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Monthly Archives: November 2015

Gaining Access to Capital

images-38According to the Small Business Association, one of the biggest issues facing small businesses is the inability to access sufficient credit and capital.   According to numbers from just a year ago almost 8 million small businesses are strapped for cash and may be unable to hire new employees, take on new clients, or sadly, even keep their doors open. Lack of capital is one of the primary reasons that businesses flounder.   What are the options then for small businesses when it comes to gaining access to capital in today’s economy.  Let’s explore the various channels for achieving access to capital.

  • Small Business Administration -SBA The SBA is a government agency that collaborates with private lenders to create (and guarantee) business loans. “Guarantee,” in this case, means the federal government will back up to 90% of a loan. The Office of Capital Access within the SBA mission is to help make capital available through banks and other lending partners to small businesses. They sponsor loans that offer more favorable terms and interest rates.  They are accessible to more businesses, and are open to fixed assets and operating capital.  They also attempt to streamline lending through an automated process that encourages faster decisions and reduces lender underwriting time.
  • Conventional Loans –In contrast with SBA loans, conventional loans are private and are not guaranteed by the federal government. As such, they normally carry higher rates. Conventional loans examine your businesses credit history, your monthly expenses, and your overall business pattern.  Some conventional loans would include: Commercial Loans, Equipment and Vehicle Loans, Business Line of Credit, or  General Business Loans.
  • Crowd Funding – An alternative access to capital that has really taken off in the past few years.  Crowdfunding is by definition, “the practice of funding a project or venture by raising many small amounts of money from a large number of people, typically via the Internet.”  (Forbes) There are numerous crowdfunding platforms where consumers can safely ask for or donate money such as Kickstarter, Indiegogo, RocketHub, and Onevest.
  • Venture Capital – Venture Capital is money provided by investors to startup firms and small businesses with perceived long-term growth potential. This is a very important source of funding for startups that do not have access to capital markets. It typically entails high risk for the investor, but it has the potential for above-average returns. (Investopedia) This type of access is great for start ups and tends to heavily favor the technology industry.

Powerful B2C Tools – Digital and Traditional

Marketing specialists who deal with B2C have an ever growing challenge to do their job well in this fast-paced technical world in which we live.  They must be able to meet the consumer at many different entry points both digital and traditional in order to cast a net wide enough yet focused enough to gain access to the audience they are seeking.

One of the first things to consider is who is your target audience?  Are they female or male? Older or younger? Middle or Upper class?  Are they digitally adept or rely more on traditional advertising?  Is your audience local or national? The demographics and buying patterns of your audience will determine the type of tools you will rely on when planning your next B2C campaign.

While business-to-consumer (B2C) activity exists both off and online there are tools that marketing teams should consider when targeting a particular audience.  Lets look at some of the powerful tools that are out there to help marketing in this tech savvy world. Here are three areas that are critical to take into account when planning your marketing strategy.

  • Traditional Advertising Media – Yes, traditional advertising media is still alive and well.  These methods can be quite effective and can hit a population that is not digitally hooked.  This medium includes: billboards, magazines, radio,  newspapers and direct mail.  Each of these tools can reach large audiences and in the case of items like magazines and newspapers can reach people over and over again with rereads and passing off the item to friends.  For businesses that are local in nature billboards and local newspapers can be especially advantageous to draw immediate visual attention and remind consumers that you nearby in their community.
  • Digital Ads – The use of electronic ads has exploded in the last decade.  Tools that have made marketing easier and more cost effective include the PPC (Pay-Per-Click) options, local or global and the use of key words to get your ads in front of the right people. Google AdWords, to name one, has allowed small and large companies alike to set a budget and stick to it as well as customize who they would like to reach in their advertising.
  • Social Media – The latest addiction in the world of marketing is social media: Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter,  Pinterest, Instagram and the list goes on and on.  Social media marketing programs usually center on efforts to create content that attracts attention and encourages readers to share it across their social networks. For example blogs that give helpful information or Facebook posts that give tips or even discount codes can help draw in consumers.  The numerous social media channels and advertising options can help encourage brand awareness as your name and logo can be put front and center on the pages your target audience is visiting.

Holding Productive Staff Meetings

When employees hear the word staff meeting the first thing that may come to mind is . . .  “time waster.”  According to a recent survey of U.S. professionals by Salary.com, meetings ranked as the number one office productivity killer. For many employees, staff meetings are seen as a time when a manager may drone on and on, or “Bob” from marketing hijacks the meeting or worse yet, when they are continually asking themselves “why am I here?”  There’s no quicker way to sap employee morale and productivity than by convening a meeting that fails to produce results. However, this doesn’t need to be the case.  If done correctly, meetings can be effective, spark creativity, unite the group and prompt meaningful action.  Let’s look at some suggestions to keep your meetings on track and make them fruitful and productive.

  1. Purpose – Every meeting should have a purpose or goal.  It should not just be held because it is Monday and meetings are always on Monday.  That purpose should be laid out in a written agenda that clearly states what will be discussed and materials that employees will need with them.  Tell them your time frame so they know how much time to block off for the meeting.
  2. Involve Everyone – There really is nothing worse than going to a meeting where an employee feels invisible.  Don’t let one person hog the show or overrule others.  Make sure you hold a meeting where everyone’s voice is heard.  Meetings that offer everyone a chance to voice their opinions and insight are much more productive than meetings that only have one or two voices in conversation.
  3. Ban Distractions – With so many people tethered to their smartphones, it is no doubt that they are a distraction.  Ask that phones, tablets, or other devices be put aside while discussions are happening.  Note taking is usually allowable but during brainstorming or back-and-forth discussions assign a note taker so others can concentrate on the task at hand.
  4. Follow Up – One chief complaint about meetings is that items that were discussed and actions that were decided upon somehow don’t get done. Compile the meeting’s notes into action items and distribute them to everyone who attended. Appoint someone to keep track of who’s responsible for doing what and by when. This helps people understand that the end of the meeting signals the start of taking action.
  5. Give Credit Where Credit is Due – Sometimes staff meetings get caught up in the minutia of everyday workplace activities.  It is a good idea to spend some time during each meeting doling out praise for a job well done or a key project completed.  The positive reinforcement will go a long way to keep morale up and employees inspired to do more.

Pros and Cons of Drones for Business

Drones have been all over the news as of late.  They are a hot button topic that has stirred up may questions about their use.  How will they impact business?  What kind of safety issues should businesses and individuals be concerned about?  Are they a violation of privacy? How can my company use drones?  The federal government has been looking at just these kinds of questions to formulate regulations that will allow for business development while at the same time providing safety and privacy guidelines.  Let’s look at some of the potential pros and cons of drones in business as this fledgling service “takes flight”.

Pros

  • Better for the environment – A single, battery-powered drone traveling to bring your order versus a large emissions-spewing delivery truck is a vast improvement when it comes to emissions and energy efficiency. (TreeHugger)
  • Positive Economic Impact – A recent study estimates over the 10 year span from 2015 to 2025 UAV integration within national air space will account for $82.1 billion in job creation and economic growth. Over a ten year span, job creation from commercial drone use will consist primarily of manufacturing jobs. Notably, commercial use of drones will predominantly affect agriculture and public safety more so than commerce. Due to the ability to cover large areas, drone use in agriculture is anticipated to effectively feed and hydrate plants while also limiting exposure to diseases. (Investopedia)
  • Physical Access to Hard-to-reach places – Drones can assist in law enforcement, farming, media coverage, and maintenance to areas that are difficult to reach manually.
  • Business Growth – Depending upon the industry, business can grow exponentially whether it is in the area of providing service, delivery of products, photography or just for fun!

 

Cons

  • Privacy Concerns – The drone will use GPS to find your house and will almost definitely have a camera in order to safely land and navigate its surroundings.  It is unlikely that this information will be used in nefarious ways but privacy protections may need to be implemented.
  • Physical Safety – Questions have been raised about using drones near airports and causing dangerous situations.  Other questions have been raised about the impact on predatory birds that may see drones as a threat.
  • Legal Issues – Permits and Logistics may be costly or time consuming depending upon the guidelines that will be put forth by the FAA and the Federal Government.

Making the Most of Your Email Marketing Campaign

Before we discuss techniques to optimize your email campaigns, here are some statistics on email and email usage patterns that may open your eyes to the importance of making the most of your email campaign.

  • 57% of email subscribers spend 10-60 minutes browsing marketing emails during the week. (ChoozOn)
  • When asked to opt-in to receive updates from a company, only 10% elected to do so through Facebook, while 90% chose to receive email newsletters. (Nielsen Norman Group)
  • Mobile matters: 41% of emails are opened on a mobile device. And 23% of readers who open an email on a mobile device open it again later. (Campaign Monitor)
  • 91 percent of US adults like to receive promotional emails from companies they do business with (MarketingSherpa, 2015)
  • Email is almost 40 times more effective than Facebook and Twitter combined in helping your business acquire new customers. (McKinsey, 2014)

Given these statistics, it is clear that email marketing has some significant advantages.  Lets look at some of the key benefits and practical methods for  this marketing strategy.

  • Email Marketing is amazingly cost-effective. With an ROI of around 4,300% (according to the Direct Marketing Association), email practically pays for itself … and saves a tree or two. If your marketing budget has taken a hit in the past few years email may be an excellent source to convert viewers into consumers.
  • Email newsletters are a good reminder to consumers about your services at the same time allowing your company to promote a new product, link to business workshops, a call to action, or articles that will keep your viewers informed.  This increase in communication and added information can make your company stand out as a good value.
  • Emails can help build your brand.  Your businesses logo, tagline and purpose should be front and center to remind people who you are and what your stand for.  Each subject line should not only include information about your company but also catch the readers attention so they feel compelled to open the email and read.
  • Emails can make consumers act.  Make sure your call to action is big and obvious. Make it clear and simple to click on the icon to opt in to whatever you are asking consumers to do.
  • Be mobile ready.  Since so many people read emails and reread emails on their mobile devices be aware of what your email will look like on a smartphone.  Use responsive design to make sure viewers can easily read while mobile.
  • The old adage that a picture is worth a thousand words is very true with email.  Use custom photography to show instead of tell about your latest news and products.

For more information of starting your email campaign here are two sites to examine-

Constant Contact

EmailChimp