Tag: business

4 Benefits of Blogging for Your Business

by GoDaddy

While a lot of factors contribute to your business’s success online, a blog is a one of the most effective online strategies to gain fast exposure and attract new leads. It’s a tool that many businesses don’t take advantage of, but we think you’ll love the benefits of blogging! As you begin blogging, consider four ways your blog will help influence readers, develop your brand, and establish lasting success online:

Establish Yourself as an Expert

Use your blog to publish relevant, unique and helpful information, and soon you’ll be known for your expertise. Customers use the Internet to find answers, so your blog has a shot at getting bookmarked as a great source of valuable information! Make sure the information you give readers is accurate and sharable – making your website a resource that people can revisit and share with their friends.

Interact with Customers

Blogging is just another way to communicate and build relationships with your customers and prospects. With a blog, your online visitors can comment on your posts and offer their feedback – giving you the opportunity to learn more about your group of followers. Listening to and knowing about your audience is invaluable and can help you greatly improve the way you do business.

Promote What You Do

A static website will attract customers who are looking for you, but a blog will produce a consistent stream of leads who are looking for valuable information. Little do they know, you offer products and services too! Use a blog to help build your customers’ trust so they fall in love with what you do and don’t want to do business with anyone else.   

Improve Search Results

A website can be a great representation of you and your business, but it’s likely that your site’s content rarely changes—giving  search engines little fresh fodder for search rankings. A blog is the perfect solution for this problem. Its new content provides search engines with unique keywords, pages, and content to help increase your website’s search engine optimization.

godaddy-logo AThis article was provided by a Go Daddy Small Business Expert. To Learn more about the above topic or additional small business options, check out their Small Business Center.

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3 Signs That Social Media Might Not Be the Right Fit for Your Small Business

by Caron Beesley, Community Moderator, to see original blog click here.

Small-business social media use has become a barometer of our times for industry analysts who are eager to gauge the impact the economy and new technologies have on the way small firms do business.

And despite a few sluggish years, the latest data suggests that small businesses are turning to social media in droves in an effort to increase sales (source: Forbes and Manta). The problem is, no matter how much time they spend, some small businesses are not reaping rewards.

Why is this? The problem is that small businesses are expecting leads and sales, and while social media can definitely be a lead generator, Forbes reports that the expectations that small businesses have of social media is completely out of whack with how they are actually using it. Setting up a social media page, then posting promotions and events and hoping the sales will follow just isn’t going to cut it. Social media is not another direct marketing channel; it’s a patience game. It’s a place to answer customer service questions, to get to know your followers and build community.

But the question, “What should I be doing on social media?” is one that won’t go away for small business owners, eager to take advantage of Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites. So if you’ve ever asked what your business should be doing on social media, take a step back and consider whether it’s actually a good fit for your business at this point in time.

To help you decide, here are some signs that social media may not be right for your small business:

Do you have a website?

Do you have a website to act as a hub of information and back up your social media presence? Social media should never be considered the be all and end all of your online presence. If a user can’t find out more about who you are or what you sell online, then don’t get social. In addition, your website functions as a repository of other content that supports your social media strategy – blogs, white papers, and ebooks should all be housed on your website and then amplified and shared on social media networks. Your website is also home to lead capture devices that you promote on social media such as your newsletter sign-up page, customer surveys, event registration pages and so on.

Bottom line: a website lends your business and your social media presence credibility. Build that first before you get social.

How are your other marketing activities doing?

Think of social media as the outer circle of your marketing efforts (your website is at the core). Between the two, there are a number of marketing must-haves that you should put in place before you get going on social media. Social media may be free, but it only works as part of a wider, integrated marketing strategy.

  • Get your logos and brand imagery in order – Make sure you have and are happy with your company logo and any other brand imagery that you use and that they are implemented consistently across all your marketing materials. Sounds obvious, but growing small businesses can sometimes go through frequent iterations of their corporate look as they try to establish a brand identity. Google Plus, Facebook and Pinterest are highly visual, so it’s important to get it right.
  • Claim your profile on search listing profiles – If you are a local business, claim your listing on Google Plus, Bing, Yahoo, Yellow Pages, etc. When people search for your business or the types of services you offer online, these listings are likely to show up prominently and help you get found. Add basic information to build out your profile.  Don’t forget to add your personal profile to LinkedIn, too.
  • Start a newsletter – eNewsletters are a great way to connect directly with those who want to hear about your business. You have a captive audience there; your message is delivered to their inbox and allows for a deeper conversation. It’s also a useful tool to help you spread the word about your social media presence.

Do you have the staff and resources to support social media?

Social media is a commitment that you shouldn’t take lightly. It may be free, but if you are going to be successful at it, you need to commit the right resources. Getting online once or twice a day and posting an update isn’t enough. If you want social media to work for you as a lead generator, then you’ll need to throw some headcount at it – someone who can write blogs, search and listen to what is being said about your industry, your business and your products or services. Someone who can gauge and track what type of content people are responding to.

I mentioned earlier that answering customer service questions is going to be a big part of  your social media efforts. This means that whoever is monitoring and posting content needs to be qualified – they don’t need to be a social media whiz, but they should know something about your company, its values, goals and customers.

Furthermore, be prepared to involve them in team meetings so they are informed about all elements of the business. In the same vein, make sure that each department – from sales to billing to product development ­– are aware and engaged with your social media efforts so that they can provide the appropriate responses to issues, learn from feedback and hear what the customers are saying.

Social media is not just some throwaway marketing strategy; it’s a public face of the company. So be prepared to understand the commitment you are making.

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About the Author

Caron Beesley is a small business owner, a writer, and marketing communications consultant. Caron works with the SBA.gov team to promote essential government resources that help entrepreneurs and small business owners start-up, grow and succeed. Follow Caron on Twitter: @caronbeesley

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Why Every Business Startup Should Have a Website

Written By: Bryan Janeczko

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Every startup should have a website.  Even if the new business you are planning is not web-based, a website serves as a tool to let folks know that you exist.  For many organizations, the web is a major channel for attracting and managing customers.  So make sure your website tells people plainly and succinctly what your business can do for them.

So how can having a website help you build your business?  Frankly, the possibilities are almost endless!  But here are some tried-and-true uses for even the simplest of websites:

  • Help your customers find you.  Studies show that more and more customers do research online before buying offline.  They want to determine product/service selection and pricing in the convenience of their own home or office, without having to encounter a salesperson or wait in a customer service queue.  So if your business doesn’t have a web presence, you are essentially invisible to these customers, and they will never even consider buying from you, even if they are located right down the street from you.
  • Provide superior, cost-effective customer service.  Since your website is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, posting a comprehensive set of FAQs will allow potential customers to find the information they need.  And if you also include an email link, customers will also be able to provide you with valuable feedback about your products/services quickly and easily.
  • Promote your business.  Website promotions are likely to be less expensive and more effective than print ads, direct mail campaigns, Yellow Pages, or other media.  Plus posting your ads online provides tremendous flexibility, so it is easy to test which product/price/promotion strategy works best.
  • Expand your market.  A website allows your business to expand geographically and become accessible, virtually, from any location in the world by any potential customer who has Internet access.
  • Conduct market research.  Add visitor polls and online surveys to find out what your customers want and need (there are free tools online that make this easy).  You can also use your website statistics to learn more about your customers, including where, geographically, the visitor is from, what keywords led them to your site and so forth.
  • Become an authority.  By including tips, advice, and links to relevant articles on your startup’s website, you can make it a go-to destination for people interested in your industry.  This will provide additional traffic and visibility, which in turn will broaden your customer base.
  • Find funding.  Your company website serves as an important information source for potential investors, where they can learn what your company is about, what it has achieved and what it can achieve in future.

 

phoenix scoreBryan JaneczkoFounder, Wicked Start
Bryan has successfully launched multiple startups, including NuKitchen and StartOut. His latest venture, Wicked Start, provides aspiring founders with a free startup roadmap to plan, fund, and launch a new venture. He is committed to helping small businesses grow and succeed for the long term.
www.wickedstart.com | Facebook | @WickedStart | More from Bryan

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What Is The Criteria For Getting A Small Business Loan?

Written By: Mark Ellis

Getting a small business loan from a bank can be difficult and time consuming. Each bank has its own criteria for loan approvals and can change its criteria depending on both internal and external events. The best chance you have for getting approved is to present the bank with the information they need, how they need it, and in a professional and concise but complete manner. To that end, here are the major criteria used by most banks in approving loans.

1. Business Plan

A well thought out business plan provides the business owner and the bank with a road map for the success of the business. It introduces the business in a clear and thorough but concise manner. It describes the business, the potential for the products or services offered, the competitive situation, the experience of the management/owners, and the organization of the business.

The plan should include historical and year to date financials as well as estimated financials for the business for two years. It should clearly show how the borrowed funds will be used. Financials presented should include and Income Statement, Balance Sheet and Cash Flow statement. Often banks look for a new business to be cash flow positive after the first 6 months of operations. For existing businesses, increased margins to more than cover the interest of the loan are expected. If your financials show margins outside of the usual margins in this business, a detailed explanation will be required.

Also included in the business plan are documents which support the estimates made in the business plan (competitive situation, market trends, etc.) . In addition, resumes of the key management personnel as well as a personal financial statement of net worth will likely be required for anybody with a significant (>20%) ownership position.

The business plan should give the bank confidence that the business will generate at least 110% of the required cash flow to fund debt service and all other expenses. Newer businesses might be required to show coverage of 150%.

SCORE has many document with will guide you in the preparation of your business plan and you are advised to take advantage of those resources.

2. Experience

A lender will need to be assured that the loan will be paid back. The bank will be looking to see if the management of the company has the experience and expertise to run the business so that it generates sufficient gross margins to pay back the loan. While this criterion varies by bank, many look for three years of experience as an owner or in management of a similar type business. Additional management people and their experience and expertise will also help satisfy this expectation.

3. Equity

From a bank’s perspective, it wants to make sure that the owner is also at risk with this company to make sure they put their best efforts forward. Sometimes that is called skin in the game. Many banks require 10 to 20% if it’s an SBA backed loan or 10- 30% if it is a conventional loan of the value of the loan to be put into the company by management.

4. Credit

When evaluating business loans, banks will turn to any of the owner’s personal credit rating to see what history they have had in paying back their bills. This is a very important criterion for any business loan. Banks will look for good or even outstanding credit when evaluating your loan request. In a recent meeting with an SBA preferred lender, the loan officer told the SCORE group that a minimum credit score of 650 was needed. Other banks have said a FICA score of 700 is needed. If the loan is for an existing business, a SBSS score of 175 is needed

5. Collateral

One would think that if you had good credit, a sound business plan and financials, plus a healthy equity infusion into the company that the bank would approve the loan. Collateral is the last criteria as it backstops the risk of the loan. Collateral is any asset of value that can be pledged by the borrower(s) as collateral to make sure the bank gets paid back its loan with interest. The collateral requirements vary by bank and can range up to and above the 100% of the loan value. The percentage will depend upon the calculation of risk for this loan by the bank as well as the banks situation with regards other loans it has in its portfolio.

Collateral can take the form of securities inventory of the business, equipment, real estate, and other assets as well as deposits, home equity, home equipment, etc. Note that in determining the collateral value, only a percent of the cost of the item is considered in the collateral determination. Inventory that is easily sellable might have a value of 80% while perishable inventory might not have any value at all.

Summary

The five major criteria used by banks for a business loan are:

Business Plan Clear, complete and shows positive cash flow in 6 months including debt service

Includes: financial projections, relevant experience of the management, description of the industry, competition and positioning of the business in the industry, the use of borrowed funds, and the types of collateral available and how accessible is that collateral to being sold.

Experience 3 years

Equity 10 – 20% SBA loans or 10%– 30% conventional

Credit 650 to 700 minimum FICA and, if applicable, SBSS of >175

Collateral up to 100%+ in discounted value of collateral assets

Mark Ellis is a former SCORE Mentor. If you would like to meet with any of our SCORE Mentors to assist and help your business grow, CLICK HERE!

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