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8 Proven Methods for Small Businesses to Save Money

Small businesses frequently go through cycles of strong and weak profits. When profits are low, you probably will want to find time-tested ways to save money. You do this by cutting costs and reducing your overhead without sacrificing sales. Here are 8 proven ways for your business to save money:

  1. Outsourcing:

    You can save money by outsourcing tasks that are not central to your business mission. This keeps your full-time staff as small as possible while outsourcing work not performed by staff. You can hire contractors and consultants as needed for specific tasks, often at a lower all-in rate than needed for an employee with the same skills.

  2. Advertising:

    You can continue to reach customers without traditional advertising. Rather, low-cost alternatives are available that will save you money. One alternative is to spend your marketing money on public relations rather than advertising. For example, a good PR strategy can get your company mentioned as authoritative sources in media outlets and publications. Inbound marketing using SEO and social media can be just as effective as conventional advertising in increasing traffic to your website.

  3. Vendors:

    Review your relationships with your vendors to see whether you can negotiate lower costs. Vendors want to keep their goods and services flowing to their customers and might be willing to charge less if that allows them to maintain their business volume. You can negotiate on a huge range of costs, from phone service to office supplies. The nice thing is that there is no penalty for trying to lower vendor prices, whereas forgone potential savings are the penalty for failing to negotiate.

  4. Cloud:

    If you don’t already live in the cloud, now is a great time to move in. Cloud-based solutions can save you big money compared to the cost of acquiring and operating your own expensive hardware. Cloud-based systems host your databases and software. SaaS (software as a service) costs an annual fee that can be much cheaper than developing or running your software in-house, such as payroll and ER systems.

  5. Telecommuting:

    Everyone can win when you embrace telecommuting if that’s possible for your business. You can save on office costs and ongoing operating expenses. Your employees save commuting costs and enjoy a better work experience. The result is to produce work products with minimal overhead. You can start with some of your office staff and work towards expanding telecommuting as convenient.

  6. Green:

    Happily, the moral imperative to go green coincides with cost-cutting. You’d be surprised how little things can add up to big savings. For instance, turn off machines when not in use, and use a printer that prints on both sides of the paper. Better yet, reduce your use of paper by adopting a paperless office concept. Where feasible, buy recycled supplies and equipment, utilize efficient lighting, and recycle your own waste for money.

  7. Debt:

    It might save you money to consolidate your various debts into one, convenient loan that charges a reasonable interest rate. If you have to make several debt payments per month, consolidation can cut it down to a single lender. If you choose a lender like IOU Financial, you can have your payments deducted daily from your bank account, keeping your payments affordable and automatic.

  8. Maintenance:

    Are you paying for daily cleaning services at your office? Perhaps you can cut back on this expense by training staff to keep things clean and neat. With proper staff training, you may be able to cut back to weekly cleaning without noticing the difference.

Conclusion

We’ve touched upon several ways for you to cut your business costs with little or no sacrifice to your operations. There are many more methods to save money, and we will no doubt return with additional suggestions in a later blog. Remember, it takes just a little extra effort to implement money-saving protocols that will continue to save money for your business over the long run.

Prioritizing Your Business Goals in 2020

The new year is here, and with it comes a fresh opportunity to re-evaluate your business goals. This is a useful annual exercise because goals and priorities can change. You need to ensure everyone is on the same page in the new year. Take the time to look at your objectives and to apply lessons learned from 2019.

Here are some important things to consider as you review your 2020 goals:

  1. Assess 2019:

    Start by figuring out what you did right and what you did wrong in 2019. The right stuff should serve as the basis for the growth of the company. But the bad stuff is possibly more important because it tells you where you must take action to improve performance. The actions you take depend on the nature of the problems you encounter. Typically, you will have to redirect and/or increase resources allocated to the problem areas, whether it be management, sales, marketing, finance, or operations. Your assessment should be accompanied by specific plans to exploit strengths and remediate weaknesses.

  2. Emphasize training:

    Growth in 2020 will require an investment in professional growth within your company. Sure, you need to train onboarding employees, but you must also make sure that management, including yourself, receives the latest information regarding changes in the business landscape, including technical, tax-related, best-practice, marketing, and regulatory developments. Group training options may be the most cost-effective. You should also utilize your in-house and consultant experts to deliver training courses where needed. Naturally, you can save money by training on-premises rather than paying for travel.

  3. Set SMART Goals for 2020:

    SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-Bound. To make your goals SMART, you must state them in detailed language that leaves no doubt as to what constitutes success. You must specify what is to be done, using which methods, by what deadline. You should also specify how you will prove that the goal is achieved. For example, you can use financial ratios to prove you’ve improved margins, reduced inventory turnaround time, or attained dozens of other possible goals.

  4. Use high-quality data:

    The adage is “garbage in, garbage out.” Now more than ever, you need to be operating using accurate and timely data. Bad data can result in bad expenditures that hurt your business. It might be a good idea to bring in a data consultant to assess your current databases to see that they are internally consistent and clean. Prioritize which data is the most important for your business and verify it is of high quality. You should have key performance indicators that help you assess data quality.

  5. Evaluate your leverage:

    Many companies short-change their growth prospects by failing to employ enough leverage (i.e., debt). Often, owners are too conservative and miss opportunities that would enhance growth. They are afraid to take on debt even though their businesses throw off more than enough cash to easily repay the debt. By taking prudent loans, companies can make new investments, pay off old liabilities, and recruit needed talent. You may want to spruce up your financials in anticipation of merger and acquisition activity. Perhaps you want to relocate a store, or open new stores, or upgrade your inventory mix. If you have carefully designed plans, don’t let them wither just because you can’t finance them internally.

Conclusion

We’ve outlined a few important priorities to address for the new year. To the extent they require expenditures, our last point is critical: Use debt to grow your company. We can help. Please contact us at IOU Financial for quick, affordable business loans that are easy to repay. We have the experience and expertise to get you the money you need on terms that will please. We look forward to hearing from you soon.

Up Your Social Media Strategy with These Tips

Social media has burrowed into the population’s psyche as an indispensable source of news, opinion, and gossip. Approximately half of the earth’s population uses social media via platforms like Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube. The average time a social media fan spends on these platforms exceeds two hours per day. The message is clear: You need to include social media in your business’ marketing strategy. Here are some handy tips to up your social media presence.

1.    Create a Comprehensive Content Marketing Plan

You begin by asking yourself some probing questions to help you determine the type of content to adopt:

  • Who is buying your offerings? Define your market in terms of income, age, gender, location, needs, likes, behaviors, and challenges.
  • What subjects interest your market?
  • What social media platforms do your customers use?
  • Do they prefer a particular type of content?
  • What content do you have to revamp or add?

Use the answers to guide the creation of your social media content. For example, a distillery might target an audience that is interested in drink recipes and food pairings. At the very least, begin a blog that addresses your market with relevant content. Then, share your blog and other content across multiple social media platforms. Include videos, SlideShare presentations, infographics, and visual content. Use scheduling tools (SproutSocial, Buffer, Hootsuite, etc.) to push out and publish content on various platforms. After posting, continue to engage your audience by answering questions and responding to comments. Consider features like contests, surveys, and promotions to spark additional interest in your content.

2.    Distribute Content to the Right Platforms

Pick the right platforms for different types of content. Start with Facebook to post news and entertaining information, including videos. Use LinkedIn for content appealing to your B2B audience, and Instagram for high-quality videos and images. You get the idea. Also, share your content with a schedule tailored to each platform. For example, you might want to add Twitter and Facebook content twice per day, whereas a few times per week for LinkedIn.

3.    Use Video Content

Nothing beats the power of video for engaging your audience and making a memorable impression. It’s a great way to tell your story and promote conversions. Consider these video ideas:

  • Animation
  • Listicles
  • Product videos
  • Interviews
  • How-to videos
  • Live-streaming videos

You might try to turn your most popular blogs into videos. Also, identify your top keywords to drive interesting subject concepts. There are tools that generate visuals from keywords as well as video creation tools to help you share your story, including AnswerThePublic, Promo, and Wave.video.

4.    Consider Using Influencers

Studies show that the marketing plans that include influencers have a higher return on investment. The right influencer can boost your exposure to your target audience. You can save money by using niche influencers rather than general ones because they charge less and are more effective if chosen correctly. There are several tools (Awario, Upfluence, NinjaOutreach, BuzzSumo, etc.) that can identify the most relevant influencers for your business. Niche influencers should have a good-sized following and a proven ability to stimulate engagement. Trust your influencers to shape their contributions, because they have the experience to resonate with your audience.

5.    Measure Your Outcomes

This is a must. Use tools to monitor and measure the effectiveness of your social media strategy. These tools include TweetDeck, Awario, Talkwalker, and Mention. You can track likes, comments, and shares to gauge involvement, and dig deeper by using UTM parameters and A/B tests to gather detailed data on traffic and conversions. You should also monitor your competitors’ marketing activity. Consider performing a social media sentiment analysis to help you understand what is motivating conversations among your audience members.

Conclusion

There seems to be no end to the growing influence of social media. That escalates the stakes for an innovative social media marketing strategy to increase your presence on the popular channels and boost sales. You want to outshine the competition, and the tips presented here can get you going on the path to success.

4 Resolutions to Set For Your Small Business in 2020

As a small business owner, it’s likely you’re aware that things in the business world are ever-changing. Whether you’ve been in business for 10 years or 10 months, the new year is a great time to set some goals and resolutions in order to maintain and increase your success. While there are many ways in which you can go about setting goals, below, we’ve listed five tips we feel are crucial to help small business owners like yourself achieve success this coming year.

Establish Your Social Presence

These days, digital is the way to go. It’s rare anyone picks up a newspaper to find out what’s going on in the world, and if that’s where your business is being advertised, it’s pretty unlikely many people are hearing about it. If you’re thinking to yourself, “I already have a Facebook or Twitter account so that should be enough,” think again! While having these platforms is great, they’re doing absolutely nothing for your business if you’re not utilizing them strategically.

Depending on what’s happening within your business, make it your resolution to post weekly, or even daily, in order to engage with your customers. When you’re creating these posts, you’ll want to be sure they are consistent across the various platforms you’re utilizing. Because your social platforms are connected to your business, you want their presence and tone to be a reflection of that. Be sure to use language that is professional and on-brand and if you post photos, make sure they are appropriate and tell a story that relates back to your product or service.

If you’re someone who is not super tech savvy but would like to learn, there are courses you can take, many of which you can find online for free. On the other hand, if you do not have the time to devote to familiarize yourself, hiring someone may be in your best interest. If you’d like to learn more about various titles and job descriptions to make sure you’re hiring a candidate to meet your specific needs, visit this page for a breakdown.

Streamline Your Finances

While there are many reasons to start a small business, one of the main motives is to, of course, make a profit. Once you’ve established your business and start to see a profit, it’s important to keep your finances secure. A lot of business owners make the mistake of mixing their personal finances with their business. Having a shared account may work in the early stages, however, over time, things can get tangled leaving you with a big mess that could have been avoided had you kept your accounts separate from the start.

This year, look into opening a business bank account, more specifically a digital business bank account, to handle all your small business needs. Going digital provides you with 24/7 access to your accounts, the ability to make deposits and receive transfers at your fingertips, avoid waiting in lines, and you’ll even be able to loop your bookkeeper in on your finances, making tax-time and making sense of your financial statements a little less stressful. A digital bank account is a great option for owners or employees who are required to travel as they can access their banking information anywhere, anytime. To learn more about why you should go digital with your small business, check out this article.

Take Out a Loan

This may seem like a backward tip since you’ve already gotten your business up and running, however, taking out a small business loan may be exactly what you need to do in order to expand your growing business in the new year. Maybe you’re in the market for some new, more ergonomically correct office furniture, or maybe you’ve grown so quickly that you’re considering a second location. Either way, a small business loan can help get you there.

In the business world, opportunities come and go in the blink of an eye. That said, once you discover something lucrative for your business, you must act quickly. You’ll want to take this into consideration when selecting a company from which you borrow. At IOU, we understand this sense of urgency and do what we can in order to approve loans up to $500,000 in 24-48 hours leaving you with less time to worry about money and more time to focus on your business needs.

Give Back

Being a small business owner requires lots of hard work, patience, dedication, and perseverance and is oftentimes a thankless job, especially in the beginning. However, waking up each day knowing that you’re heading to work to do what you love has to feel pretty great. Why not share this energy with the community in which your business is housed?

As a small business, there are a number of ways you can give back to your community and they don’t all involve donating financially. For example, you and your team can select one day per month to spend time volunteering at a local animal shelter or a food pantry. It may seem like a lot to ask of your employees, but the intangible reward of helping those who are in need will make it all worthwhile. If you happen to be in a position where you can give back financially, consider sponsoring an event or even a youth sports team. Your contribution to the people in your area will be appreciated and although it is not intended to be a means of advertising, you may gain some new customers as a result!

The new year is a time for change and growth within your business and some of your practices as a business owner. It’s time to perfect your craft and welcome new ideas into your flow. Taking the time to make resolutions and actually sticking to them can be imperative in the success of your business. These tips we shared are just a few of the ways in which you can start 2020 off on a strong foot and continue to have a profitable business for years to come.

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.