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4 Easy Ways to Build Sales Through Email

I recently spent some time talking email marketing with a friend who owns a small business at the Delaware beach.  Her pet-centric business includes obedience lessons, pet sitting, and pet photography.  She targets seasonal visitors to the beach and has built an impressive email list of past clients.  Her challenge is how to convert more of those past clients into repeat customers.  We discussed how to use email marketing to achieve those results.

Her dilemma provides the perfect backdrop for a larger discussion about some easy-to-implement strategies to maximize your email list.  If the phrases “marketing automation”, “nurture marketing”, or “segmentation strategy” are still foreign to you, then this article is just what you need.

It’s Never “One and Done”

My friend mentioned that she just returned from an educational vacation.  Two photographers, from whom she had taken classes, hosted an educational retreat in Spain.  I asked her why she decided to take the class.  She said the emails (plural!) were so interesting (and persistent) she eventually decided to do it.

Most business owners think more than one email can appear pushy, desperate, or rude.  But the reality is we all need time, and gentle reminders, to make purchasing decisions.  One email to your customers about a sale, product, or opportunity is never enough.  Similarly, you can’t start emailing someone Tuesday about an event on Friday.  People need time.  They need to be reminded.  They need to be guided.

Your marketing emails should be targeted and relevant.  If you are sending a series of emails, each one should be different.  Once you get comfortable with basic segmentation strategies, you can begin to schedule email marketing follow-ups and even automate the process.

Segment, Segment, Segment

Segmentation is a complex subject.  With the right tools, there is no limit to how complex you can build a segmentation strategy.  We are not going to get into that now (definitely a topic for another post).  Instead, I am going to use my wife’s business and the simple strategies she used when starting her health and wellness company as a great example of where to begin.

In the early days of free + abel, my wife used to do a ton of workshops on nutrition and wellness.  It was a great way to get out to meet people, network, and build a list.  She also sold private wellness coaching sessions as her core product.  When it came time to communicate and market to her list, she found segmentation to be very helpful.

Segmentation is simply the concept of sending different messages to different people based on criteria you set.  Most email platforms like MailChimp and Constant Contact allow you to “tag” contacts to make segmentation easier.

When it came time for Liz (that’s my wife) to segment her list with tags she followed two simple rules:

1.     Where did she meet you / How were you added to the list?  (in person at a workshop, social media, newsletter subscriber, etc.)

2.     What have you bought / What events have you paid to attend? (did they purchase a block of coaching lessons, pay to attend a workshop, etc.)

Once the tagging was complete, she could apply some logical rules.  All names on the list would get the newsletter.  Workshop attendees would receive special discount codes for coaching lessons.  Past coaching clients would receive news about new coaching programs.  And names on the list who had never made a purchase would get discounts or invites to free workshops.

This simple strategy allowed her to build a revenue pipeline, graduate clients from free events to paid workshops to coaching, and remain engaged with relevant, valuable offers and content.  It’s a great example of Segmentation 101.

Newsletters vs. Marketing

If you poll ten digital marketing experts on this topic you may well get ten different answers.  Newsletters should have the broadest reach across your list (include all segments).  I believe a good newsletter is more of a nurturing asset rather than a pure marketing asset.  A good newsletter is a constant reminder of why you are the expert at what you do.  It engages an audience with enough frequency that you remain top of mind.

At the heart of the newsletter is trust.  You are being invited into a sacred space, the “Inbox”.  In return for access to the inbox, you are expected to provide valuable and interesting content.  To fill your newsletter completely with marketing offers is a violation of this trust and you will see opt outs grow.  Newsletters should absolutely contain a call to action, information on upcoming events, news about sales and products, access to discounts or other rewards – but all of that marketing needs to be offset by free, valuable, no strings attached content.  Respect the inbox.

Content Rules, Always

I am often asked, “How often is too often?”  And my answer is always, “Well, how interesting are you?”  Nobody ever gets sick of a great storyteller.  I believe frequency is dependent on the quality of content.  If you can consistently produce quality content on a weekly basis, then build a weekly newsletter.  You are not going into the publishing business.  So if it needs to be twice monthly, or monthly, or even quarterly so be it.  Just make it valuable and relevant.

The other issue with content is creative tunnel vision where you just post the same kind of content over and over again.  You own a business because you either know how to do something nobody else does or you know how to do it better.  So share whatever it is you know how to do as proof of your skill or expertise - share tips, recipes, fixes, preventions, how to videos, pictures of finished works, etc.  Allow your unique expertise to be your guide while creating content.

I guarantee that when you put these four methods into practice you will see an increase in sales.  In every example, we put the needs of the customer first, valued their time and attention, rewarded them with valuable, expert content, and respected the sanctity of their inbox.  And when you put that much time and attention toward the needs of your customers, you will be rewarded with their business - over and over again.

Grow Your Facebook Reach For Free

I write quite a bit about social media and how to use it to grow your business. I’m by no means a social media expert.  Rather, I’m just another business owner learning as I go.  We recently discovered a clever hack that’s driving 10X performance increases and I want to share it.

 

(The examples are all specific to Facebook.  We have seen small gains on LinkedIn when using the same tactic.  Unfortunately, we have seen no gains on Twitter.)

 

Organic reach refers to how many people you can reach for free on Facebook by posting to your page.  Growing your reach is the ultimate objective of adding all of those “likes”.  A like is essentially a passive subscription to your page.  And if your page were a magazine, your reach would be its circulation. 

 

When you get more people to like your page, you increase the potential distribution of your content – posts, pictures, videos, etc.  Organic reach has been on the decline for years.  Yes, that’s right – less and less of your content gets delivered to the people who have expressed interest in seeing it.  This happens for may reasons – but let’s just call it competition.  Two things are happening at once, users are finding more pages to like and all those pages are pushing more content back to the users.

 

As a result of the increasing competition in the News Feed – from friends and family, paid advertisers, and businesses – Facebook has algorithms to sort and select the most relevant posts.  To no one’s surprise, paid advertising factors heavily into those algorithms.  Facebook curates the content because no single user could actually consume all of the content directed toward them.

 

So what does this have to do with reach?  What if you could increase your reach – for free – by 5X?  By 10X?  What would it mean to your business if 10 times as many people saw your posts?  Well, we stumbled upon a hack that did just that for our business and I want to give it to you.  Let me tell you the story from the beginning.

 

Like many businesses, we manage a weekly publishing schedule that includes original content, third party content, and brand advertising (to drive web clicks).  You’ve probably seen us in your feed (below).

We had all of this great original content but it wasn’t reaching a large enough audience.  It was like throwing a great party but only a couple of people attend.  59 people reached is not really that impressive – only 1.3% of our total likes.  We knew we could be doing better and started to examine the posts with the greatest success.  We noticed our #ThougtLeaderThurs posts always had great reach and they were almost always pictures of quotes (below).

Going from 59 to 444 people reached is a big deal.  The question was, how could we do that more consistently?  The answer ended up being remarkably simple and easy to implement.  We changed how we constructed our posts. 

 

First, we took a typical marketing post (designed to drive web clicks) and built it to look like a picture of a quote (below).

The results were immediate and astounding.  Our reach jumped to 727 people!  I knew we were on to something.  It was time to test the theory on our other content.

 

Our typical post, like this one from July 14, 2016 (below), included a picture, headline, teaser, etc. and redirected the reader back to the article on our website.  It reached 95 people, which is about 2% of our followers (4,500).  Not bad, but not great.  Based on an April 2015 study published in SocialTimes, the average organic reach of a post was 2.6% of likes.  Pages with less than a 1,000 likes only had reach of 1.62%.  Thus demonstrating that smaller pages get crowded out when competing for News Feed real estate.

So we were average, maybe even a little less than.  But take a look at what happens when we changed how we construct the post.  We republished the same article on September 22, 2016 at roughly the same time of day (below).

The results?  555 people reached!  That’s a 5.8X increase in reach.  In other words, that post was seen by 12.3% of our page likes.  (By the way, anything above 10% is considered awesome.)  What did it cost?  Zero, zilch, nada, nothing, $0!

 

So how did we reconstruct the post?  We used Canva to merge three image files into one (takes 13 seconds to learn and is 100% free).  We combined the original photo image, a graphic overlay (the quote), and our logo into one new image with a link to the article on our website.

 

Here are more before and after examples of the growth we saw in posts of original content.

Can I tell you why the reach increased so dramatically?  No.  Remember, I told you that I’m not an expert, just a guy who likes to throw ideas against the wall.  But I do know the results have been great for our business.  More people are seeing our posts, consuming our content, and engaging with us than ever before.  And we achieved those results for $0 of incremental expense. 

 

If you like getting a 10X increase in results for free, give it a try.  And remember, we are here to do more than just find you working capital – we want to be part of your long term success.

The Ball Is In Your Court

I love our business. I love the small business owners that we work with.  We get to do something truly amazing every day: we get to help main street businesses grow.

 

We’re so passionate about helping these business owners, that sometimes, I can get a bit worked up when things don’t go as planned.   The alternative lending process is new, but it isn’t complex, nor is it very time intensive.  So when business owners are disorganized, can’t provide basic business docs, or when they take unnecessary risks, it gets me a little fired up.

 

That’s why I felt compelled to write this post.

 

“Our clients are rocket ships, and we provide the rocket fuel to get them into orbit.”

 

But before we can really help, the ball is entirely in their court.  Small business owners were yelling from the rooftops not long ago about how the traditional lending process had failed them.  It needed to move faster, to modernize, to catch up with the times.

 

Well we heard you.  We built an entirely new and disruptive financial product platform around the idea of fast, alternative business lending - little hassle, rapid lending, and explosive growth.  This is not your father’s banking experience.

 

So now that these alternative lending solutions are available, it’s the business owners that need to be ready to move faster once they drop the flag and start the funding process.

 

Look, I understand that small business owners are super busy folks -hey, I’m one myself and we all face challenges.  But the modern business owner, in search of growth capital, cannot get caught in any of these common traps.  I’ll list them from less-obvious, down to no-brainer.

 

If you need funding to help get your business to the next level, then ball is in your court.

 

Understand What It’s Going To Do For Your Business

First thing’s first, have a goal in mind. Are you looking to hire some new sales people, procure some new inventory, or open a new store?  Have an objective and be able to articulate it.  The “use of funds” conversation is an important part of the process.

 

Know How Much Capital You’re Seeking

This goes hand-in-hand with understanding what the capital will do for your business. Once you have an idea of how the funding will help you grow, then you’ll be able to put some numbers on paper.

 

Have a rough idea of how much capital you need to make that goal happen.  Be realistic.  Do some research, consult friends and other business owners in your network, or talk to one of our Funding Navigators. 

 

Be Realistic About The Cost Of The Capital

Funding from alternative lenders is more expensive than traditional bank money – but, it’s also more available.  Start with this expectation.

 

The stronger the business and the stronger the business owner, the longer the term and the lower the price.  It’s that simple.  There is usually a solution for most business owners somewhere along this product spectrum.

 

Understand Your Business Credit

Please, please, please have an understanding of your personal and business credit.  Access a copy of your credit file prior to starting the process; it can make all the difference.  By having that available for lenders, it can help you through the prequalification process. 

 

It helps us to more accurately place you on the product spectrum, ensuring you receive the most competitive pricing.   It avoids having you apply for products for which you will not be approved.

 

Have Your Financials Organized & Accurate

We’re getting more and more obvious with these, but you wouldn’t believe how often simple things like having your financial documents on-hand gunk up the process, or even grind it to a halt.  As a business owner, you must have access to your financials.

 

You should be using some form of online banking and bookkeeping, and it should take seconds to log in and export PDF summaries.  Be organized with your bank statements, your tax returns, and even unaudited financial statements (like your P&L, balance sheet, and cash flow docs).

 

And you have to ensure all of your financial statements tick and tie.  If they don’t line up properly, be prepared to explain why they don’t.  Lenders still conduct due diligence.  If the business financial statements don’t match the tax returns, you’re going to cause a string of interrelated and unnecessary loops, delays, and general frustration.

 

Never Play In The Gray

As a responsible business owner, you need to be upfront and honest about your credit, financials, and general business condition.  As we’ve said many times, an issue on your credit report is not a disqualifier.  But if we find out about it later in the process, rather than right away, the funding is probably going to cost you significantly more than it would if you had just disclosed it on the front end.

 

When it comes to your business information - and we take this extremely seriously - anything in the gray area during the application process is fraud.  There’s not much more to say here. 

 

Lying, fudging, withholding, aggressive rounding; it’s simply a violation of commercial and contract law, it can void and nullify any funding agreements, and it can open you up to criminal damages and prosecutions.

 

Seeking alternative funding to fuel your business growth is not the time for playing in the gray.

 

Conclusion

Was I planning on writing a thousand words on this topic?  Absolutely not.  But that’s what happens when you’re passionate about helping your clients.

 

Businesses have screamed that they want a lending process that moves faster.  The industry has responded; we’ve built a process that moves faster.  Now, we move as fast as you can. 

 

But that’s all we can do.  To get the funding that will fuel your growth, the ball is in your court.

A Look Behind The Curtain

After we begin working with clients, we will often ask, what took you so long, why didn’t you contact us sooner?  The answer usually falls into one of two categories:  1) I thought you were like all the others, or 2) I didn’t think you’d be able to help.  In order to address both answers, I am sharing an actual client exchange so you can get a better understanding of how we work.

 

On August 31, 2016 we sent out our newsletter entitled Never Accept an Ultimatum.  In the introduction I talked about shady brokers and one of their favorite tactics – the ultimatum.  We received terrific responses from current and former clients – many sharing their experiences.  However, one email response really struck me.  It was illustrative of the tactics we see in the industry as well as the clear difference between us and other brokers.

 

Here is the exact email exchange from 8/31/16 - 9/1/16:

 

Market Street Funders (newsletter):

Never Accept an Ultimatum

 

Client (response): 

Problem is, companies, and brokers like you, is what caused my credit score to drop 70 points in 2 1/2 months. Brokers send my information to potential lenders, they all run a hard credit check. Due to all those inquiries, now I can't get a loan to save my life in order to expand my business.

 

 

Market Street Funders (response):

We couldn’t agree more (except for the "like you" part).  We wrote about that exact situation in our article 5 Sure Signs You’re Swimming With A Shark.  Here is the excerpt that is specific to your situation.

 

“How many lenders will receive your application package?  A good broker can assess your business and place you with a small number of firms likely to provide competitive financing.  However, some brokers will “shotgun” you out to dozens of lenders at a time.  This can have a devastating effect on your credit score.  All of those inquiries at once can drop a score 100 points in a week.”

 

It’s hard to know who to trust.  That’s why we lead with real information and education BEFORE we ask for your business.  

 

I’m not sure if I’ll ever earn your trust, but at least know we’re trying to educate business owners – good and bad – about alternative lending.

 

We sincerely wish you the best.  If you think we could ever be of assistance, give us a call.

 

Result:

Client called our office that day to speak about loan options.  We are currently pursuing a $150,000 business loan to purchase new equipment and consolidate higher cost debt. 

 

I am optimistic we will be able to find a financing solution for our client.  But I am ever happier the client was able to see the difference between Market Street Funders and other shady operators.  If we had been able to win his business sooner, it’s unlikely he would be in this predicament.

 

There are some great brokers and intermediaries in the Alternative Lending space – Market Street Funders especially!  But there are also plenty of sharks.  If you are not going to do business with me, please promise me that you will not give your business (and your hard earned money) to a shark.  Our consultations are fast and free.  If we can’t help, we’ll tell you and usually point you in an alternative direction. 

 

TO TALK TO A FUNDING NAVIGATOR ABOUT BUSINESS FINANCING CLICK HERE.

Never Accept an Ultimatum

Market Street Funders is the solution to the business financing search dilemma plaguing many business owners. Businesses find the current state of search to be frustrating, time consuming, and largely unsuccessful (access and funding terms). 

Clients tell us incredible stories about shady brokers delivering ultimatums to accept terms.  Here are some of the tactics they use – do any sound familiar to you?

  • The deal is only good until the end of the day
  • I need your answer now, I cannot hold the approval
  • Just take the offer, we can get you more money later
  • If you apply with another lender, the offer will be revoked
  • Do you have any idea what I had to do to get this approved?
  • A serious operator would take this deal, you must not be serious
  • I have 10 other clients that would jump at this offer

Have you ever wondered why they need to turn the screws so hard?  I have, and I know the answer.

In a recent survey of small business owners who had applied for a loan in the last 12 months, 58% said they did not comparison shop during the search process.  A similar 2014 study by National Funding and Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management found that many small business owners tend to do business with the first lender they meet.   

In fact, one of the largest Alternative Lenders is on record stating this dynamic is critical to the success of their business model.

"The behavior that we see with our customers is that they might research other competitive options online but then when they actually apply to [Lender] and receive that offer, they kind of have this bird in hand dynamic, and there's so much search cost associated with going out and looking at other places and so much uncertainty around that, they typically just take that offer that [Lender] has provided to them."
-       CEO quote to Wall Street Analysts

Brokers add pressure to ensure they eliminate all competition.  But wait, don’t you want lenders to compete for your business?  The pressure, the ultimatums, the expiring terms are all sleazy tactics designed to get you to accept (and be thankful for) the ‘bird in hand’ described above. 

We are in the midst of a historic disruption to the banking industry. Alternative Lenders are grabbing significant small business market share and providing much needed growth capital.  We believe this is a good thing and we celebrate the innovation within the industry.  

However, there is absolutely no reason for a business to jump on the first offer presented.  Market Street Funders was built to make the process simple and competitive - take one set of documents, obtain multiple offers, and let the business pick the best terms.  With one application we provide access to dozens of lenders with minimal incremental effort required from the business owner.

We are here for you when you need us.  Efficient.  Competitive.  Transparent.  It's what you'd expect a Marketplace to be.

TO TALK TO A FUNDING NAVIGATOR ABOUT BUSINESS FINANCING CLICK HERE.

The Hidden Cost of Equity

Partnership is a beautiful thing when it works, and expensive, risky, and distracting when it doesn’t.  To quote Leo Tolstoy, “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”  The same can be said for partnerships.

 

When looking for a partner, ask yourself important questions about what you’re really looking to solve.  Is it Talent?  Expertise?  Connections?  Leadership?  Working Capital?  All of these rationales are legitimate, but the last one can put your business at serious risk.  When you look to bring a partner on to help solve a capital shortfall you are asking for trouble.

 

Bringing on a partner to raise capital means you are selling equity, or ownership, in your business.  Equity is the most expensive source of funding for your business.  Period. 

 

That $50,000 for 10% of your business today could cost you $500,000 in 5 years.  Yeah, I know, that’s not a bad problem to have, right?  It means the business appreciated in value by 10 times.  Tell me it’s no big deal when your partner wants to cash out and you have to write a $500,000 check.

 

Still don’t believe that selling equity to raise capital is expensive?   Think about it this way, we all know the formula for making money – buy low, sell high.  But, if you are raising capital through the sale of equity you are typically selling low and buying high.   You sell off a piece of the business when the valuation is low and then try to buy back (or buy out) that same piece later when the valuation is much higher.  It’s expensive.

 

If you just need working capital, we tell our clients that alternative funding, while slightly more expensive than traditional debt solutions, is temporary whereas equity is forever...or, at least, very expensive to get out of.  So maybe that $50,000 might cost $10,000 over 18 months with a short term loan.  The equity is going to cost you 10% of everything you make going forward.  That’s right, $0.10 out of every dollar you now make goes to your partner.

 

If the partner you bring on board isn’t an expert within your industry - they’re just someone who can write the checks - then that person can become a distraction for a rapidly growing and expanding business.

 

For any number of reasons, the partnership may not work out happily.  When that happens, the only way to get out of an equity relationship is to buy a partner out.  Theoretically, the only reason you’d want to buy a partner out is if the business is growing and successful.  Nobody tries to buy someone out of a failing business. As we’ve already discussed, you’ll need to buy that partner out at a multiple of what they initially invested.  And don’t forget to account for legal fees when you don’t see eye-to-eye on that valuation, which you likely won’t.

 

Don’t ever underestimate how expensive it can be to extricate yourself from an equity relationship.

 

I should make something very clear, I’m not opposed to bringing a partner into your business.  I have partners in every business I own.  I am opposed to bringing in a partner solely to raise money.

 

Your business is your blood, your sweat, your passion.  Does the person you’re considering bringing on board with an equity stake bleed the same colors you do?  Is the business going to be their #1 priority?  Is the opportunity for growth drastically different once this person joins, or are they filling a temporary need?

 

If marriage, which is based on love, affection, and admiration, only survives 50% of the time, then a business relationship based solely on financial and monetary considerations is even more fragile. The risk of taking on a bad partner and the acrimony that ensues can truly destroy a business from within.

 

If you ever find yourself in this position, take a moment and really consider what it means for you business.  Partnership investment is a great way to grow a business.  But the partnership needs to be strategic and not just about the injection of new capital.  There are other, less expensive, ways to achieve that objective.

 

TO TALK TO A FUNDING NAVIGATOR ABOUT BUSINESS FINANCING CLICK HERE.

The 5 Keys to Successful Business Financing

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We produce millions of dollars worth of financing opportunities for clients each month.  On average, we are successful almost 75% of the time matching qualified businesses with term sheets.  Along the way, we picked up on some of the common characteristics these businesses shared.  None of this is rocket science and that might surprise you – or not.  Most of all, it’s just a little bit of common sense and planning.

 

1. Have Business Documents Ready & Accessible

This is an easy one; make sure you’ve got the appropriate business documents ready and handy as you start your search for working capital.  You’re going to be asked basic financial questions about your business so you need to produce those documents and statements within a day or so.  Nothing creates a red flag more than an operator who can’t deliver the basics.

 

The Alternative Lending process is effective because of the speed at which it can produce results - but much of that speed is dependent on the business owner and how quickly they can move their business through the process.

 

Process aside, if you can’t get business documents together in a few days, you’re not sending a very positive message to your potential lenders.  For reference these documents can include bank statements, business and personal tax returns, current P&L and balance sheet, business debt schedule, formation documents or articles of incorporation, and a business license.

 

2. Know Your Business’s Elevator Pitch

In a sentence, what’s your business about and how is it different from your competitors?  Your potential lenders won’t need to see a documented business plan, but they will need to get an idea of the business, your products and services, its structure, your margins, etc.  If you can’t quickly and articulately explain your business, it doesn’t help the lending process.

 

3. Be Realistic About The Financing

This one could also be called, “Lenders vs. Investors.”  It’s important to be realistic about the amount of the working capital you’re seeking relative to the business’s current cash flow.

 

Investors are willing to make larger, more speculative bets in return for a bigger piece of the pie (equity).  Lenders, however, need to cover their risk, operating expenses, and profit margin from the proceeds from the loan – this often doesn’t leave much wiggle room.

 

Lenders evaluate ‘coverage ratios’ to determine if the current cash flow can support the repayment of the loan.  Yes, the current cash flow.  Lenders don’t like to speculate.  They make decisions based on actual data – not potential (more about this later).  If current cash flow cannot support the loan, it’s unrealistic to expect the lender to take a gamble. 

 

Also, having a history of NSFs or negative balances is an immediate indication that current cash flow cannot support current business obligations.  It is almost impossible to borrow your way out of a hole.  If you find yourself in this situation, you first need to correct the underlying issue (revenue vs. expense) before you seek financing.

 

If you go into the funding process with unreasonable expectations, you might turn off a prospective lender or source of capital.

 

4. Synchronize The Return On Investment

Lenders like to see a responsible borrowing history.  One quick way to turn off lenders is to accumulate long term debt to finance short term objectives.  The revenue may flow through your business, but the debt (liability) remains on your balance sheet long after the sale has been realized.  Paying for last year’s inventory out of this year’s sales puts a drag on cash flow.

 

We advise clients to match borrowing terms to the useful life or revenue generating life of an investment.  If the investment (what you bought with the loan) is only going to generate revenue for 4-6 months (like inventory) then the loan should be paid back in that same timeframe.  If the investment generates revenue for a longer period of time, like a restaurant building a deck to service more customers, then the loan can be paid back over a longer period.

 

If you sell it in a month, you should be able to pay for it in a month.  Otherwise, there is something wrong with your margins.  Low financing costs are not a solution for poor margins.

 

Debt financing should be used strategically.  The use of long term financing for short term opportunities will eventually make it more difficult for a business to grow.

 

5. It’s Not About Projected Growth

This is probably the hardest reality for businesses to accept.  Business owners are optimists by nature.  No one ever started a business with failure as an objective.  Even with a strong growth plan and the necessary tactics in place, your financing will not be based on the promise of growth.  

 

A lender will only base your loan on the ability of the underlying business to support the payback of that loan – the coverage ratios we discussed earlier.  We raise this issue because passionate business owners can become argumentative about projections.  It is often the biggest of all red flags when a client says to a lender, “but you don’t understand.”

 

Yes, a lender wants to know that the business has a growth plan, but they aren’t going to provide funding based on that promise alone.  As Clint Eastwood once remarked, “Tomorrow is promised to no one.”

 

TO TALK TO A FUNDING NAVIGATOR ABOUT BUSINESS FINANCING CLICK HERE.

4 Marketing Mistakes You Can’t Afford To Make

Marketing is critical for small businesses - especially those without a big team of salespeople.  It’s one of the most frequent areas our clients invest working capital.  We also get a lot of questions from our clients about marketing pitfalls - specifically, where have we seen others fail?

 

What’s the thing that makes your business special?  How do you communicate that one thing?  That’s marketing.  We could spend hours, even days, discussing complex marketing strategies.  Bleh!  Here is all you need to know.  Marketing is the investment of a small pile of resources (time and/or money) to acquire a larger pile of revenue.  Marketing happens in hundreds of different forms, but it's only successful one way - when that second pile is larger than the first.

 

Here are the top 4 marketing mistakes small business owners need to avoid if you want to make the second pile bigger.

 

1. NOT HAVING A PLAN

As with any endeavor, from a family vacation to a political campaign, planning is step one. First, decide what you want your marketing to achieve for your business.

 

Are you looking for broad awareness?  Do you want to build a product or service that people love?  Are you driving traffic to your website or to your physical location?  Once you know your goal for marketing, you can begin to assemble a plan for how to get there.

 

Perhaps getting mentioned in a number of local news outlets would maximize your business’s awareness.  Maybe retooling your customer experience with a ‘WOW’ factor will make people love your brand.  The key is, zoom out, determine your business goal, then plan out how you want to achieve it.

 

2. NOT INVESTING IN YOUR BRAND

'Brands' aren’t just for Coca-Cola; every business should think of itself as a brand.  Your brand helps to tell your unique story to potential customers, it builds trust, and it makes you memorable.  Even individual service providers, like dentists, lawyers, and accountants, should look to build their personal brand.

 

Your brand, many times, starts with a logo, but it hardly ends there.  For you to be memorable and perceived as trustworthy, your brand needs to be consistent online and offline.  Make sure the colors in your logo match your business cards, your offices or stores, your website, and your advertising.  Consistency in look, feel, and voice will promote the trust your customers look for in a business.

 

3. MISTAKING ADVERTISING FOR MARKETING

Many business owners don’t realize how many aspects of their business are marketing-related.  Usually, those who fall into the trap of thinking marketing=advertising are those same businesses who find themselves with very little to show for the dollars they invested.

 

In your textbook, marketing is defined as price, product, place, and promotion.  Is your service priced correctly?  That’s marketing.  What about how your product looks and feels?  Also marketing.  And all the places around town or online where people might hear about you?  Definitely marketing.  Finally, when you promote your business, sometimes through advertising, that is absolutely marketing.

 

Are you thinking about all of your marketing, or just your advertising?

 

4. NOT MEASURING YOUR INVESTMENTS

So you took out an ad in a local paper, launched a new website, joined a local business association, and ran a few Google AdWords campaigns. How many new sales or new customers did you get from any of those marketing activities?  Remember, the second pile has to be bigger than the first.

 

If you’re not measuring your marketing activities, then it’s going to be very difficult for you to know where to invest your resources in the future. There are creative ways to measure just about any marketing activity.

 

Taking an ad out in the paper?  Make sure you use a coupon code specific to that paper.  Launching a website?  Make sure the site is tracking what visitors do while they’re there.  Joining a local business association?  Offer something special only to those members.  Running an AdWords campaign?  Just make sure you (or a tech savvy friend) took care of conversion tracking.

 

All of your marketing should be measurable, either in a sophisticated technical way, or just through good old fashioned pen and paper at the register.  Knowing what kind of marketing drives your business means you can more efficiently invest your working capital going forward!

 

TO TALK TO A FUNDING NAVIGATOR ABOUT BUSINESS FINANCING CLICK HERE.

 

7 Free Business Tools You Need Now

Business owners are naturally collaborative people.  We recognize in one another the determination and drive that make us unique as entrepreneurs.  The conversations we have with each other at backyard barbeques and cocktail parties are very different from friends who earn paychecks.  When we find a product or service that adds value, we love to share it.

 

Over the last 10 years I have launched (as founder or member) 7 new businesses.  Most did not have much funding, so I did what every entrepreneur does - I got really resourceful, really fast.  “Free” became my favorite word.  And in the era of web-based services and “freemium” subscription models, free has never been more powerful.  Professional services we couldn’t even imagine a decade ago are available today for free.

 

Here are some of my favorite free tools every business can use:

1.    Trello – Work collaboratively on almost anything.  It can be used for project management, checklists, design work, development, follow ups, product launch, etc.  It syncs seamlessly across devices.  There is nothing you’re working on that Trello couldn’t make better.

2.    Hoot Suite – As I’ve written before, when you finally get serious about social media you’ll love this product.  Manage your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube, Google+, and Foursquare accounts in one place.  The intuitive dashboard allows you to post across platforms and provides instant insight into your social media performance.

3.    Canva – Design social media graphics, on-line ads, presentations, marketing material, and more with thousands of beautiful, easy to use, layouts.  Design on your desktop, tablet, or smartphone.  Canva claims it only takes 23 seconds to learn how.  If I can use it, so can you.

4.    Pexels – This is probably the best free compilation of free stock photos on the internet.  Beautiful images available for immediate download.  Combine this resource with your use of Canva and you’ll be creating beautiful content in no time.

5.    MailChimp – How does “Forever Free” sound?  Their free plan of up to 2,000 subscribers and 12,000 emails a month is completely free.  MailChimp is the standard by which other email providers are judged.  From building a list, designing campaigns, and reading results - nothing compares to MailChip.

6.    Dropbox – Need to access your data across devices or on the go? You need to go for a ride in the cloud.  2GB of storage is free and gives you all the basic features and benefits of the paid program.

7.    Zoom – Want a free, easy to use solution for video conferencing?  Talk one on one or invite up to 50 participants – all free with the Basic plan.  Conduct a video conference from your smartphone, desktop, or tablet.  Collaborate with employees, suppliers, or customers.  Great tool to use in conjunction with Trello.

 

Many of these product names may be familiar to you.  If so, take it as a sign they really do work.  Why else would we all be taking about them?  Investigate.  Experiment.  Try them out.  It’s not going to cost you anything more than a little time.

 

TO TALK TO A FUNDING NAVIGATOR ABOUT BUSINESS FINANCING CLICK HERE.

 

Marketplace Products

One size does not fit all.  It’s true with just about every product in every market - including small business financing.  At Market Street Funders, we pride ourselves on keeping our virtual shelves stocked with varied and versatile business finance products.  We built our marketplace to satisfy a wide variety of financing needs.  Our proprietary client interview process is designed to match businesses with the best products and providers.  After all, no two funding needs are the same.

 

Our goal is to get our business clients into the best products available, serviced by the best companies in the industry.  We carefully screen our partners.  We take the placement process seriously.  We place clients with products that make the most sense for them, not us.  We make our commissions transparent.  Choice is a critical factor in driving competition and efficiency.  With choice we empower our clients.

 

Here is a brief view of the products currently in our Marketplace.

 

Short Term Working Capital

Working capital based on sales volume.  Payback between 3 and 24 months.  The cost of capital is expressed in terms of total payback amount or a “factor rate”.  Payments taken on a daily or weekly basis.

 

Pros:  Funds very quickly, requires minimal documentation, and has solutions for all types of credit.

 

Cons:  Expensive.

 

Assessment:  Plain and simple, you are paying for access to capital.  It’s fast and easy to access, making it a great solution for businesses that need to act quickly or that are credit challenged.  Also, consider this option instead of selling off equity when faced with a short-term challenge.

  

Small Business Loan

True small business loans with terms from 1 to 5 years and interest rates range from 8% to 27%.  The cost of borrowing is expressed as an APR (in most cases inclusive of fees).  There is often a 2-4% origination fee.  Monthly payments and no prepayment penalty.

 

Pros:  Less expensive and longer terms.  Higher approval rates than bank loans.

 

Cons:  While cheaper than Short Term money, it is still more expensive than bank money.  Requires more documentation, takes longer to fund, and credit requirements are greater.

 

Assessment:  Ideal for a business and owner with stronger financials and personal credit.  While it may take longer than Short Term money, it is a significantly streamlined process compared to a bank loan.  And because there is no prepayment penalty, this can be used to secure gap financing while searching for longer-term options. 

 

SBA Business Loan (7a)

Government backed small business loan up to $350,000 with a 10 year term.  Interest rate is prime + 2.75%.  Monthly payments and no prepayment penalty.

 

Pros:  Least expensive, longest term program available.

 

Cons:  Stricter credit requirements, additional documentation, and longer process.

 

Assessment:  Ideal for business and owner with extremely strong financials and credit.  With our on-line, fast track process these loans can take weeks to close not months.

  

Invoice Factoring

Get immediate payment for outstanding invoices.  Finance receivables due in up to 90 days.  Allows businesses and “solopreneurs” to get paid immediately.

 

Pros:  Less expensive than Short Term capital.  Finance select invoices.  Easy to execute once set up.

 

Cons:  Requires integration with accounting software.

 

Assessment:  Ideal for business with a significant amount of cash tied up in unpaid invoices.  Free those receivables to invest in growth.

 

Asset Backed Lending

Revolving line of credit backed by receivables.  Credit line is tied to company’s Accounts Receivable.  Interest rates range from 7.99% to 18.99%.  12 month term with auto renewal.

 

Pros:  Well priced and flexible.

 

Cons:  Focused only on B2B industries with large sales.  Large application package.

 

Assessment:  Ideal for large wholesale businesses or other B2B sales.    Use sales to fund future growth.

  

SBA Commercial Real Estate Loan

Government backed commercial real estate loan.  $100,000 to $5 million.  Can be used for purchase or refinance.  Fully amortizing 25 year loans.  Interest rate is prime + 2.75%.

 

Pros:  Least expensive, longest term program available.

 

Cons:  Stricter credit requirements, additional documentation, and longer process.

 

Assessment:  Ideal for business and owner with extremely strong financials and credit.  With our on-line, fast track process these loans can take weeks to close not months.

 

While no marketplace has every product on its shelves - not even Amazon – we believe our expanded choices give our clients more options and lead to more competitive offers. 

 

If for any reason you don’t work with Market Street Funders, promise me that you will work with a company that provides you options, acts in your best interests, and is fully transparent about fees and costs.  Don’t accept the first offer presented and beware of brokers that pressure you to accept terms quickly.  Your business is valuable, make them earn it.

 

TO TALK TO A FUNDING NAVIGATOR ABOUT BUSINESS FINANCING CLICK HERE.

 

Tom Abel has been an innovator and leader in small business lending for over 2 decades.  Prior to founding Market Street Funders, he was the Chief Operating Officer at Swift Capital.  He also served as the Executive Vice President and Director of Small Business Banking at MBNA America and then Bank of America.  He has significant experience in commercial lending, raising money for emerging businesses, and funding growth companies.  Tom is a small business owner, entrepreneur, and participant in several early stage ventures.