Losing Customers? This could be why.

By | Uncategorized | No Comments

Over 20 percent of companies fail before their first year in business. However, the survival degrees beyond five years hover around 50 percent. You need a consistent growing customer base to see long-term success. BizLender has compiled a list examples of why your customers may not be returning to your business.

Disappointing Experience

You might think that pricing obstacles are your most significant hurdle to developing your customer acquisition and preservation. Nonetheless, the overall customer experience is a vital factor that you need to focus on. Many customers value the quality of their experience over cost, and many are willing to pay more for a service or product if the experience is satisfying.

Giving your clients, a good experience inspires commitment to your business and products. Customer retention is the key to growing your business since you spend less selling to returning customers than marketing to new ones.

Not Paying Attention to Social

Your consumers have many ways to express their thoughts and feeling about your product and company, particularly on social media platforms. Understandably you will not be able to please everyone, but, paying close attention to how your clients are responding and looking for similar complaints about your product or company. These are areas where you may need to make revisions to increase your customer satisfaction.

Being responsive to social media posts and reaching out directly to clients with issues if possible, will help maintain current customers. Being proactive and reaching out to customers first, preferably before they call for customer support, makes your company stand out. There are numerous platforms and tools you can use to keep an eye on your brand mentions. These programs scan networks for your brand mentioned on the social networks. Make sure your customers know what your different social network profiles are, so, they can reach you on the platform they use.

Competitiveness

Review comparable businesses in your regional area and industry and figure out if you are competitively positioned for the market and area. Even though for many customers the experience is more valuable than the cost you cannot be foolishly overpriced.

How are you separating your business from your competition? You must define your unique selling proposition if your business does not stand out from other companies in your market, clients may not have a reason to choose you over your competition.

Absence of Marketing

Even the most valuable businesses would have failed without marketing. Customers these days have more distractions than ever before with cell phones, computers, tablets, and apps with countless companies vying for their attention.

Are you employing multiple ways to relate to your audience? Establishing your business on social media, blogs, and community sponsorship increases your exposure builds trust and brand awareness.

Money, Money, Money

At the end of the day sometimes having the right amount of capital at the right time is all that is needed. Lacking the working capital and cash flow required to run an promote your business could place a burden on your marketing efforts and can hurt customer acquisition. Preventing you from running effective marketing campaigns, stocking up on inventory or hiring the staff needed to provide excellent customer service.

Running a business is challenging, and continuing to grow can be even harder. Bizlender can help your company secure the needed capital to maintain and grow your business.

Put your company in place to develop for the long term by reflecting how you can make corrections to avoid these customer hindrances.

Researching alternative lending options? Check out BizLender online or call 855-433-8641. Offering lending solutions since 2013, their professionals emphasized working smarter, not harder, using technology to fund small businesses in as little as 24 hours.

How to Build a Company Without Capital (Kinda)

By | Uncategorized | No Comments

You are inspired to start a company. Perhaps you have a concept, or you are just intrigued by the idea of starting something new. You are prepared to take some chances, like leaving your current place of employment or working without income for a while. Nevertheless, there is one complication stopping you: You do not have the capital, or so you think…

Let’s first take a peek at why a business requires capital. There is no universal business startup expense for starting a business, and different companies have different requirements depending on your business model. It is essential first to assess how much funding you will require before attempting to secure financing.

Permits and Licensing. Depending on your area and industry, you may need to file the appropriate documentation to begin your new venture.

Equipment, Inventory and Office Supplies. Do you need computers, specific tools, special programs or other materials?

Business location is a tremendous cost, and you cannot ignore stuff like Internet, utilities, cleaning services, payroll, and accounts receivable. Although some of these items can be outsourced, it may be a good idea to keep them in-house at the beginning.

Determining expenses. You need to get as detailed as possible when laying out your operating costs; Associations, subscriptions, memberships, marketing, employees, freelancers, contractors and of course legal fees. If you can’t-do it alone, you will require staff on your payroll.

There are two proven methods to beginning your venture a launching your “baby,” decreasing your expenses or raising capital from external sources. You have three choices here:

Limiting your expenses. Adjusting your business model to require fewer resources is an excellent way to cut costs. For instance, being the only employee of your new business to start or working from a home office is a great way to cut big expenses out at the outset.

However, some costs cannot be avoided like permits, licensing and legal fees even with the saving mentioned above. A recent article from the SBA, states that many small businesses start with $1,000 to $3,000 in startup funds.

Grassroots and Bootstrap
Slow and steady may be the right approach. Rather than launching into a full-blown business mode, you start with just a few products, services or clients. By reducing your initial reach, you can to get a head-start and still maintain your current quality of life. Starting out as the only employee will alleviate some of the highest start-up costs.

Once you start clearing some revenue, you can start to reinvest some of those profits back into the business and bring on the additional expenses needed to build the company you conceived.

Raising Capital
There are many ways to raise start-up capital for your business — even if you do not have any money yourself. Below are a few ideas on how to secure the funds you need to grow: Don’t rule out the feasibility of accepting aid from friends and family, even if you have to piece the resources together from various sources.

Private investors are affluent people who support businesses during and after their incubation periods. These type of investors usually require some form of ownership in exchange for their investment.

Venture capitalists are typically companies or organizations and favor businesses that are now in existence.

Crowdfunding is big for a reason: with a good idea and enough work, you can attract funding for anything.

Grants and loans. The SBA, as well as some government agencies, exist entirely to benefit small business growth. Several of these agencies offer loans and grants to support business start-ups.

Bank loans are a good choice if your credit is in good standing. Although securing a bank loan can take up to three months to finalize a personal line of credit may be an option for your start-up.

Merchant Cash Advance can be a quick and complete financing solution in many cases, especially for those who are considering investing in an already active operation. Once you have been in operation for at least three months, merchant cash advances may be the quickest way to secure the funded needed.

With one or more of these funding options, you should be able to decrease your monetary expenditure to virtually nothing. You might have to make some additional sacrifices, including, partners or procuring debt. Capital is one of the biggest obstacles when starting a new company, but if you trust in your business plan, – it can be mastered.

 

Researching alternative lending options? Check out BizLender online or call 855-433-8641. Offering lending solutions since 2013, their professionals emphasized working smarter, not harder, using technology to fund small businesses in as little as 24 hours.

Understanding and Using Alternative Financing

By | Uncategorized | No Comments
Business Cash Advances – Are you eager to make a significant investment in growing your business?  If you are thinking about expanding your company, and have done some investigation into securing funding, you comprehend that a business loan from a traditional bank is based on security and excellent credit. Now you could cash in your retirement savings for and use the proceeds to fund your business, but, this isn’t your option. A Business Cash Advances can be a quick and complete financing solution in many cases, especially for those who are considering investing in an already active operation.  There are two alternative funding options for proprietors that can provide quick access to capital despite credit ratings.

Things you should know about alternative funding choices.

Business Cash Advances are provided to companies as an advance on the future growth of a business. Business Cash Advances ( BCA ) are accessible to businesses that show consistent sales and future growth potential in replacement for a portion of their future sales or receivables. That portion of sales will be paid back through either a credit card split, daily ACH withdrawal, or weekly ACH withdraw and will extend until the balance of the advance has been repaid in full.The principal advantages of a Business Cash Advance:
If you are a qualified business, access to capital is granted within just one or two business days, which is substantially faster than the average funding turn-around time from a traditional bank, which, can take weeks or months. A BCA is not a loan and repayment is paid based on future daily sales in small amounts rather than large monthly installments. The daily or weekly percentage amount repaid is factored on what program you are approved for and your current funding situation.Merchant Cash Advances:
If you are approved for a Merchant Cash Advance, the repayment will adjust, depending on the batch out totals from your credit card processing for each day. BizLender has created partnerships with card-payment processors, so payment is immediate and hassle-free. Business Cash Advances are used as an alternative to a Merchant Cash Advance if a business does not receive process credit/debit enough or no card sales. The main advantage of a business cash advance is that the remittance repaid is arranged before the agreement is signed.

The driving force for qualification for both Merchant Cash Advances and Business Cash Advances is based on the strength of a company and its future growth potential than the business owner’s credit.

Alternative Funding Uses:
Alternative funding solutions should not be used as bailouts or venture capital investments for start-up companies but are intended to be short-term conveniences for flourishing businesses to reinvest in the growth of their companies instantly. As such, funds can be appropriated for a variety of plans for renovation, expansion, system updates, employee training, education, and inventory.

Researching alternative lending options? Check out BizLender online or call  855-433-8641. Offering lending solutions since 2013, their professionals emphasized working smarter, not harder, using technology to fund small businesses in as little as 24 hours.

The new world of equity crowdfunding

By | Uncategorized | No Comments

As of this week, the lending landscape has changed once again. We’ve seen the rise and fall of bank lending, the rise and regulation of alternative lending, the stream of P2P lending, and now with a revision to a decades-old Securities Act of 1933, changes to the crowdfunding platform to allow equity crowdfunding, also called securities-based crowdfunding.

Why is it new?

In April of 2012, President Barak Obama signed the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act (JOBS Act) into law. The goal is to make it easier and faster for small businesses to access capital.

Title 3 of the JOBS Act focuses on equity crowdfunding for unaccredited investors, meaning that anyone can become an investor in a business, and share in its profits and growth, regardless of the investor’s income, net worth, or expected financial gains in the future. Previously, only accredited investors were able to invest in a new business venture.

An accredited investor is defined by the SEC as an individual whose net worth, or joint net worth with his or her spouse, exceeds $1 million, or alternatively, an investor who had income exceeding $200,000 in each of the two most recent years with reasonable expectation of earning the same in the current year.

Changes to the equity crowdfunding regulations update the Securities Act of 1933 and Securities Exchange Act of 1934, so for the first time in 80 years, companies seeking investments from ordinary Americans can do so without the process of obtaining a full-public stock offering.

 

How equity crowdfunding differs from standard crowdfunding

Kickstarter, GoFundMe, and IndieGoGo are hailed as the top three crowdfunding sites that allow entrepreneurs, inventors, artists, and others supporting a cause to raise money online to fund projects and ideas. Typically an “investor,” (it’s really a donation rather than investment) receives a token of some sort in return–a tote bag, a certificate, recognition.

Now, the exchange is funding for a piece of the business, of future profits. Investors are true investors. With access to non-accredited investors, start-ups can find quicker access to capital, achieving the goal the JOBS Act was created to achieve.

The cons of equity crowdfunding

Catherine Clifford, (@CatClifford) a staff writer for Entrepreneur, has covered crowdfunding extensively and produces a video series called “Crowdfunding with Cat.” She writes, “as much as May 16 represents a finish line for the crowdfunding industry, it’s also just the starting line.”

Clifford notes that the first startups to use equity crowdfunding will be essentially writing their own rules, because it’s all new territory. With that will come success and failure, and the trick will be riding it out, and retooling the process to weed out future failure.

Entrepreneurs are cautioned to heavily research the equity crowdfunding platform they choose, finding confidence in the platform’s set-up and understanding how the platform manages investments in the start-up once the campaign is finished.

On the flipside, investors are cautioned the same way. The early birds to the feast will have a pick at investment opportunities, but Clifford cautions, should have “a real stomach for loss.” There will be opportunities early on that may not be available once equity crowdfunding becomes more mainstream. Diversification will be important for interested investors, so they’re able to weather the storm of the failure rate for small businesses.

 

More ways to access capital

Celebrants of the JOBS Act are looking at the potential this new law brings. A rejuvenated flow of cash into small business startups is indeed great news, meaning opportunity for entrepreneurs and investors, overall impacting the economy’s bottom line. But just as a small business owner is required to research, apply for, and properly plan for the spending of any capital that comes through a traditional loan or an alternative lending opportunity, learning the ropes of this new platform of lending will be an important part of the process for entrepreneurs.

Venturebeat offers an in-depth 10-step process for getting involved in equity crowdfunding, from education to building your social network, to researching your investor platform, marketing, insurance, legalities, investor communication, and overall organization of your campaign.

Once an entrepreneur has solidified his or her business plan, determining the best way to fund that business should take as much careful deliberation and research as the business plan itself. The additional platform of equity crowdfunding might help more entrepreneurs bring their dreams closer to reality.

 

What are your thoughts on equity crowdfunding?

How to respect and safeguard (cherish!) your customers’ privacy

By | Uncategorized | No Comments

A business transaction is one of trust. Your clients trust you to provide the service or good that you’ve offered, and you trust they’ll pay you for the service or good you’ve provided. Is it an equal equation? Not at all. Maintaining your trustworthiness is of utmost importance for customer retention. Are you keeping their privacy in mind?

 

General rules on privacy

There are an estimated 205 million digital shoppers in the U.S. E-commerce websites, and service providers in all types of industries use the web to sell, interact, gather information, conduct sales, and build business. How do they protect their customers’ privacy?

Internet data protection is vital. Essential.

  • Encrypt sensitive data, including names, contact information, health data, payment types, and account numbers. Hackers work around the clock to access private and sensitive information. According to an article on Business News Daily, “small businesses fall into hackers’ ‘sweet spot:’ they have more digital assets to target than an individual consumer has, but less security than a larger enterprise.”
  • Destroy unnecessary data, shred sensitive documents and wipe away digital data. One small Seattle-area company was hacked after old laptops were stolen in a break-in. They contained information that allowed funds to be siphoned out of fraudulent payroll accounts.
  • Device restriction, anti-virus software, and use of strong passwords. By allowing employees access to only the information the need, and making a company policy that employees use only company-supplied devices, maintaining control over data and access is easier. Not easy, but easier.
  • Get consent for data collection. Companies should always notify customers if their data is being collected and/or shared in any way and post their privacy policies on their websites.

 

Prospect lists and privacy

Think of all the ways you get leads for your business. Word of mouth, website leads, direct mail, social media, cold calls, emails. Prospect lists for email or direct mail campaigns are useful ways to access potential customers. Respecting their privacy is just as important.

Vendors offer direct marketing lists for a wide variety of industries. They maintain lists on home owners and mortgage holders, parents of new babies, pet owners, small business owners, people who like to buy green, motorcyclists…you name it. You can obtain a list on just about any demographic.

Consumers reported in the U.S. Consumer Privacy Index that their top privacy issue is information being collected and shared with other companies, and 89 percent say they avoid companies that don’t protect their privacy. So receiving unsolicited direct mail from unknown businesses carries a stalker-like, invasive feel. When you buy direct marketing lists, understand that customers may not have consented to the sale of their personal data.

 

Do your research

Get to know your direct marketing vendor. Check with the Better Business Bureau for a good reputation or testimonials. Ask how the list you purchased was obtained and whether or not clients gave consent.

Most of all, know current client privacy laws and research cyber security for small businesses. Protecting yourself is the best way to protect your customers and build and maintain trust for repeat business.

Investing in new software, building better firewalls, training employees, or a cyber insurance plan? BizLender, a leading provider of alternative lending solutions, can help you get funding to shore up your cyber-safety and keep your customers safe. Talk to a lending professional today at 855-404-3070 or apply online with BizLender.

When you need funding, but all you hear is “No”

By | Uncategorized | No Comments

It’s not a perfect world. It rains in the middle of your morning run when you’re farthest from home. Your supplier raises prices beyond your budget. The internet is down. Construction outside your door is slowing the traffic coming through it. Your kid is bullied on the bus. Your bank is bullying you.

Things don’t go right in life and in business. But those who persevere, succeed.

Biz2Credit recently released their Small Business Lending Index which reported an increase in loan approval rates by big banks and institutional lenders, up two-tenths of a percent from February 2016 to March 2016, which is good news for small business. Increased funding to a small business helps the economic backbone of any community.

But for some businesses for which things have not gone right–credit issues, a big break didn’t come, equipment has failed, supplier prices elevated, a natural disaster has held up production–those businesses may need to persevere in other ways.

Alternative lending can mean “Yes”

There are pros and cons any time you borrow. You’re held to the standard and terms of your lender, required to repay the amount. But with a loan you have increased cash flow to invest in your business and that can be the difference between success and folding. How do you secure that capital if you’ve been hearing “no?”

Research lenders and compare your needs to what they offer. If you have time to gather documentation, write and polish a thorough business plan, and time to wait for traditional bank approval, a traditional bank loan is certainly worth trying for. However, if all you’ve heard is “no,” you might be looking for other opportunities.

“Alternative lenders require less paperwork, offer online applications that submit quickly and are processed quickly,” according to Nick Yiambilis, VP of Business Development at BizLender, a leading provider of alternative funding solutions on the web. “We require substantially less information to seek and develop lending agreements that work for both you and your lender.” Once you choose your lending option, the funds are delivered to your account quickly.

Review your bill paying habits and tidy your credit score. If you miss payments, your credit takes a hit. Therefore, be sure you’re aware of and on top of all the bills that come through your inbox. Pay down outstanding balances if you are able, and correct any incorrect information on your credit report that might be holding your score down.  Traditional lenders rely heavily on your credit score and history in making their decisions.

Alternative lenders are able to look beyond credit reports because of the types of products they offer. “For example,” says Yiambilis, “a merchant cash advance is tied to a retailer’s credit card sales, paid down in daily increments. So rather than scrutinize the borrower’s credit report, a lender looks at the daily or weekly sales and bases the ability to repay on that sales history.”

Gather your collateral. What guarantee do lenders have that they’ll be repaid? Many take collateral when offering a loan, on the chance you are unable to pay the loan back. For a small business owner, sometimes that collateral means personal possessions, a house, car, or other items.

Alternative lenders may offer unsecured business loans or loans that don’t require a guarantee or collateral. Often, when trying to secure a loan for growth or investment in new technology or equipment, a small business has little to offer in the way of collateral. An unsecured business loan through an alternative lender bases a company’s ability to repay through other means. “BizLender establishes a business score, examining factors such as credit history, bank statements, time in business, and the type of industry in which the business operates,” says Yiambilis.

Follow your plan

Turning “no” to “yes” can turn a struggling business into a successful one provided the borrower has a plan for the capital and uses it applicably. Although alternative lenders might not require a lengthy business plan to approve an application, it is their aim to lend money to businesses who have a plan in place to implement the funds and grow their revenues.

So although things are not always perfect; your new running shoes might be soggy from your morning run, or your bank has turned you down for a loan, you look for alternatives, hang your shoes out to dry, and run again tomorrow.

Researching alternative lending options? Check out BizLender online or call  855-404-3070. Offering lending solutions since 2013, their professionals put the emphasis on working smarter, not harder, using technology to fund small businesses in as little as 24 hours.

What’s going on with Twitter?

By | Uncategorized | No Comments

Twitter is the global voice. Any time the world needs to comment (and we have daily reason to comment)–on a human tragedy, the passing of a celebrity, the misstep or folly of a politician, a great injustice or implementation of justice, the feat of a sports team–we turn first to Twitter. Tweets factor into both hard core journalism and light blogging and everywhere in between.

 

So why is it floundering?

 

As a social commentary, Twitter rules, but since 2011, the company has lost $2 billion, according to CNN Money. As a matter of fact, it has not turned a profit since the first tweet was sent 10 years ago.

 

Business Insider reported the following on Morgan Stanley's most recent analysts,

 

"Engagement and New User Trends Remain Troubling… We believe TWTR's core user engagement remains in decline, as time spent per U.S. mobile user fell by an estimated 10% YoY in 1Q:16. This may be an improvement from the 30%+ YoY declines from last year, but stepping back, TWTR's time spent per user is already among the lowest in the social group … and is still in decline. New user growth doesn't appear to be rebounding either, as quarter-over-quarter new mobile-app downloads were flat for the second straight quarter."

 

 

Twitter will release results on April 26 for first quarter, but Morgan Stanley analysts cite concern that they won't see strong numbers after below-estimated user growth in the fourth quarter 2015.

 

Because of lowered forecasts for global monthly users in 2016 and 2017 to 2.6 million and 0.3 million (from 5.2 million and 3.4 million), Twitter may likely suffer further due to lost advertising revenues, and their shares have fallen 25% this year.

 

The hashtag still has great power

 

However, you can't watch @FallonTonight (Jimmy Fallon) on the tonight show without being asked to contribute to his show by way of his Hashtag Challenge (this week #SpringRaps). You can barely read content on the web without stumbling over # language, and you can't scroll your Facebook feed without that one friend with the extra long hashtag, like #Nevergoingoutsidewithoutsunscreenonagainohmygodthishurtssobad accompanied with a photo of scarlet, bubbled skin.  

 

So whatever Morgan Stanley says about a decline in new users, these facts still remain: as of fourth quarter 2015, Twitter had 305 million monthly active users. It is free to sign up.

 

If your small business has a comprehensive online marketing plan, you are likely one of the 305 million monthly active users. Abandoning your Twitter presence because the company is facing financial disaster is like leaving the biggest party of the year early because it's going to end sometime anyway.

 

Twitter still offers dramatic online presence, it's a forum for sharing and re-sharing, it offers strong analytic tools to measure the usefulness and popularity of your tweets, and it's where your customers and competition are, regardless of the NASDAQ (or @NASDAQ) ticker.

 

How Twitter will survive is still in question. Plans for new product development, a live-streaming feed, an appearance more akin to Facebook, a deal with the NFL to stream games, and further developments coupled with world events like the Summer Olympics and presidential elections may bolster their bottom line. In the meantime, you're free and encouraged to keep those #'s coming.

 

How has Twitter bolstered your small business?

Spring cleaning tips for your small business

By | Uncategorized | No Comments

We've slipped into spring. Maybe you haven't put up with biting cold or shoveled much snow. Maybe the sun heats your world most days. But the calendar switch is a mental switch, too. "Spring cleaning" is a common phrase because it's a chance for renewal (again).

 

Are you thinking of ways to bring a spring cleaning mentality to your small business?

 

Whether you're online, or you have a bricks and mortar location, no doubt you can benefit from a fresh perspective, a "cleaning out."

 

Website spring cleaning

 

Like everywhere else, websites have a way of growing, with clutter forming here and there. De-cluttering a website means taking a look at each page and getting rid of what doesn't need to be there. Can you clean up your virtual inventory? Are there better ways to communicate a message? Is there information on your site that's obsolete? Have you been too busy to add relevant information?

 

There's no statistical information on how often you should redesign your website, according to A Visual Identity, an Arizona-based web development company. If it looks current, if you are regularly sharing relevant content, if it's performing well in organic searches and your customers offer positive feedback, you don't need to redesign.

 

In fact, they say, "A good rule of thumb is to redesign your website when the site no longer meets your company objectives or is not meeting its overall objectives."

 

If you see that a large percentage of visitors are mobile, and your site isn't mobile-friendly, or if you need to click multiple times to get to important information, you might consider redesigning. Are you graphic heavy and not ranking well in searches? Well-written copy might help with search engine optimization.

 

Lastly, clean up any links that have gone dead and get rid of links to outdated materials elsewhere on the internet.

 

Logo spring cleaning

 

The same logic follows with your logo. The visual centerpiece of your company's brand, your logo, is not the reason why people use your services or shop your products, but it is the way you're first recognized. How do you know when to refresh? Ask some questions about your logo:

 

  • Does it translate well from print to digital?
  • Does it look outdated, or bring a feeling of unworthiness?
  • Has your company merged or changed focus and left your logo out of the changes?
  • Would changing it make a positive difference?

 

Perhaps as you spring clean, pose these questions with your logo in mind. If it doesn't represent your company in its current form, if it looks outdated, think about a fresh redesign. But if changing it would unnecessarily cause your customers to pause, maybe it's just right.

 

"Shop" spring cleaning

 

Whether your "shop" is a retail space or a small, private office, a good, thorough cleaning is as important here as it is in your home. Consider your inventory and how it's displayed. Fix things that are broken–chairs, equipment, window blinds. Check in with your employees about their office space or workspace. Are there improvements that would make their workday better? Clean out the office fridge.

 

Finding capital to make improvements

 

As you take stock of your digital and physical space, make a list of the improvements you'd like to see. Do you need capital to invest in website changes, website analytics, or physical shop changes? Do you want to make quick improvements or investments in technology or software? Consider alternative lending options, like the funding solutions available from BizLender, a leading provider of alternative lending solutions.

 

With a quick online application, BizLender can assess your business needs and source lending options that put cash in your account quickly. A business cash advance or merchant cash advance are options that fund your business with flexible repayment schedules. Call 855-404-3070 or find BizLender online to talk with their lending professionals about your lending options today!

3 ways to market your business that have nothing to do with your product

By | Uncategorized | No Comments

You can develop marketing plans and invest in advertising–you should do those things as a small business owner. But beyond the traditional marketing strategies, there are creative ways to bring recognition to your business that have little to do with your actual product or service. Of course building your brand is essential to success, and your business reputation rolls right into brand development.

 

One might say they are intertwined.

 

Have you considered these three ways to bring recognition to your business without traditional marketing?

 

Community service

 

Your community is as great as the people who contribute to its success, and that includes you. Participate in a cause that helps your community. Host a clothing drive, or collect diapers or personal hygiene products and donate them to charitable organizations. Invite your customers to bring in items when they use your service, shop at your store, etc. Get a group to help at the local food bank, join in a Habitat for Humanity project, sponsor a local art show or culinary event, get locked up for MDA.

 

With National Volunteer Week coming up this April 10-16, 2016, look for unique ways to volunteer your time and energy.

 

Whatever you do, ask your employees to tell their stories about volunteerism, then share those stories and photographs on social media.

 

Be a speaker

 

Getting yourself in front of an audience of your peers and other industry associates does a number of things. It immediately establishes you as an expert, and people learn to associate your face with your message in a way that's much more difficult to achieve online.

 

Speaking at conferences and other industry-specific events brings the obvious benefits of networking, possibilities for collaboration, and general advancement of your industry. When similar minds come together, the brainstorming and innovation that ensues can help your business and your industry. And don't forget the perks that come with being a speaker, like free food and beverages, and possibly even a free ticket to the event!

 

Tips for getting speaking gigs:

  • Note the conferences and events that interest you well in advance. Keep an active calendar of potential speaking opportunities. Know what's happening!
  • Develop and be able to customize your speaking abstracts. By having a packet ready to send out that includes your bio, your expertise, a summary of your presentation (including a catchy title for your presentation), the format in which you deliver your materials, and whether or not you need specific equipment.
  • Solicit a lot of speaking engagements. Like anything else, the more you put yourself out there, the more likely you'll have success.
  • Consider sending your abstracts to industry publications for added exposure.

 

Give appreciation

 

Nothing makes people happier than free. Even better is getting something free when you least expect it. Think about appreciating your best customers with a free gift. Not necessarily your product or service, but send a token–a box of chocolates, a certificate for a free ice cream cone from the shop next door, a complimentary glass of wine–something to say, "thanks for being a great customer, we appreciate you."

 

"You can't sell anything if you can't tell anything," says Beth Comstock, vice chair of Business Innovations at General Electric. These methods of marketing–performing community service, guest speaking, appreciating your customers–are more like storytelling, giving your clients good reason to invest in you because you invest in them.

 

What ways do you market your small business that have nothing to do with your actual product or service?

 

Using a content calendar to prevent content chaos

By | Uncategorized | No Comments

Don't you hate those days when you're running just a step behind? Don't feel that way about your online content marketing. A content calendar can help you manage your small businesses online presence and stay on top of your content, whether you're posting regular blogs, scheduling a social media campaign, or simply striving to keep an active business presence online.

 

A variety of services, templates, and software products are available, and choosing one depends on how much content you create and share, and how much is in your budget.

 

What does a content calendar do?

 

How many days have passed without posting a new blog or sharing something on your Twitter feed? Have you updated your status on Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, LinkedIn…etc? Did you post a video on YouTube and share it across all platforms?

 

We've said it before, managing your online activity is a full-time endeavor, especially if you're a small business owner maintaining a variety of properties online. A content calendar can help you manage and coordinate those posts, and more importantly, plan your content ahead of time.

 

A content calendar gives you a picture of your content for the year, taking into consideration holidays and other days of recognition that are great for centering blog posts and other promotional content around.

 

To compile a list of potential topics, look for events calendars online, like this one on PromosOnTime.com.

 

 

Plan your content

 

Think about all the different opportunities to craft content for your audience, both from generic events calendars/days of recognition, and from your own business. Don't leave out:

 

  • photos/videos/infographics/charts
  • case studies
  • E-books/whitepapers
  • new product/service launch
  • press releases/announcements
  • customer testimonials
  • industry-related news/events
  • seasonal content
  • re-purposed/recycled content

 

Plugging information into a real calendar gives you a great sense of spacing and coverage for each month. Print calendar pages and fill in topics you know you're ready and interested to blog about, create content for or post throughout the year.

 

Now consider an interactive content calendar

 

Your business size, number of employees, level of employee collaboration, and need to manage various social media platforms should determine what you choose for a content calendar software or service. Research your options based on your needs and budget, and make use of free trials to see what works best for your situation. Here are a few that range in cost and capabilities:

 

WordPRess Editorial Calendar Plugin

 

WordPress Editorial Calendar plugin is a basic add to WordPress's open source project–a platform downloadable at no cost besides the cost of hosting the website. A variety of plugins work with WordPress including the editorial calendar, a fairly simple interactive calendar that integrates with your WordPress blog.

 

 

CoSchedule

 

CoSchedule is also a WordPress content marketing and editorial calendar plugin. Pricing comes in around $15/month for an all-in-one basic calendar and social scheduling capabilities. Custom adds and premium integration jumps to $30/month, and further adding social automation, autopilot publishing, and data-driven intelligence takes you to $60/month. All of these are for one user and increasing social profiles from five to 25. A premium service of $300/month provides a team calendar for 25 users, 40 guests, and 100 social profiles.   

 

Gather Content

 

Gather Content offers cloud storage for collaboration with a larger team, designed to streamline the user's web content production process. It provides structured templates to create and collate content, with fields for comments and collaboration. The software ranges from $66/month to $216/month depending on how many items and active projects you have going. Unlimited users can tap into the software.

 

 

Kapost

 

Kapost offers software to plan, create, distribute, and analyze the content's reach and influence with your audience. In addition to the platform, Kapost offers support, consulting, and materials to further your B2B marketing efforts. The content planner begins at $800/month, with other services and options available for more.

 

 

 

 

 

Excel or Google Spreadsheet

 

Your content calendar doesn't necessarily have to include bells and whistles, integration and ROI measurements. If you have no budget for software, need a simple layout, or a highly personalized spreadsheet, open up Excel or Google and create your own calendar.

 

Do you pay for a content calendar service to manage your online content planning and distribution, or plug ideas into a spreadsheet or calendar hanging on your wall?