Advertising Ideas for the Small Business Owner

You have decided to set up your own business. You have your products ready, your sales pitch is perfect and you are ready for your first customer. You wait and wait and wait but you don’t get any orders from the public. That’s because no matter what you have done to prepare yourself, your business cannot take off without the concept of advertising.Every business needs to do this, from the small start-up business to the large multi-national corporations. Without advertising, no-one will know that your company exists. Advertising can sometimes be expensive, which can make doing this more difficult for the small start-up businesses. However, there are some forms of advertising that are affordable and can be quite effective in getting your business known.1. Word of MouthTell your friends about your new business. Tell your family about your new business. Tell your work colleagues about your business, (as long as your business isn’t directly competing with theirs). If you tell others about your business, they may tell their friends and family, who may tell their friends and family, and so on, and so on. This simple action will ensure that word of your business starts spreading around. You may even get to sell something to your friends and family.2. Distribute LeafletsThis form of advertising works better for people who have businesses that are limited to the local area, i.e. builders, plumbers, local shops, takeaway business, etc. It’s quite easy these days to create your own leaflet on your computer and get them printed out and delivered by yourself. If you are not that artistic, there are some companies that can design and print leaflets for you at a reasonable rate.3. Create a WebsiteThe majority of the population now has access to the internet, so having a presence on the internet is almost essential for any small business. There are several website hosting companies that have prices affordable for start-up business, or alternatively you can use a free website service such as Weebly to create yourself your own space on the World Wide Web.4. Social NetworkingAs well as many people having access to the internet, many people now also use social networking sites to communicate with each. Examples of these are Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. With the amount of people currently using these types of sites, it is a good idea for start-up business to get onto them and increase their visibility on the internet.5. Post a Video OnlineAnother internet based tip. Online video sites such as YouTube attract thousands, if not millions, of people every year, so posting a video relating to your business will give you a lot of exposure. If you manufacture something, post a video of you making your goods. If you sell goods at a market stall, get someone you know to film a short clip of you working there. If you are feeling like being a director, you could film your own advert and post it online.6. Create a BlogPeople love finding out about other people. Just look how reality TV has taken off. People also like finding out about other people through their blogs. A blog is a bit like an online diary or a journal where you can post your thoughts and feelings. Businesses are now using blogs to communicate with their potential customers and to give a more human face to their companies. You can create a blog to talk about upcoming goods or services, your thoughts on your business’s industry or to just give a more personal approach to your customers.7. Create a Press ReleaseJournalists are always looking for news stories to print, so why shouldn’t they print one about your new business? By sending a press release, you can notify the press about something special happening to your business, such as moving premises, a new range of products or taking on new staff. You have to make your press release sound like there is an actual story that the journalists would be interested in reporting. Make your press release stand out but keep it short. Keep to a limit of a page for each press release.8. Join Local Fairs and MarketsIf you sell goods, check your local press or council website for details on local fairs and markets you could sell your goods at. You normally just pay a small charge for a pitch and any money you make goes to you. This is a good way of getting your start-up business noticed by the local community. Make sure you have some business cards and leaflets available for people to take home.9. Donate Goods to a Raffle or CharityWhen goods are donated to a raffle or charity, the donation is sometimes accompanied by a description of who donated it. This will let people know it is you who provided the goods and will let them see the quality of your goods. If you are donating goods you have made, try to have your business name and contact details somewhere on the labelling.10. Get Listed in DirectoriesGetting yourself listed in directories is quite simple. Yellow Pages is one of the biggest directories, but there are also hundreds of other directories online. Try to join directories that specialise in your area of industry. Most directories follow the same procedure of asking for your business name, your contact details, a website address if you have one and a small description about your business.11. Write ArticlesWriting articles about your business’s area of expertise is a good way of getting people to notice your business. Writing an article shows that you are knowledgeable about what your business does, which will improve potential customer’s confidence in you and your business. Most websites that allow people to submit articles will also allow the article to link back to your website, helping potential customers to find you easier.12. Use you Vehicle as AdvertisingIf you have a vehicle, try putting your business name and contact details on the side of it. Everywhere you drive, people will see your business advertised, increasing your business’s exposure to the world. This type of advertising is more commonly seen used by the building and manual labour trades.13. Put your Business Information on EverythingOn every e-mail, every fax and every letter, include all your business details. Put your business name, address, telephone number, fax number, website address and e-mail address on everything, so that people receiving your communications have every possible way of getting in contact with you.14. Use Promotions to Promote your BusinessOffer people promotions in return for using your business. Have a 10% discount sale on your website. Offer people a free gift if they show you your leaflet. Arrange a competition on your blog. People love getting something free or something at a discounted rate. Promoting a business like this could also improve word-of-mouth promotion from people taking part in these special offers.15. Start a WorkshopIf you sells goods used to make items, (i.e. sell fabric to make clothes or sell flour and sugar to make cakes), check your local area to see where you would set up a workshop. If you can show and teach people how to make items with the goods you supply, they will be more likely to buy those goods from you.

How to Get Financing For Your Small Business

In today’s hostile economic environment, access to capital is the primary differentiating factor between those businesses which have been able to expand and gain market share versus those that have experienced enormous drops in revenue. The reason many small businesses have seen their sales and cash flow drop dramatically, many to the point of closing their doors, while many large U.S. corporations have managed to increase sales, open new retail operations, and grow earnings per share is that a small business almost always relies exclusively on traditional commercial bank financing, such as SBA loans and unsecured lines of credit, while large publicly traded corporations have access to the public markets, such as the stock market or bond market, for access to capital.Prior to the onset of the financial crises of 2008 and the ensuing Great Recession, many of the largest U.S. commercial banks were engaging in an easy money policy and openly lending to small businesses, whose owners had good credit scores and some industry experience. Many of these business loans consisted of unsecured commercial lines of credit and installment loans that required no collateral. These loans were almost always exclusively backed by a personal guaranty from the business owner. This is why good personal credit was all that was required to virtually guarantee a business loan approval.During this period, thousands of small business owners used these business loans and lines of credit to access the capital they needed to fund working capital needs that included payroll expenses, equipment purchases, maintenance, repairs, marketing, tax obligations, and expansion opportunities. Easy access to these capital resources allowed many small businesses to flourish and to manage cash flow needs as they arose. Yet, many business owners grew overly optimistic and many made aggressive growth forecasts and took on increasingly risky bets.As a result, many ambitious business owners began to expand their business operations and borrowed heavily from small business loans and lines of credit, with the anticipation of being able to pay back these heavy debt loads through future growth and increased profits. As long as banks maintained this ‘easy money’ policy, asset values continued to rise, consumers continued to spend, and business owners continued to expand through the use of increased leverage. But, eventually, this party, would come to an abrupt ending.When the financial crisis of 2008 began with the sudden collapse of Lehman Brothers, one of the oldest and most renowned banking institutions on Wall Street, a financial panic and contagion spread throughout the credit markets. The ensuing freeze of the credit markets caused the gears of the U.S. financial system to come to a grinding halt. Banks stopped lending overnight and the sudden lack of easy money which had caused asset values, especially home prices, to increase in recent years, now cause those very same asset values to plummet. As asset values imploded, commercial bank balance sheets deteriorated and stock prices collapsed. The days of easy money had ended. The party was officially over.In the aftermath of the financial crisis, the Great Recession that followed created a vacuum in the capital markets. The very same commercial banks that had freely and easily lent money to small businesses and small business owners, now suffered from a lack of capital on their balance sheets – one that threatened their very own existence. Almost overnight, many commercial banks closed off further access to business lines of credit and called due the outstanding balances on business loans. Small businesses, which relied on the working capital from these business lines of credit, could no longer meet their cash flow needs and debt obligations. Unable to cope with a sudden and dramatic drop in sales and revenue, many small businesses failed.Since many of these same small businesses were responsible for having created millions of jobs, every time one of these enterprises failed the unemployment rate increased. As the financial crisis deepened, commercial banks went into a tailspin that eventually threatened the collapse of the entire financial system. Although Congress and Federal Reserve Bank led a tax payer funded bailout of the entire banking system, the damage had been done. Hundreds of billions of dollars were injected into the banking system to prop up the balance sheets of what were effectively defunct institutions. Yet, during this process, no provision was ever made that required these banks to loan money out to consumers or private businesses.Instead of using a portion of these taxpayer funds to support small businesses and avert unnecessary business failures and increased unemployment, commercial banks chose to continue to deny access to capital to thousands of small businesses and small business owners. Even after receiving a historic taxpayer funded bailout, the commercial banks embraced an ‘every man for himself’ attitude and continue to cut off access to business lines of credit and commercial loans, regardless of the credit history or timely payments on such lines and loans. Small business bankruptcies skyrocketed and high unemployment persisted.During this same period, when small businesses were being choked into non-existence, as a result of the lack of capital which was created by commercial banks, large publicly-traded corporations managed to survive and even grow their businesses. They were mainly able to do so by issuing debt, through the bond markets, or raising equity, by issuing shares through the equity markets. While large public companies were raising hundreds of millions of dollars in fresh capital, thousands of small businesses were being put under by banks that closed off existing commercial lines of credit and refused to issue new small business loans.Even now, in mid 2012, more than four years since the onset of the financial crisis, the vast majority of small businesses have no means of access to capital. Commercial banks continue to refuse to lend on an unsecured basis to almost all small businesses. To even have a minute chance of being approved for a small business loan or business line of credit, a small business must possess tangible collateral that a bank could easily sell for an amount equal to the value of the business loan or line of credit. Any small business without collateral has virtually no chance at attaining a loan approval, even through the SBA, without significant collateral such as equipment or inventory.When a small business cannot demonstrate collateral to provide security for the small business loan, the commercial bank will ask for the small business owner to secure the loan with his or her own personal assets or equity, such as equity in a house or cash in a checking, savings, or retirement account, such as a 401k or IRA. This latter situation places the personal assets of the owner at risk in the event of a small business failure. Additionally, virtually all small business loans will require the business owner to have excellent personal credit and FICO scores, as well as require a personal guaranty. Finally, multiple years of financial statements, including tax returns for the business, demonstrated sustained profitability will be required in just about every small business loan application.A failure or lack of ability to provide any of these stringent requirements will often result in an immediate denial in the application for almost all small business loans or commercial lines of credit. In many instances, denials for business loans are being issued to applicants which have provided each of these requirements. Therefore, being able to qualify with good personal credit, collateral, and strong financial statements and tax returns still does not guarantee approval of a business loan request in the post financial crisis economic climate. Access to capital for small businesses and small business owners is more difficult than ever.As a result of this persistent capital vacuum, small businesses and small business owners have begun to seek out alternative sources of business capital and business loans. Many small business owners seeking cash flow for existing business operations or funds to finance expansion have discovered alternative business financing through the use of merchant credit card cash advance loans and small business installment loans offered by private investors. These merchant cash advance loans offer significant advantages to small businesses and small business owners when compared to traditional commercial bank loans.Merchant cash advance loans, sometimes referred to as factoring loans, are based on the amount of average credit card volume a merchant or retail outlet, processes over a three to six month period. Any merchant or retail operator that accepts credit cards as payment from customers, including Visa, MasterCard, American Express, or Discover, is virtually guaranteed an approval for a merchant credit card advance. The total amount of cash advance that a merchant qualifies for is determined by this three to six month average and the funds are generally deposited in the business checking account of the small business within a seven to ten day period from the time of approval.A set repayment amount is fixed and the repayment of the cash advance plus interest is predetermined at the time the advance is approved by the lender. For instance, if a merchant or retailer processes approximately $1,000 per day in credit cards from its customers, the monthly average of total credit cards processed equals $30,000. If the merchant qualifies for $30,000 for a cash advance and the factoring rate is 1.20, the total that would need to be repaid is $30,000 – plus 20% of $30,000 which equals $6,000 – for a total repayment amount of $36,000. Therefore, the merchant would receive a lump sum of $30,000 cash, deposited in the business checking account, and a total of $36,000 would need to be repaid.The repayment is made by automatically deducting a pre-determined amount of each of the merchant’s daily future credit card sales – usually at a rate of 20% of total daily credit cards processed. Thus, the merchant does not have to write checks or send payments. The fixed percent is simply deducted from future credit sales until the total sum due of $36,000 is paid off. The advantage to this type of financing versus a commercial bank loan is that a merchant cash advance is not reported on the personal credit report of the business owner. This effectively separates the personal financial affairs of the small business owner from the financial affairs of the small business entity.A second advantage to a merchant credit card cash advance is that an approval does not require a personal guaranty from the business owner. If the business is unable to repay the merchant cash advance loan in full, the business owner is not held personally responsible and cannot be forced to post personal collateral as security for the merchant advance. The owner removes the financial consequences that often accompany a commercial bank business loan that requires a personal guaranty and often forces business owners into personal bankruptcy in the even that their business venture fails and cannot repay the outstanding loan balance.A third, and distinct advantage, is that a merchant credit card cash advance loan does not require any collateral as additional security for the loan. The future credit card receivables are the security for the cash advance repayment, thus no additional collateral requirements exist. Since the majority of small businesses do not have physical equipment or inventory that can be posted as collateral for a traditional bank loan, this type of financing is a phenomenal alternative for thousands of retail businesses, merchants, sole proprietorships, and online stores seeking access to capital. Such businesses would be denied automatically for a traditional business loan simply because of the lack of collateral to serve as added security for the bank or lender.Finally, a merchant credit card advance loan approval does not depend upon the strong or perfect personal credit of the business owner. In fact, the business owner’s personal credit can be quite poor and have a low FICO score, and this will not disqualify the business from being approved for the cash advance. The business owner’s personal credit is usually checked only for the purpose of helping to determine that factoring rate at which the total loan repayment will be made. However, even a business owner with a recently discharged personal bankruptcy can qualify for a merchant credit card cash advance loan.Since the cash funds being lent on merchant credit card advances is provided by a network of private investors, these lenders are not regulated or affected by the new capital requirements that have placed a constraint on the commercial banking industry. The merchant cash advance approvals are determined by internal underwriting guidelines developed by the private lenders in the network. Each loan application is reviewed and processed on a case-by-case basis and approvals are issued within 24 to 48 hours from receipt of a complete application, including the previous three to six months of merchant credit statements.The merchant credit card advance industry is growing at a pace that is exponential as it fills a void once occupied by commercial banks. Merchant advance loans are the industry of the future in small business lending and private lenders and business owners alike are flocking to this still virtually unknown market. For more information on merchant credit card advance loans and business installment loans, go to http://www.MerchantMoneyMarket.com.

Business Challenges and Ways to Overcome Them

For many businesses today, there are many challenges that come along inhibiting success. It is, therefore, important to know the pitfalls that one can run into and the possible solutions. Some of these challenges are:• Lack of Integrity
• Resource management; borrowing cash
• Increased Competition and Selection
• Customer Loyalty and Marketing
• Uncertainty
• Regulations
• Risk management and problem-solving
• Finding competent staffThese are the main challenges that every business faces or will face. It will only be wise to have a prior understand what they are and hence find a proper way of solving them. No one starts a business to fail but at the same time, challenges are not meant for failing but to sharpen, strengthen and inspire growth. This article goes deeper into each of these setbacks and offers practical solutions for the same.Challenges and solutions1. Lack of IntegrityLack of integrity can put a business on its knees. With the standards of living going up the roof, workers trying to meet their quarterly goals and be successful at the same plus get that little overtime bonus, the temptation to cut corners is so great.Information is omitted or given in terms of doing what it takes to get ahead. There is head to head competition among employees, and soon the entire staff is infected. This behavior goes up the ladder whereby the managers and directors are also involved.For integrity to improve, there is a need for work policies to change. There should be no room for any minor or major misconduct. Staff should be trained on how they are expected to conduct themselves. Different kind of systems can be used to deal with problematic employees namely, counseling, warning, and termination. The greater the misconduct, the greater the action taken. Those who show high levels of integrity should be rewarded so that other employees can be won over to good virtues.2. Resource management; borrowing cashMoney is everything, and that is a statement that will be heard for a very long time to come. Many businesses are making a profit but what draws them back are heavy expenditures and borrowing. It is quite common to see many businesses, especially small ones, fail to manage cash flow.The main solution here is to ensure that there is enough capital or cash saved up to meet business obligations as they rise.Cash management becomes vital during the fluctuation period, as cash is flowing in more slowly into the business and moneylenders are less than willing to extend the loan repayment period. For the growing small business, tackling taxes and business the proprietor may handle accounting but dealing with the professionals is even better. Business books get more complexed with every client that walks in and employee you add. Having a professional bookkeeper will ensure your business succeeds where others are failing.Borrowing money from lending institutions only adds injury to the cash flow situation since these institutions have the power to dictate the lending terms and policies.3. Increased Competition and SelectionIt has never been an easy task to start a business, however, gone are the years when it took long procedures to start a business. Today you can purchase a host domain name online and register a business with just a few clicks. Nevertheless, staying in business is a much more convoluted subject. While business expertise was once a time consuming and expensive endeavor, nowadays you can find experts online who you can consult and get assistance from on any difficulties encountered. There are user-friendly interfaces and even support teams to help you set up an online store, get marketing materials and business cards, all at a very pocket-friendly price.The simplicity of starting a business creates a much wider level of competition. You are likely to find different businesses competing to come up with the best product while others concentrate more on their selling point instead product manufacturing. This contributes to increased selection, which makes it more challenging for businesses of all sizes to maintain customers who with a click of a mouse can change suppliers. It is a battle of marketing, focus and perception. Business owners who master these changes and provide a good customer experience will more likely be on the winning team.4. Customer Loyalty and MarketingAlong the same road of increased competition and selection to a potential customer, emails, social media, texting and other communication modes are making it easy for individuals and businesses to get their messages out to customers and hence sell more.The conservative fluctuation period is also causing a decrease in client base. Customers are forced to be conservative with their pockets and as a result, the normal business growth of new clients is not taking place as quickly as it should. Executives and business owners are forced to spend more time figuring how to go an extra mile in order to keep the existing clientele base. The same time, trying to figure out how to reach new customers in a cost-effective way without necessarily competing chiefly on price, this always leads to a race that ends at the bottom.Figuring out the best channel for marketing is the key for individuals to be successful in the current business world. How do you reach your clients with the right message and where can you find them? Once you get a new customer, how do you keep them and when do competitors of all sizes and types, trying to convince them that they can provide it cheaper or better, constantly barrage them? Identifying what your clients want and giving them a satisfactory experience will make a huge difference in your business’ future.5. UncertaintyEveryone including business leaders is usually uneasy with uncertainty. Because of economic struggles and global debts, uncertainty is more common today than in the past years. The sorrowful news is that uncertainty leads businesses and individuals to a short-term focus. Because of uncertainty, businesses tend to shy off from long-term planning for short-term benefits.While this might seem like a better choice, failure to plan five to twenty years ahead can end up destroying the value of the business in the end. Businesses must learn the art of balancing short term goals and long term goals. Usually, short term goals should be small steps leading towards the bigger goal. The ever changing market speculations by business analysts in the news usually leave a bitter taste in the mouth of business owners. The end result is executives and business owners raising prices, and thus, clients stop spending on the business. You need to get back to work with what you have and not media speculation.6. RegulationsA change in the regulations is always a major concern in certain marketplaces, but unexpected energy, financial and environmental policy is wrecking mayhem for nearly every business today. Whether a demand from stakeholders or clients to become environmental friendly or an imposed policy to increase costs due to the new carbon taxes, environmental consideration is among the biggest problems that businesses face. And we don’t have to give too much pressure to the issue of financial regulation and reform though we do have some suggestions about how to prepare to face that problem if you are a brokerage house or bank.The challenge to be solved is to comprehend the meaning of regulation in your marketplace, its effect on your business, and how to develop the skills which are required to deal with the challenge. Two main areas of regulatory problems and difficulties are health care and taxes. Lawmakers are still arguing over what is called the fiscal cliff, the combination of millions of dollars in budget cuts and tax increase. Even if the congressmen reach a conclusion, it is most likely that it won’t be understandable enough to the point of being required the following year.Health care has also been another problem for businesses. For instance, the new Affordable Health Care Act (ObamaCare) is so complicated that local and state governments won’t understand what to do, and businesses will have to sacrifice resources and time to understand the law hence hiring professionals to break it down for them to implement it effectively.Many businesses do not know whether they will have to continue with the national system, or the state system will be creating exchanges. Additionally, they do not know what that will mean for their costs. For some business enterprises, that information will aid them to conclude whether it is cheaper not to provide insurance and just pay the government fine of two thousand USD per employee or whether they will provide insurance to their employees and avoid the penalty. Companies that have nearly close to fifty workers may opt not to recruit more employees in order to remain outside the law’s radar.7. Risk management and problem-solvingA major problem faced by nearly all companies is assessing, identifying and mitigating risks, including the financial and human capital. The need for a more sophisticated challenge solving competency among current business controllers is limiting the possibilities of their ability to effectively deal with risks facing their businesses. This is the main reason business managers tend to land from the frying pan into the fire, depending on who among their executives they are trying to put away and in most cases the ever changing business environment is what starts these fires.So what is the challenge to be solved? We believe, to achieve more in the future, organizations must conclude that problem solving is the main path to business success then develop a strong problem-solving ability at all levels. As organizations continue to identify the challenges, they will have the right problem-solving techniques to know how to best maneuver them.8. Finding competent staffWithout exception, every business owner has faced the major business challenge, which is, finding the right staff, ensuring they buy into the business’ vision and retaining them. I firmly admit that I have no magic formulae for this challenge. In fact, if business executives can come up with the right formula to engage and recruit the right staff members, they would have made millions.A small organization is like a family and in most cases, they can dysfunction or work well. In large organizations, the main challenge in human resource is how to fit in the workplace and office politics, but when it comes to small organizations, it is skills and personality. When you work in a small firm, each individual’s personality can have a huge impact on the productivity and harmony of the business.The main goal is to learn how to deal with each staff member’s personality, find out what drives each staff member and shape your management accordingly. In spite of unemployment, many businesses try to find the ideal staff members with the precise skill for the business. Many upcoming manufacturing jobs require individuals with hi-tech skills. They include vacancies at the production sites where computers and machinery are used to build products like machines and airplane parts. Some skills require several years of perfection and training. Because of technological advancement, business executives are struggling to find the right high-skilled individuals to fill positions in their firm; that is individuals who have the right IT skills, deductive reasoning skills, and problem-solving skills.Final thoughtsWithout the right skills to identify and solve problems that arise in business, many businesses end up failing in fulfilling their core mission and vision. It is then the obligation of business owners and executives to make sure that all these challenges are looked into and come up with the right formula to solve them. Moreover, it is not only the obligation of the business executives but also all other members involved in the business to make sure that some, if not all the challenges, are dealt with in an appropriate and ethical manner.