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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!

Why Social Media is Beneficial for Small Business Owners: 5 Sites and The Best Ways to Use Them

Keeping up with the growing number of social media sites and trying to put your small businesses mark on the map can seem overwhelming. What platform does what?, How do I use each one?, and Aren’t they all the same? are most likely questions your business has asked when the word “social media marketing” comes up. By understanding the basics on how to best use social media, small businesses can immediately see and benefit from the value these platforms can bring. Lets dive into the top 5 social media sites your business needs to be active on to maintain a presence in the market.

Facebook  

Main Focus: Staying consumer engaged

Facebook hit the scene in 2004 and regardless of what some may think, it still dominates the market for small businesses to stay connected to the “people” who use and support business brands. Facebook for businesses should focus on creating content that keeps the conversation going with the dedicated followers and supporters of your business. When starting with Facebook focus on the following:

  • Use photos with questions. Create a post (preferably an image) and ask questions such as “What would be a good caption for this?”
  • Incorporate people who use your brand. When posting mention a customer who follows the page or “shout out” a person who recently commented.
  • Engage with questions. Keep the content focused on feedback from customers and keep them offering their perspectives.

Twitter

Main focus:  Offering perspective

Twitter is also a long standing platform with 317 Million active users each month. Twitter has become increasingly popular for brands and companies to offer their perspectives on hot topics or using “hashtags” pointing to relevant issues people are talking about on their platform. Twitter offers a short character count method to express a thought, stance, or comment on current events and news. When starting with Twitter focus on the following:

  • Use for news about your niche. Share news or other “stories” relevant to your niche that users can gain insight or information from.
  • Use polls and ask questions. Polling the audience is a great way to keep users engaged and offer opinions. Users will also share those polls with others growing your presence.
  • Ask for a “Re-Tweet” or just say “RT”. A Re-tweet is someone else sharing your “tweet” or “post” giving you credit and exposure.

Instagram

Main Focus: Inside scoop

Instagram was the first platform that simply asked users to post photos and small (if any) captions. Instagram has now expanded to a major source of website traffic referral and business exposure. By sharing photos of your business, companies should use Instagram as a “behind the scenes” look at their brand offering users a view they can’t get on other platforms. When starting with Instagram focus on the following:

  • Share content that is “about your brand.” Post photos of design sketches, a team meeting, or something funny that happened outside your office walls. This brings a “behind the scene look.”
  • Use interesting photos. Post images that look artsy or different to catch your customer’s’ eyes. Have fun with the ideas you can create.
  • Use bio and links to relevant offerings. Update the “bio” section often giving users a direct link and upcoming offering that they don’t want to miss out on.

Pinterest

Main Focus: Educating

Pinterest is a play on the word “Interest” with the idea of “pinning” something that you like and want to save for reading, trying, or even learning more about in the moment or down the road. Users create “boards” that they “pin” items to so people can easily find whatever strikes their fancy. Businesses can use Pinterest to educate their audience on a variety of related “niche” ideas. When starting with Pinterest focus on the following: 

  • Be an educator. Share relevant information and facts that people can learn ideas, tips, tricks, and other facts from simply looking at your boards.
  • Build on networks like yours. Add other contributors to your “board” to further expose your brand and use that exposure as a traffic source to your site.
  • Share inspirational posts. Inspiring other people is one of the most common reason to “pin,” and therefore doing the same can be helpful to your brand.

Google+

Main Focus: Location Location Location

Google+ is a way for businesses and customers to find each other, learn more about each other, and tell other people about each other. Small businesses who tap into Google+ can find ways to increase foot traffic to their storefront, offer visitors a place to share their thoughts, and also allows businesses to share relevant information about their brand to help promote and increase website rankings. Google+ for businesses is created after a business account on Google has been created. When starting with Google+ focus on the following:

  • Bring people to YOU. Google+ offers location services and direct links to your business platform or portfolio.
  • SEO. SEO or Search Engine Optimization is highly crucial to any website for any business. By joining and linking content on Google+, SEO gets a jumbo boost.
  • Use for networking with customers and influencers. Google calls these “circles” which allows you to categorize who are your customers and who are your business influencers. This helps businesses tailor the content to both groups maximizing relevancy on the platform.

As you have read above, there are many social media platforms out there for small businesses and brands. While some may think it’s simply enough to “share the same message” across all platforms, or that “one site fits all” is the stance to take, such is not the case. By understanding the differences between platforms, and the best ways to utilize each, businesses can offer users varied information and a push to follow and engage with your company in multiple ways. Starting out can be daunting, but after the first post, tweet, pin, circle or hashtag, small businesses will find the effort was worth the outcome.

 

Is Email Marketing the Right Business Solution for You?

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

What is Email Marketing?

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

What are the Benefits of Email Marketing?
Affordability

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

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

Precision

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


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

Effectiveness

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

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

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

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

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

Business Who Need to Verify a Person’s Identity

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

Business Who Need to Notify Customers of Any “Confirmations”

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

Businesses That Involve “Timing” of Anything

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

Businesses Offering Consumer Sales or Discounts

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

Businesses Who Have a Consumer Demand

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

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

5 Ways Your Small Business Can Innovate like Big Business

The New Year can mean new goals, products, developments and much more for small and large businesses alike. For many businesses, growth leads back to innovation and how it is essential. Without staying current and developing creative approaches, many businesses find the New Year a not so happy one. This is where small businesses can learn from bigger businesses about not only sales tactics, but how to come up innovative ideas that could keep them a contender in their industry for years to come. Let’s look at 5 ways your business can innovate like big business.  

Expand your Network of Ideas

Many larger companies are starting to go outside their walls to find the next best thing, newest idea, or latest innovative approach to delivering a similar product or service. Consider expanding outside your walls to see what other smaller companies are working on and how a partnership or collaboration could be more beneficial than competing. Harness new innovations by looking beyond your business.

Create an Atmosphere of Innovation 

It sounds obvious but does your business really foster an environment that promotes innovation? Many big companies are creating innovative “labs” or “programs” often called Accelerator teams tasked with developing new ideas, testing them out, and pitching the top ideas to the company. Start thinking about ways you can start to create small teams to create a new product, develop new ideas for marketing, or even ways to modify an existing service to make them more profitable. Test it out and if it renders good initial outcomes take it to market.

Innovate from Within

On the flip side of looking outside-look within. Ask for new ideas, discuss concepts with current team members, and research ways you can provide solutions to any problems. Many big businesses are learning more from the day-to-day employees and current teams on projects about various ways to stay above the technology fold. Look inward towards the employees you have on payroll to suggest and implement new ideas.

Diversify What you Have

Look at current products and find ways to expand and diversify that service. Offer it on new platforms and add new features as part of existing ones. If you sell sunglasses find ways to repackage, make small modifications, expand the line currently sold, or add new colors to your line. It is no surprise that this works… some companies add Emoji options to their platforms and call it the “next best thing.”

Access to Training/Resources Digitally

Are you accessing the most current training and trends in your field? If you are, how much time and money does that cost? Many companies are utilizing technology platforms to attend training online, developing training programs for employees to view, and even using in-house technology to expand messages to others without having to pay for costly travel expenses and meal reimbursement. Have staff take online courses from the office they work within. Many new companies are embracing the technology they used to develop their product to learn about ways to enhance it. Use technology to your travel and budget advantage.

Big or small, businesses can all learn from one another. Learning ways to maximize the market and stay atop of the newest trends and consumer “wants lists” can help carry businesses longer and further. What ties the success together is not only the implementation of innovation, but continuing to to execute innovative ideas all year long. So whether big or small, implementing the above 5 methods in the workplace can make or break the coming New Year’s resolutions.

Get Your Finances Straight for 2017

With 2017 upon us, it’s an important time for taking stock of your business’ finances and setting right whatever issues are unresolved. Here are 9 tips you can execute right now to get your finances straight:

  1. Update your business plan: Several sections may need updating. What was the last time you analyzed your competitors or reevaluated your marketing plan? It’s easy to let these things slip, but important to bring them up to date. You will, of course, want to also recast your financial projections and budgets for 2017 in light of current conditions. Check out our Business Budget Smart Sheet to help you whip your budget into shape.
  2. Stay informed about health care: Donald Trump has promised to repeal Obamacare. This will have unpredictable repercussions for companies with employee health plans. It would be wise to anticipate the worst, which is health insurance costs rising substantially. On the other hand, you may no longer need to provide health insurance, which might save you a ton of money. The best advice is to stay informed.
  3. Reassess your capital structure: Do you have enough capital to fund your operation and expansion in 2017. If you plan to grow your business at the start of the year, now would be an excellent time to line up a commercial loan from IOU Financial. Our streamlined process can provide loans of up to $150,000 in as little as one business day. Whether you plan to move to bigger quarters, increase your inventory or add another shift, an IOU Financial business loan can get you ready for 2017 with the capital you need, quickly and hassle-free.
  4. Set aside contingency funds: An excellent 2017 resolution would be to earmark some of your profits for a contingency fund to handle unexpected cash crunches. A proper emergency fund should be able to keep your business afloat for three to six months. You can, of course, supplement your contingency fund with a quick loan from IOU Financial. Unlike a bank, we respond to emergencies immediately with fast funding.
  5. Review your insurance policies: You should review at least once a year your liability insurance, key-person life insurance, health insurance and so forth. The insurance market is quite dynamic, and it’s always a good idea to find out whether money-saving policies are available.
  6. Stay informed about 2017 tax changes: We already mentioned the Obamacare changes that are brewing. Mr. Trump has also promised a giant tax cut for businesses and a relaxation of regulations, all of which could have a major impact on your business finances. If necessary, confer with a tax specialist to ensure you understand the latest rules.
  7. Check the latest salary guide: Every year, several publishers put out the latest industry salary guides. See how your pay structure compares to your industry statistics – you may need to modify you pay structure if you are looking to recruit good people.
  8. Use cash accounting to advantage: Many small businesses use cash accounting, in which income is recognized at collection and expenses realized at disbursement. To lower your 2016 tax bill, prepay expenses and delay collections. This will shift some profits into tax year 2017, giving you an extra year to hold onto them, when tax rates might be lower.
  9. Evaluate your offerings: Depending on what type of business you run, it might be a good idea to look at the products and services you offer and see whether some changes are in order. If you are a merchandiser, you can look at your mix of products and eliminate the weakest performers, and/or extend your range of merchandise to new areas.

One last thing: Happy New Year from your friends at IOU Financial!

Increase Sales in 2017 with a Solid Marketing Plan

Every business owner hopes that the upcoming year will be more successful than the last; but instead of just  hoping, entrepreneurs can create plans to ensure those goals are met. New product launches, expansion and franchising are common way to increase sales, but they are risky and costly. However, implementing a new or improved marketing strategy can benefit a business at a lower cost, or can be budgeted for easily.

What are the Benefits of Marketing?

Blue Cow Creative lists several benefits of marketing, including promoting brand recognition, advertising your services or products to customers, selecting which clients to target, and allowing you to communicate with those individuals in a timely manner.

The bottom line is that a business can offer the most innovative product, or the most cost-effective service, but without marketing the offerings to their intended audience, no sales will follow.

What are the Most Effective Forms of Marketing?

There are a multitude of marketing strategies; there is the traditional, interruption marketing, which interrupts an individual’s day with a cold call, or a television program they are watching with a commercial. Another alternative is permission marketing, which only targets the individuals who give their consent to be contacted.

Research has proven time and time again that permission marketing is not only more cost-effective, as you are not spending funds to contact individuals who have no interest in your business, but is also more effective. It is much easier to close a sale with a person interested in what you have to say, than one who has to be persuaded. Below we list three different types of permission marketing:

Email Promotions 

Emails allow you to communicate with a targeted audience in order to announce new products, sales, special deals and events. There are several ways to ask customers and potential clients to sign up for your email promotions. If you have a physical store or office, you can ask visitors to add their contact information to your list. If you have a website, you can create pop-up advertisements asking people to opt-in to receiving email communication from you. To entice them to sign up, consider offering an exclusive discount or a an entry into a drawing.

Social Media

Social media is an effective marketing tool for any business. It is a form of permission marketing because people have to choose to follow or “like” your business page, and if they always have the option to stop receiving communication by deleting access to their profile.

There are a plethora of social media platforms to choose from; Facebook is the most popular one, allowing access to 1.79 billion monthly active users, but Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest are also beneficial to use to connect to your target audience.

Be strategic about what you post on social media; remember to be honest and ethical, yet make your posts and images eye-catching and creative in order to get noticed. The biggest advantage of social media is that other members can share your posts with their network, providing a form of free advertising.

Influencers

Influencers are individuals that can sway the purchasing decisions of others because of their expertise, authority, or knowledge in a certain area. There are fashion influencers, who curate outfits for their audience, beauty influencers who recommend makeup brands for specific skin needs, etc.

When considering ways to market your brand in 2017, research relevant influencers in your industry. You can contact these individuals through their personal blogs or social media platforms to ask them to recommend your product or service. The best part is that these people already have large fan bases, so your offering would be shared with a multitude of potential customers who want to hear what the influencer has to say. Keep in mind that as payment for their promotion, influencers may request payment in the form of free items or actual monetary compensation.

With the new year quickly approaching, set your marketing budget now so that you can pursue relevant strategies for permission marketing. Get your budget in order before the new year with our Business Budget Smart Sheet.

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