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Email Marketing Tips: How to Engage with Your Customers Successfully

Email is one of the most affordable and simplest way for business owners to communicate with their customers. One of the biggest problems of using email as a marketing tool is the inability to cut through the clutter of the multitude of other emails in customers’ inboxes. How do you get your readers to actually open, read and take an action upon receiving your email? While there is no single solution, there are ways to improve email marketing techniques to more efficiently engage with your clients.

Start with the Subject Line 

Reduce Pet Shedding by 25% with Our New Brush That’s Under $10!

PetsGalore Introduces a 5-Star Rated Pet Brush

Between the two subject lines above, which email would you be more likely to open (if you had a shedding pet, that is)? Most people would open the former, simply because of the subject line.

Other than the sender’s information, the subject line is the single most important determinant of whether an email will get opened. Therefore, it is imperative to think about what you want to write in this space. An engaging email title should:

  • Be Relevant – If you want a prospective client to read your email, you need to tell them why it matters to them. How can your email change their life for the better? In what ways can it help them? In the example above, the first email quickly gets to the point by letting readers know that a product can solve a certain problem – excessive pet shedding. The second emails fails to do that, as it simply announces a new product, but doesn’t explain its exact purpose.
  • Be Authentic – With the mass amount of spam email most people receive on a daily basis, it is essential that your subject line sounds authentic. Don’t make unfounded claims such as 5-star, Effective, Proven, Fan Favorite, etc. Individuals are so bombarded with false claims that your email will read inauthentic and will likely be ignored.
  • Contain Numbers – How do you grab the reader’s attention? Try to incorporate numbers into the subject line, as they help to fixate attention versus subject lines that only contain text. A study found that because numbers represent facts, it helps to stop the readers from looking away from the content as fast as they would if it contained just text.

Keep it Personal

By perfecting your subject line, you have hopefully enticed the readers to open your email. Now what? People are bored by the standard, blue-print mass emails; to stand out from the mold, make your emails personal.

Pretend like you’re writing to a friend, and address the reader directly by using the word “you.” If you make the reader believe that you are communicating directly with them, you will spike their interest level and peak their curiosity.


If you want an even more effective strategy, incorporate the reader’s name into the email. Brain studies have proven that seeing our names in print activate sour brains unlike anything else. When you address a person by their name, you lead them to become more engaged and trust you more.

Include a Call-to-Action

Just as a great subject line is imperative to getting readers to open your email, a call-to-action (CTA) is a must to get the reader to take action. After all, there must be a reason you are emailing your customers – whether you want them to complete a purchase, visit your blog, or enter a contest – you need to guide them to complete that step. One source found that a CTA increased email clicks by 371% and sales by 1617%.

The bottom of your email should always contain a simple and concise call-to-action, which can include the following text with a link:

  • Click here to purchase the product
  • Visit our site to learn more
  • Enter this contest by August 31st!
  • Share your comments on our Facebook page

To make your email marketing strategy even more effective, consider purchasing email marketing software. This tool can help you personalize your emails, add imagery and provide detailed results about how many people opened your email and what actions they took after reading it.

If you need financial help affording this software, IOU Financial can help! Apply for a small business loan by visiting our site! (Did you like our call-to-action, by the way)?

 

Continued Expansion with Small Business Funding

Atlanta Movie Tours got its start because Owner Carrie Sagel Burns wanted to show off all the great filming locations around Atlanta and beyond. Since its beginning five years ago, the business has expanded to showcase all the great filming that happens around the Metro area, and has a retail gift shop downtown. Not only has it grown from one tour a week to over 20 with 40,000 guests, the organization also has 1,200+ reviews on TripAdvisor. “With that growth came overhead and personnel, investment in the business and capital and funding became necessary at times,” said Carrie.

Carrie has borrowed from IOU Financial a few times. “The IOU capital has helped consolidate our existing loans and get our daily rate under control for greater growth this year,” explained Carrie. “It helps me sleep at night!”

According to Carrie, what makes IOU different from other lenders is the commitment to excellent customer service, particularly the communication and online portal.  “I’ve worked with other small business loan companies and spoke with a few others and know that there are plenty out there who you can’t reach for questions, don’t have a way to check your status, etc,” said the small business owner. “With IOU, you know you can always talk to someone. Plus, the online dashboard is a great way to keep an eye on the account without having to contact IOU directly.”

Here at IOU Financial, we can’t wait to see how Atlanta Movie Tours grows even further in the future. Looking for something fun to do in Atlanta? Check them out! Click here to book a tour: http://atlantamovietours.com We’ve got our eye on The Walking Dead options.

Carrie was able to expand her business with an IOU Financial loan.  Why not you?  Learn more about business lending and have a Small Business Loan Consultant call you today!

 

How to Successfully Market Your Small Business on a Tight Budget

Television ads, billboards, direct mailers — these are all common ways world-known companies market their products and services. However, if you don’t have thousands of dollars to invest into your marketing budget, how do you engage with your potential clients?


Small business owners often find it difficult to stretch their tight budgets to effectively market their offerings. However, with a little creativity, there are ways to advertise your business on any budget!

Referral Program

Multi-million dollar companies hire marketing experts, PR gurus, and sales executives to advertise their products and secure sales. Although a small business owner with a handful of staff cannot compete with that, they can “hire” existing customers to help them market their brands.

One way to do that is with a referral program, where you reward your customers for bringing in new business. Offering discounts or freebies to those that help you generate sales has been a strategy many businesses have relied on for their success.

For example, Dropbox’s referral program, which offers 500MB of free cloud storage to individuals who refer their friends, increased their sign-up rate by 60 percent! PayPal’s financial incentive for referrals helped them achieve “7 to 10 percent daily growth” and “turned out to yield better marketing ROI than traditional marketing channels.”

It’s free to start a referral program, and the discounts or expenses of paying for the referrals will be offset by the new sales!

YouTube Videos

Another low-cost marketing tactic consists of creating self-made YouTube videos showcasing your products or services. All you need is a device with the ability to record and upload videos, and you’re ready to start marketing!

Skateboarding shoes company, DC Shoes, took this approach in 2009, when they started uploading short videos of Ken Block, the company’s co-founder, “driving a tricked-out race car around closed-off airports, theme parks, and even the port of San Francisco… the stunt driving is interspersed with glamour shots of footwear.”

These efforts paid off immensely, resulting in “180 million views—and in 2011 alone, sales jumped 15%.” Experts say this type of marketing would cost about 5 million dollars had it been done through traditional methods.

Cross-Promotion

Form a team with other, non-competing business owners to market each other’s services. Visit other small businesses in your area, and form agreements that will benefit each party involved. You can leave business cards or flyers in each other’s locations, cross-link on each other’s websites, and/ or create bundled promotions (get a haircut at Moe’s salon and a manicure at Lee’s Nails, and get 10 percent off both services!)

Cross-promotion is an beneficial tool that doesn’t just benefit your business, but your community by helping small businesses succeed.
There are times when you will need the funds to invest in marketing your business. When this situation occurs, contact IOU Financial to provide you with a business loan up to $150,000 in 24 hours!

Building a Brand: The Basics

If you are a small business owner, you should be aware that the key to growing your business is to create a solid brand. Instead of simply concentrating on day-to-day sales, it is imperative to create a story to help your target audience connect with your business.

While you may have a hit product one day, creating a strong brand identity will help you maintain customer loyalty after the product’s life cycle has ended. Today’s customers are different than ever before; they aren’t as interested in shopping at random retailers, but want to build connections with business they know and trust.


What is a Brand?

A brand is a mix between “psychology and science brought together as a promise … Brands convey a uniform quality, credibility and experience,” according to Forbes.com.

A brand identity consists of many different factors, such as a company name, logo, slogan, marketing materials, as well as all the actions you conduct on a daily basis.

What Are the Three Basic Steps to Creating a Brand? 

 

Concentrate on Your Audience

The first step to creating a brand identity is determining who your potential clients will be; this group is your target audience. Before trying to connect with these individuals, you need to figure out who they are – their age group, location, gender, marital status, shopping trends, income, hobbies, etc. The more you know about your main customer base, the easier it will be to create a strategy to market to them.

For example, if you are developing a software to help retirees manage their retirement income, your messaging should not be as “techy” as if you would be targeting millennials. Knowing your target audience provides you with a blueprint for crafting your identity in the most strategic way to engage with your customers.

Research the Competition

In order to stay relevant in your niche market, you need to stay ahead of the competition. The way to do that is to research your competitors when creating a brand image, and continue that research on a regular basis.

It is beneficial to know who the other players in your industry are, and how they are crafting their message. In order to create a strong brand identity, you need to be able to separate yourself from competing businesses, which is why you need to know everything you can about them.

Make note of how your competitors design their websites, what products or services they sell, how they write their offering descriptions, how they market themselves, etc. If you find a problem that none of your competitors have solved yet, that will be your ticket to establishing your identity in that space.

Stay Consistent

Once you determine your target audience and research the competition, it’s time to craft your brand identity. The secret to this process is to stay consistent in all the messaging you put out about your business.

Consider Target’s clever branding – all of their advertisements, online, on TV and in store – have white backgrounds, bright colors, simple designs and their red and white logo.

Having a consistent brand identity makes it “so synonymous with your product experience that when a consumer sees your signature brand logo they are already thinking about making their next purchase from you without you even having to ask,” according to a source.


When customers feel they can rely on your company to be consistent, they are able to form emotional relationships with your business, which leads to long-term clients and a successful business!
If you want to invest into creating a strong brand identity, but need financial assistance to develop your marketing materials or hire an expert in this field, turn to IOU Financial, which has been instrumental in helping small business owners secure loans in under 24 hours!

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. 

 

Enhance Your Mobile Site with These Tips

With mobile phones becoming indispensable in our daily lives, it may be no surprise that more than 50 percent of online searches are conducted on mobile devices. Simply having a website is no longer enough for business owners as those sites need to be customized to be navigated from a phone or tablet.
Users are demanding a quick, engaging, and easy mobile experience, and companies may lose business if that is not delivered. How should you enhance your mobile site? Consider these tips:

The One Finger Rule

While desktop users can use a mouse or two hands to navigate a website, most mobile users will use one finger (the index finger or the thumb). Therefore, a mobile site must be designed with this in mind. The content, images, and text need to be large enough to be viewed without having to pinch to zoom, yet small enough to fit into the various sizes of mobile screens.
As most mobile users use a touchscreen device, the buttons need to be designed for fingers of different sizes. People with larger-sized fingers often have trouble navigating mobile sites because their fingers cause misplaced clicks. To avoid this issue, mobile interfaces must make targets easy to select. Mark Rattin, executive creative director at Lyons Consulting Group recommends giving “buttons or tap elements at least 45 pixels of space for selection areas,… [as] this allows the targets on screen to be easily selectable and removes many of the accidental taps from the user experience.”

Use Icons


A mobile site needs to be clean, simple, and uncluttered; to facilitate this, try using minimal text  and concentrate on icons whenever possible. There are many benefits to using icons; for example, the standard ones are easily recognizable and don’t need to be translated for international users, unlike text. Icons are also typically designed to be easily finger-operated on a mobile interface, as well as clickable with a cursor.

Speed it Up

While desktop users may spend the time researching products and reading details online, mobile users are usually on the go, wanting a quick online experience. To accommodate the unique needs of mobile users, mobile sites need to be fast. In fact, studies have shown that 57 percent of people will leave a website if it takes more than 3 seconds to load.
To make your mobile site faster, strip it off large media files, such as photos and videos, that will cause it to lag. When using images, use lower resolutions, resize and crop them, so that they require less time to load.

Customize Contact Forms

Remember that mobile users are typing with one finger and usually are on the go, which means that they don’t have the time and ability to fill in tons of information. To make the mobile experience better, design the contact form to require a minimal amount of information. For example, include a GPS component which can track the user’s location so that you don’t need to require them to enter their city, state or zip code.

If you don’t have someone on your team to help, you will likely need to involve the services of a professional web designer to design or enhance a mobile site. IOU Financial can help you improve your online presence with a small business loan in under 24 hours. Click the banner below to find out more.

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.

How Corporate Social Responsibility Can Help Your Business

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is a strategy many small and mid-size business owners should embrace for two reasons: to help society and to help their own image. There are many causes you can choose to support, such as saving the rainforest, helping refugees, or contributing to a local boys & girls club. A source lists the most common causes of US companies as the following:
1. Efforts to protect the environment (74%),
2. End discrimination or restrictions based on sexual orientation (59%) or gender (54%),
3. Improve access to quality education (59%)
4. Protect human rights abroad (49%)
5. End discrimination/restrictions based on gender identity (52%)

Why adopt CSR into your operations? For these three reasons:

Set Your Business Apart

Regardless of what niche your business is in, you have competition. A way to identify your brand and let potential clients know what sets you apart from your competitors is with the adoption of a social initiative. For example, TOMS shoes, is a great example of an owner who built CSR right into the business model. For every pair of shoes bought, the company donates a pair to those in need around the world. This cause helped people connect with the brand, and sales soared!

People like feeling good about themselves and know that they are making a difference in the world by spending their money. If you align your business interests with a social or environmental cause, you can set your business apart and grab more market share away from your competitors.

Staff Engagement

While a CSR can help you connect with your audience, it is also beneficial to your own staff. Although they are motivated to come to work every day to receive a paycheck, they can become more engaged with the company and invested in its success if there is a cause they believe in involved.

For example, some real estate agents participate in a network called Charitable Agents, which donates 10 percent of commission from homes sales to charities. Agents can feel good about not only making a profit from a sale, but also contributing to a cause close to their heart. This benefits the business with more exposure, as people looking to make a difference when buying or selling a home will find an agent through this network, bringing new business to the agency.

Lower Costs

Corporate social responsibility doesn’t only have to involve donating money to causes, it can also benefit you within the confines of your company. For example, companies who pledge to help the environment should start with changes in their own offices, such as recycling, switching to energy-friendly appliances and technology, reducing water usage, etc.

Not only will these actions represent your true commitment to your cause to your clients and employees, but it will cut costs and promote your own sustainability in the years to come.

Oftentimes, small business owners need funds to market their CSR efforts, otherwise their clients may not know about them. IOU Financial is committed to helping business owners make a difference in the world, which is why we offer small business loans in as little as 24 hours.

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.

Social Media Basics: 5 ways to Create Engaging Content for Your Customers

There is a question that should come across every small business owner who generates content for their customers: what good is putting out content that nobody sees or is interested in? Let us take this one! Putting out content no one sees or is interested in doesn’t do a company any good.  It is a simple as that. However, knowing some ways to create content that people do want to read and engage with can be tackled with the following 5 tips.

Talk about Trending Topics

It’s no question that people like jumping into discussions about popular or trending topics. Similarly, people like to read content that include or focus on what’s relevant right now. When writing a blog, sharing a social media post, or sending a company newsletter, be sure that your company hits what’s relevant in your industry. Get in the game by adding your company’s perspective to the online conversation!

Talk about Unsafe Issues 

Nobody likes a boring read. Rather, people want to read things that make them think, become inspired, or be encouraged to use or trust a company. To accomplish this, companies should present “unsafe” or “out of the box” commentary and comments. Dare to stand apart from other competition, especially if you’re in the small business niche, because your potential customers want to feel something. Creating content that doesn’t follow the usual framework is a unique way to capture your audience and keep them coming back for more.

Get Google Smart

What’s Google smart you ask? It’s simple: post a blog title or content that people look up on Google or other popular search engines. If you have a great blog idea, newsletter update, or website ready to launch, focus on naming it something people already search for and stay away from titles nobody would look for. For example, if your launching a fresh new pair of jeans, don’t use descriptions or titles that only you and your designers know. Write a post called: “New Best Fitting Jeans.” People will search for that phrase immediately when in the market for new denim. Factoring in SEO (search engine optimization) when creating a title is the best way to ensure your link is clicked. From there, your post can then delve into the ins and outs of your product.

Stick to the Point

People scroll through the internet quickly. Studies have found that customers rarely read word for word, and rather scroll until something jumps out at them. Use powerful titles and images that is void of filler.

Speak to Customers, Not Yourself

With a small business, you want to ensure you speak to the customer! Find out what topics or issues your audience wants to learn more about and be sure to mold your content around that. For example, if you own a roofing company you could educate your customers on why a leak in one spot of the house shows up 500 feet away. When your customers find you provide relevant content, they’ll keep coming back for more.

As you can see writing content that is engaging and informative is an art; one that takes time and trial and error to execute successfully.  Following these 5 suggestions for developing engaging content for customers is one step any small business owner can take today to generate great content that customers want to read. Happy content creating!