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What Your Small Business can Learn from Big Business in the New Year

The New Year offers the opportunity to analyze your current business practices and consider ways to improve the status quo. One strategy small business owners can utilize is looking at the latest big business trends, and evaluating which can help their companies succeed in 2017. To save you time in your search, we have found and included the most popular big business trends in this article.

Subject Matter Experts Replace Salespeople

While the goal of every business is to sell, business-to-business (B2B) companies can benefit from hiring subject matter experts (SMEs) to lead their salesforce. While a typical salesperson can be entry-level, providing price options, delivery times, and general product information, a subject matter expert is much more than that.

This is an experienced professional who is not only extremely knowledgeable in the product or service being sold, but the company’s goals, the competition and the overall industry. These professionals can provide a great value to consumers as they can make recommendations based on individual business needs and explain clearly the competitive advantage your offerings have over your competitors.

Videos Become Content Musts

It’s no longer enough to write product descriptions or compile written instructions, as the public is demanding video content. In fact, Cisco predicts that videos will make up 69 percent of all consumer internet traffic in 2017.

Hubspot confirms this prediction; their Consumer Behavior Survey found that 55 percent of users report watching an entire video, versus just 29 percent who would read a blog or 33 percent who would finish an interactive article.

What does this mean for small business owners? Invest into creating videos that highlight your products, services and overall company. This effort will pay off with higher sales; Forbes found that 65 percent of individuals who saw an online video then visited the company that posted it.

Social Media Takes Over Direct Email Campaigns

Forbes reports that collaboration tools, like Google Docs, are replacing internal communication between employees. Instead of sending and receiving dozens of emails when working on a project, employees make changes and post comments online, which means that B2B companies will have a harder time getting potential customers to read their email campaigns, as they will not check their inboxes as often.

How do you reach new and existing clients if not through email? Through social media platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. Updating relevant photos, posts and news about your company will resonate better with your target audience rather than just blasting emails out at them.

If you choose to implement a big business idea for your small enterprise, such as adding a subject matter expert to your team, or creating a video, you may find it difficult to fund these endeavors. IOU Financial makes it our mission to help small business owners succeed and grow their businesses with small business loans. Click here to find out how you can secure a loan in under 24 hours!

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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#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.

Get Your Small Business Found Online with Content Marketing

Remember when you launched your small business’ first website? It was probably an exciting day. Thoughts of new customers and an ever-increasing number of visitors had you patting yourself and your team on the back for a job well-done. Of course, it probably didn’t take long to realize that a website isn’t something that is launched and simply forgotten. Real effort must be put into earning credibility with search engines, attracting more traffic, engaging those visitors, and encouraging them to share your message with others. The constant race to rank higher in search engine results in order to be found by new customers can quickly consume a lot of time and attention. Constant changes to search engine optimization (SEO) protocol and site ranking algorithms can be hard to keep track of and make reaching those upper echelons of search results harder and harder to achieve.

 

Rest assured though, that if you treat your website like one of your top sales people, you’ll have less to worry about. The constantly changing world of SEO typically revolves around trying to weed out the imposters, and reward the authentic players.  One of the ways that search engines such as Google evaluates a website is whether it contains unique, original content that engages real visitors. By arming your website with new content on a regular basis like you might do for a sales team, you can demonstrate that you have a lot of knowledge and valuable information to share.

 

Now, we admit there is a lot more to increasing a website’s rankings and “findability,” including website code structure, metadata and tags, etc.  However, today we’re going to stick with covering a handful of content ideas that should be within reach for most small business owners.

Brush Up Your Writing

Written content, which can cover everything from blogging to forums, on your website can be used not only to attract new visitors, but engage them for longer periods of time once they arrive.  Ensuring that content is constantly refreshed, updated and innovative will make it easier to climb to the top of the proverbial SEO mountain. Making sure that your blog has new entries on a regular basis will alert search engines’ algorithms that your business is an active online participant and deserves the public’s attention. It is important to note that you should write content for your customers, not search engines!

The Power of Video

One area that is often overlooked when it comes to SEO-focused content is video. Embedding videos into your website can be a great way to not only engage your customers, but also trigger Google to recognize your site quicker. When posting videos, ensure that they are tagged with the correct keywords that are relevant to your business or what you’re selling. For example, if you own an online-based clothing store you wouldn’t want to title your video “Video 1”. Instead, a title such as “New Spring Dresses” will add valuable keywords to your video and improve search results, as well as show up in the new “Video” section of Google and Bing’s results page.

 

In addition to adding important keywords to your videos, you also want to make sure that the videos you use for your website are high-quality and viewer friendly.

Ensuring that your videos are quick to download and are visually inspiring will keep your audience‘s attention longer and show that your brand is savvy and invested in retaining your clients.

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

The same rule of keeping things visually appealing also is important for the photography shown on your website. For online retailers, product photos are paramount to success. Regularly updating your product photos and landing page photos are important for customer engagement and search engine optimization.  With a plethora of free photo and video editing tools available, any company with any sized budget can look like a million bucks!

 

You work hard to make sure your products and services are high quality, so make sure your website and online presence reflects that! If you don’t have the time or money to invest in making improvements to your content, consider a loan from IOU Financial to get you the funds you need to get the job done. When done correctly, you will surely see the return in your online traffic and sales!

Maximizing Sales Through Mother’s Day Marketing

Maximizing Sales Through Mother’s Day Marketing

Mother’s Day. When our favorite female caregivers are treated to overpriced buffets, new loofas, homemade cards, spa treatments, and if you’re lucky (nay strategic), a token of affection and appreciation from your store or ecommerce business.

In 2015, Mother’s Day sales were estimated at $21.2 billion – ranking right up there in the retail record books with December holiday shopping. With 2016 sales expected to increase, business owners can’t afford to gloss over the effects that Mother’s Day shopping has on your bottom line.

The National Retail Federation estimates that consumers will spend an average of $173 on their loved ones this year. Purchasing everything from flowers to cell phones, retailers are well positioned to take advantage of this mid-year spending spree. With the right marketing, communication, and outreach, you can entice the Mother’s Day market and boost your revenue.

 

3 Tips for Maximizing Your Mother’s Day Sales

Relate to Moms Everywhere

You can’t turn around without bouquets and doilies dotting Mother’s Day marketing.  But, Hallmark cards aside, you don’t need to be a florist or sell some uber warm and fuzzy product to appeal to this market. Take a look at your inventory and decide how it could interest, benefit, and/or entertain mom. That’s what you want to market around. That’s what you need to communicate. The gift-giver (your buyer) is going to want to purchase an item for mom that she’s going to love – all you need to do is to make sure they know why she’s going to love it.

Mom’s Gone Viral

You may have already received that awkward friend request, or have seen a post from back in the day when you’re wearing an unsightly trend from yesteryear indicating one thing…mom’s on social media.  But, before you lament the loss of your sounding board a safe distance from mom, know that social media can be a powerful marketing tool for Mother’s Day campaigns. From advertising to remarketing, your small business can target both the buyer and mom with appealing messages that stay at the forefront of the minds. Your markets are already online – a quick glance at an ad and one click later they’re at an ecommerce site filled with goodies for mom. You’re minutes away from a shopping cart full of Mother’s Day revenue.

Mother’s Day Sales (increase sales)

Half off. Two for one. Coupons, coupons, coupons. And those enticing little percent signs that translate into major scores for shoppers that balk at paying full price. Bargain hunters are everywhere. Your business can capitalize on a shopper’s love of a good deal with added incentives leading up to Mother’s Day. You won’t notice the slight hit to your profit margin per transaction if you’re doubling your sales from last year.  Make sure all discounts and promotions are front and center and so good they can’t possibly pass it up. Make them an offer they can’t refuse.

 

At IOU Financial we aim to support our clients by providing helpful tips and tricks that increase revenue. Visit our blog for more additional small business resources and tools, or learn how a small business loan from IOU Financial can boost your brand.

Tips for Getting the Most from Your Small Business Marketing Budget

Getting the Most from Your Small Business Marketing Budget

Small and medium-size businesses don’t have the luxury of million-dollar marketing budgets that large corporations do. We know you’ve seen plenty “marketing on a budget” articles around the internet, so we wanted to take a slightly more strategic approach, providing some perspectives on “intelligently investing in your marketing.” You can find various strategies to spend a minimal amount to market your products or services, but will that generate maximum exposure? In this article, we cover three major areas for you to consider spending some of your small business marketing budget and strategies to help ensure your investments pay off.

 

Scale Operations With Marketing Technology

While finding free marketing platforms might seem like a cost-effective tactic at first, using paid marketing technology can provide greater efficiency, create less frustration, generate better data for reporting, and overall, provide better results when it comes to getting the word out about your small business. Platforms to consider are:

  • Marketing Automation – This is usually a marketing platform that consolidates all of your marketing efforts. Instead of having dozens of accounts for blogging, SEO, social media, emails, landing pages, etc. You can access and control all of them from one place. This allows you to evaluate and compare the performance of marketing campaigns, check the effectiveness of call-to-actions across different platforms, and automate multiple channels with the click of one button. Where to start?  HubSpot or Marketo.
  • Keyword Management – If you are doing any online advertising, understanding your keyword strategy is crucial to making the most of your advertising budget. While you can use Google’s Keyword Planner to check your keyword rankings, a platform like Wordstream will analyze your current keywords and makes improvement recommendations. This platform helps both newbies and professional marketers start and manage their AdWords accounts, promising to convert 60% more leads, while lowering marketing costs by 10%.
  • Social Media Management –  With the ability to manage all accounts from one dashboard, schedule future posts, engage with clients, and analyze social media campaigns, these tools can save you valuable time to spend on other things. The extra analytics and reporting provided can also help you make informed decisions about your social media marketing. Hootsuite is a great platform to consider for this service. Over 10 million subscribers are using this solution to integrate all of their social media accounts into one.

 

Invest in Social Media

While posting content on social media is always free, investing in these platforms can offer a bigger pay-off through increased exposure to your target market. Consider spending marketing money in the following areas to maximize your brand’s exposure on social media:

  • Social Media Advertising – Facebook, the biggest player in social media, has over 1.4 billion users worldwide; you can pay to create customized ads to target your specific audience by defining specific demographics such as the user’s age, location, interests, etc. The best part is that you can indicate what your maximum budget is, and Facebook will stop the campaign once you hit that number. Additionally, users can find directions to your business, a link to download your app, and even shop right from the Facebook ad.
  • Paying for Content and Photos – One of the best ways to generate traffic to your business’ website is by creating unique and informative content. However, not all small business owners are professional writers, which is why it can pay big dividends to hire an expert to create articles, infographics, and website content. Additionally, platforms like Pinterest and Instagram rely almost exclusively on images, so great photos can have a big influence over how many people choose to click on your link or not.
  • Hiring a PR Consultant – Hiring a professional PR consultant can really help your brand get the exposure it needs. A PR firm can develop a clever marketing campaign, find writers for you, and offer helpful advice on what cost-effective channels to reach your particular audience, helping you save money by avoiding spending it in ineffective areas. In many cases, PR professionals can help connect your organization with influential people (writers, magazine editors, bloggers, etc.) that can provide access to their own audience.

 

Spend Smarter on Traditional Advertising

Although there are many innovative ad strategies, that’s no reason to completely ditch traditional advertising! Of course, you’ll want to use it in a smarter way. While new businesses may still be discovering who their client base will consist of, those that have been operating for a few years have a better idea. Small to medium-size business owners that are interested in maximizing their return on any tactic, use tracking methods to measure their performance. When it comes to TV and radio, planning ahead to correlate sales with ad campaigns is important.

While a television commercial can be expensive, investing in a TV ad in a specific market where you know it will reach your target audience can greatly increase your sales. As well, paying for radio commercials during specific times of the year (Christmas, back to school, etc.) when your sales typically spike on stations that target a specific audience (parents, younger women, etc.) can be lucrative.

 

The success of any business is greatly affected by its marketing strategy. Looking for ways to fund that big marketing idea? Contact IOU Financial and put a small business loan to work. Our quick application and pre-approval process can fund a business loan up to $150,000 within a matter of days.

 

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3 Tips on Social Media Presence for Your Small Business

3 Tips to Build a Stronger Social Media Presence for Your Small Business

While in the initial phases of starting your small business you may have created a Facebook or Twitter page without giving it much thought. Now that your company is operating smoothly, you may be looking to expand, and a stronger social media presence could be just the place to start. Social media plays a huge role in your SEO, customer service and outreach, competitive advantage and more.

Here are three important tips for kicking your social media presence up a notch:

  1. Be consistent – Consistency, in both the frequency of your posts and positioning of your content, is key when talking about anything on social media. Why? Social media is time sensitive, and consistently having content is how you build your brand, allow customers to see what you have to offer, and let  potential customers get to know you better. By posting consistently, you will be staying top of mind for customers and giving them special insight into your day-to-day business.  A good way to help yourself stay consistent is to write down a short plan that includes how often you plan to post and what kinds of content or offers are the best fit for your page. Updating this plan each quarter helps ensure your content remains fresh in the eyes of your audience.
  2. Engage with your audience – It’s imperative that your content is not only consistent, but engaging. Give thought to who your followers are and what topics are relevant to them so your content is more likely to be clicked on and shared. You can inform them of a helpful product or service, ask a question that entices them to start a conversation, or provide a quote that will strike a chord. Make sure each post provides a way for your audience to take action, whether that is clicking on a link back to your website or leaving a comment. And when people comment and engage with you, don’t be shy—reply to direct messages, comment back, and like their posts. It’s important to remember that social media is a two-way street.
  3. Don’t neglect reporting – Take time each week to check the built-in reports each platform has to offer. Almost every dashboard can tell you who you are reaching when, and whether or not they are clicking on and engaging with your content. Use this data to improve your content and adapt to your audience. For example, if you see that a peak in engagement typically occurs after 7pm, that’s the time to post your most important content. Maybe you notice that a new demographic has started following you, providing you with an opportunity to start offering targeted specials. Reporting can even help you track how often your competitors post and how engaging their posts are.

The power of social media for your small business should never be underestimated. Once you have committed to consistency, engaging content, and reporting on your performance, be sure to continually adapt your strategy based on the results you are seeing.

For more social media insight, check back with the IOU Financial blog. Happy posting!