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6 Ways to Make Sense of Your Small Business Financial Statements

Running a small business usually means doing many different things simultaneously. As a solo entrepreneur, you are probably dealing with everything from sales to marketing, but the majority of business owners consider financial tasks to be the most difficult.

After all, this is exactly why only 50% of companies survive their fifth year in business. Financial statements are one of the features that particularly bother small-sized companies.

By definition, financial statements are written records that convey the business activities and the financial performance of a company. In other words, it is a document that clearly reveals the overall condition of your company.

Financial statements consist of three basic elements – balance sheets, income statements, and cash flow statements. However, it takes more than that to design a meaningful record of business activities. In this post, we are going to show you six ways to make sense of your small business financial statements.

Create an Accurate Income Statement

We already mentioned the three elements of a financial statement, so let’s open the list with the first component. We are talking about income statements, also known as the profit and loss statement.

This is a major feature because it reveals the profit gained and all of your expenses in a given timeframe. For instance, you could be creating a quarterly or annual income statement.

The income statement helps you and your clients to understand the nominal value of your small-sized business simply by comparing the revenue with the sum of expenses that took place in the same period.

Mind the Balance Sheet

Although very important, income statements cannot compare to balance sheets. The second item on our list is the real indicator of professional success, so you have to pay special attention to it. Bearing this in mind, it’s not a surprise to see clients and investors asking for this document in particular.

Unlike income statements, balance sheets reveal the current situation of your finances. The document applies to the specific date, thus showing the company’s situation in terms of liquidity and stability. A balance sheet should pinpoint three features:

  • Business assets: This includes everything your organization owns.
  • Liabilities: It reveals everything your organization owes.
  • Owner’s equity: This one allows you to see what’s left for the owner once you’ve nullified all of the liabilities.

Don’t Forget a Cash Flow Statement

The third component of a financial statement comes in the form of a cash flow statement. This is another very important feature because 60% of failed small and medium enterprises cite cash flow issues as the main reason.

For instance, your sales results might be flourishing, but you could still be struggling with delayed payments and the way cash flows into your business. In this case, you could be spending more money than you can afford due to the underperforming cash flow cycle.

You can analyze cash flow whenever you want and craft anything from annual do daily cash flow statements.

Make a Revenue Forecast

So far you’ve seen the essentials of creating a financial statement, but we must add three more elements to the equation. The first one is called a revenue forecast and it represents a critical report if you want to take a glimpse into the future of your small business.

To put it simply, the revenue forecast is the evaluation of the profit and loss in the next year or any other period in the future. If you make a realistic estimation, you can make additional plans related to marketing investments, sales strategies, operational costs such as salaries, and so on.

If you don’t want to enter the following year blindfolded, then making the revenue forecast is the only way to go.

Conduct an ROI Analysis

Too many small businesses are not able to calculate return on investments (ROI), especially in the field of sales and marketing. According to the report, only 50% of marketers believe their organization can correctly calculate ROI.

If you want to keep the business profitable in the long run, you have to be clever enough to measure performance on a regular basis.

The idea is simple – you just need to divide the outcome/benefit of your investment with the actual cost of the same investment. If you get in return more than you paid for in the first place, then you can consider the investment to be worthwhile.

Hire a Professional to Make Financial Statements

The last tip on our list is clear and direct – if you find the abovementioned tasks too difficult, then you should hire a professional to do it on your behalf. A lot of entrepreneurs hate to admit it, but the truth is they cannot handle financial reporting single-handedly.

If you are one of these small business owners, we strongly recommend you to stop experimenting and start taking things seriously. Hiring a professional accountant might cost you at first, but you won’t have to worry about possible mistakes that could have a devastating effect later on in your business.

Conclusion

Small-sized businesses are often struggling to get things done timely and efficiently. With too many duties and not too many workers, you can hardly find enough time to take care of financial statements and do it without making substantial errors in the process.

In this post, we discussed six ways to make sense of your small business financial statements. Can you do this job single-handedly? Do you have other useful tips to share with your peers? Feel free to write a comment – we would love to see your experiences with financial statements!

Guest Post: About the Author

Becky Holton is a journalist and a blogger at essay writing service australia. She is interested in education technologies,  assignment help and is always ready to support informative speaking at resume writing service. Follow her on Twitter.

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.

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.

5 Webinars for Small Business Owners

Small business owners and entrepreneurs know that they can never stop learning. Webinars are effective learning tools, whether its filling in knowledge gaps, learning the latest techniques, or networking with industry leaders. Good webinars are definitely worth your investment in time. You can find a wide range of topics available, including product development, selling and marketing, administration, and e-commerce. What follows is a list of free online webinar providerss and courses to help build your business skills.

U.S. Small Business Administration

The SBA’s mission is to help develop and support small businesses, startups, and entrepreneurs. One important way it expresses that support is through a large catalog of online courses and webinars. You’ll be able to find materials covering topics such as:

  • Planning a business
  • Business launch
  • Management
  • Growing your business

The course material is immensely helpful for new entrepreneurs, because you can learn how to write a business plan, observe legal requirements, and explore financing options. You’ll also find courses on sales, marketing, savings plans, social strategies, and many other topics.

National Federation of Independent Business

The NFIB is a member-driven organization that advocates for small and independent business owners. It runs live webinars that cover a variety of issues important to small businesses. You can find many webinars of great practical value, such as these recent ones:

  • Drugs in the Workplace: What Small Businesses Can and Should Do Now
  • Personal Branding on LinkedIn
  • 6 Ways to Use Local SEO for Your Small Business
  • Technology Trends Critical for Small Businesses
  • Is the Sun Setting on the US Economy and Small Businesses?

Recorded webinars are available at all times on topics spanning finance, taxes, healthcare issues, marketing, and much more.

SCORE

SCORE is the country’s biggest network of business mentors dedicated to launching and growing small businesses. It is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and a resource partner of the SBA. SCORE offers free online workshops, live and recorded, covering many topics such as:

  • End the Year in Good Legal Standing
  • A Practical Approach to Small Business Budgeting
  • What Small Businesses Need to Know About Cybersecurity
  • 5 Easy Marketing Tricks to Grow Your Business
  • Funding Options for Veteran Entrepreneurs

To attend, you simply register online for any of the webinars that interest you.

Small Business Expo

The Small Business Expo is dedicated to helping small businesses thrive across the nation. SBE hosts annual shows in 17 major U.S. cities. The shows include exhibitions, workshops, seminars, and product demonstrations. You need not physically attend to participate in live webinars, and recorded webinars are available on demand. A typical show hosts more than 25 free workshops where you can learn business-critical skills and strategies to grow your company. Some examples include:

  • Managing Credit for Business Success
  • Linking HR to Your Business Strategy
  • Franchising 101
  • Artificial Intelligence for Business
  • 3 Super Powers of CRM

Bizlaunch

Founded in 2003 by Andrew Patricio, Bizlaunch teaches entrepreneurs how to build profitable businesses. It hosts online webinars, workshops, and seminars to mentor small business owners. Recent webinar offerings include:

  • Low-Cost and No-Cost Marketing Tools You Can Use to Grow Your Business
  • How to Use Offline and Online Networking to Grow Your Business
  • How to Build a Laser-Focused Strategy to Grow Your Business
  • Franchising — What You Need to Know
  • The Secrets of Writing a Great Business Plan

Conclusion

The webinar providers we’ve listed here are but a small sample of what is available nationwide. All they require is your time and attention. If you are looking to grow your company, you’ll find webinars an invaluable resource that can save you from many rookie mistakes.

Speaking of growing your company, IOU Financial stands ready to finance your growth with business loans up to $500,000 featuring instant pre-approval and fast 1-to-2-day funding. Our loans are quick, flexible, and convenient, with affordable rates, fixed loan payments, no upfront costs, and available loan renewals. Contact us today!

Be a Better Leader — 9 Podcasts to Listen to

As a business owner, you face many conflicting forces. For example, there is the pressure to be the best business leader you can be versus the need to work 26 hours a day growing your business. One way to resolve this conflict is through podcast listening. The beauty of a podcast is that you can listen while driving to work, eating lunch, or performing some mindless chore. By carefully selecting which podcasts to audit, you can gain insights on leadership topics that will help you become a more effective businessperson. What follows is a list of some of the best leadership podcasts for your listening pleasure:

  1. The Go-Giver, Host Bob Burg:

    This podcast grew out of the bestselling book of the same name. Its central thesis concerns ways to provide value to your customers and others, and how this can increase your profits. It’s also a fulfilling way to live. Each episode brings you a useful short interview with a business leader or expert that will make a valuable point you can apply to yourself and your business.

  2. Leaders in the Trenches, Host Gene Hammet:

    The host has interesting background, having built and lost the business he always wanted. He knows how to delve deep into business discussions with top leaders who can share successful strategies. It’s a fascinating way to learn more about marketing, sales, and leadership.

  3. Online Marketing Made Easy, Host Amy Porterfield:

    The host is a powerhouse media influencer who has helped many entrepreneurs build their online businesses. She has been featured on cable and in business magazines as a marketing expert with insights on how to overcome obstacles holding back your business.

  4. The Nice Guys on Business, Host Doug Sandler:

    This is a wide-ranging podcast that touches on a variety of subjects gleaned from real life. It casts a truthful light on the good and the bad of running your own business, with advice on how to use your positive instincts to inspire yourself and others to do their best. The podcast is a welcome respite from the toxic attitudes currently poisoning our society.

  5. Mixergy, Host Andrew Warner:

    This is a podcast featuring startup stories of business owners and entrepreneurs. Every episode includes an interview with a successful business leader who describes how they grew their businesses and overcame failure. New episodes appear three to four times each week.

  6. Leadership and Loyalty, Host Dov Baron:

    Here is a refreshing podcast that teaches you to be fearlessly honest when need be, yet to temper that honesty with emotional intelligence. The host interviews leaders and authors across a wide range of organizations but who share strong ideas on how to inspire loyalty.

  7. This Is Your Life, Host Michael Hyatt:

    This podcasts offers specific and useful advice to driven entrepreneurs on how to succeed in business and in life. He gets down to brass tacks on how to set and achieve your goals while encouraging productivity and loyalty from others.

  8. Masters of Scale, Host Reid Hoffman:

    The host of this podcast is the co-founder of LinkedIn and knows a thing or two about building businesses from the ground up. He features discussions with founders of popular companies, including Starbucks and the Huffington Post.

  9. Coaching for Leaders, Host Dave Stachowiaki:

    The host understands that you must learn leadership skills — it isn’t inherited (or inherent). Experts come onto the podcast to offer advice you can translate into concrete action. Every month, the podcast devotes one episode to answering listener question. You can become a free subscriber to the host’s weekly leadership program.

These podcasts should get you off to a good start. Once you begin listening, you’ll be hooked. Podcasts have become one the most valuable tools for the dissemination of information in today’s fast-paced environment. Listening to a few can make a big difference in your company’s success and in your personal life.

Learn Valuable Skills Online to Better Serve Your Business

If you run a small business, you’re probably always looking for ways to improve quality and boost the bottom line. The good news is that you can learn many valuable skills online, often for free, that will help you achieve your business goals. These skills can help you improve your marketing and cut expenses for tasks that you now farm out to part-timers or consultants. The following is our list of skills for you to consider learning.

Marketing-Related Skills

  1. Copywriting:
    Does your website content show you off at your best? Do you feel your marketing emails are effective? If eigther answer is no, part of the problem might be weak copywriting. Poor grammar, inappropriate word choices, and boring copy self-sabotage your marketing efforts. While you can hire a good freelance writer at a reasonable rate, you might also want to improve your writing skills and take on some of the work yourself. You can improve your copywriting skills for free at websites like Copyblogger.
  2. Search Engine Optimization:
    SEO is a way to improve the results of online keyword searches. It involves several technical tasks as well as analyzing data from search engines like Google. Your goal is to get your company listed on Page 1 of search results for your chosen keywords (i.e., the terms a searcher might enter). While excellent, authoritative copy is a must, you can also boost your results by making it easier for the search engines to understand your website content. SEO does this, while data analytics shows how the public is responding. Check out the free online courses available from Google.
  3. Social Media:
    Nowadays, it’s almost mandatory to maintain a social media presence in order to compete effectively. Being a social media guru requires time, effort and skill. The payoff is improved buzz about your product or service, which can lead to higher sales. You can learn the ins and outs of social media at sites like Lynda.com. While some charge money, they often have a free trial period to test them out.
  4. Photography/Graphic Design:
    Beyond great content, your website and other marketing collateral should be visually compelling. Instead of buying the same old stock photos that everyone else uses, you can decorate your website with your own photographs and graphic designs. It could very well be worth your while to learn Photoshop, which will allow you to use your graphic skills to improve the look of your websites and other materials. Many sources of Photoshop training are available for free or a modest membership fee, such as Kelby One.

Other Skills

  1. Excel:
    Spreadsheets are almost mandatory for recording, tracking and presenting data. With them, you can do budgeting, track inventory, and a thousand other tasks. Excel is the most popular spreadsheet program, and you can get free training from Microsoft.
  2. Bookkeeping:
    You might be surprised how today’s powerful yet friendly bookkeeping software packages make bookkeeping an easy task that doesn’t require an accounting degree. Products like QuickBooks can handle your business bookkeeping as your business grows. You can get free training and certification from Intuit, the maker of QuickBooks, or from other free sources.
  3. Tax preparation:
    If your taxes aren’t too complicated, you can file them yourself using one of several tax preparation packages. For example, you can visit the Intuit website for free TurboTax training.
  4. Finance:
    If you have big ambitions in the business world, you just might want to become skilled at finance and financial decision-making. Many colleges and other institutions offer online courses that lead to certificates or degrees in finance. Also, check out the many finance-related articles offered at IOU Financial.

Conclusion

We’ve just scratched the surface about what you can do to beef up your business skills via free and paid online resources. Think about what would work best for your business and then get moving. You can bet your competitors are!

10 Trade Show Marketing Tips for Small Businesses

Been thinking about setting up shop at an expo or special event? Since trade shows are proven to help boost brand awareness, increase sales and enhance product knowledge, there’s no reason why your small business shouldn’t consider attending one. Get your promotional banners and book that well-positioned trade show spot. Be ready to assemble a sales dream team, grab some flashy swag and print up those can’t-miss marketing materials, because we’re headed to the trade show!

Get to Know the Event Before You Go

First things first: do some recon. Seriously though, the best trade shows and industry events will publish numbers pertaining to attendance, attendee demographics, competitors and other important items that you can use to create a highly effective trade show strategy. Focus on finding ways to draw in your ideal customer through buyer personas, and market to your target consumer.

Invest in a Custom Display Kit

If it’s your first time exhibiting at a major trade show, make sure you show up with a professional display. Small businesses typically can’t afford huge, custom-built rigs. These displays cost money to design, conceive and build, and also to transport to the event. Instead, invest in an all-inclusive trade show display that comes with backdrops, banners, tablecloths and other essentials. These bundles basically allow you to turn any space into a pro-level trade show display.

Write a Special Sales Script

Remember how we discussed marketing to your core consumer? Make sure that you tweak your typical sales script or pitch so that it very closely aligns with your target attendee. For example, if you’re hoping to get your product in front of C-suite execs or other decision-makers at a given show, then focus on positioning your product or service as a high-value investment that will bring big returns. If your goal is consumer-focused, make it more of an emotional experience.

Where Possible, Make it Interactive

In a world where we demo, interact and do business in a primarily digital setting, the trade show is a unique opportunity to get real face time with consumers and other innovators within your industry. Don’t miss out on this important component! Try your best to make your booth interactive and engaging by allowing attendees to touch, feel and play with your product. Videos, prototypes, virtual reality setups and mock-up environments can help people visualize products and experiences in a real, meaningful way without a massive spend on your behalf.

Send out a Digital Blast Beforehand

Before you set up at any event, especially a large trade show or convention, make sure to send out a digital marketing blast through email. Let everyone in your circle of clients, customers and partners know where you’ll be exhibiting (list the exact booth number, if possible). Even if your booth is flooded with existing fans or customers, count it as a win! Crowds beget crowds, and if event-goers see that your booth is happening, they’ll stop by, too.

Provide Sneak Peeks to Hype the Crowd

We probably don’t have to tell you that good trade show giveaways can earn you massive points in the exhibitor market. Of course, they’re great for drawing people into your booth and capturing the attention of attendees, but they’re also an amazing way to hype up your display before the event even begins. Tease your swag with sneak peeks a week or so beforehand.

Develop Incentives and Advertise Them

In the same vein, you can use your swag items to help you achieve specific event marketing goals. Maybe you decided to exhibit in order to develop leads, to build brand awareness or to grow your social media numbers. Whatever you want to do, your freebies can help. For example, you might offer a small giveaway to anyone who signs up for your email list or “likes” your page on social media.

Make Something “Share-Worthy”

These days, it isn’t enough for your audience to like and share content related to your business. They also have to create it themselves in what’s known as user-generated content (UGC).One of the best ways you can encourage them to do this is by having a totally unique photo opportunity in the midst of your booth. Think: a large, life-sized prop of some sort or a funny face cutout board with your logo and branding on it. Don’t forget the hashtags!

Draw Attention with Games and Chill Spots

If you’re setting up shop at a trade show that’s primarily business-to-business, remember that most attendees will be on the clock when they’re wandering through the aisles. Thus, anything you can do to provide them with a fun break in the day—which they have probably spent in exhausting meetings, presentations and networking events—will be welcome. Set up a place for attendees to relax, charge their phone or play some games (with prizes, of course) to help them take a much-needed rest as they ink deals.

Host an Event or Presentation

The exhibiting portion is only part of the equation when it comes to trade shows. You can, and should, develop a full-scale trade show plan by adding sponsored events and demonstrations to your schedule. Host thoughtful industry-related panels and question and answer sessions or keep it casual by inviting leaders in your field to mingle at a happy hour or luncheon hosted by your company.

Catering to the Right Crowd — 

 There’s no one-size-fits-all formula to marketing your trade show presence, but you should bank on the things that work. Effective event marketing includes creating an eye-catching display, handing out high-value freebies and building up hype around your exhibit. If you spend a bit of time beforehand conceptualizing a strategy that plays to your target attendee, you can bet that your exhibit fees will bring a pretty impressive return on investment.

Guest Post: About the Author

Leslie Pierce is the VP of Marketing for Half Price Banners. She has a demonstrated history of working in the wholesale industry and has been with her company for over 10 years. She is skilled in luxury goods, sales, retail, store management, and sales operations.

Small Biz Marketing in 2019: What to Avoid

Every business owner should have marketing at the forefront of their minds. This is imperative to connect with new customers and to encourage existing customers to remain loyal.

The marketing landscaping is ever changing, and staying on top of this field is necessary to beat the competition and keep your brand relevant in your industry. In 2019, there are many new developments to stay abreast of, but even more importantly, there are four main things to avoid!

Marketing Mistakes to Avoid in 2019

Not Having a Clear Direction

In 2019, there are more marketing opportunities than ever before—from social media, traditional advertising, mailers and search engine optimization (SEO), it can be overwhelming to try and pursue every single avenue. Unfortunately, small business owners simply don’t have the financial or operational resources to compete with the big brands that dominate all marketing channels.

A smart strategy is to create a concise marketing direction annually, and carefully choose the channels you will pursue based on available resources. This will allow you to connect with your target customer base instead of spending time and money becoming diluted in many different spaces.

Not Using Analytics

It’s imperative to measure your return on investment (ROI) on any marketing strategy you invest in. This is impossible to do without measuring the analytics of every marketing goal to see how well it performed.

Having a clear objective in mind is important before implementing any marketing step. Consider whether you want to:

  • Get a certain amount of clicks on your site
  • Get a specific amount of sales
  • Get a certain amount of shares on a social media platform

Measuring the results of your strategy is necessary to minimize marketing waste and make adjustments to make it more successful.

Not Conducting A/B Testing

Not allowing your customers to choose what type of content they prefer is the third major mistake of 2019. Split testing, also known as A/B testing, allows the business two create two versions of an email, website or other content. While it can seem daunting to have to create two completely different templates, you may choose to test only the email subject line, sender address, image, font and/or content. For example, you can test what type of product images your clients react to more, or what email subject results in more readers opening an email.

Split testing allows you to poll your audience without them knowing it; their actions will dictate the more popular choice. You can test whether they prefer a statement or a question in the subject line of an email, serious or humorous content on your site, sales or new product announcements, etc.

Although split testing does not offer any guarantees, getting detailed information about what your audience prefers will help you improve your marketing strategy in the long run, leading to an increase in engagement and conversion rates.

Not Using Videos

If you are not using video as part of your marketing strategy, you may be losing up to a third of your potential visitors! Videos keep the attention of individuals up to 37% longer than other forms of advertising, which is great for engagement.

YouTube is catching up to Google as one of the world’s most popular search engines, so not investing in video marketing is just not smart! Videos allow you to interact with your customers, giving them access behind the scenes and offering product demonstrations and unboxing videos.

To truly take your business to the next level, you will need financial resources to market your brand. Remember that your competition is likely trying the same strategies you may be, so having a specialist in this area to guide you can be extremely advantageous. Let IOU Financial help you finance your business goals with a loan. We can have the money in your account in as little as 48 hours, call us today to find out more!

How to Optimize Your Note-Taking Process

Taking notes is a vital part of life. It allows us to focus on and remember important information that we’d otherwise forget. From meetings at the office to attending lectures or training seminars and even talking with family and friends, there are so many different occasions where you might need to take notes.

But there’s more than one way to take notes. You can use writing pens, digital note-taking apps, or try sketching out your notes if you prefer working with visual information. Learn how to optimize your note-taking process with these helpful hints.

Use a Pen and Paper

While digital devices and note-taking apps have become increasingly popular in recent years, studies show taking notes by hand is more effective when it comes to remembering important information over the long-term than taking notes on a laptop. Writing out information by hand helps us spend more time with the information at hand.

Autotype and other smart features can automate the note-taking process, which might help you save time, but you won’t retain as much information as you would if you were practicing your handwriting with a pen and paper. You’ll think about each word and letter as you write down key concepts, so you can easily recall this information down the road without having to go back over your notes.

Map Out Your Information

If you’re trying to absorb information that deals with lots of moving parts, such as a series of events or a timeline of information, try mapping out your notes. Like a diagram or flowchart, mapping out your notes helps you connect different subjects simultaneously. You can draw lines between different concepts to see how they’re related, giving you a sense of how these concepts fit together, so you can keep your eye on the bigger picture instead of getting hung up on individual terms and phrases.

This method of taking notes can be especially effective when studying history, learning new concepts, and weaving together different subjects and individuals. When you go back over your notes, you’ll quickly recognize the most important concepts without having to go through your notes line by line.

Try Sketching Your Notes

If you consider yourself a visual person, writing down hundreds of words might not be the most effective way to master new concepts. While some words may be necessary, you can also try adding drawings and sketches to your notes. This will help break up the page, but it also helps you work with and make sense of this information in new ways. Turning a concept into a drawing forces your brain to interpret this information differently. You can visualize the person, event, method, or process you’re trying to learn, so you’ll be that much more likely to remember this information down the road.

Utilize the Cornell Method

You can also try using the Cornell Method for taking notes, which means separating your notes into three distinct sections. Start by drawing a line down the left-hand side of the page about two and a half inches from the edge. Draw another line across the bottom of the page. The large section on the right-hand side of the page is for taking notes, while the left-hand side is known as the cue column. This is where you’ll add markers and comments to your notes, so you can highlight important information, ask questions, and clarify key concepts. The bottom section is for adding a summary of your notes, giving you a chance to reflect on everything you’ve learned.

The Cornell Method was coined by Cornell University, one of the most prestigious learning institutions in the world. It helps students organize new information, and each section forces these students to interact with this information in different ways. One section is for simply recording the information, the other is for annotating it, and the last is for summarization, so students are more than familiar with these concepts by the end of the lecture.

Highlight Key Terms and Headings

Staring at a long page of notes can be overwhelming for some individuals. Going through this information can be time-consuming, especially when every line looks the same. That’s why it’s helpful to break up the text by highlighting certain phrases, keywords, and concepts. You can use a highlighter, underline, or draw a circle around individual words, so you can quickly find these terms later without having to sort through your notes line by line. These concepts will stand out to you on the page, reinforcing their value in your mind over time.

Add a Summary

Adding a summary to your notes helps you revisit everything you’ve already learned that day. Thinking over these concepts a second time increases the chances that you’ll remember them later, but it also forces you to look at the bigger picture, including how this information is related and what these concepts amount to in the end.

This is also a great way to cap off a long meeting. You can organize your notes chronologically, separating meetings by the date they occurred. As human beings, we often shape events into a narrative to help us make sense of what happened in the past. Adding a summary gives you the chance to put this information to use by turning it into a story.

In Conclusion

Taking notes won’t do you much good if you can’t find the information you’re looking for or you have a hard time remembering what your notes were about in the first place. You can try revisiting this information by sketching or mapping it out, adding a summary, or using the Cornell Method.

Effective note-taking is about prioritizing important concepts and organizing your thoughts in a way that makes sense to you. Use these note-taking strategies to make the most of your time at work or in lectures, so you can master the art of learning and retaining new information.

Guest Post: About the Author

Chris Napa serves as the Global Ecommerce Experience Manager for A.T. Cross Company, LLC. Chris oversees the customer experience on Cross.com from the Providence, RI headquarters. Before joining A.T. Cross Company, LLC., Chris was the User Experience Lead at FootJoy, part of the initial team that launched their Ecommerce site in 2016, and the Ecommerce Project Manager at TaylorMade Golf Company.

How to Perform an SEO Audit of your Website

The main goal of any website is to attract as many visitors to it as possible. Organic search traffic, meaning traffic that is not paid for, accounts for over half of all site visitors. The best way to increase organic traffic is to have your site show up on the first page of Google search rankings.

Since Google is the world’s most popular search engine, with 3.5 billion daily searches around the world, it’s advantageous to design your website in a way to maximize results. This will help you attract more audience and increase your brand awareness and sales.

The best way to achieve this is to conduct a yearly SEO audit of your website to catch errors that could be hindering the process. This is just a fancy way of saying that you need to verify that your site has the necessary aspects needed to help the Google crawl bots that scan your site move it to the top of the search results.

How to Conduct an SEO Audit

Verify Google Indexing

If you want your site to show up in Google results, Google needs to include all the pages into its index. The very first step of your SEO audit should be to check Google index; if your site is not listed there, it’s a huge problem since it will never show up in Google searches.

Visit Google Search Console and enter your homepage link or the link of a specific sub-page to make sure Google has indexed it. If you find that your site is not indexed, you can manually submit sitemaps to aid the process.

A very important tip is that Google shouldn’t index your page just once, but keep indexing it to keep it relevant and at the top of search results. This is done by adding new content (videos, blogs and graphs), as well as updating older content. The more Google bots index your site, the more visitors you should be getting.

Conduct a Website Crawl

Since Google has special bots that analyze your site, it’s important to see what they would see. This is possible with website crawl tools, which are available as free and paid versions (Beam Us Up).

This is the best and fastest way to find errors on your site, duplicate content and broken links. Some features will analyze the length and quality of your titles and meta tags as well as assess bounce rate (how quickly your audience leaves your site or a specific page) and conversions (how many people click on a link or buy a product).

Verify Company Name Search Results

Remember that most people are not going to enter your website link when searching for you online, but your company name. Unfortunately, other sites may be competing for that search term, especially if it is a generic word or phrase.

Write your company name into Google to verify that it’s the first organic result that pops up. If it’s not, your business is likely going to another company, which is a problem.

The good news is that you can take measures to correct this issue by creating a stronger online presence for your website. This can be accomplished in five steps:

  • Build branded links
  • Reach out to well-known brands and influencers to mention you on their sites
  • Create business directory listings
  • Create a Google Business listing
  • Create social media accounts

While it’s not necessary to financially invest in this process, it can be extremely helpful. Hiring a professional marketing company to make your site SEO-friendly can be a great ROI. If you need financial help with this goal, turn to IOU Financial. Visit our site at www.ioufinancial.com to learn how you can qualify for a business loan in just 24-48 hours.