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Are You Ready for Your 2020 Budget?

You can’t put it off any longer. The time has arrived to prepare your 2020 budget that’s so necessary for important activities such as:

  • Projecting cash flows
  • Preparing for taxes
  • Identifying borrowing needs
  • Evaluating growth opportunities
  • Assessing performance

The stakes are high, because 50% of small businesses fail during their initial five years. You can increase your chances of success by budgeting your company’s income and expenses. Here are some suggestions to help you get started:

Review the previous budget:

Your 2019 budget contains a wealth of information. The most important is the line-by-line comparison between budgeted and actual expenses and income. This exercise should point you toward any significant adjustments to your 2020 budget.

Estimate your income:

You need a realistic picture of monthly income. If your company is brand new, speak with other small business owners to build a rough mental picture of your cash inflows. Don’t overestimate, as it encourages overspending, and don’t underestimate income, thereby inhibiting growth and expansion.

Estimate your expenses:

Start with fixed expenses, typically including rent, salaries, insurance, utilities, and taxes. Naturally, these can vary from one year to the next. Prudence suggests you pay about 30% of your income on estimated tax payments. You owe these on the 15th of April, June, September, and January. You don’t want to get dinged for underestimated tax payments.

Pay attention to unexpected items:

These may include vehicle maintenance and fuel costs, office supplies, shipping costs, meals and entertainment expenses, and professional dues/subscriptions. Also, allow for events like equipment breakdowns, rent increases, and other contingencies. Put aside a contingency fund so that surprises don’t blow your budget.

Consider capital expenditures:

You may be able to increase productivity by purchasing a new machine or system. The budget should include the amount of current cash inflows that must be allocated for these expenditures versus using funds from retained earnings. You may also want to use excess capital to pay down debt and thereby lower your interest expenses. On the other hand, you might want to borrow money to finance growth or to plug a gap in your budget. IOU Financial can provide you with a business loan of up to half a million dollars and get funding in as little as one day.

Concentrate on return on investment (ROI):

When you have multiple funding opportunities, choose the one with the highest ROI that exceeds the weighted average cost of capital. You can use internal ROI calculations to see which ones provide the most benefits. The same is true for marketing ROI, in which you direct your dollars toward different channels and media.

Create a review routine:

If you don’t already have one, set up a monthly budget review process that can allow you to make course corrections as soon as possible. For instance, if your fixed costs are higher than anticipated, you might have to cut variable expenses until you can find a way to lower your fixed costs.

IOU Financial offers our Business Budget Smart Sheet to help you get a grip on your business budget. With it, you have a sophisticated yet easy-to-use tool that will help you plan and analyze your cash flows. If your budget forecasts shortfalls in the next 12 months, turn to IOU Financial for a convenient business loan that can put money into your bank account quickly. In many ways, IOU Financial is an important resource to help your business succeed.

Modern Tools for the Modern Small Business

Digital technology is the driving force of change in today’s small business landscape. Compared to even a few years ago, SMBs have become wholly integrated with technology, with an overwhelming 92% of small businesses using cloud-powered technology in some capacity.

Compared to larger competitors, which have more time, energy and resources to research the latest trends, small businesses often struggle to keep themselves and their business practices up-to-date. As an increasing number of companies look toward online solutions for their everyday tasks, it’s more important than ever for your business to rise with the tech tides.

To help you stay in the loop, here are some modern tools that small businesses can leverage to streamline their business models and stay afloat amongst their larger competition.

Cybersecurity

As more small businesses are choosing to communicate with teammates, share information and store data through the internet, cybersecurity systems have become an essential line of defense. In the past, corporations and franchises were the primary victims of online attacks, but moving online has meant that several small businesses now attract the unwanted interest of hackers, scammers and malware viruses looking to obtain your confidential information.

Many SMBs don’t have cybersecurity policies or strategies in place, despite 61% of breaches in 2016 hitting smaller businesses. Cybersecurity software fortifies your online presence on a number of fronts—from spotting phishing emails to deterring ransomware—which can help ensure your customer, company and employee information stay out of the wrong hands.

Invoice and Time Tracking

Invoicing technology takes the mystery out of billing your customers. Whether you need to juggle multiple tasks at once or manage a large team, time tracking software helps you collect accurate information on the amount of time and resources you dedicate to each of your customers. Many solutions integrate seamlessly with billing applications, allowing you to quickly transcribe this information into an invoice that can be emailed right away.

Late payments cost small business $3 trillion each year, as business owners spend their valuable time and resources following up with tardy customers or are forced to write off late payments as bad debt. By using automation software, your invoice system can track the status of payments and send reminders to your customers when payments are due, helping ensure you have the capital you need for continued growth.

Contact Centers

 Although call centers are often synonymous with larger businesses, small businesses can utilize contact center tools to better manage their customer’s calls, ensuring no one’s messages are missed during high-volume times. Today’s consumers utilize more digital channels than ever to contact your company—including social media messaging, phone calls, emails, website chats and SMS texts. By using omnichannel routing technology, call center software helps you streamline all these methods of communication through a single, organized platform.

In the age where social media and the internet give us instant access to any information we need, 60% of customers believe that waiting on hold for even a single minute is too long. During periods of high call volumes, small businesses especially struggle to minimize wait times as their limited staff members try to work through their call queues. With the support of contact center tools, you’ll be better prepared to manage inquiries of all kinds as they arrive for an improved customer experience.

Virtual Offices

Modern technology has not only transformed the digital landscapes businesses use but the physical ones as well. The traditional office, where employees work a regular 9-to-5 workday, is no longer what the typical schedule looks like as virtual workspaces quickly become the new normal. Designed to give you all the functionality of an in-office workspace, these tools give small businesses greater flexibility when it comes to where, how and when they work.

Sixty six percent of businesses in 2019 offer some variant of remote work benefits—from a few hours each week to full-time virtual employees. If you are looking to retain your current employees and attract new talent to your business, then a virtual workspace can give you the mobile compatibility you need to deliver on the flexible work opportunities that today’s workforce craves. And thanks to integrations with virtual reality technology, mobile phone compatibility and gamification options (which can turn any menial task into a competitive “game” for employees to participate in), many virtual office solutions will help your remote teams feel just as engaged and involved as they would be at their office desk.

Artificial intelligence

AI technology has only recently entered small- and medium-sized business markets, but its use-cases are already producing benefits as tech-savvy SMBs begin to integrate these features into their day-to-day workflows. The most prominent examples are AI-powered chatbots, which seek to streamline your work in a number of ways—from answering preliminary customer inquiries on your website to pinging your team on important reminders.

While artificial intelligence and automation software were first met with a reasonable amount of skepticism from the small business community, over 50% of SMBs believe that AI functionality is an important factor to consider when choosing new technology. With only so much time in your schedule, many small organizations have realized that the amount of time they save on menial tasks each day justifies the investment on these new tools and services. Chatbots and other smart technology help you cut out the busy work so you can focus on what’s really important in order for your small business to thrive.

Guest Post: About the Author

Fiona Lanson writes within a number of online business communities. As a small business tech expert, she is primarily focused on highlighting the ways that technology and work culture continue to impact the ways that SMBs conduct business.

How to Conduct a Telecom Audit for your Business

Telecom audits aren’t usually the job that everyone in the office is clamoring for. They are often tedious, time-consuming and confusing. While you can use telecom expense management software to make the job easier, this may not be the method your company prefers.

Manual audits can be very taxing, but they serve a purpose. Whether you own your business or have been tasked with performing a manual audit for the company you work for, it is important to do the job carefully.

Telecom audits can help you cut operational costs and streamline service.

If you have been charged with the duty of a manual telecom audit for your company, we can help. In the following post, you will find a helpful guideline for performing a telecom audit.

Gather Pertinent Information

The first step should always be to gather all telecom and IT bills, information on supplemental packages, PRI lines and any other pertinent information. Your company may have more than one telecom vendor so be sure to gather monthly bills from all of them.

Consider all of your company’s IT services as well. You will need to gather information regarding mobile lines, hard lines, long-distance providers, voicemail service and IT services.

Once you have all the pertinent information in front of you, take some time to familiarize yourself with it. You may spot a discrepancy right off the bat just by going over billing statements for these services.

Review Contracts

Every telecom service provider your company does business with has its own contract. You should carefully review all of these contracts.

If your company has a central repository for these kinds of contracts, be sure to utilize this resource. If it doesn’t, you will have to go on the hunt to round up each individual telecom contract.

Once you have all applicable contracts, you should first look to make sure that all of them are current. If a contract has lapsed but your company is still being charged for services rendered, then you have spotted another glaring discrepancy.

Next:

You will want to keep an eye out for the services or equipment that are outlined in the contracts and compare them with monthly invoices.

The contracts should include all the services your business actually uses as well as any telecom or IT equipment. You may find that the wholesale telecom provider in question is not providing a service that was outlined in the contract.

Collect Tariff Cards

Each phone call your company makes is subject to a tariff from your telecom provider. Each tariff is recorded on what is referred to as “tariff cards.” Each card contains important information on how much was charged for each call or connection.

Obtain copies of these cards to make sure that your company is being billed correctly. You can easily find billing errors just by reviewing tariff cards. Tariff cards are a matter of public record so you can get copies of them directly from your telecom providers.

Cutting Costs

After you have reconciled this data and pointed out any overcharges, billing errors or contractual obligations that are not being met, you should look for areas in which you can cut costs. Review your monthly bills carefully.

Take notice of the telecom or IT services that your company uses the most.

Compare them with the contractual services that your company scarcely uses. If your company is already pretty efficient and lean, you may not see any services that it doesn’t frequently use. But if you do happen to come across one that is unnecessary or doesn’t get used much, make a note of it in your final report.

Consider all the telecom features and apps that you are being charged for. This is where you will typically find superfluous services.

Final Reporting

Once all the documents have been pored over, reconciliations have been made and unnecessary services have been identified, you are ready to give your report. Your report should be thorough and give the decision-makers a clear idea of what the company is paying for, what services are under contract and if breaks, errors, and abnormalities have occurred.

Your final report can also include an RFP (request for proposal) in which services that your company could use to its benefit are identified. Remember that the purpose of a telecom audit is not only to identify discrepancies and save money, but also to improve performance and efficiency.

We hope you have found this guide helpful. Happy auditing!

Guest Post: About the Author

Lamar Carter brings over 33 years of executive telecommunications wholesale management experience to his role as All Access Telecom (AAT) CEO. He directs the overall strategic vision of the company by leveraging his vast telecom industry and sales expertise to grow AAT into the premier telecommunication service provider it is today. Prior to founding the company in November 2009, he was the Director of Sales at Stratus Telecom, where he was responsible for sales, service and account management duties for all CLERK’s, EX’s and VOIP providers in North America.

How Often Should You Update Your Website Content?

The answer to the question is one to three times per week. We can narrow that down further once we describe why it’s important to constantly update your website.

Benefits of Freshening Your Content

New content on your website accomplishes many good things, including:

  • SEO: Search engines are pretty smart. They like long articles with new, unique content written to high quality standards. A steady diet of new content increases visits from your friendly web crawler. The crawler updates its index of your site, which makes it easier for searchers to find you. You can increase the benefit by setting up internal links according to SEO best practices.
  • Social media: Every time you add content, you need to broadcast it to your social media channels so that the awaiting world has the benefit of your latest insights. This kind of promotion is critical to your success. New content is the fuel that keeps your social media fires burning.
  • Visitors: Your mission is to serve your visitors with useful, engaging content, written with punch and verve. Fresh content makes website visitors happy, especially if it is topical. But don’t overlook evergreen content offering authoritative information that never goes stale. It goes like this: Your new content raises your page rank so that you are more prominent in search results, giving you more visitors. Once they arrive and are impressed by your content, they may be willing to register, become prospects, and convert to customers. They may even recommend your website to others.
  • Competitors: All things being equal, a customer would probably be drawn to a website with fresh content than an equivalent one covered in cobwebs. So, adding content is a way to steal customers from your competitors and keeping your current customers happy. The same thinking applies to your customer support forum (you do have one, don’t you?). If you’ve let it sit for months or years, it’s an admission that your business is moribund, and customers shouldn’t expect support from you.
  • Links: When you have plenty of new, authoritative content, you increase the chances that other websites will link to yours. There is nothing that boosts your prominence more than becoming a target for external links. That’s one of the surest ways to get your listing on page one of search results.

What Constitutes Fresh Content?

Fresh content is unique content that is new to your website, not to the web. By unique, we mean that the all-knowing web crawling overlords don’t recognize your content as a copy of someone else’s. That’s a definite no-no — it can cause you to lose page ranking can even get you delisted from search engines. You can cover popular topics, but make sure you cover them in your own, unique way.

A word about quality. We’ve seen websites in which a business sacrificed quality for supposed SEO advantages. For example, someone has decided that you need to use many, many connective words at the start of sentences. Typically, these are adverbs like “typically.” It’s like salt in the bouillabaisse — too much ruins the soup. Be guided by well-formed, grammatical sentences. They can be short, but they should have perfect spelling and punctuation. Nouns and verbs must agree. Mixed tenses are not good, and never have been.

So, How Many Updates?

We’re assuming you run a small business, perhaps supporting an e-commerce store. What content can you add? A few things come to mind: Detailed product reviews, articles on how to use your offerings, product comparisons, and articles about your niche. That’s a lot of ground to cover, so you have plenty to write about. If that vaguely describes your business, we urge you to add fresh material one to two times per week. But remember, one high quality article is much better than two schlocky ones. If you need a writer, use Upwork or Fiverr to find a qualified freelancer who can give you the quantity and quality you need.

Secret Ingredients to Successfully Manage Your Business Finances

Managing finances requires constant vigilance. Many aspiring entrepreneurs are almost solely devoted to making the products they love or developing the big ideas they have come up with.

One of the biggest mistakes people make is thinking it’s all about the products and services they offer. With a mindset like that, an entrepreneur may feel like managing finances is a tedious chore.

Problems emerge when they start treating them as such. What your business has to offer will earn you a place in the market, true. But, if you want to survive there, proper finance management is vital.

Pay Yourself

Many passionate business owners tend to invest everything back into day-to-day operations. There’s no doubt that extra capital helps business growth. Still, that doesn’t mean you should sacrifice paying yourself to help your business thrive.

However, if the business doesn’t turn out as you would like, it’ll all be over with you hanging dry. You’re an employee just like everyone else, even if you are employing yourself. You need to compensate yourself just like you compensate others. Never forget that you’re part of the business in more ways than one.

Educate Yourself

Invest time in learning about different aspects of finance. If you don’t already know how, learn to read financial statements. You’ll know how to tell where the money is, how many hands it’s changed, and where it comes from. Financial statements have four key details – balance sheet, income statement, flow statement, and statement of shareholder’s equity.

The balance sheet relays information on shareholder’s equity, liabilities, and company assets. The cash flow statement analyzes financial inflow, financial outflow, operating activities, as well as investments.

The amount by which the business is funded through preferred and common shares is represented in the statement of shareholder’s equity. When you want to know how much revenue the business has earned within a specific timeframe, you can read the income statement.

Separate Business and Personal Finances

Your finances should be the line that separates business and pleasure. Get a business credit card and use it for its intended purposes. That way, you’ll stay in control and be able to track your outlays.

Opening a separate savings account would also be a wise step. You can use it to gradually build a corpus by transferring a certain percentage from each payment that you get. For instance, you can use those funds to pay taxes.

Drawing a line between the two signals responsibility and will improve your professional and personal image, especially among banks and investors. You’ll also keep the government happy. Such fiscal responsibility allows you to reap the benefits of various tax deductions.

Funding and Investment

If you want your company to thrive, it’s important to secure funds for growth opportunities. Investing a portion of your profits into other lucrative endeavours is one way of moving in a healthy financial direction, provided that you have the skills and knowledge to do that.

For instance, you can learn to trade and secure additional funds for your enterprise that way. Naturally, you’d want to make sure you learn all about the right strategies and risk management before you start. If you’re completely new to the game, make sure to start from the trading terminology and cover the basics, and then slowly make your way into the process.

If you know exactly how you’d invest money, you can always apply for a loan in order to secure the necessary funds for growth. Employees appreciate when their employer invests money into the company and therefore in their careers. If you don’t waste all of your profits on personal matters, you will ultimately create more value for your company.

Credit Score

The benefits of maintaining a good credit score are numerous. With a good credit score, lenders are more likely to offer you loans with lower interest rates and better terms, as well as enough capital to grow your startup.

A bad credit score, on the other hand, may make them avoid you like the plague. If a time comes when you need emergency funds, and there are many such surprises with businesses, you’d want to be on good terms with the banks.

So, even if you don’t need a loan now, that doesn’t mean you can allow yourself the luxury of having a bad credit score. To increase it, you can take out credit cards, use them regularly and pay them off even before they are due.

Conclusion

Being an entrepreneur means you have to work around the clock. There are always some issues that have to be dealt with immediately. No matter how busy you are, take some time every day to plan your finances for the future.

Guest Post: About the Author

Anna is a tech writer and researcher interested in startups, web development and business innovation. She is passionate about motivation, self-development and yoga. A recent hiking enthusiast, she enjoys exploring new trails and breathtaking views.

Amp Up Your “About Us” Page to Help Your Customers Get to Know You Better

A potential customer for your small business is likely to check out your About Us page before deciding to buy. It’s not surprising that customers want to know who they will be patronizing. Sometimes it’s simple curiosity, sometimes it’s a search for particular capability, experience, or expertise.

Unfortunately, too many websites have About Us pages that fail to inspire. Often, they contain generic gobbledygook about ”world-class service” or “excellent customer experiences.” In other words, pablum. C’mon folks! About Us is your chance to wow the socks off your prospects. Don’t treat it as an afterthought. Read on to learn important tips to make your About Us page shine.

1.    It’s Not About Us, It’s About the Customer

Prospects come to your website because they want a solution to a problem or to fill a need. In other words, prospects care about themselves, as well they should. That’s why you need to demonstrate that you are a real business capable of satisfying your prospects’ needs. You have some idea what prospects want because you speak with them, in sales calls, one-on-one conversations, forums, emails, etc. Therefore, you know what information prospects need in order to close the deal. And the information you should offer should be real data, not meaningless assurances.

For instance, imagine a prospect who wants to hire a shipper. Don’t fill the About Us page with word salad about great performance. Instead, announce that you provide 98.6% on-time shipping with an error rate of .0001% over the last three years. That’s measurable performance that makes prospects more likely to trust you, because it addresses their needs with hard facts. Dump the superlatives like world-class, state-of-the-art, cutting edge, etc. If you are a new business, own it. State the facts as goals and describe how you will achieve these goals.

2.    You Are What You Are

Prospects want you to be candid about your business. They seem to have an innate recognition of what’s false, so get rid of the fluff and keep it real. Express who you are, not who you think you should be. For example, if you are a startup, describe the benefits of a small, lean business — the ability to focus on each customer’s requirements, provide short lead times, handle small orders, customize your offerings, etc. In other words, own your newness and use it as an advantage. If you are an established company, discuss your certifications, awards, and other objective indications of achievement.

3.    Avoid Stock Photos

Why do so many About Us pages have pictures of skinny young people, smiling and well-dressed? In other words, stock photos. Just as prospects can detect fluff, they also can spot a stock photo from a mile away. If you can’t provide real photos, don’t use any at all. Use pictures of the owners, employees, facilities, and other realities. Don’t use a stock photo of a model smiling mindlessly at a souped-up, three-dimensional computer display of a pie chart hologram. It just looks foolish. On the other hand, a nicely produced video where you or a partner talk about your business is a winning idea.

4.    Add Meaningful Accolades

If you run a small engineering business, it’s important to talk about your degrees and certifications. If you run a delivery service, it’s not important to talk about your driver’s license. The point is to put in information that a prospect would want to see. It could be affiliation to a professional organization, industry awards, licenses, security clearances, etc.

Your website reflects you, and that’s doubly true for your About Us page. Give it the attention it deserves, and you’ll always have a positive resource that can help convert prospects into customers. Should you need the funds to hire someone to help you amp up your website, look to IOU Financial for up to $500k in as little as 24 hours.

7 Top Online Communities for Small Businesses

As an entrepreneur, you can feel isolated at times and it helps to connect with like-minded people. Joining online communities offers you the opportunity to network with other entrepreneurs, some of whom have more experience than you.

You can not only get help with your questions but learn from others to avoid making the mistakes they made. You also have others with whom to celebrate your successes. You will find many people who are willing to share the trials and joys of running their small businesses. Here are some of the top online communities you could consider joining:

Start Up Nation

Start Up Nation is a free service for entrepreneurs. It provides you with everything you need to start your business, manage it and grow it. You can sign up for a free newsletter and receive free access to downloadable eBooks from the Startup Nation Business Builder series.

Find case studies, articles, videos and other sources of information to learn from. For example, read about how to use crowdfunding to get your startup through a rough patch.

You are able to network with members on a variety of community forums that encourage active group discussions where valuable advice and tips are shared. Interact on topics relating to small business, start-ups, entrepreneurship and more. Various business services such as copywriting, logo design, business consultation are also available.

Warrior Forum

Warrior Forum mainly covers internet marketing and provides you with a way to take your online business to the next level. The community consists of over a million marketers, making it one of the biggest internet marketing forums. The forums are free but you can pay a once-off fee to join a premium business forum.

The users on this forum are all about sharing stories and helping each other with their internet marketing and online business successes and failures.

According to Paul Raglan, a writer for bestessayservicereviews and academized reviews, the comments of seasoned marketers is on the of the best ways to avoid being scammed if you’re new to internet marketing.

The “war room” gives you access to some wellknown internet marketers. This site also contains social groups, blogs, and a marketplace where you can advertise relevant, highquality products. 

Small Business Brief

The Small Business Brief is a message board style forum. It is a place where small business entrepreneurs can ask questions, find help, share small business ideas and encourage others involved in small businesses. It offers advice about all the different aspects of operating a small business – especially online – including social media management, email marketing, pay-per-click advertising and link building.

Some of the hot topics discussed include how to generate leads from Facebook ads, suggestions for Keyword Planner tools and effective link acquiring strategies. You will also find common pre-written letters, templates and forms that help business owners to manage their small businesses.

The Small Business Bonfire

The Small Business Bonfire is free to join and gives you access to some amazing information and tools for small business owners. It is a collaborative community where you can get actionable tips through the small business blog and a weekly newsletter. Find content such as how small businesses can get the most out of mobile apps and much more.

There are numerous categories of information, like business growth, social media, business planning, productivity and digital marketing. You can get free small business downloads that include guides, templates, and worksheets. It is also possible to use some affordable marketing services on offer.

LinkedIn Groups

If you want to connect with other small business owners like yourself on LinkedIn, joining a LinkedIn group provides connections and resources, but there are so many of them that it can be hard to select one. These groups are a little different from typical message boards, but they offer opportunities to find answers, get advice and network.

Each group runs and operates autonomously – some are open to anyone and others are membership only and you need to be accepted by the group manager. A few popular groups are Small Business Marketing Network and Bright Ideas & Entrepreneurs.

Bright Ideas and Entrepreneurs is a popular group with many members, including small business owners, startup founders, angel investors and more. You can get some amazing business insights and share ideas.

Growth Hackers

GrowthHackers founder, Sean Ellis, was looking for a place where he could discuss customer bases and growing companies. He couldn’t find a community, so he built one and the thriving community now has over 150,000 users.

It has a Reddit-style homepage that features articles submitted by users and discussions. There are numerous growth studies and you will come across many growth marketing ideas. Users appreciate the quality of content and the chance to connect with industry experts. Despite the growth, the team has been able to keep the community value high.

Online Geniuses

If you are are interested in building your user-base, Online Geniuses is for you. Before Slack groups existed, Online Geniuses was a Skype community of internet marketers who talked about strategies and shared personal stores.

The community grew and founder, David Markovich, started looking for a different platform. It’s now hosted on Slack and receives dozens to hundreds of applications a day.

Online Genuises covers marketing advice, product discussions, growth strategies and much more. It’s a strong community with over 16,000 members and features prominent entrepreneurs in Ask Me Anything weekly sessions.

Conclusion

This is only a small sampling of top online communities – there are many more. Joining an online community offers you the chance to connect with like-minded individuals and feel less alone in your entrepreneurial journey. Of course, you can’t join all of these groups, you will have to select one or two that you believe are most suited for your purposes.

Spending some time networking, getting answers to questions and being exposed to more seasoned entrepreneurs can be extremely valuable – it may just give you what you need to take your small business to the next level.

Guest Post: About the Author

Becky Holton is a journalist and a blogger at Essay Services Reviews Club, MyAssignmentWriting. She is interested in education technologies, grademiners review and is always ready to support informative speaking at essay-writing service uk. Follow her on Twitter.

Email Tips for a Successful Holiday Season

Time’s running out in the holiday season to execute your email marketing campaigns, so let’s get cracking. Typically, holiday sales account for 20% or more of annual retail sales. Not exploiting email during your most profitable quarter is like leaving money on the table. Here are some tips to extract maximum value from your holiday emails:

Peg Your Emails:

Yes, we know about Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. But you should also look for minor holidays and other important days on which to peg your emails. For example, Cyber Monday is now a huge shopping day. Chanukah, Kwanzaa, Festivus, whatever — know your community and be attuned to its holidays.

Start Now:

If you haven’t done so already, waste no time starting your email campaign now. Experts want you to start no later than November 15, and sooner if possible. It turns out that readership of holiday retail emails peaks in mid-November, so that’s the time to start making your pitch.

Review and Build Your Email List:

How often do you update your email list? Can you purchase valuable lists from third parties? You should actively collect email addresses from your customers along with data indicating their areas of interest. You can segment your emails depending on the types of products or services your customers have purchased. Segmenting your list lets you direct the right emails to the right people.

Use Holiday Motifs:

Unless you have great graphic design skills, you’ll probably want to use commercial art and templates to give your emails the proper holiday feeling. Originality earns extra points — if you always use the same old tired designs, your customers will lose interest.

Holiday Gift Guide:

You know what you sell. Help customers understand how your offerings are great for particular friends, relatives, and clients. Your email can link to your holiday gift guide, which should be up to date for 2019. Include basic information about each recommended offering, including age (important for gifts to kids), price, and interests. Consider creating a collage of your best products, using influencers to curate your products around a theme, and ensure your content is mobile-friendly.

Early Access:

Reward email readers by giving them early access to holiday sales. This makes your email recipients feel like insiders who get first crack at important savings. That’s particularly important when you sell hot items that may be scarce as the year winds down.

Be Urgent:

Put time limits on the offerings you announce in your emails. It’s a hoary old chestnut, but “hurry while supplies last” still packs a punch. Related ideas include creating “early bird pricing,” providing order deadlines to receive shipments by a certain date, and displaying a countdown timer to show when the promotional prices will evaporate.

Create an Online Advent Calendar:

A tradition started by the Lutherans, Advent calendars are extremely popular among millions of Americans. You can include them in your email, and you can send a special email for each day of Advent. Your customers will appreciate beautiful Advent images embedded in your emails, which you can use to highlight daily specials.

Invite Participation in an Online Contest:

Let your emails trumpet online contests. They are a great way to build traffic, increase your social media followings, expand your email list, and create targeted prospects. There are several online tools, such as RafflePress, that make running a contest a snap.

Maximize the Value of Your Footer:

Put some valuable content in your footer so that readers don’t neglect it. You can promote stuff in your footer, such as gift cards, order/shipment dates, and your holiday gift guide.

Well, that’s a good start. And start you should, without delay. Grab your share of holiday pie by whipping your emails into the holiday spirit!

6 Unknown Facebook Features Your Business is Missing

Facebook is absolutely massive in the advertising and marketing webspace. So much so that the number of features other platforms have dull in comparison to those offered by Facebook itself. The downside, of course, is that even experienced marketers are bound to find themselves missing out on features that could make all the difference.

Facebook Product Shops

A relatively recent addition to the list of Facebook features is Facebook Product Shops. This feature introduces a new way to sell products online while removing the inconvenience of dealing with companies like Shopify.

Using this feature, it’s possible to sell products right on your page. People can then pay directly on Facebook or integrate a third-party checkout. Any products purchased on the platform are paid for through a payment processor of your choice.

Selling on Facebook grants businesses direct access to existing customers and better analytics on products placed for sale on the platform. Combined with ads and the power of the Audience Insights Tool, you will have much greater exposure to current and potential customers.

A critical part of improving engagement metrics is having proper product descriptions and scripts. The proper essay writing service or copywriter should deliver exactly what you need.

New Facebook Ads Features

Facebook may be one of the most detailed analytics platforms in the world, but there’s a lot more to the website than meets the eye. It offers several options aside from the traditional newsfeed that most people are used to.

The first is Facebook Messenger ads. These provide an opportunity to drop into a conversation with a prospective customer at any point. This enables you to tweak your sales funnel as you see fit. If you feel the need to add more information about the product or personalizing the experience, all the tools already exist within the Messenger app to do so.

The second of Facebook’s new ad features is in-stream video ads. As their name suggests, this feature provides businesses with prime advertising space right in the middle of a stream.

Videos can be 5-15 seconds long and can be placed on both live videos and those that already aired. If you happen to have a live video that went viral in the past, here’s an opportunity to monetize it at last.

New Video Publishing Tools

Going live for the first time is often frustrating and nerve-wracking. Without the right kind of assistance, it’s almost impossible to know what to expect on the technical side of things. Facebook’s answer to publishers’ complaints is Live Rehearsals. The gist of it is that publishers can now broadcast to page admins and editors only before they go live.

This is a very useful feature for brands that use scripts to reduce friction during live presentations. For those that don’t, dissertation writing services such as UK dissertation are some of the best places to get a custom fully-edited one.

Finally, viewers will be spared the harrowing minutes before anything happens at the beginning and end of live video replays. Publishers can now take advantage of the ‘trimming’ feature that enables them to cut out certain time frames from the beginning and ends of their recorded videos.

Facebook Live Marketing Features

Aside from pre-roll and in-video advertisement, Facebook also offers brand access to features to streamline its Facebook Live experience. Since the adoption of the feature is at an all-time high, the following tools might be useful for a business looking to take their marketing campaigns to the next level.

Pre-scheduling lets businesses set up when a Facebook live stream is going to be aired. This seeks to address the disadvantage of spontaneous live posts: even with notifications enabled, it’s still difficult for individuals to notice when a live stream has started.

For brands with a substantial following, it creates anticipation in viewers before the actual video is aired. It also addresses timing issues, where the videos are streamed later than they were intended to.

If you’ve set up a shop on your Facebook page, you can combine it with Facebook live to merge traditional and social media advertising. While introducing a new product, you can also provide details regarding how they are used and allows for live interaction with viewers that have questions.

This is reminiscent of old-school infomercials. You can also tag your products when you mention them in-stream so users can access them through an in-video link.

Keep Track of Competition with Pages to Watch

It’s possible to get detailed analytics on how detailed a competitor’s published posts are doing using Facebook’s Page Watch feature. Originally designed to help marketers find inspiration in data provided by leading innovative brands, it can be repurposed to anyone’s benefit.

Take advantage of the feature by navigating to Page Insights and scroll down till you find the ‘Pages to Watch’ feature. As long as you have a hundred or more fans, you will gain insight into data such as:

  • The page’s total like count and the percentage change from the previous week.
  • Total engagement metrics for the week.
  • How many times the page has posted to Facebook during the week.

These are actionable insights that could potentially be used to change how your marketing operations are run.

Audience Insights Tool

Most business decisions made today are driven by the abundance of data. Facebook Audience Insights is a powerful analytics tool that gives access to demographic and behavioral data on both your audience and competitors.

Data that can be gleaned from this tool include demographics, past purchasing activity, location, and demographics. With all these in hand, you can narrow down your target audience so you know exactly where your ad dollars are going.

Conclusion

Facebook is a fast-changing platform. New features are introduced and old ones retired regularly, so it’s almost impossible to always be in the loop. However, some of these features are quite important and could be the difference between whether your next marketing campaign succeeds or fails.

Guest Post: About the Author

Becky Holton is a journalist and a blogger at Best Essay. She is interested in education technologies and is always ready to support informative speaking at writing service, Grabmyessay. Follow her on Twitter.

2020 Technology Trends for Small Business Owners to Anticipate

At last check, America was hosting more than 30 million small businesses. The ones that plan for the latest technology trends will hold a distinct advantage over their competitors. Here are six tech-related trends that business owners should anticipate. Perhaps one or more will have a direct impact on your business.

1.    The Growth of Automation Software

Artificial intelligence (AI) and related automated technologies were once considered too big to affect small businesses. That’s rapidly changing now. The evolution of AI is making it a viable option for small businesses in a number of business processes, including:

  • Email marketing
  • Customer service
  • Data entry
  • Accounting

As AI apps filter down to small businesses, the businesses that climb on board will be better able to compete with larger companies. In addition, the growth of automation may create a startling new number of business opportunities that will interest entrepreneurs.

2.    Work from Home

Futurists predict this trend will quickly become the new normal for millions of small business employees. Attitudes toward remote work are changing. Once, owners and managers feared that it would lead to lower productivity. However, the facts indicate just the opposite. Studies show that employees who work from home are more productive, thanks to fewer distractions and time saved on commuting. Small businesses will increasingly experiment with telecommuting, at least for part of the week. Owners may actually save some operational costs, and employees will save on commuting. The result should be a more productive environment.

3.    Social Media Marketing

The number of small businesses who latch on to social media technology to market their offerings will continue to accelerate. Platforms such as Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Facebook continually refine their technology to improve marketing return on investment for their customers. Small business owners are becoming aware of the value of social media influencers. These are professionals who have large followings and who can help bring your offerings to the attention of their many followers. If you want to get the biggest bang for your marketing buck, consider engaging a social media influencer to help with your marketing campaigns.

4.    Freelance Economy

The same technological progress that animates telecommuting makes it easier for millions of people to develop side hustles that form the genesis of new small businesses. The freelance, or gig, economy allows folks to monetize what were once hobbies and to work as consultants/contractors to multiple clients. As telecommunications becomes faster and more reliable, it becomes easier and cheaper for professionals to compete online as graphic artists, writers, webmasters, marketing consultants, and many other gigs. For example, one leader in the field, Upwork, provides complete support services to facilitate small business gigs for freelancers, and its influence should grow in 2020.

5.    Customer Support

Consumers increasingly favor online customer support over phone calls. Real-time chats allow specialists to handle customer inquiries and complaints. This has a couple of side effects. First, it encourages customer interaction among people who don’t like to talk on the phone or to wait in queue for the next available representative. Second, the growing use of AI provides online capabilities to solve many problems online before the intervention of a human. Third, it allows easier rationing when customers need to speak to a person to solve a problem.

6.    Shifts in Investments

Small businesses may have to replace aging technology to successfully compete. The growth of cloud computing and the introduction of 5G networks are but two examples of where business owners may need to revamp antiquated equipment and unproductive practices. Although this may require an initial investment in hardware, software, and expertise, the cost will be well worth it. Companies who rely on older technology will find themselves at a disadvantage to nimbler, tech-savvy competitors.

Conclusion

It will require increasing investments in equipment, software, and expertise to compete in 2020 and beyond. If you would like to explore the financing you might need to help your business thrive, we invite you to contact us at IOU Financial. You’ll find it easy to borrow the money you need quickly, economically, and with convenient repayment options. Don’t let tight cash prevent you from seizing the promise of advancing technology — contact IOU Financial today for a fast small-business loan.