Posts

Building a Brand: The Basics

If you are a small business owner, you should be aware that the key to growing your business is to create a solid brand. Instead of simply concentrating on day-to-day sales, it is imperative to create a story to help your target audience connect with your business.

While you may have a hit product one day, creating a strong brand identity will help you maintain customer loyalty after the product’s life cycle has ended. Today’s customers are different than ever before; they aren’t as interested in shopping at random retailers, but want to build connections with business they know and trust.


What is a Brand?

A brand is a mix between “psychology and science brought together as a promise … Brands convey a uniform quality, credibility and experience,” according to Forbes.com.

A brand identity consists of many different factors, such as a company name, logo, slogan, marketing materials, as well as all the actions you conduct on a daily basis.

What Are the Three Basic Steps to Creating a Brand? 

 

Concentrate on Your Audience

The first step to creating a brand identity is determining who your potential clients will be; this group is your target audience. Before trying to connect with these individuals, you need to figure out who they are – their age group, location, gender, marital status, shopping trends, income, hobbies, etc. The more you know about your main customer base, the easier it will be to create a strategy to market to them.

For example, if you are developing a software to help retirees manage their retirement income, your messaging should not be as “techy” as if you would be targeting millennials. Knowing your target audience provides you with a blueprint for crafting your identity in the most strategic way to engage with your customers.

Research the Competition

In order to stay relevant in your niche market, you need to stay ahead of the competition. The way to do that is to research your competitors when creating a brand image, and continue that research on a regular basis.

It is beneficial to know who the other players in your industry are, and how they are crafting their message. In order to create a strong brand identity, you need to be able to separate yourself from competing businesses, which is why you need to know everything you can about them.

Make note of how your competitors design their websites, what products or services they sell, how they write their offering descriptions, how they market themselves, etc. If you find a problem that none of your competitors have solved yet, that will be your ticket to establishing your identity in that space.

Stay Consistent

Once you determine your target audience and research the competition, it’s time to craft your brand identity. The secret to this process is to stay consistent in all the messaging you put out about your business.

Consider Target’s clever branding – all of their advertisements, online, on TV and in store – have white backgrounds, bright colors, simple designs and their red and white logo.

Having a consistent brand identity makes it “so synonymous with your product experience that when a consumer sees your signature brand logo they are already thinking about making their next purchase from you without you even having to ask,” according to a source.


When customers feel they can rely on your company to be consistent, they are able to form emotional relationships with your business, which leads to long-term clients and a successful business!
If you want to invest into creating a strong brand identity, but need financial assistance to develop your marketing materials or hire an expert in this field, turn to IOU Financial, which has been instrumental in helping small business owners secure loans in under 24 hours!

Why Now is the Time to Move Online

If you do not yet have a business website, you should make this a priority in 2017! Not showcasing your products or services online is likely hurting your company’s bottom line, as you are losing out on potential customers around the world that may not have the ability to walk into your physical location. What are the main reasons to go online this year?

Brick-and-Mortar Locations are Declining

The reality is that e-commerce websites are quickly replacing brick-and-mortar locations. When big brands, such as Sports Authority, Staples, and Macy’s are either declaring bankruptcy or closing down stores, smaller enterprises that don’t have the same advertising budgets and funds to stay open may not fare much better. Brands such as Target and Walmart, which sell goods online as well as in physical stores, are investing funds into their e-commerce websites, which is where the majority of people are shopping.

E-Commerce Requires Less Overhead

For a brick-and-mortar to be profitable, it needs to be in a location with a lot of foot traffic; however, renting or leasing a corporate space in a popular location is expensive. It is much more cost effective to sell goods online than out of an expensive storefront.

Not having to pay rent for a retail space, as well as insurance, electricity, employee wages, etc. can leave more funds for inventory and advertising. All business owners would need is a warehouse, which is more affordable to run than a store, as well as order takers, packers, fulfillers, and shippers… saving money on paying the salaries of customer service representatives and sellers.

Furthermore, moving operations, such as supply chain management, procurement, or billing online can lead to a savings of up to 5 percent on “maintenance, repair and operation costs; this five percent savings can turn into 50% of a company’s net profit,” states The Web Doctor.

Ability to Target a Specific Audience at Lower Costs

While a physical location relies heavily on foot traffic and traditional advertising, such as television and flyers, an online website allows business owners to target who they want to advertise to.

For example, social media platform Facebook provides options to advertise to specific groups of people with 89 percent accuracy. Choose audiences based on location, demographics (age, gender, relationship status, education and employment), interests, hobbies, and behaviors.

Targeted advertising allows owners to save money and efforts by not reaching out to those that would not be interested in their services, and provides a greater return on investment (ROI) on marketing only to a specific audience base.

Online Presence is a Necessity

Companies that choose not to sell items online should still concentrate on establishing and promoting their online presence. Customers are demanding more from the businesses they patronize than a simple financial transaction. They want to learn about the brand and what it stands for. When companies are able to forge emotional attachments between their customers and their brand, they retain loyal customers.

An online presence allows business owners to share relevant company news, information about new products, as well as philanthropic initiatives – all topics that can be interesting to current and potential clients. A small investment into a corporate website can provide a new revenue stream from online buyers. If you need help financing your move online, contact IOU Financial. Our company can provide a small business loan in under 24 hours.

5 Things You Should Have Done by Your 2nd Year in Business

Congratulations. You’ve made it past the first year in business. That’s no small feat, as the Small Business Administration points out that 20 percent of small businesses fail in their first year. Sure, there are no guarantees when you open a business, and things can always change, often due to forces beyond your control. Nonetheless, you’re on your way. If you haven’t done the following 5 things by now, get moving!

  1. Stabilized Your Cash Flow: By now you’ve learned how much money you need to have come in every week to make sure you can pay your bills, buy your inventory, earn some money to live on, and so forth. If your cash flow seems wildly unpredictable, workout a revised sales and marketing plan so that you have decent estimates of your revenues if you haven’t already. You should also have a fair idea from your books and records of how much you have to spend each week, how much money you can keep in the bank, and what kind of profit margins you should expect. You need to tweak your strategy, tactics and/or operations to get your margins to where they can sustain themselves. Remember, without sufficient cash, your small business is fried.
  2. Made Plans to Expand/Optimize Your Business: You have probably learned quite a few lessons about your small business during the first year. For example, you may have realized that your original plans were overambitious or too timid relative to the market conditions and to the availability of capital. You might have uncovered underserved elements in your market that you can capture by expanding your product /service line, your geographic locations, and/or your operating hours.
  3. Secured Adequate Working Capital: Based on your performance so far and your plans for change, you need to establish an adequate amount of working capital to fund your operations, including inventory purchase. Your best bet after one year in business is to contact IOU Financial to borrow up to $150K effortlessly and at an affordable APR. If you own at least 80 percent of your business, have an average credit score, have a positive daily cash flow that lets you keep on average at least $3,000 in your business account, and you clear $100,000 a year in revenue, you have an 85 percent chance of getting the loan you want from IOU Financial. Forget about bank loans, they are really hard to get.
  4. Hired the Proper Staff: You might have started off as a one-person operation, or maybe you began with a small staff. After a year, you have a better idea of how many and what kind of people you need. If you haven’t done so already, dismiss any unproductive staff  and find the best people you can afford.
  5. Developed Your Social Media Strategy: Your website should be search-engine optimized, bug free, contain perfect content (if not, hire a good freelance writer), and include, if appropriate, a bullet-proof online checkout facility. You should have set up your accounts on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and so forth, and made sure you continually add new material onto your social media sites.

Enjoy your second year – with sufficient know-how and capital, you’ve got a good shot at long-term success.

Get more important tips from IOU Financial as you grow your small business by subscribing to our blog.

 

1200x100-budgetsmartsheetad

Start Small, Think Big

Starting your own small business is at once exciting and threatening. Any entrepreneur spends a lot of time planning and fretting about a new venture, with alternating periods of exhilaration and despair. So much progress, but so many pitfalls! As the time comes to pull the trigger, your doubts rise and you hesitate. That’s normal, and you can get through the opening jitters by thinking big –turning your dream from a small enterprise to an industry legend. You may not get there, but the trick is to operate as if you will. This requires playing attention to the big picture while managing the many small tasks needed to advance the business. Here are three important tips for starting small but thinking big.

  1. Get Your Head Right
    The energy needed to make a business succeed is more akin to the output of a marathon runner rather than a sprinter. The overwhelming anxiety creates the urge to do everything at the same time. Unfortunately, this way lies madness, or at least exhaustion. Do not become a burnout, a working machine who sacrifices family, friends and enjoyment. Instead, concentrate on those tasks that will tend to sustain the long-term success of your business. Then, set a realistic pace that you can sustain for at least a year, maybe several.Behavior management is key to creating helpful habits and extinguishing self-defeating ones. To prevent burnout, first set the boundaries between work and personal life — if you commit to 10 hours a day at work, make sure the other 14 are devoted to non-work activities. Take weekends off, or at least Sundays. Reserve time for creativity and relaxation, and go on vacations a few times a year. This is how a top executive handles life — so should you.
  2. Grab the Bravery Stick
    Experimentation requires a certain amount of bravery, but it’s needed in order to contemplate the large questions that will propel the growth of your business. Ask yourself the fundamental questions:

    • What are the major challenges you wish to solve?
    • How will you recognize and measure success?
    • How will your actions alter your industry?

These kinds of questions are harder and more nebulous than figuring out whether to order the red widgets or the blue ones. You need both types of thinking, and you’ll soon discover that there is no one “correct” answer — you can succeed via several different paths.

Overcome the ambiguities by embracing experimentation. That’s right, instead of adopting the “ideal” strategy, try several different ones and see which one yields the best results. You’ll learn a lot from experimentation and get a better gauge of your market. You will also learn to let go of perfectionism, to get products and services into the marketplace quickly, and to use marketing resources such as product focus groups or pilot projects for services. Ask yourself what are the biggest questions confronting your endeavor and then design experiments that will yield the answers.

  1. Don’t Know Much About History…
    That’s a great way to fail. If you want to succeed, identify entrepreneurs and businesses that provide inspiration. These are the businesses you want to resemble when you become big. Remember, titans of industry usually had modest roots, just like you. Research their early years and pay attention to their decisions and milestones. See how they handled their challenges and doubts – it will take some of the mystery out of your future.Another thing to research is how they funded and grew their finances. This means forming strategic relationships with lenders, such as IOU Financial, to ensure money is available when you need it.

Stay focused on your long-term growth, create good habits and take small steps that build your momentum for success.

 

Focus on your business