can take that are under your control.

  4. Involve your workers and partners:

    Nobody wins when businesses fail. You might find that employees, vendors, and suppliers are willing to accommodate you in your hour of need.

  5. Communicate with reputable experts:

    Good advice is worth a lot, so speak with your local Small Business Development Center, your lender, your CPA, and your political representatives. It’s important to know what works and what doesn’t.

  6. Strength from unity:

    Perhaps you’ve noticed how businesses have come together to find ways to help the surrounding community during the pandemic. For example, restaurants in Brooklyn have banded together with each other and with financial resources to help feed folks who have lost their jobs. Whatever your business, you might be surprised to learn the many ways you can make a positive difference (and earn long-term goodwill).

  7. Identify key employees:

    If layoffs are unavoidable, try to protect your key employees. Perhaps they will agree to a temporary pay holiday in return for staying on the company health plan. Work with your best employees to brainstorm the most pressing problems.

  8. Model your cashflow:

    You need to know how long you can remain solvent. Stress test various scenarios to see what’s possible under different conditions. Consider marketing steps you can take to spur sales, even if you must take a hit to your profit margins. If you can cover your expenses, you are ahead of the game.

  9. Consider factoring:

    Perhaps you can sell off your invoices to collect the bulk of your accounts receivable. You might also want to liquidate some of your inventory and other assets you can survive without. If appropriate, see if you can induce your customers to order in bulk and speed up purchases. Use these moves to build an emergency cash fund.

  10. Provide extra service:

    You may be able to keep operating if you can provide extra services for free, especially if it saves your customers money. You may be able to provide free services without greatly increasing your variable costs. If you have some time on your hands because of decreased demand, spend that time helping your best customers in meaningful ways.

  11. Borrow carefully:

    You may be operating at a suboptimal level right now in which your cash inflows don’t quite meet your unavoidable expenses. In other words, if you can hang on until conditions improve, your business can survive. That’s where borrowing can make a crucial difference. You can use borrowed funds to limp through the current situation in preparation for better times ahead.

IOU Financial stands ready to work with you to fund your business based on your current and projected cash flows. We can fund you quickly and offer you flexible repayment terms. Contact us today and let’s help each other survive the coronavirus nightmare.

Resources for Business Owners with Disabilities

In 2019, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 19.3% of Americans with disabilities were employed, compared to 66.3% of those who did not have a disability. Those with disabilities were also much more likely to own their own business compared to those without disabilities.

Why would someone with a disability want to own their own business?  There are a lot of perks. Self-employment offers a lot of flexibility. You can set your own hours, determine the nature of your work, and, to a point, decide what your income will be.

If you are a person with a disability who is thinking about or already owns your own business, you are not alone in your venture. There are many ways you can get the help you need, whether that be financial help, outsourcing, or business counseling services. There are also special avenues for disabled veterans with small businesses. This article will help you get the assistance you need.

Going into Business

So, you’ve decided to go into business. The first thing you need to decide is what you want to do. You can be a writer, a craftsperson selling a unique product, or own a venue that you rent out for special events. The ideas are endless, but you shouldn’t go into business without at least some idea of what you want to do. Even if you have just the sliver of an idea, there are plenty of resources that can help you get the ball rolling. After that, the next step is to write a business plan. Need help with that? There are a lot of places you can go for help. The Small Business Administration, for example, offers counseling to help you through the process.

Once your plan is in place, the next step is to look for financial assistance. There are many funding resources in place specifically for disabled entrepreneurs, including grants. You can look into a grant sponsored by the federal government, or if you’re the creative type, check out the National Arts and Disability Center that offers grant money to artists who need financial backing to promote their work. The best thing about grants is that you do not need to pay them back. If grants don’t work out for you, there are also plenty of places to find an affordable loan.

When you’re an entrepreneur, not only do you need to find money to get you started, but you also need to find ways to save money. Luckily, there are many tax breaks and credits specific to entrepreneurs. You can save money by tracking the miles you travel for your business or write off debts from clients who didn’t pay you. You also qualify for a tax break if you offer your employees a 401K.

Outsourcing

Once you’re established and your business is going well, you may want to start outsourcing some of your responsibilities. There are many aspects of your business that you may want to consider hiring someone to do:

  • Generating leads
  • Managing your inventory
  • Handing your transcriptions
  • Providing customer service

One advantage of outsourcing is that it can actually save your company money. It is much cheaper to hire someone for a specific task rather than hiring an employee whom you’d have to pay taxes and benefits for in addition to paying for training.

When considering outsourcing, do not outsource anything that may cause your business to lose its competitive edge. In addition, interview your outsourcing prospects carefully and remember that the cheapest person you can hire is not always the best person. Quality is sometimes more important and will save you money in the long run.

With today’s technology, there are a lot of outsourcing websites to use to search for the best candidates to fit your needs. Upwork, Outsource.com, Fiverr, and Guru are just a few of the websites you can look at.

Self-Care and Business Resources for Veterans

For many veterans, the transition back to civilian life can be difficult and many of those who do not seem to fit in turn to entrepreneurship. Approximately 9% of all businesses are owned by veterans. That’s about 2.4 million businesses.

Caring for your body as well as your mind is important for everyone, but for a veteran, life can be especially hard, and it’s important for veterans to practice self-care.  This can entail a number of different things and will vary according to the needs of the veteran:

  • Exercising regularly
  • Getting enough sleep
  • Eating a well-balanced diet
  • Finding a new hobby

The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs also provides assistance towards self-care. It is in the form of a self-assessment than veterans can use as well as a month of reflections and activities that veterans can participate in to help them turn their attention towards themselves.

If you are an entrepreneurial veteran, in addition to the resources listed in the above sections of this article, there are resources specifically for you and your special needs as a veteran. You can check out the local Veteran Business Outreach Center, who can hook you up with training and mentoring right in your community. The Veteran and Military Business Owners Association and VetToCEO program are other great resources that provide a wealth of information.

Many people with disabilities including disabled veterans choose the route of entrepreneurship. It offers them the flexibility they need, and, in the case of veterans, a place to call home in the turbulent, civilian world. And they are not alone. There are many resources out there to help them on their journey towards becoming their own boss.

Guest Post: About the Author

Luke Smith is a writer and researcher turned blogger. Since finishing college he is trying his hand at being a freelance writer. He enjoys writing on a variety of topics but technology and digital marketing topics are his favorite. When he isn’t writing you can find him traveling, hiking, or gaming.

7 Steps to Create a Content Marketing Strategy to Grow Your Small Business

Businesses thrive on smart and accurate marketing strategies. Without a good strategy, consumers will have no idea what to expect from your company. A marketing strategy will enable your company to reach your target audience and let them know that you are a viable option. This is the best way to get attention for your business and get people to buy your product or avail of your services.

Large companies have a marketing team ready to strategize and plan how they sell their business. However, smaller companies may not have access to this. Because they are operating on a smaller scale, they might not be able to afford a large team in order to boost revenue. With the dawn of social media and online resources, it has become incredibly easy for small businesses to gain a wider audience.

If you are a small business looking to get that extra boost, read on. In this article, we list down seven ways that you can grow your business. From using media platforms to creating smarter campaign strategies, we discuss all things marketing. Here are the best ways that you can elevate your content marketing game.

Understanding Your Market

Knowing who you want to sell to is the first step in order to establish your brand. This determines the look and feel of the marketing that you will be doing. If your market is composed of mostly young people, consider making your advertising material eye-catching and modern. If you’re catering to the older population, make sure that your material is clean and gets the point across quickly.

Using the Media

The media is the best way to get the word out about your budding company or startup. Because they reach out to almost all people in society, placing your business on the map is a good idea in order to get things started for you. You have the option of either using traditional or social media.

Traditional Media

Traditional media is commonly known as print ads, radio ads, and tv ads. This form of marketing is best for audiences belonging to an older age group. Because this is seen as more traditional, not many young people will be able to see your ads. However, if your market is for older individuals, this is a good way to reach out to them. Keep in mind, though, that traditional media often charges you for the ads you want to be aired. Make sure that you remain within a budget to minimize costs.

Social Media

If you’re looking to get into a younger market, social media is your best bet. Social media sites like Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook are widely-used sites by the youth. This is a great way to reach out to a younger market and get your business on the map. The best part? Using social media for your business is totally free. While there are ways to pay for a wider reach, they aren’t necessary at all.

Planning your Strategy

Planning ahead is a great way to make sure you have a solid marketing strategy. Before you even start advertising, make sure you have a month’s content ready to publish to avoid dead air. This is the perfect time to plan out branding as well. Planning ahead can be what makes or breaks your future as a business, so make sure to take the time to plan it well.

Influencers

Some businesses reach out to influencers to boost their reach. This is a strategy typically done by businesses that target a younger audience. Because influencers have a wide reach, their influence can mean big things for your company.

When dealing with influencers, always make sure that the terms are clear. Some influencers ask for a payment, while others are happy with receiving a free sample of your product. Make sure that your budget is enough before reaching out to influencers.

Promos and Bonuses

If you want to give a good impression to your potential buyers, try starting a promo in your opening week. This can get people talking about your company and attract potential customers. Whether it’s a giveaway or a discounted price, people will surely be more likely to have an interest in your company. This is also a good way to establish good relations with your client base.

Have a Clear Schedule

Success doesn’t happen overnight. Sometimes, your most loyal clients will discover your company a week or even a month into launching. In order to make sure you are seen, stick to a strict schedule. It doesn’t need to be daily, but make sure you’re marketing your company a few times per week. This can boost your chances of being seen and allow customers to flow in.

Invest in a Marketing Team

When you’ve already grown as a company, consider investing in a team that will handle all your marketing needs. It doesn’t have to be a large team composed of 20 people. It can be a small group that’s dedicated to getting your company on the map. By having a dedicated team, marketing will go efficiently and will yield greater results.

Conclusion

In this day and age, the competition in the business sector is high. With these tips and tricks, you’ll be able to stay afloat and stand out in the sea of competitors. Slowly but surely, you’ll be seeing your business grow soon enough.

Guest Post: About the Author

Laura Garber is a professional writer and career coach. She has led so many people to success and has helped achieve her dreams by helping them craft their resumes. If you are looking for someone who can do your resume in a professional style, she’s the best there is.

5 Tips to Make Your Small Business Customer Service Stand Out

In a world where customers need and want to communicate with their favorite brands on a daily basis, having a strong customer service team is paramount. It doesn’t matter if you’re running a seasonal business or a year-round venture, or if you have aspirations to stay a small company in your local market or expand into the international scene, there is no denying that you need a crack team of customer service agents to keep your customers happy. In turn, this will allow you to boost customer retention, and by extension, to improve customer acquisition over the long term.

However, it’s not just enough to have someone pick up the phone every once in a while, no, you need to build a thriving customer service department and use the right tools for communication and CRM in order to increase sales and satisfaction across the board. Let’s break all of this down and show you the five tips you can use to make your customer service department stand out and achieve better results.

It all starts with a personalized service

Personalization is one of the foundational pillars of modern business, whether you’re talking about sales, marketing, internal or external communication, or any other process in your company. The modern customer doesn’t want to be another number in your sales funnel, instead, they want to feel appreciated for their purchase, their loyalty, and their commitment to your brand. If you want to succeed over the long term, you have to acknowledge the individual.

To do that, you need to emphasize personalization in marketing and sales, but most importantly, in customer service as well. After all, customer service is a powerful conversion tool, and it can help you market your brand in a powerful way. Let your customer service agents take a personalized approach to every customer and every problem, and really delve deep into their unique perspective in order to craft personalized solutions that the customer will love.

Look for employees with excellent people skills

In many ways, your employees are your biggest brand advocates, which means that their demeanor and the way they communicate with the outside world can have a profound impact on your brand’s reputation, perception, and authority in the eyes of your customers. This is why you need to hire the right people for your customer service team instead of just hiring anyone to pick up the workload quickly. 

Carefully screen all applicants to find talented individuals who possess the right soft skills, but also understand the importance of branding and brand etiquette, and are creative and flexible when facing particularly difficult customers. These people are not easy to find, but once you do, it’s important to inspire them to stay in your team by offering a competitive salary and plenty of growth opportunities – after all, they are the ones who will take your company forward.

Increase availability and call quality with VoIP

No matter how talented your customer service agents may be, you can’t expect them to achieve the results you’re looking for if they don’t have the right tools at their disposal. If your agents are using traditional and outdated phone systems, then there is only so much they can do to keep the customers happy or run an efficient customer service department. This is why VoIP technology is so popular nowadays, as companies need digital communication systems to ensure efficiency and save money.

VoIP represents the best in business phone technology because of its many digital features that allow you to run a productive customer service department from anywhere in the world and keep your teams in sync at all times. However, the biggest advantage of VoIP is that it has a lower cost per call for national and international communication, meaning that you can prevent extraneous financial loss while maintaining around-the-clock support service.

Leverage customer feedback and testimonials

To build a reputable brand image, you have to inspire your customers to leave positive reviews and feedback on your site and other key platforms around the web, including social media, Google, and other review sites. Reviews and testimonials are a true treasure trove of customer information, and they can help you shape your customer service department and improve your marketing strategy, sales, and more. Pay close attention to what your customers are saying, and extract key insights to optimize and adapt every process in your customer service department.

Build a thriving community

Lastly, customer service can have a powerful impact on your online community, so it’s important to use it to inspire people to become loyal customers and brand advocates. Your agents shouldn’t just solve problems, they should also motivate the customers to achieve certain goals, inspire them to spread the word of your brand, and most importantly, welcome them into your brand’s family. This will invariably build loyalty and expand your community, and it will bring quality leads to your doorstep through stellar word of mouth.

Wrapping up

In many ways, customer service can help a company achieve its long-term goals. Now that you know how to make your customer service department stand out, be sure to maximize its potential and use it to build a more successful company in 2020 and the years to come.

Guest Post: About the Author

Lauren Wiseman is a marketing specialist, business writer, and entrepreneur, currently based in Melbourne. She helps clients grow their personal and professional brands in a fast-changing and demanding market environment. Covering finance, technology, and digital marketing topics, Lauren strongly believes in a holistic approach to business. She is also one of the authors behind Bizzmark Blog and a regular contributor to several renowned business blogs.

How to Increase eCommerce Sales for Retail Stores

Starting and running an eCommerce business is never easy unless you put in place the right strategies. In the eCommerce world, opportunities are less and competition high, and you, therefore, need to do things differently to enrich your site’s shopping experience. Increasing sales is a crucial goal for all enterprises, but it requires both dedication and effort. Here are various tips to help you boost sales and run a successful online retail business.

Optimize your site

You only have a few seconds to grab customers’ attention once they land onto your site. Therefore, invest in quality product images, make your site responsive, and quick to load. 

Also, make the shopping process seamless and eliminate any unnecessary steps during the checkout. Use the necessary tools to improve your clients’ details security. Cloud computing is cheaper, and it will also help you access customer data to help understand their needs better.

You may also want to consider search engine optimization to reach a wide range of potential clients. To achieve this, do keyword research to determine how clients search for your products online. You can then include the appropriate title tags, keywords, body copy, and image alt tags.

Enable Mobile Shopping

Ensure that your site is well-optimized for the mobile phone application. Most clients, especially millennials, love shopping from their phones or tablets. You can also consider building a mobile app to improve customer experience, which will boost sales. Further, run mobile-specific adds on Facebook to help direct potential clients to your product page.

Automate your Email Marketing

Emailing is one of the most effective online marketing strategies that give you a chance to engage with your target clients easily. However, automation will help boost your marketing campaign and smoothen the process further.

You can use pre-set triggers to send timely messages to your clients. For example, if a client abandons their cart, he will receive an automatic email to encourage him to complete the transaction. As soon as a potential client trips an online trigger, he will receive an email inviting them to check out the products.

Offer more Discounts

Everyone loves getting good deals, and discounts are thus a great way to improve sales. Use regular offers to trigger inactive leads and keep previous buyers engaged. The more you give away, the more prospects will perceive your brand, resulting in more sales. Include some gifts in your business financial plan, use them to improve people’s perception of your products, and it may boost your profit margins shortly.

Discounts act as an excellent method to introduce your products to people and tempt them to purchase more. Also, reward your repeat clients by offering a loyalty program where you give them some points to enjoy more products, free shipping, or discount coupons. Further, you can include a free shopping promotion.

Active Engagement on Social Media

Social media advertising is a great way to drive visitors to your site and convert them into paying customers. Use multiple social media channels like Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, and Twitter to reach out to a million users interested in your products.

Target different people with varying ads to reach out to a specific customer base. Also, remain active across various platforms to grab your target customer’s attention. Engage your followers by answering all questions concerning your products and following up referrals.

Ensure Excellent Customer Support

To stand out in the competitive market, you need to deliver exceptional customer service. Set aside a reliable help desk to respond to your customer’s concerns swiftly. Your level of service significantly affects your business sustainability, and you may want to avail of various mediums in which clients can reach out to you.

Invest in a customer service technology like live chat or chat both to help in engagement automation in context chats. It will help push the client to ask questions, which may boost conversion rates by creating a great shopping experience.

Summary

If you experience slowing or stagnating sales, you need to adopt new strategies to market your products. Create a secure website, offer a lot of promotions, get active on social media, and optimize your site for mobile devices. The above guideline aims at shining light on how to increase eCommerce sales.

Guest Post: About the Author

Emily Lamp is a professional writer, working closely with many aspiring thinkers and entrepreneurs from various companies. She is also interested in technology, business growth and self-improvement. Say hello to Emily on Twitter @EmilyLamp2.

10 Free Tools to Effectively Manage Your Business

When you want to run a successful business there’s a whole host of things you need to know. One of the most important things is to build a series of management protocols that allow you to stay on top of things without drowning in paperwork. There are a whole host of different tools out there, some of them demand an investment, but there are also others that won’t cost you a penny. Let’s take a look at 10 of the best free tools to see what you can add to your business.

The Wix Website Builder

If you want to build a site without paying out for all the fancy add-ons you get from many hosting platforms, this is the way to do it. Wix allows you to create responsive, mobile-friendly sites without having to enter a single line of code. Just what you want when you’re trying to get your big idea out there without spending hours learning every skill under the sun. They claim that you’ll get 100% free website hosting and design possibilities. Use Wix for free as long as you want, but if you need professional features like your own domain name or e-commerce you’ll need to opt for their premium option.

Avast Free Antivirus

Cybersecurity is a hot topic right now, and it’s heating up all the time. If you want to run a successful business then it’s absolutely vital you invest in the best anti-virus protection. Avast is one of the top choices when it comes to free antivirus software. It offers an on-demand malware scan, on-access malware scan, website rating, malicious URL blocking, phishing protection, behavior-based detection, and vulnerability scan.

Grammarly

If writing just isn’t your thing, don’t worry. There’s finally a program out there that can add the polish your ads and emails have been waiting for, and it is completely free. It’s a great way to ensure that everything that’s sent on behalf of your business is professional and accurate. Take the time to get to know all of the functionality it has to offer. There is an upgrade that comes with a monthly subscription fee if you want to take your proofreading to the next level. However, the basic free version does a great job on its own so it is not a necessity.

The Hemingway App

This tool follows on nicely from the last, and it does much the same thing. The USP is that it specializes in breaking up wordy but otherwise correct sentences. This is especially useful if you don’t feel like approaching half a dozen writing companies to try and find someone who can connect with your brand. The app also checks the readability of your content so you’ll know if you need to make some changes to make it more comprehensible. The best part is that you can use it for free.

Skype

Despite the rise of Zoom and FaceTime, Skype is still very much alive and well. If you want to be able to talk to suppliers, vendors, and colleagues anywhere in the world for free, this is the tool you need in your kit. It’s easy to use and intuitive, and all you need is a phone and a WiFi connection. Ideal if you want to ensure your business never has to break stride.

Excel

It’s the classic program we all grew up using, but there’s still a place for Excel in today’s business world. The program comes with the basic Microsoft Office package that pretty much everyone has so you won’t need to spend money on additional organizational tools. Use Excel to keep track of every aspect of your business and make all the information presentable and easily accessible.

Hootsuite Free

Social media is the tool that connects your business with the rest of the world, so you need to know what it’s saying about you. Hootsuite’s aptly named free version allows you to ‘hear the echo’ by seeing how your customers and followers are reacting to your content. This is a great way to extend the reach of your customer service into the social domain. It’s also a great way to humanize your business by putting a personal face to your brand.

MailChimp Forever Free

Email marketing is one of the easiest ways to take your business to the masses, and it’s great there are tools like MailChimp that are so easy to use. If you want to be able to send campaigns for free, their Forever Free package is just what you’ve been looking for. Over time you might consider the subscription version so you can launch larger campaigns, but for now, it’s more than up to the job.

Zoho Docs Management

Document management is one of the things that few of us think about when we’re launching a business, but before you know it record keeping is a daily struggle. Zoho allows you to keep everything just where you need it, making it easy to look up key supplier and customer details with the click of a button. Just what you need when you want to provide the best-in-class service you want your business to be known for. Zoho Docs is always free for teams of up to 5 users so it is perfect for small businesses.

Evernote Scannable

Last but not least, we come to one of the most intuitive and easy to use document management tools on the market today. Evernote Scannable is a free tool that allows you to instantly upload your physical copies into an easy to search online portfolio. There you can add additional annotations, file everything away, and even reference it. Perfect when you want to ensure that everything you need is ready and waiting when it’s time to get to work.

Conclusion

Even though many business managers are putting an emphasis on paid management tools, there are plenty of free options that can do the same job. As you can see, all of these apps, tools, and software are completely free and highly efficient. You can always switch to an upgraded version but for starters, these options are more than enough.

Guest Post: About the Author

Daniela McVicker is a blogger and a freelance writer who works closely with B2B and B2C businesses providing blog writing, copywriting and ghostwriting services. Currently, she blogs for Essayguard. When Daniela isn’t writing, she loves to travel, read romance and science fiction, and try new wines.

4 Ways Seasonal Businesses Can Strive for Success

Summer is nearly in full swing, and although it’s a bit different than usual, consumers are still looking to get out, try something new and spend money on experiences at seasonal businesses. Abiding by local regulations and navigating the ever-shifting landscape COVID-19 has thrown the brick-and-mortar space a challenge. However, the time is here to shake off the dust and take advantage of the summer because whether you own an ice cream stand, a marina, or boardwalk t-shirt shop catering to tourists, your season is limited.

Though you could dwell on the current circumstances, as a business owner, you understand every day is a new mountain to climb and these current times are just a tougher hand of cards you’ve been dealt with. So, what’s it going to be? If you’re looking to cash-in on your hand, read along for a few helpful tips and ways your business can strive for success during this summer period.

Stay Organized

Staying organized is something that every business owner would like to do. Having everything neatly aligned, shipments coming in on time, a clean shop and inventory always in stock can be seen as a dream for many, but you know that all is likely just too good to be true. So what are a few ways you can keep your business organized during this peak season?

  • Go paperless
  • Track time spent on tasks
  • Use mobile banking

You may already incorporate these tips into your day-to-day, but with a little fine-tuning, your business could be running even better and more efficiently. The benefits of going paperless are numerous and can even be financially fruitful and serve as an added safety measure. Keeping track of your time and managing resources based on the importance of tasks will not only help you work more efficiently but also being sure things are completed in the correct order.  When it comes to finances, choosing a small business bank can be the key for easily organizing your business’ invoices, payments, and deposits among other business necessities. Staying organized can come in several forms, so finding your unique pain points and identifying ways around them are paramount to succeeding.

Have a Plan

The SBA reports that over 80% of small businesses survive their first year, while 30% survive their 10th. As a seasonal business owner, you know your window for success is much shorter than the usual calendar year, sometimes only a handful of months. One sure-fire way to keep your business on the right path is a solid business plan. For a refresher on how to draw up a business plan, read more here. But, keep in mind that though a business plan is great, having the flexibility to alter it due to extreme circumstances is a must. For example, just because you are a sit-down restaurant doesn’t mean you should solely focus on people dining in, especially during these times. What are a few ways you can pivot from your initial business plan and stay relevant?

  • Offer take-out service
  • Re-arrange your space
  • Use online reservations for minimal contact

Your business plan is meant to be a guide toward success, but it shouldn’t be the end all be all. Adapting to the times, and making positive changes in the wake of unseen situations or altering landscapes can be the difference between your business getting ahead or being left in the past.

Be a Team Player

As an owner of a seasonal business, you’ve likely worked some long hours in non-peak season times by yourself. Transitioning to the height of your busy season after a long time off can be a change in itself, but one that is necessary. As the owner, especially if you are in a resort town, the ability to work and cater to an ever-changing customer market is a key to earning repeat customers.

For domestic travelers in the U.S in 2019, according to the U.S Travel Association, over 50% of vacation spend went toward food services, retail, recreation/amusement, and lodging, all sectors that cater to seasonal businesses. With so many travelers spending on experiences, you will want to make sure you not only keep a positive reputation in your town but also deliver a great product while you have them. Going the extra mile to please visitors can lead to a positive Yelp or TripAdvisor review and a lasting impression that will keep them coming back again and again.

Stay Top of Mind

With a short window to succeed for the year, staying top of mind is vital to capitalizing on customers visiting your seasonal business. When it comes to staying top of mind, you will want to be sure you are connecting with past customers or potential customers in as many ways as possible. If you have data from past customers, taking advantage of email marketing with Mailchimp can be a great touchpoint to keep prior customers updated on everything from upcoming deals, hours, or just general announcements pertaining to your business. If this isn’t the case, there are plenty of other ways to get your business in front of the eyes of customers.

  • Instagram ads
  • Facebook ads
  • Local radio ads

Getting your product or service in front of customers on social media can be a great, low-cost option for advertising. Take some time to get familiar with advertising on Facebook and features such as targeting your ads around travelers to a certain area between specific dates. Or, you could utilize the local radio station that visitors will be using while driving or checking the village news. Striking the chord between eye-catching creative and ads that are set up well can help you boost your brand’s awareness and drive more traffic to your seasonal business.

Conclusion

Running a seasonal business is no easy task, deadlines are shorter, the stakes are higher, but the fruits of all your work can be astronomical. Striving for success can lead to many seasonal business owners to focus on working harder rather than smarter and eventually lead to burnout. With a few smart steps, you can get your seasonal business moving in the right direction and maximizing your potential in no time.

How Small Business Owners can Protect their Financial Future

Owning a business can be one of the most rewarding career paths— you have created something from scratch by leveraging your specific knowledge and expertise in your field. Therefore, it is understandable that you put forth all your effort into ensuring your business’ success. Although it can be easy to get caught up with the many different ideas you have as a business owner,  it is important to remember to continuously plan and reevaluate your personal financial needs. This dedicated time focused on your financial future can offer you long-term protection as a business owner.

Save for Retirement

Perhaps you are transitioning to independently owning a business from working a 9-5 type of job. Or maybe you have always been a business owner. Either way, it is important to note the differences between the traditional workplace and understand that sometimes, the most advantageous parts of working in this type of environment are the employee benefits that are offered through these companies. It is important to try to incorporate some of these benefits into your own plan to protect your financial future.

One essential benefit offered through many traditional employers is a retirement savings plan, especially plans with a company match. A 401K employer-sponsored plan is a great way to save for retirement because the contributions are tax-deferred. As an entrepreneur or business owner, you will be solely responsible for setting up your own retirement account, which is important to do as preparing for retirement earlier than later sets you up for long-term financial stability. There are a few different options that you could look into for retirement as a self-employed individual depending on your specific needs as a business owner.

If you are just starting out, it can be difficult to project your exact earnings and therefore, harder to determine the correct amount to save. Consider taking a conservative approach to saving for retirement now and then increasing your personal contributions once you are making more to ensure a comfortable retirement.

Secure a Life Insurance Policy

As the workplace landscape is evolving, companies are including additional offerings to their benefits packages such as gym reimbursements, office catering, and even pet insurance to attract and retain future talent. While these benefits are attractive, they are not necessary to ensure future financial stability.

However, one benefit offered in most workplaces not to skip out on is life insurance. Having a life insurance policy not only protects you and your family members but also your business’ future. Life insurance serves the sole purpose of reimbursing your designated beneficiaries a set amount of money if you were to pass away.

This is crucial to protect those that depend on your income. For example, having a policy could ensure that your mortgage, household expenses, and even future financial goals such as college savings accounts are still funded even after you pass. Additionally, if you used personal expenses as collateral for your business, having a policy with enough coverage for these expenses protects your spouse and family from financial hardship.

Depending on the type of business you have and your employees, it could also be beneficial to take out a policy for a crucial employee whose knowledge or credentials would not be easily replaced. Since term life insurance policies are usually less expensive because they expire at a given time, this could be a good option to look into for a key employee while you grow your business.

Build up a Cash Reserve

Many have heard the advice to have three to six months of emergency savings built up. As a business owner, this is incredibly important to protect yourself from any unknown situations that were to occur within the business. These instances could include the loss of a major customer, equipment issues, legal issues, and more. Depending on your industry, it might be beneficial to have even more built up to ensure that you are prepared for any type of fluctuation or downturn in cashflow. This emergency fund can keep you afloat and ensure that you aren’t making short-term decisions that could impact your business in the long run.

Separate your Business from your Personal Finances

This step can be very difficult for business owners because it can be easy to want to throw any additional funds back into the business. While this is admirable, remember that maintaining stability and separation with your own personal finances will give you added peace of mind and help your business long-term.

Since this can be tricky, try to be intentional about separating your finances by opening two individual accounts both to better track your expenses and not be tempted to use funds from your personal account. Additionally, refrain from putting personal expenses on your business credit card and vice versa to help keep clearer records on how much money is going in and out of both accounts.

There can certainly be difficulties to running a business while also trying to further your own financial wellbeing, However, being your own boss is extremely rewarding you establish a process to both grow the financial needs of your business while also protecting your own financial future.

How Email Marketing Can Increase Small Business SEO

Digital marketing is a blanket statement used to categorize all types of marketing that happen via digital and internet-enabled devices. Ideally, every digital marketing campaign should incorporate every possible channel to maximize its return. Each channel works differently in how they reach out and engage with customers, but using them together is the best way to get the best out of their individual and collective efforts.

Unfortunately, when it comes to small business marketing, many brands either employ one channel or use a number of them independent of each other. Some of them think the aim should just be about keeping their branding and messaging efforts consistent with each channel.

What is needed is a symbiotic approach. Granted, the immense mutual benefits that having all these channels brings aren’t usually evident right off the bat. But this doesn’t mean that these advantages do not already exist from the beginning. This is especially true in the case of SEO and email.

These channels are among the biggest digital marketing routes, and understanding their mutual relationship can kick things up for your marketing significantly. We have outlined a few ways in which your email marketing strategies can rub off on your small business SEO efforts in the right way.

Emails help you achieve your SEO goals by bringing in qualified traffic

The ultimate objective of SEO marketing is to bring in more customers, and consequently, more revenue. Email can rake in massive traffic to your website — especially if you have a massive email list — like no other marketing channel. And not just any kind of traffic, but qualified traffic; people that have a higher propensity to follow through and convert after reading your email.

This ability is down to how effective personalization is with emails. Personalization allows marketers to send subscriber-specific emails and newsletters to everyone on their email list. When a customer knows that an email was crafted specifically for them and their interests, the potential for a click-through from them shoots up significantly.

If you haven’t started doing this yet, it’s thankfully not that difficult to get started. The first thing you should do is to segment your email list according to subscriber interests. For instance, writing service review companies like Best Writers Online and Online Writers Rating can categorize their email subscribers according to the type of writing service they need. Options include research papers, dissertations, essays, and paper writing.

This way, when they review new writing services, they can notify the different segments of their email list about only the writing services that align with their interests. The ability for an email to bring in this traffic lessens the burden on SEO and enables it to meet its target faster.

Email traffic will boost engagement on your site

No one wants visitors who hop on their site and then go off as quickly as they came. A huge factor that causes this is a disinterest in your site’s resources, content, product, or service offerings. Of course, this means that such visitors are not targeted, high-quality traffic.

However, with your email list, you can solve this problem somewhat. The traffic coming from your highly personalized emails are already interested in your offering and content. This interest causes them to spend more time engaging with your site’s resources. This can only be a good thing for your SEO needs. An average longer site visit and a lower bounce rate help your website rank better on search results pages. No one is sure how important these metrics are to ranking a website, but they certainly do not hurt your chances of ranking.

So even though these site visitors are coming from your email list, they are helping you boost your positioning for keywords. Generally, as long as you remain efficient at driving the right subscribers to the right content, your visibility on search engines can only continue to grow. Essentially, your email marketing will continue to make your SEO efforts and entire small business marketing look good.

Use data from your email testing to plan your on-site content strategy

When it comes to emails, a marketer’s job is never really done. It is common practice for email marketers to tweak the emails continually they send to their list to see which iteration converts the most. And there’s a lot to tweak and test: subject lines, tone and length of copy, CTA, personalization, sender name, target audience, sender’s name, and landing page, among other things.

Besides better conversion, another benefit of continuous testing is that you’re garnering a huge bank of data and insights from the results of your testing. These insights can be employed in your other digital marketing channels to significant effect.

For instance, let’s say that during your testing, you notice that your subscribers responded favorably to a particular email newsletter headline, you may want to consider using that as the title for the corresponding on-site page or to use it as a title for a related article. You may also discover that a particular call-to-action is responsible for a considerable majority of clicks. Consider using such a CTA all over your website, especially the home page.

The good thing about using these insights is that they come from your email list, which is an already proven customer base. So essentially, you’re planning your content strategy with reliable data. This method of “email marketing SEO” helps to draw a connecting bridge that can carry the successes of your email marketing planning over to your SEO efforts.

Repurpose your high-value emails and newsletters as content for your site

Coming up with original, new, and valuable content consistently is sometimes tricky, even for the best marketers. One way to keep delivering content to your email subscribers is to curate some of the best content from within your industry that is relevant to their interests. Use emails to send these posts across to your subscriber lists.

You could also focus on finding gaps in the way your industry talks about pertinent industry-specific issues. Then address these gaps in your emails.

But what if it is site content that is your problem, and not email content? It is still essentially the same problem — a content problem. It can even be solved with a combination of curated and original content. However, another huge source of site content could be your emails. At this point, you’ve probably already sent a lot of high-value content to your subscribers via email. Consider repurposing these topics for your blog and resource pages. Besides, emails can only be so long. Making your emails and newsletters into full-blown high-quality site content not only gives your site more SEO juice, but it also gives you an avenue to expand on relevant information in a way that emails do not allow.

Encourage your subscribers to share your content on social media

If your subscribers connect with your content, they’ll most likely have no problem sharing it on their social media. But asking for the share through your emails allows them to share socially through your marketing campaign.

Google has come out to say that social media shares do not directly help site ranking. Still, a rise in social visibility positively impacts your SEO and improves search visibility, as this Hootsuite study reveals.

Conclusion

As I stated earlier in the article, digital marketing channels are best deployed to complement each other. Don’t be deceived if these channels look unrelated at first glance; the real gem is beneath the surface. Using the small business marketing advice on this list will put you in good standing with your subscribers, and with Google’s rankings and search visibility.

Guest Post: About the Author

Aaron Swain is a writing specialist. He is passionate about marketing and SEO. He expands and improves his skills throughout the writing process to help and inspire people.