What Sets a Small Business Apart from a Large Business?

You probably hear terms like ‘small business’ and ‘large business’ quite commonly whether you are looking for software solutions, investment opportunities or something else. Sometimes, it can be difficult for business owners to figure out if what they own is a small business or a large one. The confusion is valid because you don’t often find clear definitions to help you distinguish one from the other. However, it is essential to know the difference so you can pick the right services. This is because most service providers design their service packages differently for small and large companies. There are also other reasons why you would want to know their differences.

Why Know the Difference

You need to know the size of your company because of the laws that apply to these entities. Large businesses have to follow a different set of rules and regulations than small businesses. In addition to that, several federal programs are available that are different for small businesses and large businesses. As an example, you won’t qualify for certain programs unless you are officially a small business and are entitled to the program. You can get into trouble if you think your business is small but the government deems it otherwise.

Also, keep in mind that when you operate as a small business, but spend like a big one, you can put your venture in trouble. So, what sets the two apart from each other?

The Differences between Small and Large Businesses

The Size

How do you determine the size? How do you know that the size of your business is small or large? The federal government has its ways of determining the size of a business. They will look at either the number of employees you have or your yearly receipts. However, the standards are not uniform across industries.

What this means is that a small business in one industry might not be small in some other industry. In most cases, your average yearly receipts have to be over $7 million for the federal government to treat your business as a large one. The number of your employees should be more than 500 for your business to be considered large.

However, this standard of 500 employees is more applicable to the manufacturing and mining industry. However, keep in mind the varying standards across industries. For instance, in some service industries, your yearly receipts could amount to over $21 million, but the federal government will still not consider your entity as a small business. The agriculture industry’s standards can be quite the opposite of that with the government treating businesses with average yearly receipts of more than $500,000 as large businesses.

The same rule applies to the number of employees as well. For example, if you are a part of the wholesale industry, and you have more than 100 employees, your business could be termed as a large business. On the other hand, if you are in the manufacturing industry, the government will write you down in its books as a small business even if you have 1,500 employees.

Internal Structure and Hierarchy

A large business will often have a more clearly defined structure and hierarchy. Almost every case in question will go through various departments before the company comes to a final decision. On the other hand, the structure is not fully defined or is not as detailed. The employees and the owner are not too far from each other. A complaint from a customer can reach from an agent to the owner pretty conveniently. On the other hand, there are several roles beneath the manager that can handle numerous tasks and take decisions.

Due to the hierarchy that normally exists in large businesses, they often delay their decisions. Contrary to that, small businesses take their decisions very quickly. The hierarchical structure also gives rise to a culture of workers performing their respective tasks only. In a small business, the same person could have multiple roles.

Financing Options

There is a stark difference between the financing options that small business and large business owners choose. Large business owners have good PR, a name in the market and some level of dominance in the industry. Such a position allows them to go for options like investment banks. They can naturally attract well-known investors of the country as well when they are in need of finance.

On the other hand, small business owners try to avoid bank loans because of the hardships they face when it comes to paying back debt. In most cases, small business owners rely more on their savings or funding from someone in their family.

Salaries and Perks

Since large businesses are financially more independent, they can offer their employees attractive packages and benefits. Health insurance, dental insurance, yearly bonuses, provident funds, etc. are just some incentives that employees at large companies enjoy.

On the other hand, people working at a small company do not get such benefits in most cases. They can have attractive salaries, but a small business owner cannot afford medical insurance and comprehensive benefits for employees. It is one of the reasons why most of the people working at a small company often look for opportunities at large companies.

Nowhere does it say that small businesses have less potential for growth and expansion than large businesses. For this reason, small business owners should be confident in their efforts to grow. While large businesses have access to big bank loans and broad markets, even a small mistake in their predictions and estimates can result in huge losses.

On the other hand, small business owners face smaller risks when you consider the volume of their loss. Be sure to identify your business size and take advantage of all the benefits that the federal government has made available for small businesses.

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What Normally Causes Banks to Reject Small Business Loans?

Whether you are a small or a large one, you will need a loan at the start to finance your marketing efforts and operations. It is not that difficult for large businesses to get loans from banks because most lending institutions are more than willing to invest in large corporations due to their dominant position in their market and industry. On the other hand, small businesses do not occupy a key position in the industry, and that’s why banks and other lending entities aren’t intrinsically interested in financing them. However, there can be several different reasons why banks rejecting small business loans. Here are the most common ones.

Reasons for Banks to Refuse Loans to Small Businesses

Short History of Operations

The period a business has been in operation is the number one factor banks consider when deciding on approving a loan or not. Small business owners have to finance their ventures right from the beginning. They might not have even completed six months before they start looking for loan options.

Bank want to see how well or poorly a business has been performing, and it can judge the performance based on the tax filing record for your business or maybe even the record of your sales. What if the loan amount you are asking for is much larger than what the bank deems is easily repayable for you?

The lenders will look at your cash flow reports and decide how much your business is capable of returning based on the amount you have asked for. The bank would often refuse to approve a loan after realizing that your demand is much bigger than your strength to repay the loan.

Loan Size

The bank is a business, and it has to find ways to maximize its profits. Bankers make most of their money from loans they approve for large corporations. Small businesses, on the other hand, are at a disadvantage in this area. They don’t require huge loans, and thus they are not the best prospects for a bank.

The underwriting process is quite costly for a bank, and it only makes sense for them to approve loans from which they can cover that cost. Most small business loans do not go above the $500,000 mark, and that amount is not what the banks will call “big.”

Personal Credit Score

Several online sources will tell you that your credit score will not have any impact when you ask a bank for a business loan. It makes sense from one perspective that the bank should not look into a person’s personal life while giving them a business loan. However, your credit score can affect your business loan application negatively. Yes, it is true that not all lenders will give the same weight to your credit score, but there are many that will.

For lenders that look into your credit score, they are doing this to know how good you are when it comes to managing money. If you can’t manage your finances, the chances of you mismanaging your business finances will be pretty high too.

Missing Collateral

Again, you have to remember that banks are businesses—giving money to people and getting it back with a profit is their business. Banks require collateral to motivate (or compel) a business owner to return the loan amount. In most cases, collateral is not a problem for large businesses.

The collateral serves as a security for the bank and a way to ensure that they get the loan amount back should the business owner default. On the other hand, small businesses don’t have enough assets to put down as collateral to secure a loan from a bank. The missing collateral is often the reason why banks reject loan applications for small businesses.

Reason for the Loan

The bank won’t approve your loan just because you need it. Lending institutions want you to give them solid reasons for why you need the loan. You would want to show them that your loan amount is going to be an investment in your business and not just an expense.

If you are going to buy new furniture for your office with the loan amount, the chances are that the bank will refuse to give you the loan. However, if you have a strong business plan and a pre-planned marketing campaign that you want to support the loan, a bank will be more than willing to help you out.

But Banks Aren’t the Only Option

The detail that’s crucial for small business owners here is that banks are not the only institutions that can lend to small businesses. You have other lending entities from which you can seek help. For instance, there are online platforms where small business and startup owners can get in touch with investors to get the investment they need.

Small business owners can use such a platform to showcase their idea, business plan, the marketing strategies and the team behind the project to get the attention of the investors. They can get the type of loan that best suits their needs.

If an investor likes your idea and is passionate about it, they might even forward the loan at extremely flexible terms. Keep in mind that such a network gives you access to angel investors—the type of investors that can help a startup turn into an established business without demanding too much equity share in the company. However, you have to be sure that you create a powerful business plan, have a strong team and a compelling pitch to win their trust.

Yes, there can be a variety of reasons why banks reject loan applications from small businesses, but that should not mean the end of everything. With online platforms helping business owners connect with investors, obtaining the right loan is not such a challenging task after all. If your business is in its starting phase, be sure to make obtaining the right loan a priority. Last but not least, it is how you manage your funds that decide the fate of your business, not just the loan itself.

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Here Is What Small Business Owners Should Know about Angel Investors

When you have a small business, and you are serious about its growth and expansion, you have to use every option available to you to get the funds you need. In some cases, venture capitalists are not really a good fit for funding the startup or small businesses. They focus a lot on the returns they get from their investments, and somewhere in that attempt, they forget to pay enough attention to the needs and limitations of small businesses. One of the best solutions for small businesses to get the required funds is angel investors.

What Is an Angel Investor?

The name angel investor should give away why the industry calls them that. Other names for angel investors include angel funders, informal investors, business angels, etc. An angel investor is mostly one person, but may also be a very small group of investors. They invest in startups and small businesses that most venture capitalists would consider too risky for investment. They try to be extra helpful for startup and small business owners by providing the required funding and also helping with advice on matters.

In many cases, the angel investor will put his/her own money on the line to help your business. The reason for their investment in the risky business is that they are independent in their decisions. They might find your product interesting even when others don’t see any scope in it. You would not expect them to invest huge funds compared to those from venture capitalists but with their popularity increasing with time on the internet, angel investors can also invest huge amounts now.

A Detailed View of Angel Investors for Small Business Owners

Types of Investments

The first thing to know about angel investors is the type of investments they are leaning towards usually. The interest and motivational factors are different for angel investors compared to those of venture capitalists.

An angel investor is willing to invest in startups. It is easier to convince an angel investor to invest in a startup than it is to convince a VC. However, even a VC will show interest in a small business in its early stages if they are 100% sure of its potential and future success.

One of the most important things to point out here is that angel investors are highly interested in local businesses. If you run a business in New York, you would want to find investors in New York. Angel investors like to support their local communities and economy. Furthermore, local businesses are easy for them to test for their validity. As for the market type, angels prefer to invest in businesses that are playing against small competitors. If your business is about to become a part of a contemporary market with several giants already monopolizing it, the angel might not show interest.

Their Favorite Places

When looking for investment for your business, you must know where you can possibly find angel investor. There is no specific place that you can say has the best angel investors. However, you can try fundraising advisors to help you find the investors that would be interested in investing in your business. You can search for angel investment groups in your area or on the internet. The good thing about such a group is that you have a higher chance of persuading someone to invest in your idea.

You will be glad to know that angel investors love to be a part of events where they get to see various business owners from around the country pitching their ideas. Their events are more common than VC events. In fact, it is much easy to attend their events because the entry is not expensive and you can find them even in small cities. You can also find angel investors online. There are websites that specifically put small business owners in touch with angel investors. All you have to do is create a compelling pitch, so investors can see how serious you are with your investment needs.

The Way to Compel and Persuade Them

It would be wrong to say that angel investors are interested in ideas alone. In fact, that’s where the angel investors differ entirely from venture capitalists. They don’t focus solely on the business idea and its scope in future. An important part of their decision-making process is to know the entrepreneur and his/her team. It does not matter how unique your business idea is because if you and your team are not convincing enough, they will not invest in you. They love people who like to get to the point, and that comes off as your strength.

For example, you would want your presentation to be not more than five or six slides. Don’t waste too much time trying to convince them that your idea is different. Get to the point, tell them what you want and how you are going to achieve the targets you have set, and that should be enough. When you sit down with angel investors, be sure to value your company reasonably and offer them a sensible share. A crucial thing to remember is that it takes you much more time to find the right angel investors than it takes to convince them. Miss one opportunity and you could end up spending months and years looking for another investor to listen to you. Don’t blow your opportunities away once you get them.

From the information above, it might sound angel investors are much more flexible than VCs, and that’s true to some extent. However, this should not give you the impression that angel investors are non-professional. They expect due diligence from you before finalizing a deal.

Make sure you have protected your unique ideas with patents and proper technology before you present them with your idea. Secondly, have the right permissions, certificates and other documentation on hand to show that you have everything in place. In the end, be on top of your security game, i.e., you must know how new security-related regulations around the world are going to affect your business and how you will tackle them.

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Do you have enough reserve money for your business?

It is common for entrepreneurs and new business persons to have very high expectations of their businesses in the beginning. They are often excited about how they will uniquely market the business and provide customers with something they have not tried before. A practical entrepreneur will look at both sides, the positive and negative. While there is nothing wrong with keeping your expectations high, it’s the “hope for the best and prepares for the worst” that seems to work more in life, both professional and personal.

So, it does not matter how unique your product is or how perfectly you have designed a plan to approach your target audience; you will always need some cash in reserve for the hard times. The more important question is “how much money should you have in reserve for a small business?”

How Do You Calculate the Size of Your Reserve?

The first thing you need to know here is that there are different types of businesses and thus they need to do their calculations differently.  Your first decision has to be whether you want your reserve to be enough to cover three months of costs or six months of costs. Finance experts have varying opinions, but it is up to you to decide whether it is going to be three or six months. Once you have made that decision, it is time you calculate the size of the reserve you will need. The information coming ahead is based on a six month’s reserve strategy.

As mentioned earlier, different businesses have to make calculations differently. If you are a business with running that remains pretty much the same throughout the year, you just have to look at your cash flow rate from the cash flow statement. Reviewing at least six months of statements is a good idea. If your expenses vary only slightly month after month, all you have to do is come up with an average of those six months of expenses. This will be the monthly expense of your business. Now, just multiply this average by six because you want to keep a reserve of six months.

However, you have to calculate differently for a seasonal business. Again, you will look at the cash flow statement of the past six months, but this time you will not find the average of all the six months. You will separate the month with the highest costs (expenses) and the months with low expenses. Take the five regular months and calculate the average monthly cost based on the data you have. Now, to calculate your six month’s reserve, multiply the average you have just calculated with five, and then add the cost of the highest month to that product.

What if you are a new business and you don’t have cash flow or burn rate reports for past six months. In this scenario, you will have to do the math even more strictly. You will have to work on projections and estimates. Calculate what your monthly expenses will be and base the size of your reserve on that projection. Of course, you should make adjustments as soon as you realize that your expenses or more or less than what you had projected once your business starts running.

What about Keeping a Bigger Cash Reserve?

The cash reserve is a cushion for your business and why wouldn’t you want the cushion to be bigger? Here is the thing; keeping a reserve that attempts to cover more than six months of expenses is going to be harmful to your business. What you will end up doing is putting the money that you can use in your business for its progress in the cash reserve where it will wait for the hard times to come before you can use it.

What you might not realize is that you could use the same money for business development, better marketing, and further expansion. Experts say you should not touch your cash reserves unless there is no other way out. With that in mind, you might never touch your cash reserves and use them to expand your business even when you have the opportunity.

Building a Cash Reserve

The biggest challenge is building a cash reserve because it is more like an expense for your business. You have to put some money from your profits into a separate account that serves as your business’ cash reserve account. What this means is that you will have to live with shrunken profits for some time. However, planning these things can help you. For example, fund your business wisely right from day one.

Unless your business explodes and becomes a big thing right from day one, you have to rely on proper financing to grow your cash reserves. One thing you want to keep in mind here is that your cash reserve is not just for the hard times, but it can help you on other occasions as well. Let’s say your company makes napkins, and a worldwide fast food chain places an order that goes way beyond your capacity. How do you arrange the materials to fulfill that order? While financing is an option, it is much better and safer to rely on your own cash reserves like many big companies do.

Final Words

It is a mistake that many new small business owners make when they think they won’t need any reserves in the back. Things can go wrong in a thousand different ways and you cannot predict all of them. You don’t want to be scrambling for cash or loan right from the second month of starting your business. It is best to have a financial advisor with you right from the start who will tell you how you can build your cash reserve without affecting the ongoing progress of your business and completely eating away your profits.

 

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The Challenges You Must Overcome to Turn Your Small Business into a Big Business

You might have a small business today, but you don’t want that label for the life of your business. When entrepreneurs make endeavors, they are looking to create a business that will rule the world one day. However, every business has to face some struggles in the beginning that it must overcome to become a big business. The way you handle these challenges decides the fate of your small business. Today, you will read about these challenges and the solutions to them, so if you are a small business, you can set the foundation for its success.

Knowing the Target Market

One of the biggest issues with most small businesses is that they don’t know their exact target market. Sometimes, they don’t know how to narrow down to the target market. This is a huge issue because you could have a perfect product, but you might pitch it to the people who don’t need it. Keep in mind that people who don’t need your product won’t buy it even if you try to give it to them for free. On the other hand, people who need your product will be willing to buy it even if it is priced high. For your business to survive, it needs to start selling as quickly as possible, and that’s why it is important to find your target market before launching your product.

Solution

The first step of identifying your target market is to know your product well enough. You have to ask yourself some important questions about the product and write the answers down. For example, you have to ask yourself “what existing problem does my product solve?” You also have to know if there are any other solutions available in the market for the same problem. If yes then you have to see how your product is better than them or how you can make it better. Conduct surveys on the street and social media to know the personas of the best buyers of your product.

The Right Type of Marketing

Businesses, small and big, have huge parts of their budgets allocated only for marketing purposes. However, the modern technological advancements have proven that a big marketing budget does not translate to successful marketing. So, you might have done a great job in identifying your target market, but if you approach them in the wrong way or through the wrong channel, you will not be able to reap any benefits from even the most potential market for your product or service.

Solution

Identifying your target market should help you identify your marketing methods and channels too. For example, if your product is for people aged over 50, you would not want to make Instagram the prioritized marketing channel because only 18% of the users on Instagram are aged above 50. Similarly, any product that targets executives, marketing officers and professional people should be promoted on LinkedIn before any other platform. After knowing the buyer personas, you should also select the type of marketing that best suits your potential audience. If you are creating a hip-hop music video for marketing to retired individuals or an opera video for 18-year olds, you are doing it wrong. Use website analytical tools to know what appeals or does not appeal to your website, visitors. Base your digital marketing campaigns on data—this is the era of data-driven marketing.

The Funding Problem

If there were no funding problem, every person who thinks of a unique idea would have a business. In the real world, funding is always a problem, and it is exactly the point where the journey ends for many aspiring people in business. However, it is not always the lack of funds that kill many small businesses before they even start. In fact, the important part is how much dedication you show in arranging those funds. Sometimes, people have the options available, but they do not knock on all the doors.

Solution

First, you have to know all the options you have available for arranging the funds. If you are not okay with arranging funds through the bank or in the form of a loan, take a look around at your family and relatives. You will be surprised to know how many of the people in your circle will be ready not only to give you the investment you need but become a part of the endeavor. The crowdfunding options are also there. You don’t even have to go to the investors personally today as you can visit a platform like funded.com and arrange funds online.

The Right Leadership

You can’t make a business successful unless you have the right leader in place. It is not completely untrue that the attitude of the leader sets the attitude of the rest of the employees at a company. If you lack confidence in your leadership, you will end up hiring people who lack confidence in themselves. One of the biggest problems with most small business owners is that they can’t convince themselves to delegate responsibilities. They believe in their skill so much that their mind never accepts that someone else can handle the responsibilities too. They end up taking the responsibility of everything on their shoulders and mismanaging things at the end of the day.

Solution

The first thing that needs to be fixed here is how you think. If you find it hard to delegate responsibilities, get rid of this habit as soon as possible. You can’t handle everything as the business grows and so you have to create a team right from day one. Do not hire people just because they can do the job—hire people who share the same vision as you. Do not settle for good employees because finding the best ones is taking time. Do not try to take matters into your hands all the times. Listen to everyone that’s part of the team and the decision making process. Have a great relationship with your employees.

Setting the Price

One of the most difficult decisions for a small business owner is to set the price of its service or product. When you are a small business, you can’t afford to have a full-fledged marketing department. Of course, when you have a marketing department, they can set the price of your products, but when there is no marketing department, you are the one to take this decision. Price your solutions too low, and you might not make any profit at all. Price your solution too high, and customers might never buy your product.

Solution

It will be tremendously helpful in this scenario to take a look at your competitors and how they have priced their products. Secondly, you have to know a simple rule to set the prices of your products and services. You first set the price to cover your costs. Once you have started covering your costs, you set the price to cover the costs and make a profit. Once you have done that successfully, you start adding your “value” to the price. You should also know the buying power of your target market so you can keep the price within their comfort zone.

These points cover pretty much every big challenge that a small business comes across. Keep in mind that some of the challenges might be exclusive to your business and industry too, but if you can overcome these common challenges, you can cover the industry-specific difficulties as well.

 

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How to Identify Your Small Business Differentiator and Why

When you are the owner of a small business, there are times when the scale of bigger companies can overwhelm you. At these times, you may wonder what you have that will make potential customers pick your brand over another. This particular factor is a business differentiator, and it helps consumers in the market identify you and set you apart from other brands.

Differentiating your company from the rest is an integral part in developing a brand, and it’s become even more difficult in recent years since it’s not merely enough to be just better than others; you need to be different. You may not have realized it yet, but being a small business is a differentiator on its own, you need to leverage it and market it enough. Here’s how you can identify your small business’ differentiators.

Analyze Your Competition

Finding your differentiators starts by learning what makes your competitors different. You need to maintain a neutral position and evaluate your competitor to know what their strengths and weaknesses are. What do they offer? What do they do better than you? How do they treat their customers?

Once you answer these questions, you discover their weak and strong points, as well as your own. At this point, you can decide whether you want to change the direction of your business to make it better than your competitors or market an aspect of your brand that’s already there.

Be Familiar with the Customer Experience

A benefit of being a small business owner is personally having experienced the life of an average consumer. By knowing the shortcomings of a large-scale company customer experience, you know what to develop in your own company. However, when working on differentiators, it’s time to start by scratch so you should map the various aspects of being a customer. What do they value? What dissuades them from buying?

You need to work on ways to build a consumer’s awareness of a need that your company can fulfill. It’s only after a consumer realizes that they need something that they will look towards brands that can provide them with a solution. You need to assess how your target demographic makes buying decisions, and whether your brand aligns with that thought process or not.

Another factor you should consider is how your customer will use your product and whether they will require any help with it after their purchase. Look towards your competitors and see what they offer, and see what you can provide when compared to them.

Assess Whether You Meet Customer Expectations

Once you’ve mapped out different points in a customer’s overall experience with your brand, you need to assess whether you meet expectations at each point. For instance, the first time a customer interacts with your brand, they expect a friendly approach that tries to understand their problem. Now you need to know if you come for your customer’s wallet at every encounter, or if there’s an empathetic side to you.

If you step into their shoes and see things from their point of view, you can ask yourself ‘do I want to be sold a product this way?’, ‘does this item have everything I need?’ and ‘has the brand tried to understand me and my problem?’ You need to learn whether your product motivates them to buy it.

The wrong approach is to focus solely on your product because that’s not what customers emphasize on when buying a product. The best way is to address different aspects of the customer experience and develop all of them.

Know Your Strengths

The first and foremost strength of being a small business is giving customers the attention they need. Since you’re not managing branches everywhere, you can afford to look after a minimal customer base.

Other than that, each business has its strengths when compared to other brands. It could be your amazing marketing, your customer loyalty programs, or your approach to customer service. Also, a small business operates on values, so they understand the needs and requirements of the average person.

Get Involved in the Community

The community you operate in should be your focus when expanding your reach. By making an impact on your community, your brand automatically earns a reputation among the other brands in the area. The people in your district will be in favor of supporting your brand since it will have a positive influence on their community.

The Importance of Having Differentiators

It’s true that ever brand needs differentiators that give them a competitive edge for business rivals, but your brand needs it more as a small business. That’s because large companies can already offer better prices due to cheaper manufacturing practices and access to raw materials at lower costs.

Hence, having a fixed market differentiator will help consumers pick your brand despite the difference between what you and larger brands can offer. However, having a differentiator isn’t only necessary for setting your brand apart from the rest. By knowing what you can do better than other companies can, you’ll have a clear view of what you should focus on when planning a marketing campaign.

A well-planned and targeted marketing effort will help you retain customers and increase your rates of promotion among people outside your community. Without a strong differentiator, you won’t be able to compete with others head-on.

At the same time, you need to uphold the values of honesty and transparency by refraining from overloading your brand profile. By attesting to being better than competitors at ‘everything,’ you risk losing precious customers. That’s why; you need to test all of your differentiators to see if they’re true, provable and relevant.

Only market things about your brands that you believe to be true, and to gain the audience’s trust, you have to prove it; whether through ‘look inside our workshop’ schemes or quality tests. Lastly, your differentiators need to be relevant. Customers won’t consider an aspect of your brand that they don’t care about or if it doesn’t benefit them. To conclude, you need to reflect upon your band’s personality and find something about your small business that differentiates it from the rest.

 

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8 Silly Ways Small Businesses Waste Their Marketing Budget

Marketing Budget

Irrespective of your business size, your business’ marketing budget is a precious resource. It is your investment, which can help you grow your company’s business and stock value. So you surely want it to give results for the growth of your business.

Large-scale businesses usually have high marketing budgets as compared to small-scale businesses. Small companies normally allocate a small budget for marketing due to their limited resources. It means that if you are a small business owner you do not have the finances to put to waste.

As a small business owner, you need to ask yourself these questions:

“Are you spending your budget on the right tactics?”
“Are you making effective and optimal use of your budget?”
“Is it working for your business?”

To put in simple words, are you wasting away your marketing budget?

Adobe researched how effectively companies spend their marketing budgets. It was not a surprise that most of those companies were not doing a good job.

Do you feel that you also fall in the category of these small businesses that are not spending their marketing budgets the right way?

Then you should continue reading to know the silly ways in which you might be wasting your marketing budget and how to fix them.

Use of social media for building following:

Undoubtedly, social media is a great tool for small businesses to use for their marketing. But most businesses start their marketing on social media without a proper strategy.

Gone are the times when Facebook marketing was free and reach was high. Now you need to invest money and efforts in Facebook marketing thanks to its evolving algorithm. Small businesses need to spend on the paid advertising to make their business ads visible and get their content seen by the target audience.

How to fix this?

The price of Facebook ads is not too high but due to increased competition, it is likely to get higher shortly. This means you may need to spend more money to make your content visible to your followers. Presently, what you can do is use your social media investment to build an email list of your followers. This will allow you to have direct communication with them. Give incentives to your followers for sharing their email addresses.

Expecting instant and high-end results:

Many small businesses begin with a strong ambition, but most of them fail within a few months. The problem lies in their unrealistically high expectations. They want to see results in just a few months following their launch. And when they fail in getting those results, they back out.

How to Fix this?

As a small business owner, you should expect a ramp-up period of two years. If this looks impossible to you, smartly create a marketing strategy to keep your marketing engine fueling and running. Then, create as much influential and informative content as you can afford to create to promote your business.

Inability to understand your target audience:

To grab the attention of your audience, you must understand the behaviors and attitudes of your potential customers. Otherwise, you are just making your marketing budget go down the drain.

A Fix:

KNOW your target audience, their behaviors, and attitudes before you even create a content strategy. Then figure out ways to communicate with them effectively.

Not realizing how you succeeded in attracting your valuable customers:

You can refer to them as your loyal customers or valuable customers who come back to you again and again. You should know what marketing techniques and content brought those invaluable customers to your business. These top 20% of customers may give you nearly half of your business revenue.

Spending a significant portion of your advertising campaign: You can find lots of marketing tactics to give a try. Some of these may perform great, but in most cases, they may not work for you especially when you have a limited budget to give a one-time shot. Small businesses should avoid diving into big-time five-figure spending on marketing campaigns.

What is the Fix?

You need to adopt a test and trial method before investing big. First, invest in $1000 or less. If that particular marketing tactic does not work at an investment of $1000, it is highly likely that it will not work on $1500 or more.

You are not keeping proper track of your marketing investments and efforts:

Many small businesses set up a Google Analytics account, but don’t use it. In case, some are using it they don’t know how to make optimal use of it and get the benefit. Same is the case with Google AdWords for PPC. You may buy the space for ad campaigns, but end up wasting a lot of money without analyzing how those ads performed.

An Easy Fix!

You can easily learn Google Analytics tracking and AdWords through free online courses on Google. Setup conversion tracking for your advertising campaigns in Google analytics. This enables you to effectively see and analyze the activity of your potential customers on your website. If you haven’t done this yet, do it right away!

You are trying to be the jack of all trades:

Small business owners with limited resources often try to manage multiple things alone. You cannot afford to hire a complete marketing staff, but just one or two people for it. You cannot manage the entire marketing strategy all alone.

A simple solution!

Keep your focus on understanding your audience, on which platform you can mostly find them and which marketing tools and content they like.

You are following the same marketing strategy for years:

This is the biggest mistake because the marketing landscape is evolving at a rapid pace, nowadays. While focusing on the above-mentioned things, it is also recommended that you try a few new techniques every year.

The solution:

With the evolution of marketing tactics, you need to evolve as well! Always remain on the lookout for the latest marketing techniques that fit your low budget.

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Nail These 3 Strategies Before You Launch Your Social-Media Campaign

Social Media Campaign

In today’s digital era, every business dreams to execute the perfect social media campaign to stay competitive. It doesn’t matter if you’re an entrepreneur or run a small business, the need to launch your social media campaign is becoming inevitable over time.

Some of the biggest businesses of our times are known to create strong social media campaigns. Not only these promotions lead to increased profits, these campaigns allow a business to connect with their consumers, on a human level.

Already, a large part of today’s online content has now moved on to social media. It is natural for businesses to work on creating the best social media campaign that is crafted to bridge the gap between businesses and their consumers.

Why do you need a social-media campaign?

  • Boost awareness
  • Increase loyalty
  • Earn more profits

When you spread awareness and offer solutions to your target audience’s problems, you automatically get a decent number of loyal customers.

Three Strategies you must nail before launching your Social Media Campaign

But before you implement your social-media strategy, here are 3 strategies you must work on to get the most out of your campaign.

1. Set a Goal

If you don’t have a goal, you don’t know what you want to achieve through your campaign. Your goal defines the content and sets the mood for your social media plan. When you put your audience first, you are eventually able to plan and execute a successful campaign on all channels.

Do your homework to know the needs, wants and challenges your audience faces every day. Companies can collect relevant information through surveys or study their consumer behavior to identify the most common problems.

Talk it out with your marketing team. Explain how your products or services aim to change the current scenario. When you clearly define the goals of your campaign, you are able to work on the heart and soul of your brand. This is the ‘one thing’ that sets you apart from your rivals.

Some common goals that today’s aspiring and established companies wish to achieve through a social media campaign include getting more followers, creating interest in a new product and building your mailing list. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to creating a successful social media campaign. Hence, you need to define goals and objectives every time you are launching a new campaign.

There are many other factors that you need to focus on to guarantee true success.

  • Which platforms will work best?
  • What kind of content should I create?
  • Do I need to include a video in my campaign?
  • How do I assess and track results?

Once a business finds clear and precise answers to these questions, it is easier to design and deploy a campaign.

2. Setting a Calendar

Now that you’ve done all the strategic part of launching the promotion, you need to create a schedule or a yearly plan. Your marketing team sets a fixed schedule that also includes important events, product launches and your business accomplishments. A calendar makes it convenient for a company to initiate, assess and implement your campaigns.

There are many benefits of sticking to a fixed schedule. A calendar allows businesses to work on each individual channel. For instance, having separate posting schedules for your Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn accounts will let you create personalized content, ahead of time.

While Facebook continues to dominate all other social networks with roughly two billion monthly users, don’t forget to include other mediums such as Pinterest and YouTube. Since video content is going to capture more than 80% of all internet traffic by 2021, it is important that you also include a video strategy to attract more users.

If you are an entrepreneur or a small business owner, it is a great idea to start working on a couple of social media channels before embracing them all. Once you have a respectable fan following on one channel, you can direct your traffic to another medium.

3. Monitor Outcomes

What’s the point of creating or deploying a social media campaign when you fail to track down its progress? The truth is that it is crucial that you utilize analytic tools and metrics to judge the overall performance of your strategy.

If you do not know what tools or methods will give you the best tracking results, make sure you work with the best marketing team to help you gain valuable insights.

One thing to note is that the metrics of a campaign may change with its goal. For instance, if your promotional strategy is aimed at awareness, measure growth and engagement. The metrics also include shares, likes and dislikes.

If your business wants to boost its sales, track click rates, conversion rates and shares.

When you have designed a campaign to increase loyalty, look for sentiments, engagement and influence.

What else should you do?

The secret lies to know your audience for creating the content that clicks with them. For instance, Facebook dominates all mediums as 68% of American users are active on this network. But, Facebook works better when a company is targeting older users.

If you are launching a promotion for a younger audiences choose Instagram. If you are uploading videos or tutorials, YouTube continues to beat other streaming networks. Since Google now owns YouTube, uploading your content on your official YouTube channel may also improve your rankings.

Moreover, there are many social media celebrities who can endorse your products or services. Can you imagine the effect it will make on your audience? Identify key influencers in your particular niche. Partner with the most influential personalities in your industry to spread your brand message.

This tip works because the influencer you’re connecting to already has a massive network. This strategy is a hybrid of new and old marketing tactics.

Bottom Line

The implementation part revolves around narrowing in on the daily tasks. Once your marketing team has nailed the 3 strategies, the rest of the work becomes less-complicated.

Moreover, it’s not always about the size of your budget, but how you spend your marketing dollars. Sometimes, smaller brands deploy more popular social media campaigns than big brands that spend millions on promotion.

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Things That a New Small Business Owner Must Expect

Business Owner

Many people dream about starting their own business, but very few are actually able to live their dreams by executing them, and even fewer make it past the first five years. This is mainly because a large number of times, some business owner don’t really know what to expect.

There are no words to describe what it feels like but in simple terms; it’s fun but scary at the same time. A large number of small businesses fail because of an inability to successfully make it past year one.

Many business gurus believe that with the right knowledge of what to expect, a new small business owner will know how to prepare for upcoming challenges. Here are a few things that any new small business owner should expect.

Be Ready to Hustle When You’re Tired

Isn’t that what being a small business owner is about? You may be thinking that as a small business owner, you can take a day off when you feel like it but that’s not the case. As the brains behind the entire operation, you need to hustle even when you feel like you’ve done enough. That’s the difference between being an employee and a business owner; you’ve never done enough.

There will always be paperwork that you need to sign, orders that you need to make and customers whom you need to talk to, especially in the first year. Just like in every other phase of life or an industry, the initial period is always make-or-break, and the end result highly depends upon how much work you put in.

You can spend each second checking and rechecking your plans and improving them, working on ideas and developing new strategies. After all, there’s so much on your plate (marketing, product development, vendor contracts and employee training)

You Can’t Make Every Customer Happy

It’s true that as a business owner, you need to retain a sense of balance in everything you do but when it comes to satisfaction, you can’t make everyone happy. As a small business owner, you’re bound to make quite a few customers unhappy and the truth is, you don’t really need to make everyone happy, either.

It’s important that you remember that the key is to have a consistent customer service policy and handling complaints carefully. If your product doesn’t impress a customer all that much, then the way you handle a complaint is sure to make them a loyal customer.

A major factor that differentiates your small business from that of a larger conglomerate’s is that you, as the owner, can give customers the attention they want, which is why they are likely to approach your brand in the first place.

Be the Master of All Trades

When you first thought of starting a business, you may have guessed that you’d only have to sign things and the wheels of your business would turn themselves. Wrong. In year one, you should expect to be able to do everything and know how every process works.

Along the way, you’ll think ‘they didn’t teach me this at business school’ as you try to find a good web hosting company for your company website or take aesthetic pictures of your products so you can post them on a social media account. You don’t learn everything about starting a business; you have to experience it hands-on.

From managing office operations during the day to writing content for your website at night, you’ll have to do most of it in the first year. You’ll be lucky to have friends or family who’ll be willing to help around but in year one, you can’t afford to hire many employees. In addition, even when you do get people on-board, you’ll have to know how to do things yourself before teaching them the basics.

Be Familiar with Laws

No this is where it gets interesting. Staring a small business will require you to be familiar with laws about hiring and taxes so that your business will genuinely be able to help people in the community by offering employment.

There are a number of regulations, laws, and licenses you need to know about before you can officially carry out operations as a business. In the beginning, you should expect to hire a lawyer for such needs because it’s impossible for you to know all the complex regulations that surround the startup of a small business.

This is crucial because no matter how hard you work on your business, it’s likely that even a small detail or legality can be held against you. You’ll be doing yourself a favor by investing in proper legal advice and obtaining all the licenses you require. Nevertheless, legal counsel isn’t cheap so you should expect to have enough financial resources.

There Will Be Some Bumps along the Road

Failure, no matter how big or small, is an inevitable part of running any business, whether big or small. You could make a product that doesn’t turn out as successful as you thought, your marketing strategy may backfire or worst-case scenario, you get a wave of negative feedback.

The first year won’t be failure-free but that doesn’t lessen your chances of reaching success. To keep yourself prepared for these situations, business experts advise that before you should quit your job, you need to have some savings. To be more specific, you should have enough money to support yourself for a year.

You need enough savings because no matter how well you plan the first year of your business, you can’t predict the future so there is always a chance that you might fail. There’s nothing wrong in preparing yourself for the worst-case scenario while planning for the best.

Conclusion

These are just some of the things that every small business owner must expect, especially during the first year after launching their business. Of course, no amount of expectation and preparedness can actually make you battle-ready to start a business but knowing a few of the most common symptoms will help you diagnose and reassure yourself that this is supposed to happen.

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Signs of a Successful Small Business Owner

Successful Business

When starting a new business, there are numerous signs that can indicate whether you’re succeeding as an entrepreneur or aren’t. A small business can be risky. This is particularly true if you specialize in a niche that bigger companies already excel in. However, if you display some particular qualities, it’s a sign that you’re doing a good job to stay afloat.

That’s because small business owner who have a positive attitude towards success are the most likely to get a taste of it than his counterparts. Their counterparts focus only on stability and nothing more. While business success has a lot to do with your initial idea and how you build upon that idea, it still depends on your personality and capabilities. Here are the few signs of a successful small business owner that you should develop as part of your personality.

You Like To Form Collaborations

Most successful entrepreneurs display this common trait. They understand the importance of having a well-connected network in the business world. Nevertheless, just like in every other change, collaboration needs to start from within your business. This means you’ll need to start delegating tasks effectively. Another crucial part of this is building good relationships with everyone on your team. This includes your employees and suppliers.

Of course, you also need to establish a position in the network of small businesses. It’s unwise to act alone without any partners. You needn’t form friendly relationships with your competitors. However, at the least, you should be on good terms with other small businesses that complement yours. By obtaining a position in the community of other businesses, you’ll be able to create new opportunities that can benefit others. Moreover, others can do the same for you. What results is a beneficial support system that allows all members to rely on one another.

You Have Your Eyes Set on the Future

You never know what the future holds, especially if it’s for something as volatile as a new startup business. That’s why successful entrepreneurs share a common characteristic of looking towards long-term future goals.

Some struggle to stay afloat amidst a rocky economic climate, and such desperate conditions can lead to business owners not looking farther than the near future. Such thoughts are understandable, but think of it this way; acting upon well-structured long-term goals at the same time as day-to-day tasks can ensure far more than financial stability and simple peace of mind.

Your Leverage the Benefit of Technology

Nowadays, when it comes to operating a small business, it all comes down to incorporating the use of technology, whether in marketing, management, or everything else. Technology and software have made it easier for entrepreneurs and small business owner to meet their goals, and now with services like Google AdWords and personal assistants, functions have become much more streamlined than ever before.

Take websites, for instance, they’re a business’ online identity and that’s where most potential customers will go to check whether your brand is legitimate or not. Then comes social media, which is a useful marketing tactic that produces results without requiring you to spend too much of your ad revenue. Then there are other business-related applications like customer support live chat software, fixed responses for keywords and budgeting tools that boost your productivity so you can focus on product quality.

You Love to Learn

You’re never ready to run a business until you’re prepared to improve yourself by learning from others. You may be determined to make it through with a method involving trial and error, but that costs precious resources; you need to start learning from others’ success and failures. Data is the most powerful weapon that a business can possess because it helps you discover trends and important details.

If you aim to learn about what strategies lead to profitable ideas and which ones are just downright terrible, you’ll be able to devise a solution of your own. The best way to fulfill your curiosity is to read and look into insights regarding management, marketing, customer satisfaction, and product quality. Archives can provide you with numerous researches and surveys conducted by different companies. While it isn’t necessary that the results apply to your business, you’re still bound to learn something.

You Don’t Just Think; You Act

While we’re at it, we might as well establish that being a smart business owner doesn’t mean that you’ll never have to take risks; it’s merely the ability to take risks with confidence. One sign that your business will soon see the light of success is that you don’t just think, you also act when the time is right. This sign is associated with the confident ability to make good decisions, even if they’re risky.

It’s true that before you put any plan into action, you need to examine it carefully all the way through. However, if you become stuck on the evaluating stage, you’ll miss your chance to implement your idea. That’s why you should have some faith in yourself and build confidence in your abilities to make a good decision.

You Seek Fulfillment

There are many small businesses operating in the market, but very few businesses owner seek fulfillment. The rest of them, however, only look at it as a means to make ends meet. Success-oriented entrepreneurs always chase after their goal of doing something fulfilling for a living. Your ability to see value in everything you create is contributory to success because you’ll want to build upon ideas to increase that value.

If you realize these traits in yourself, then congratulations; you have what it takes to turn your small business into a success! However, even if you don’t, do not fear! Owning a small business can change you as a person. But, it depends on you whether you take something positive from the experience. All these above-mentioned aspects will greatly improve not just the quality of business, but your life as well. If you can learn to find a hint of success-oriented personality within yourself, then you’ve hit the jackpot.

 

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