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

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

Talk about Trending Topics

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

Talk about Unsafe Issues 

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

Get Google Smart

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

Stick to the Point

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

Speak to Customers, Not Yourself

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

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

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

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

Facebook  

Main Focus: Staying consumer engaged

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

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

Twitter

Main focus:  Offering perspective

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

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

Instagram

Main Focus: Inside scoop

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

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

Pinterest

Main Focus: Educating

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

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

Google+

Main Focus: Location Location Location

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

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

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

 

Is Email Marketing the Right Business Solution for You?

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

What is Email Marketing?

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

What are the Benefits of Email Marketing?
Affordability

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

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

Precision

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


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

Effectiveness

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

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

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

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

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

Business Who Need to Verify a Person’s Identity

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

Business Who Need to Notify Customers of Any “Confirmations”

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

Businesses That Involve “Timing” of Anything

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

Businesses Offering Consumer Sales or Discounts

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

Businesses Who Have a Consumer Demand

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

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

Increase Sales in 2017 with a Solid Marketing Plan

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

What are the Benefits of Marketing?

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

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

What are the Most Effective Forms of Marketing?

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

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

Email Promotions 

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

Social Media

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

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

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

Influencers

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

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

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

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Your Small Business Saturday Attack Plan

Thousands of small business owners across the country participated in Small Business Saturday, an annual event held on the first Saturday after Thanksgiving. Sponsored by American Express, it is intended to bring awareness to small businesses, and encourage patrons to skip big box retailers and shop small to support their local communities.

Small Business Saturday helped many companies attract new customers as well as potential leads. Instead of waiting for next Thanksgiving, business owners should act now to continue momentum into the holiday season and keep clients loyal throughout the entire year. Utilizing marketing emails, exclusive discounts, and “shop small” events are good strategies to stay in touch with new and potential customers.

Emails

An efficient, yet inexpensive way to communicate with your customers is through marketing emails. Sending marketing materials through the mail can be expensive, but with a little effort, you can send emails free or at a low cost. On Small Business Saturday, you likely urged your business’ patrons to sign up for email lists, and now is the time to utilize that list to reach out to them.

We recommend investing in a customer relationship management system (CRM), which will help you manage your client information, and send personalized emails with your customers’ contact information, in addition to recommendations based on their shopping history.

Many CRM programs offer A/B testing, which allows business owners to send two different marketing campaigns, and evaluate which was more popular based on clicks and purchase patterns.

When sending emails, remember that individuals are bombarded by hundreds of emails daily, so make your headlines catchy, funny, and enticing to open!

Exclusive Deals and Discounts

The reason that so many customers frequent local businesses during Small Business Saturday is because they are offered discounts and freebies. Business owners need to remember that discounts can, and should, be used throughout the year to incentivize sales. When customers believe that they are getting a deal, they are much more willing to spend their hard-earned money than if they believe they are paying full price.

How do you structure discounts? Shopify.com lists three main ways to increase foot traffic and maintain loyalty with discounts, which are:

  • Promotional pricing – Discounts and bundle pricing, such as “buy one, get one free”
  • Point-of-purchase displays – “Impulse buys” that individuals don’t plan on purchasing when they come into the store. Bins with small items next to the register are great incentives for point-of-purchase displays.
  • Loyalty programs – Membership and punch cards, as well as a points system which reward customers with discounts or free items.

Events

unnamed1The holidays are the perfect time to organize events for your customers and potential leads. Planning a holiday party in your location will create a reason for you to invite Small Business Saturday patrons back to your location. In fact, one source claims that purchasing decisions are based more on emotions rather than on logic; therefore, face-to-face events allow brand owners to create an emotional connection to increase loyalty and drive sales.

Be creative and think of original ideas to drum up enthusiasm for your business; for example, IOU Financial held a scavenger hunt partnered with local discounts in Downtown Woodstock, GA. 

One caveat is that holiday parties and other events can turn into a financial strain if not planned for properly. Opening the doors and allowing streetwalkers to come inside can quickly lead to hundreds of people sampling your goods without guaranteed sales.

Not many small business owners can allow themselves to host expensive events, especially during the holiday time. Therefore, it is essential to plan and budget for events; one strategy is to hold member-only events with a concise guest list that goes out only to the most important customers. Another way is to invite customers and ask them to RSVP, allowing access to the first 50 who respond.

Keep the line of communication open between you and the customers you met during Small Business Saturdays with marketing emails, discounts and events. Remember, the more effort you put into promoting your relationship with your clients, the more loyal they will remain to your brand.

Protecting Your Intellectual Property

Intellectual property (IP) is a creative work, such as a design, invention or manuscript, whose rights are owned by your company. Those rights are established through a legal mechanism, such as a trademark, copyright or patent. IP is valuable – sometimes the most valuable asset a company can hold.

Here are the three major ways to protect your IP:ip-blog-image

  • Patents: You apply for a patent at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Patents provide 20 years of protection from the filing date. You can apply for a:
    • Utility patent: Available to anyone who discovers or invents a new, useful process, mechanism, product, or composition of matter. You can also patent a significant improvement to any of these.
    • Design patent: Used for new designs of manufactured items
    • Plant patent: For use when you discover or breed a new, asexually reproducible variety of plant
  • Trademarks: Protect symbols, names, phrases, logos, artwork, colors and sounds used to distinguish your goods and services from others. Registration is not required, but is available. Trademarks remain in effect indefinitely.
  • Copyrights: Provide protection for original works of authorship, including musical, literary, dramatic, and artistic, whether published or unpublished. Copyrights automatically attach to original works, but you can also register them at the U.S. Copyright Office. Copyrights last from 70 to 120 years.

A startup company might, in its rush to get a product or service to market, not fully protect its IP. After all, it takes some time and money to register a patent. However, failure to protect IP can ultimately be very expensive and dangerous to a company. You have to worry about a partner, executive or employee stealing your IP, not to mention the threat of corporate spying. Here are some tips for protecting your IP:

  • Educate yourself and your team on the topic of IP. Learn the differences among trade secrets, patents, copyrights and trademarks. The time you spend up front understanding IP will pay big dividends later on.
  • If you have a novel idea, make sure it isn’t already patented. Do a Google search to see if it makes sense to spend your money on a protected idea.
  • Patent your valuable ideas, even if you don’t necessarily plan to develop them on your own. Someone else may want to buy a patent from you.
  • Use an expert attorney to file your patent. Always insist on a fixed fee.
  • Do not delay filing your patent application. It’s like taking a number at the deli counter – it holds your place in line. After initial submission, you have 12 months to augment your application and fill in any missing details. The approval process requires patience, since it takes up to five years. That’s why you often encounter the term “patent pending.”
  • Identify through an audit your non-patented IP, such as copyrights and trademarks, whether registered or unregistered.
  • You may need to file for international patents, because a U.S. patent won’t protect you from international competition.
  • Use non-disclosure agreements with all employees and consultants to prevent them from stealing your IP.

To research and file patents may cost you tens of thousands of dollars. A commercial loan from IOU Financial is an easy, fast and low-cost way to finance the protection of your IP. We can provide funds within 24 hours of approval, so contact us today.

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Turning Window Shoppers into Sales: 4 Simple Ways to Bring Outside Shoppers In

Window shopping for some is a pastime, and for others it’s a way to see what deals and sales are for the taking. Do not let a window shopper just glance in your store and move on! By simply following these four steps, you will ensure that the average window shopper will enter your store and become your customer in no time.

1. Post sale signs in the window

window-shopper-blogWindow shoppers first shop with their eyes, and they shop for deals. They look for signage signaling a sale, new items, and catchy tag lines that speak to their needs. Draw customers in by what you post in the windows. Post a current sale, a discount if you buy a qualified amount, or offer an in-store sale that can’t be beat.

Extra tip: Use bright colors that catch the eye. Certain colors evoke different emotions so find ones that translate to the sale you are holding!

2. Use “Act Now” terminology

Window shoppers see a lot of storefronts. So why would they stop at yours and come inside?…because you told them to! Don’t be shy about directing window shoppers to what you want them to buy. Post signs like: “Spend $$ get $$$ Now”, or “Don’t let this sale go by”, or “You need this look.” Using “act now” terminology will increase the foot traffic to your store. Nobody has read a sign that said “If you want to come inside we’d be OK with it,” and felt compelled to go inside, so don’t be afraid to tell people what to do!

Extra tip: Use some popular fonts and keep it simple to read from afar. Spending time on a fancy font will translate only to wasted signage.

3. Offer a free item

It’s no secret that shoppers like deals. Shoppers also like free stuff. So make it a win-win and offer a free item with any in-store purchase. The item can be simple or small, as long as it adds value to the shopping experience.  Offer the item for in-store purchases on that day only and increase the urgency and desire to obtain the deal before it expires.

Extra tip: Offer a deal “worth up to x amount of money” and steer clear from stating exactly what the free item is on the store signage. This draws in more customers seeing the dollar value being saved rather than an item they may not necessarily want or think they need.

4. Put your best foot forward

The first thing a window shopper sees is your storefront. Place your best items in the window around the signage offering a sale or free item. Selling clothes? Display the best outfit in front, closest to the door. Selling electronics? Feature the latest gadget right up front so customers see you have the latest in the industry. Don’t be shy about the best products and put those in the line sight of your next potential customer.

Extra tip: Put the best items closest to the door.This follows the natural walking patterns of customers and raises the desire to get in your door to get that stunning product they just saw.

Turning a window shopper into a customer can be done, and with some extra guidance and tips, any storefront with a good product can draw in a crowd. Following the four tips outlined above, increase the foot traffic in just a few moments. The art of turning a passerby into a sale happens when you provide a shopping solution only found in your store!

#ShopSmall: Get Involved to Get Profitable and Make a Difference

If you own a small business, you are already providing jobs and offering great products and services to your community, but sometimes these efforts can go unnoticed. That’s where Small Business Saturday comes in. This year, on November 26, customers across the country will shop in their community and recognize the value that small businesses can bring to their local economy.

 

What is the Shop Small Movement?

First initiated in 2010, Small Business Saturday is an annual event sponsored by American Express, held on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. It is a response to shopping events such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday, when big retailers and corporations hold massive sales in stores and online. Small Business Saturday encourages individuals to patronize their local brick-and-mortar small businesses (with 500 or less employees), reminding everyone that when they invest in a local business, they invest in their community!

The Twitter hashtag  #SmallBusinessSaturday was used to build awareness for the event, as well as allow people to tag their favorite businesses. Last year, 95 million people went out to support local businesses in their neighborhoods!

 

Why are Small Businesses Important?

Although the United States is home to a multitude of big-box retailers and corporations, small businesses remain important and relevant. In fact, The Houston Chronicle reports that “according to the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), small businesses represent 99.7 percent of all employer firms. Since 1995, small businesses have generated 64 percent of new jobs, and paid 44 percent of the total United States private payroll, according to the SBA.”

Small businesses offer employment opportunities to local residents, contribute to the local economy, and provide funds for schools and government offices.

 

How Can You Participate in Small Business Saturday?

American Express encourages all small business owners to participate in Small Business Saturday by making engagement in your community as easy as possible. There are free custom marketing and advertising materials available for your storefront, website and social media. Additionally, there are articles and videos with tips and advice on how to promote this event and your business, such as offering specials and deals and holding contests.

 

How Can Small Businesses Get Involved in their Communities?

In addition to participating in Small Business Saturday, there are many benefits when businesses get involved in their local communities. By participating, sponsoring, and donating to events, charities, or sports teams, business owners market their brand and increase their customer base.


Customers respond to businesses that care about communities; a study by Cone Communications and Echo Research found that 82 percent of individuals take corporate social responsibility (CSR) into account when purchasing products or services from a business. In addition, when employees are given the opportunity to help their neighborhood, it increases their satisfaction levels and promotes employee retention.

How can you get involved in your community? Build off the Small Business Saturday momentum and implement any of these ideas:

  • Sponsor a little league team
  • Donate supplies to a school
  • Host a charity event for a homeless shelter
  • Sponsor a garden renovation project
  • Plant trees at a local park

There are many advantages to both local small businesses and communities when the two work together. If you are in the local Atlanta area, click here to find out more information about Small Business Saturday event in your area. If you live in another part of the country, find your local host and consider participating in Small Business Saturday to promote your small business in your community.

Best Ways for Small Businesses to Plan for the Holidays

The holiday season means different things to business owners; while some experience a slow season, others have a surge in profits. Regardless, all small business owners need to prepare for this season, or your business could be negatively affected.

 

Plan for Holiday Recognition and Marketing

You must plan and budget for how you will recognize the holidays; realistically consider how much you can allocate to holiday decorating and recognition so that you don’t put your business in financial risk.

Some businesses simply hang a few holiday decorations, while others transform their entire office space. If your business has customer facing foot traffic, consider getting a few estimates for hanging lights, displays and installations. If your business caters to children, you may consider hiring actors to play Santa and Mrs. Clause, which must be accounted for in your budget.

If you will be offering specials or discounts during the holiday season, allocate a marketing budget to advertise those deals. Whether you will run online ads, send out in-home mailers or give out coupons, you must have the funds to spend on marketing to alert your customers of your plans.

 

Plan for a Holiday Party

Most business owners put on a holiday party during the season, but you must decide how elaborate it will be and who will be included in your guest list. Some business owners choose to host small holiday parties for their employees, while others hold large events with VIP clients, employees and their families.

Even a small holiday party can cause a financial strain if not properly planned for. Since most employers typically give out bonuses and annual raises during this time, it may be difficult to commit to another large expense simultaneously, which is why it is essential to start planning now.

Investing in a larger event can provide you with an opportunity to network with business associates, partners and important clients all in one place. You can take this time to announce important company milestones and plans for the following year. Large company parties may require significant preparation and a large investment, so it may be wise to get estimates from professional event planners beforehand.

 

Prepare for a Slow or Busy Season

A busy or slow season can be a determinant of whether you are open or closed for the holidays; if you anticipate a slow time, consider closing your doors for a few days rather than paying operating costs. If the holidays are your busiest and most profitable time, create a holiday schedule in advance so that your employees know when they are scheduled to work. Remember that you have to pay full-time employees overtime for working on holidays, such as Christmas.

To be able to handle the holiday rush, you may need to hire additional staff as well as have the time to train them. Make sure that all your employees are aware of any holiday specials you are going to introduce, such as special merchandise, a holiday menu, discounts or sales.
The holidays can be a financially stressful time for many business owners, but finances don’t need to add to those stresses. Consider what a small business loan from IOU Financial could do to help your business’ cash flow. Contact us today to find out how we can approve you for up to $150,000 in under 24 hours.

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