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10 of the Best Online Tools for Busy Business Owners

Running your own business can keep you pretty busy. From payroll and staff to marketing and PR, you’ll sometimes feel like you’re spinning plates.

Thankfully, thanks to digital transformation, it’s become easier for business owners to automate tasks and save valuable time thanks to clever tools. Whether you are running a small operation, or have a big team behind you already — here are some great online tools you might want to consider to help you out.

Recommended reading: Is It Time for Your Business to Try Out AI? 

1. Xero + Chaser + Receiptbank

Everyone knows how convenient Xero can be as an online accounting app, but it’s actually the cool integrations and add-ons that make Xero so useful for the busy business owner. By being able to automate dreary financial tasks like chasing unpaid invoices, you will be able to save time and decrease stress levels.

Finances are at the core of any small business, so it makes sense to invest time and effort into their smooth management. Without a good financial framework, you will quickly fall behind and stagnate as a business — never take your cash flow for granted!

Let’s have a look at what Xero can do for your business:

  • Chaser allows you to send out personalized invoice chasers and manage your debtors — an essential task for any small business. Xero itself also has a pretty good invoice reminder function — customize your chasing frequency and messaging. You can easily turn off chasing for certain clients and customers.
  • Receiptbank is the ideal app for business owners who make a lot of small purchases for their business. It’s basically a receipt and purchase invoice manager, that also integrates with PayPal. You can install the app on your phone and quickly scan receipts into the system, tagging them up and posting them into Xero at a click of a button.

2. Evernote

Meeting notes getting lost? Can’t keep track of your creative ideas? A tool like Evernote can help you sync up your notes and ideas, and share them with key members of your team.

There are a lot of cool Evernote functions you may not have known about:

  • Instant note-syncing means you can have Evernote on all your devices at the same time (you need to pay for a premium account if you want to connect more than a couple though). It’s a great tool for business owners on the move who work in dynamic environments where you frequently switch from tablet to phone.
  • You can quickly share individual notes or notebooks with people, so everyone is kept in the loop.
  • Evernote also manufactures purpose-built notebooks so that you can scan in handwritten notes!

3. Slack

Modern business is all about communication, so make sure you spend time fine tuning your business communication strategy (both internal and external).

Slack is one of the easiest ways to manage internal and external comms. Whether you need somewhere where all your team can discuss training insights, or a way to bring disparate freelancers or groups together, Slack is a brilliant and user-friendly way to chat and collaborate.

The best thing about Slack? It’s very easy to use and won’t baffle people. The #’s used for channels are easy to follow, and once you’re in Slack, you’ll love it. And if that wasn’t enough, there are also a slew of tools that you can integrate your Slack account with to get even more out of it. Slack will change the way that you communicate at work for the better.

4. SurveyMonkey

Do you need to gather information quickly and easily?

Data is a super powerful business asset and a tool like SurveyMonkey will help you gather and organize data better.

Whether you want to get in touch with staff, follow up after an event, check in with clients, or gather data for marketing purposes, SurveyMonkey is a really user-friendly survey tool.

5. MailChimp

Sending out beautiful email newsletters no longer requires hours of painstaking HTML design — MailChimp makes it so easy even a ‘chimp’ can do it! With drag and drop templates and loads of advice on how to get your emails opened and read, MailChimp is a great business lifeline. Organize your email lists to reflect people’s interests, and you will find it a lot easier to get real engagement from your email marketing.

MailChimp is also a great thing to use for event marketing, and can help you follow up with a big group of people quickly and easily.

6. PeopleHR

Are you a good manager? Everyone likes to think that they are, but part of being a good manager is having access to the right toolsets and data in the first place. You can’t make the right staffing decisions if you haven’t got full visibility on what’s happening in your organization from an HR perspective.

From booking holidays to monitoring performance, PeopleHR makes things easy for staff member, manager, and business owner. Easy to use, clear, and bursting with reams of useful data, this budget HR app is a good find for anyone who cares about staff experience.

7. Trello

Trello makes project management look fun and easy. With a very visual UI that is made up of colored cards, many people use Trello just for fun!

But Trello is not just a pretty face: thanks to it being so easy to use, Trello is a great way to organize teams and projects and make sure that everyone is on the same page. Trello boards are easy to share and can be a quick way of getting people up to speed with a latest project.

8. Shopify

Your company website is crucial to the success of your online business; it’s the medium through which your customers place orders, making it the master of revenue for your company. However, as a busy business owner the last thing you want is to have to spend hours building your company website. That’s where Shopify comes in.

It makes the process simple for you, comes loaded with a host of themes (along with managing the hosting of your website), and has an in-depth support system comprised of physical meet-ups, podcasts, and tools.

Once you’ve set-up your website, you can gain insight on how to market your business, and access ongoing data that lets you see who is buying your products, where they’re buying them from, and how they’re buying them. Not only does Shopify make it easy to set-up your website, it makes it easy for you to grow your business.

9. Buffer

Scheduling social media can help you save valuable business time. You shouldn’t just click a button and automate your social feeds (that’s actually surefire way NOT to get followers), but you can save loads of time with strategic scheduling.

Buffer is ridiculously easy to use and will help busy managers and teams save time and scale. Queue up a load of posts for the holidays or the weekends, and share your content with your network at different times of the day.

10. Insightly

A friendly small-business CRM, Insightly is a good alternative to CRM market-leader Salesforce. Compact and managed by a friendly customer support team, Insightly can help your business run a tighter sales and customer experience ship.

From following up with leads, to updating contact details, being more organized with a small business CRM will make a big difference to your sales figures.

Owning and running your own business is a real labor of love. You want to create a business environment that you’re proud of — somewhere where both staff and ideas can thrive. Use online tools to help you save time and money, and create a great atmosphere that makes people want to work hard. What online business tool do you rely on the most?

Guest Post: About the Author

Victoria Greene is a branding consultant and freelance writer. On her blog, VictoriaEcommerce, she looks at how business owners can use developments in technology to improve their efficiency and drive up their revenue. She is passionate about using her experience to help fellow business owners succeed.

13 Finance Terms You Should Know as a Business Owner

Entrepreneurs bring all sorts of skill-sets to their venture, such as the ability to sell, or to organize activity, or to raise funding. Some might have a business background, but others might need to learn the ways of business while on the job. Here are 14 terms you and every entrepreneur should know, because they involve central concepts that affect your business.

Accounts receivable:

Money owed to your business by clients. Typically, you invoice a client and receive payment some time later. An account is receivable until it is paid.

Assets:

Economic resources your business owns. Current assets are items like cash, receivables and inventory. Long-term assets include equipment, buildings, vehicles, furniture and patents. You utilize assets to generate income.

Capital:

These are the total resources available to your business, and is equal to your equity and debt. Working capital is equal to current assets minus current liabilities, and represents the resources available to run day-to-day operations.

Cash flow:

The movement of money into, through and out of your business. Inflows bring in money and include collections of sales revenues, tax refunds, and interest earned. Outflows are expenditures of cash and include payment of expenses and acquisition of assets.

Depreciation:

The decrease in the value of long-term assets due to the passage of time. Depreciation is a tax-deductible expense that spans a set number of years.

Equity:

Your ownership interest in your company. It is equal to your assets minus your liabilities. Equity is evidences by stock shares distributed to owners based on their percentage of ownership.

Expenses:

The costs of running your business, including rent, salaries, legal costs, advertising, taxes paid, and utilities. A good business tries to minimize expenses while not skimping on essentials.

Financial statements:

Highly structured reports that indicate your business’ financial condition. They include the balance sheet (a snapshot of assets, liabilities and equity), income statement (revenues and expenses for a given period), and cash flow statement (inflows and outflows for a given period).

Liabilities:

Debt owed by your business. Current liabilities are due within one year and include obligations to pay credit-card balances, invoices from suppliers, taxes due, and wages earned but not yet paid. Long-term liabilities include mortgages and loans that mature in more than one year.

Losses:

Negative net income, created when your costs exceed your revenues. If you have too many losses, the chances are that your business will fail unless you have other sources of funds.

Profits:

Also called net income or the bottom line, these are revenues minus costs for a given period. Profits can be drawn off by owners or accumulated in an account called retained earnings. You can use profits to expand your company.

Revenues:

Also called gross income and sales, this is the money you earn from operations. You direct your marketing and sales activities to generate revenues.

Valuation:

A number representing how much your business is worth. Valuation is important when you are seeking funding from investors.

You don’t need to be a financial expert to have a successful business, but knowing basic financial terms will help you communicate with other stakeholders. For those wanting to broaden their knowledge, the Internet is loaded with learning resources, and many colleges offer continuing education courses that might be useful.

10 Innovative Ways Your Business Can Save Money

Business owners are always trying to maximize profits and save wherever they can to ensure success. Here are some of our favorite creative ways to save some cash:

Website:

Build your own website. Many small businesses spend a ton on having a website built and maintained. Guess what? You can do it yourself using website builder software. Check out the offerings from Wix, Squarespace, GoDaddy and others. You’d be surprised at the sophisticate product you can turn out at a fraction of the cost.

Advertising:

Ads can get expensive. Consider enlisting other small businesses to participate in communal advertising, in which you share suppliers, mailing lists and distribution channels. It’s best to work with other companies having a solid reputation and offering complementary products or services.

Spread the word:

Community events are terrific venues to show off your expertise in your given industry. You’ll get free exposure for your business and yourself. You never know, it might lead to paid speaking gigs!

Convert living space:

Commercial offices are so 2010! The IRS has made it easier to declare part of your home as your office and earn valuable tax deductions. Renting office space is expensive, and for many businesses, unnecessary. This is especially true if your business involves e-commerce, where customers will never see your workplace.

Think used:

If you do need office equipment and furnishings, think used! You can get used desks, chairs, filing cabinets and so forth for a fraction of their costs when new. Remember, shiny new furniture is no match for a healthy bank account.

Use freelancers:

It’s cheaper to use freelancers when needed, because you don’t have to pay employees who might sometimes be idle, and you don’t have to worry about the costs of payroll, withholding, benefits, profit-sharing, etc. In addition, using an experienced freelancer saves you the cost of onboarding and training an employee.

Barter:

You might offer something that can be bartered, allowing you to obtain products and services without spending cash. For example, if you’re a freelance CPA, you might obtain legal work from a lawyer client in exchange for tax preparation work.

Borrow wisely:

Entrepreneurs often waste time applying for bank loans only to find out a month later that they’ve been turned down. Sure, bank loans offer good interest rates, but only to the most credit-worthy clients and only after taking a month to make a loan decision. If you’re in a fast-moving business, you can’t afford to waste a month on a business opportunity that might evaporate in a week. When you borrow from IOU Financial, you’ll get your money in a day or two, putting you in a position to open the door when opportunity knocks.

Demand discounts:

Has it occurred to you to demand discounts from your regular suppliers? You’ve given them your business, now they can provide you with a thank-you by offering a discount on future orders. You just might find them very flexible when you hint at taking your business elsewhere.

Don’t buy, rent:

Do you occasionally need heavy equipment, vehicles and other items available from your local rental store? By renting, you avoid large capital outlays and money spent on equipment maintenance and repair. Rental expenses can be deducted when they are incurred, whereas equipment purchases may take years to depreciate. Renting makes a lot of sense for a variety of small businesses.

f you have tried all of these strategies, but are still finding it difficult to sustain your business during the holiday time, turn to IOU Financial. We make it a priority to support small and medium-sized companies with easy loans up to $300,000. You can get funded in as little as 24-48 hours.

Is It Time for Your Business to Try Out AI?

AI applications are already being used by mega-sized corporations, but many small business owners have yet to dip a toe. Well, the water’s fine, and we recommend you start checking out the many AI tools flooding the market. With these, you can make better use of marketing data, improve your social media strategies, make your communications more efficient, and much more. Here are five apps that will make your days more productive.

Amy by x.ai

If you find that you spend too much of your time arranging meetings and communicating with customers, vendors and employees, let Amy help you out. Amy is a chatbot – a personal assistant with the ability to schedule meetings. It works like this: When you get an email requesting a meeting, Amy goes to work arranging the location, time and other details, and then distributes the information through whichever communication channels you choose. There are free and paid versions of Amy. If you have a lot of meetings each week, check Amy out – she’s a winner.

Grammarly

Even if you use a professional writer for your blogs and website content, you might still be responsible for many types of written communication to investors, customers and others. Whatever your writing chores, Grammarly will improve your output. It’s more than a spellchecker. Grammarly uses machine learning techniques to recognize semantic and stylistic errors, improper sentence structure, and many other nuances that were once the exclusive province of professional editors. Grammarly helps to perfect your written communications, which improves your business’ trustworthiness and professionalism.

People.ai

If you would like better strategies for closing sales, People.ai can help. It employs natural language processing (NLP) to examine emails, transcripts of phone calls and meetings, calendars, WebEx and other sources to find successful interaction patterns. It then generates a model indicating ways to close deals, and monitors salespeople for their adherence to the model. People.ai helps remove unproductive behaviors from your sales team’s interactions, drive intelligent sales management and increase marketing visibility, thereby boosting efficiency and, hopefully, revenues.

Legal Robot

Don’t kill the lawyers, automate them. Or at least, apply a little AI to help you understand complex contract language. Through deep learning and NLP techniques, Legal Robot creates models to help you understand opaque legalese found in a broad range of contracts. It will even help you edit your contracts to make them more readable and consistent with best practices. Legal Robot can also find risks and blind spots hidden in dense contract language. Check out Legal Robot before you sign your next contract.

Tetra

Is there anything worse than trying to take notes during phone calls or remembering long conversations? Tetra AI deploys impressive NLP and speech recognition algorithms that create searchable meeting notes from phone calls. It creates a full transcript plus a detailed summary of the conversation that allows you to search for keywords. Tetra even supports two-way speaker identification, so that you know who said what.

Has your company grown to the point where you are ready to make a sizeable commitment to information technology? Procuring hardware, software and skilled workers is expensive. Let IOU Financial lend you the working capital to finance your automation strategy. We offer favorable terms, quick funding and easy repayment. In other words, IOU Financial is the intelligent solution to your funding needs.

Best Industry Podcasts for Restaurant Owners

As a restaurant owner, it is beneficial to stay on top of the latest news in your industry. Unfortunately, this business requires a big time commitment, and not many owners have the availability to network or even read restaurant-related news.

Most, however, would find it valuable to connect to relevant sources to help them run their business if they can do it on the go. Podcasts offer exactly that opportunity to restaurant owners, allowing them to hear experts in the field discuss topics of relevance to them that they can listen to during their commute, while exercising, or even planning meals for their restaurant. Here are the very best, hand-selected podcasts for restaurant owners.

Social Restaurant Podcast – Weekly Talk Radio for Restaurateurs

Nate Riggs, a NR Media Group owner and professional speaker, puts on a weekly episode in which the restaurant business is discussed. Each episode is 30 to 60 minutes, and features owners, operators, executives, authors, chefs and technology experts from the top restaurants worldwide.

Nate leads discussions about the latest trends, helpful technological advances and other topics of relevance to the food industry. The episodes features one-on-one interviews, conversations, commentary and advice on reinventing your restaurant!

Profitable Hospitality

Profitable Hospitality is a website designed for owners and managers of hospitality businesses, including restaurants and cafes. The founder, Ken Burgin, has been in hospitality for over 25 years, owning various restaurants, as well as serving as an advisor.

The site features a multitude of podcasts (over 250!) with restaurant owners, managers and chefs, among others.

Topics include:

  • Diversity
  • Menu customization
  • Targeting specific audience
  • Finances
  • And more!

Restaurant Unstoppable

Calling itself the #1 podcast for restaurant owners, these podcasts target independent restaurant owners. Run by Eric Cacciatore (like the chicken dish), the site started when he was a mere hospitality student to broaden his horizons. Now, he helps business owners learn the tips and tricks to expand and successfully run their restaurants.

He allows his listeners to hear advice from industry experts, as well as sharing their failures to teach others never to give up. He also provides actionable advice for getting funding, managing a team and marketing.

Secret Sauce

The secret is out—the site marketing4restaurants.com shares their take on the best marketing strategies to run these businesses.

The advice comes from the real world—monthly analytics of bookings and orders from actual restaurants. This helps the podcasts provide actionable and proven tips to help restaurant owners.

The reason this blog is helpful is because marketing for restaurants is unique from other industries, and you can learn the best and most cost efficient ways to grow your business.

Table Touch

Hosts Brandon Hull, founder of NextRestaurants, a marketing-focused restaurant resource on the web, and Randy Lopez, the founder of JaKE, a restaurant-industry marketing and PR agency, came together to create this podcast.

They invite leaders in the restaurant world to help listeners hear their opinions on:

  • Building a brand
  • Opening multiple locations
  • Sales
  • Holiday menus

If you hear some helpful advice about growing your business and need financial help in realizing it, let us help! IOU Financial specializes in helping small business secure business loans of up to $300,000. Contact us today at www.ioufinancial.com to learn more.

 

Best Marketing Methods to Bring in New Salon Clients

For a salon to be successful, your calendar must be full of appointments. If you are just starting out, you must attract new clients so that your salon doesn’t operate without any customers. To grow an existing salon business, you need to maximize the amount of clients so you can hire more stylists to grow your profits. How do you attract new clientele to your salon? By utilizing the following proven marketing methods:

Utilize Local Social Media Groups

While some people will walk into a salon without knowing anything about it, most people want some kind of referral. In the past, we had to rely on our friends, family members and colleagues. In today’s world social media is king when it comes to referral sources.

As a salon is a brick-and-mortar business, you must concentrate on the individuals in close proximity to you, as they are your most obvious customers. Apps such as Nextdoor and local groups on Facebook are great resources to connect with your neighbors.

Stay on top of these groups – answer questions in which people may ask for services such as those your offer, or inquire about advertising opportunities on these groups.

Start a Referral Program

To motivate your current clients  to refer your salon to their network of friends, simply offer them a reward!

You can offer a special discount or a free service or product for any customer who brings in their friend! Reward top referrers with special prizes to encourage them to keep spreading the word.

Social media can also play a role in this strategy.  Ask your clients to post reviews, upload photos and recommend your business on their social media accounts.

Become an Influencer

Many small business owners turn to influencers, or individuals with large social media followings, to market their services. The problem is that strategy is typically expensive, and it doesn’t target your local audience.

Instead, spend your efforts to become an influencer yourself! Create a YouTube channel, start an Instagram account or open a Pinterest account to share your expertise in a given area—makeup, hair, nails or hair removal services.

With the right photos and videos and relevant advice, you can become an expert in your field and lead new customers to come to you instead of searching for them!

Get Involved in the Community

Another way to achieve brand recognition in your neighborhood is to get involved in your community. Sponsor a local school event, a charity or a little league team. Organize a park or beach cleanup event to do something good!

If you can get local media to cover the event, and create some posters or make T-shirts, that would be amazing advertising for your business.

It has been proven by a study that community involvement is something that customers keep in mind when choosing which business to support, and that it leads to “loyal customers and happier employees.”

Investing into marketing strategies to bring in new clients is never a bad idea. However, if you don’t have the financial means required, IOU Financial is ready to help. Contact us to learn how you can get qualified for a small business loan of up to $300,000 in just 24-48 hours!

Four Easy Strategies to Create Email Campaigns that Retain Customers

Customer loyalty is one of the most important differentiators between a successful and a failed business. It takes time and and investment to attract new customers—customer acquisition costs alone can make it cost prohibitive to run a business. This is why taking steps to retain your current customers is vital to generating sales in a retail environment.

Keeping your customers in the loop about new products and services, alerting them to sales and special deals and simply staying in communication with them through email campaigns is a cost effective and proven strategy. In fact, one source claims that email marketing is more effective than Facebook and Twitter! We share with you tricks of the trade to implement email campaigns to ensure customer loyalty.

Know Your Audience

Email marketing is completely ineffective unless the emails are opened and read. In order to accomplish this, you need to tailor the content to your particular target audience. Do you know who your clients are? Knowing the following demographics can significantly increase the chances of your emails being read:

  • Gender
  • Age
  • Location
  • Income level
  • Interests
  • Purchase history

Once you have these demographics, you can segment your email lists to make them more interesting to your customers. MailChimp found that segmented campaigns get 14.64% more opens and 59.99% more clicks than non-segmented campaigns.

Personalize Emails

People get dozens, if not hundreds, of emails per day, most of it spam. We are so used to ignoring or deleting content that is of no interest to us, that it is increasingly difficult for retail owners to cut through the clutter. One way of getting a reader’s attention is to personalize the email that is sent out.

Experian found that simply including a person’s name in an email’s subject line increased open-rates by as much as 42% for companies that are selling products or services. And the biggest bonus was not just that more people read the emails, but that they spent more money! “Transaction rates were 49% higher and revenue per email was 73% higher with personalization.”

Share Interesting Content

To retain your customers, it’s not enough to simply make announcements in your emails, you need to create relevant content that is interesting and important to them. In addition to sales announcements, consider sending out articles that educate your readers about topics that are of interest to them.

One article explains that educating customers not only builds trust, but it also adds a human element to email marketing. When you are able to get your customers to trust you, you become an expert in your field in their eyes, which makes it easier for them to open their wallets and make purchases based on your recommendations.

Create a Call to Action

Always focus on the main goal of every email—it’s not just to get readers to open or read it, but to generate a sale and retain a customer. It’s not enough to hope that individuals do this, you need to ask, or better yet, direct them in doing so.

Include a call to action (CTA) in every single piece of email sent out. These can ask readers to like your social media page, visit your landing page, purchase a product or share your article with their social network.

There are many useful software programs that will help you design and test effective email marketing strategies that work. If you need financial help in setting up a marketing plan, turn to IOU Financial. We can secure a small business loan for you with a few easy steps and quick funding. Contact us today!

How to Effectively Use Video Marketing

In an effort to better engage with their customers, business owners are constantly trying to find innovative ways to market their brands. Gone are the days of traditional and one-type-fits-all marketing, such as billboards and advertising, as those have proven time and time again to be ineffective compared to more modern, content-driven digital marketing.

Video marketing has emerged as the clear winner for both business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) companies. It allows brands to capture their customers’ attention by sharing their story, engaging and building a loyal following.

Why is video effective? Because while individuals can glance at an ad for a second and move on, and websites have traditionally high bounce rates (how quickly they leave a site after entering it), videos retain more than a third of their audience through the end, 37% to be exact!

How to you utilize video marketing effectively if you are new to this? With the following tips:

Choose the Type of Video

According to a source, there are four types of videos that businesses use for marketing purposes:

  • Explainers
  • How-tos
  • Product Demos
  • Testimonials

You don’t need to constrict your company to using only one type of video, but you should consider which ones would be most useful to your customers. For example, a makeup brand can benefit from how-to videos that show customers the best ways of utilizing their products.

A medical office that wants to build a relationship filled with trust can share testimonials from existing clients that can attest to their services.

Choose the Best Time

Once you create the video, you want to maximize the amount of people who will see it. If you plan to market the video on social marketing, you want to post it at the peak time when users will be using the platform, otherwise it will get pushed to the bottom of their feed and will decrease the chances of them seeing it at all.

One source found that Wednesday between 7 and 11AM PST to be the most advantageous time to share your video. Researching times based on your industry, time zone, and audience behavior is always helpful when sharing your content.

Utilize Personalized Video Technology

You likely know that a personalized email will amount to more people reading it than a generic one. Emerging technology allows business owners to utilize personalized video technology to customize video messages for their clients.

Personalized videos can include your customer’s name, company and even examples of how your services or products can help them.

This type of digital marketing changes the entire game because when individuals watch videos directed personally to them, it increases engagement and conversion to sales over traditional forms of advertising.

Real Time Analytics

One of the most important steps to effective video marketing, and one that many business owners unfortunately skip, is using real time analytics in their video marketing campaigns.

Instead of guessing what your customers may enjoy, you can use a data-driven approach to fine tune your campaigns to their individual needs.

Real time analytics allow you to monitor how your videos are performing across various platforms, as well as on desktop and mobile. Many platforms will provide you with information about “bandwidth consumption, ad request, ad impressions and video display” that will give you a deeper understanding of how many of your videos are being watched, by whom and on what platform, according to a source.

Video marketing is not a cheap endeavor and one that requires a financial investment. However, if done strategically, it can provide significant returns. IOU Financial can help you with a small business loan of up to $300,000 to fine tune your digital marketing strategy. Call us today and be funded with your loan in under 48 hours.

Four Proven Marketing Strategies for the Holidays

The holiday season is the perfect time for businesses to attract new clientele and connect with existing customers. With buyers scouring for Christmas presents, many stores experience a significant surge in sales. Service-oriented companies, such as gyms and beauty salons, report an influx of new customers around January, when people make New Year’s resolutions to get in shape or become better versions of themselves. All in all, the holidays are a great time to market your services to potential customers by utilizing the following four proven strategies:

Charitable Giving

Thanksgiving and Christmas are popular times for donations to local shelters, philanthropic organizations and community events. Companies can combine doing a good deed with a marketing advantage by making a donation to a charity or sponsoring a local soup kitchen event.

Allowing the community to associate your company’s name with giving creates a positive view of your brand, encouraging them to shop with you during the following year.

Holiday Cards

Everyone loves getting a holiday card from a friend or family member, but there is no rule that holiday cards can’t be sent from businesses. Realtors are already aware of this strategy, sending holiday cards to potential and past clients to increase loyalty and foster customer relationships.

Sending holiday cards to your existing roster of clients and surrounding residents creates an emotional connection between you and your customers, which has been proven to increase brand loyalty and increase sales.

Keep in mind that your customers may celebrate different religious holidays, so sending a generic holiday card rather than one specific for Christmas may be more advantageous to avoid offending anyone.

Utilize Holiday-Themed SEO

Search engine optimization (SEO) should always be a priority in your marketing campaign. The holidays are a great time to re-evaluate your target keywords and add holiday-themed alternatives to help potential clients find you.

Keywords such as “holiday gifts,” “unique Christmas presents,” “ugly sweaters” and “corporate holiday gifts” trend around the end of the year. Utilize these keywords in your pay-per-click (PPC) Google campaigns and in the content of your website and blogs to capitalize on seasonal searches.

Holiday Events

People love to attend holiday events where they feel jolly and get in the spirit of the holiday season. This is the perfect time for businesses to open their doors, encouraging new clients to learn more about them and regular clients to feel appreciated.

Consider hosting an annual holiday party for your top customers to wine and dine them and help them feel valued by your company. You can also host a holiday open house at a salon, store or restaurant attracting families with a visit and photos with Santa and his elves, free cookie decorating events and carolling.

Whatever event you plan for your business, focus on using that time to help visitors connect with your company, learn more about your products and services and create an emotional connection with your brand.

The holiday season can be a strenuous time for business owners as it calls for a lot of expenses. IOU Financial is committed to helping you during this and any other time with an affordable business loan. Get instant pre-approval and funding in as little as 24-48 hours!

3 Ways to Advertise Your Business for Free

Whether you have an online or brick-and-mortar business, you must advertise to create brand awareness for your company. Even if your store or business is located in a high traffic area, not advertising to potential new clients can significantly hinder your sales.

A portion of small business owners don’t believe they have the funds to advertise, but the fact is that with some effort, you can advertise completely free! We list our favorite three free ways to advertise your business for maximum results.

Google My Business

Google is the most used search engine around the world, and while many companies spend thousands or even millions of dollars on pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, it is possible to do so without spending a cent!

Google is constantly working on improving its Google Maps and local search results, which is good for business owners! By inputting your business name, address, phone number, website, description and hours or operations, you can increase your inbound advertising for free!

When individuals search for services or products they are looking for, such as “hair salon in Dallas,” “best French food near me” or “tutoring services Miami,” Google will direct them to your website.

Simply add or claim your existing business listing on Google, verify your account and optimize your Google+ page with reviews and visual and written content to attract new clients! The best part is that even online businesses can benefit from this free advertising feature by listing their company as a service in a particular area.

Write Press Releases

Forming relationships with the press can be extremely beneficial in getting the word out about your business on local blogs, newspapers, news channels and magazines.

Anytime you have news — which can include a new service or product, a new hire, a sale or promotion — write a press release to announce it. Press releases do have specific formats, so it’s helpful to learn how to write a press release to appear more professional in the eyes of the local press.

If you need a starting point, be sure to check out this template.

Utilize Social Media

No article about advertising strategies can omit social media, as that is likely the #1 way to connect with customers online. Using popular platforms — such as Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn and Instagram — can create significant exposure for your business.

In order not to spread yourself thin and create various profiles on social media without sufficient time to interact with your followers and submit relevant content, choose one to three platforms to focus on.

Start by figuring out where your target audience is, and devote your efforts there. The younger generation is likely on Instagram, mothers are on Pinterest and working professionals spend time on LinkedIn.

Add photos and videos, share news and communicate with your followers in order to create brand loyalty and increase sales! Go a step further by creating contests or offer internet-only specials!

The following three free advertising resources can go a long way in attracting new clients to your company; however, no one can dispute the power of paid advertising. Whether you want to invest in PPC advertising on Google, create paid content on social media or purchase a subscription to a press release distribution site, these efforts require capital. IOU Financial wants to be your partner in growing your business. We are ready to finance your strategies with a loan of up to $300,000 in under 48 hours!