Influencers: Why You Need Them And How To Identify Them

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The power of marketing in the digitally led global business climate should never be underestimated. The sad fact is that no matter how incredible your product, no matter how well run your operations and no matter how much time, blood, sweat and tears you pour into your business, it all amounts to little if the right people don’t know who you are. There was a time when marketing was a strategy of broadcasting. You’d send your message out as far and wide as possible and hope that the right people would find it. Today, the world of social media and digital connectivity has made it far easier to identify your target audience and market directly to them via pay per click advertising. This reduces extraneous marketing costs and maximises the chance of your content and advertising reaching the right audience. Yet, as important as it is to know your target market, it’s just as important to know who influences their behavior.

What is an influencer?

Influencers can make all the difference between your content falling on deaf ears or going viral.  The rise of the influencer is a relatively new phenomenon but one which numerous big brands recognize the value of. Influencer marketing works in a similar way to celebrity endorsement, but influencers tend to be easier to reach, cheaper and more receptive to working with brands. They tend to be individuals who have gained a sizeable and loyal following on social media.

Why you need them

Like celebrities, they’re usually attractive and aspirational figures whose look, style and habits your potential customers find aspirational. They can help you by endorsing your products, link building and even agreeing to be the face of your brand. They can also help to elevate your brand’s status, giving you a degree of “cool by association” in the eyes of your target market. Moreover, unlike roping in a celebrity, influencers tend to actively want to work with brands. They may well have content of their own to monetize and will be grateful to be able to piggyback on the recognition of your brand in order to expand their own reach.

How to identify an influencer

Instagram and YouTube celebs like Zoella or Jamie Genevieve may not be the best influencers for your brand, it’s important to find an equivalent that speaks to your target market. Looking for people with large followings and an interest in your product or service is a no brainer, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

It’s important to keep an eye on an influencer’s social media engagement. Throwing money at an influencer with a large following is unlikely to pay dividends if that following is not actively engaged with the influencer. Make sure that their posts all have a healthy amount of likes and comments.

Important caveats

Any time you associate your brand with any individual, there’s always an element of risk. There’s a chance that they could be ostracized by their following by their actions, their posts or their political affiliations. They can misrepresent your brand or mislead your potential clientele. Thus, it’s extremely important to make sure that your influences are vetted and well managed.

The Pros and Cons Of ‘Doing Something Different’ In Business

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Business is all about innovation; finding a new idea; doing something unique and different with what you can offer to the public. Over and over again, the importance of the ability to do something different with your business is emphasized.

However, “doing something different” can actually be more of a gamble than it sounds. There may even be times, and certain industries, where doing something different is an outright bad thing; your startup could be doomed to failure before you even really begin.

Confused? Us too, so that’s why it’s worth drilling down into the realities of “doing something different” and examining the pros and cons…

PRO: You’re Offering Something New

The most obvious pro to the idea of novel innovation is that you are going to be able to offer something truly unique to your customers. Many businesses have been able to turn over billions because they offered something truly different.

Take Apple, for example. They did something different with the first ever iPhone. They took a basic idea — that we all carry a phone with us — and transformed it, asking: “why can that phone not function like a small computer?”. They added a great camera, working internet, and functionality that surpassed basic laptops– and changed the way we interact with the internet forever.

If you have something truly innovative to offer — be it your methods of approaching a service, or a new product you want to manufacture — then you have the potential to capitalize on being the first, the innovator, the great creator. The scope in this area is huge; that’s why you will so often see business guides insisting you should “do something different”– because it’s lucrative, because it works, because it’s the very essence of business ingenuity.

CON: What If You’re Offering Something “Different” That No One Wants?

Many products and services are designed to solve problems, usually problems that the entrepreneur has experienced themselves.

For example, an entrepreneur who lives beneath a flight path. This irritated them, so they got to work on a way to combat it. They decided to create a device that automatically creates white noise when it detects an aircraft overhead.  They do everything right; they design a product, use the likes of WayKen Rapid to produce a prototype; and have tested that the concept is sound. To that person, that product makes a huge amount of sense; it’s inherently useful, and it fixes a problem they are experiencing.

However… the number of people who live beneath flight paths is relatively small. The product is never going to be able to take off (if you’ll excuse the pun) because the market just isn’t there.

There’s a chance that the product or service you are innovating will suffer from the same fate. Sure, it may be useful, and it may fix an issue you have experienced, but that doesn’t mean that it has a global appeal. There might be a reason that no one has offered a service in a way you are planning to, or manufactured the same product you are designing– because other people have seen there is absolutely no call for it.

PRO: Easier Marketing and Promotion

Let’s say you’re opening a digital marketing agency. There are plenty of digital marketing agencies in the world, which means that your marketing and promotion is going to be difficult. You’re going to have to find a way to distinguish yourself from the huge amount of competition, something that draws customers to your company above all others.

However, if you are offering something new and innovative that has never been done before, then your marketing will largely do itself. You can emphasize how you have hit upon a method that no other firm has managed; how it is going to benefit your customers; and why your business is special. This makes the entire campaign easier, and also guarantees you will be more easily noticed by your target customers.

CON: The Risk Of Being Copied

If you are looking to manufacture a new and exciting product, then you don’t need to worry too much about this issue. With products, you can file for a patent and ensure that no one can reproduce anything similar to your own design. This is expensive, but at least it protects you against copycats.

However, if you are just offering a new and interesting service, you could be vulnerable to copying. There is no way of patenting a service, unfortunately. You may find yourself investing a lot of time and energy into offering a service that is genuinely innovative, only to see your competitors do exactly the same a few years later. There have been a few famous examples of this exact scenario happening in recent years, such as Instagram outright copying Snapchat on numerous occasions.

Why Your Start-Up Can’t Survive a Loss of Net Neutrality

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Net neutrality has been all over the headlines recently. Blog are abuzz and newspaper column inches are piling up about what could be the biggest revolutionary web development for years. But just how exactly does the FCC Verizon ruling affect start-up businesses? We look at the impact and it’s possible consequences for your small business:

Visionaries May Be Shut Out

By removing the concept of net neutrality, the online world could effectively be turned into a two-tier system. This could mean small businesses and visionary innovators finding their operations impossible. With the net becoming ‘pay to play’, blue-chip companies could pay heavy fees to Internet Service Providers to make sure that their sites run faster and better than the rest of the web, giving them a huge advantage.

‘Sponsored’ Apps Make Competition Impossible

With big corporations already operating on the edges of this, carrier AT&T announced back in January their plans to offer ‘Sponsored Data’. This would allow those companies with the budget to do so the chance to give their customers free data time when using their apps and services. Things like this could be the downfall of small businesses, who simply won’t have the budget to compete.

Eloquence Will Belong to the Victors

With other channels being slowed and smaller voices effectively being silenced, the echo chamber effect we’re already seeing being played out with fake news and interest driven display algorithms will get smaller and smaller. The unique beauty of the net – as a collaborative resource where we all have a voice, and where a smartphone video shot in your kitchen has just as much chance of going viral as anything a glossy corporate can airbrush into existence- will be lost. The different perspectives that make the web the incredible resource it is will disappear, with only corporate voices left.

It Could Eradicate Digital Nomads

Much is said in celebration of the digital nomad, that elite group of remote workers in the world who can turn in project work while sat on a bench in Bali. But although your small business may not be so exotic, you are likely to rely on remote working. High speed home broadband and secure VPN networks are the tools that keep this working. But if we wave goodbye to net neutrality, working from any location could get a lot harder. If ISPs are allowed to constrain traffic how they please without consequence, this could mean having to pay for business class access at each separate location or pay every ISP involved in order to secure priority access. If not, it could be so slow as to be effectively unworkable, ending the possibility of working remotely.

So whether the recent case washed over you or not, in order to build a successful small business you need net neutrality in place. The eyes of the world are on the best decision. Will there a place for disruptive innovators and free-thinking but cash flow poor entrepreneurs in this new model? Or will originality and creativity be crushed under the might of huge companies and their deeper pockets?

Making Your Money Go Further

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Managing your finances isn’t always an easy task. The older you get, the costlier life seems to get. Still, it’s not your salary that matters; it’s what you do with that salary. Making your money go further is the theme of this article and anybody can do it with just a little planning and foresight. Here are some pieces of advice to help with your personal finances.

Manage your income and expenditures better.

The first step towards making your money go further is to manage it better in the first place. Whether you earn a lot or a little, making your money go further is about organizing your finances so that you’re not being wasteful. You need to make a budget so that you can monitor your expenditures in line with your income. You need to set aside enough of your earnings to cover the necessities such as rent, petrol, food, and all other bills; you shouldn’t be struggling to pay for those things because you’ve splashed out on luxuries.

And when it comes to your disposable income, you shouldn’t burn through it all. Making your money go further is about being strict with your spending habits and trying to save at least some of your earnings every month. If you’ve got debts or other bills looming over you but you can’t make the payments then you might want to look into bad credit loans. Whilst you may not have the best credit score if you’ve been a little careless with your finances in the past, there are options for you if you’re a homeowner. At the end of the day, it’s about owning an asset which proves to lenders that you’re financially trustworthy.

Supplement your income.

Another way to make your money go further is to look for additional streams of income outside of your job. Online surveys and reviews are a great way to earn a bit of money on the side. You could spend a few minutes every evening or every weekend answering a few questions about a certain brand you use, watching a short advert, or taking daily polls. Whilst not all sites offer hard cash, many offer gift cards, vouchers, and entry into contests for more prizes. For a few minutes work here and there, you could really earn some decent rewards for your effort; going to your favorite shops with gift cards and vouchers will save you having to spend any of your actual money, so there’s always a monetary reward for doing online surveys in some sense.

You could also do some research on the property market. Investing in real estate is a great way to bring in an additional source of income, whether you rent out a property to tenants to bring in a monthly stream of revenue or buy a property simply to sell it at a higher price. It’s an industry well worth checking out because you should be making smart investments in order to secure your finances for the future. It’s better to spread out your money rather than putting all your eggs in one basket.

What All Entrepreneurs Need to Know About Debt

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Yes, there are angel investors and venture capitalists; yes, there’s always bootstrapping; but the truth is, you probably can’t start your startup without accruing debt. You need capital to get your business up and running, and loans of one type or another are the fastest, most reliable way of acquiring money to fund your dreams — especially at the beginning of your entrepreneurial career, when you don’t have any small business credit to attract deep-pocketed investors.

But here’s the thing: Debt isn’t always bad — but it isn’t always good, either. Before you begin your startup, you should learn a thing or two about what debt is, what it isn’t, and what you should do about it.

First, a Discussion of Different Debt Definitions

Some of the most famous personal finance gurus make millions on messages that debt is the ultimate evil. They say that borrowing money should be a last resort, even if it is for large, necessary purchases like homes and businesses. As a result, most people experience terror at the idea of taking any kind of loan and feel anxiety and guilt at the prospect of maintaining debt.

However, borrowing money isn’t a complete definition of debt. Rather, according to the true accounting definition, you only have debt if you owe more than you own — if your liabilities are greater than your assets. Making loan payments doesn’t make you in debt; however, incurring liabilities when you lack sufficient assets does make you in debt.

Still, you should know the difference between consumptive and productive liabilities. Consumptive liabilities are those that do nothing to increase your wealth. Often, personal credit card debt falls into this category because goods purchased on credit are rarely put to profitable use. Conversely, productive liabilities help you build wealth. Some examples of typically positive, productive liabilities are: mortgages, education loans, small business loans, and business lines of credit. When you are building a business, you would do well to avoid the former while accruing a practical amount of the latter. Then, you should be able to stay out of debt while generating sufficient capital for your startup.

Next, an Explanation of Debt Monitoring Tactics

The security of your business depends on you maintaining productive liabilities and reducing (or eliminating) consumptive liabilities — but when you apply for loans or look for investors, all liabilities

Cash Ratio. This tells you how much cash you have available — and how much of your income is tied to liabilities. First, calculate the amount of cash you have on hand, which might also include cash equivalents like highly liquid investment securities. Next, add together your current liabilities. Then, divide your cash by your liabilities. The higher the number, the healthier your finances.

Debt Service Coverage Ratio. A debt service calculator will determine whether you are capable of producing enough cash to cover your debts. Most often, debt service is used to determine your ability to obtain more liabilities for your business. First, calculate your net operating income, which is your net income plus amortization and depreciation of assets plus interest expenses plus non-cash items. Next, calculate your debt service, which is your principal plus your interest payments plus any lease payments. Then, divide the first number by the second. Again, you should be looking for a large number, closer to one.

Debt-to-Asset Ratio. This calculates the percentage of your assets that were paid for with borrowed money. It can indicate financial leverage, measure solvency, and determine financial distress. First, add together your current liabilities and long-term debt; next, add together current assets and net fixed assets. Then, divide your liability total by your asset total to obtain the percentage. A large number isn’t necessarily bad, but it isn’t good, either. You should determine the optimal ratio for your business.

Debt-to-Equity Ratio. This tells you how much of your business you own, and how much belongs to others. First, add together your liabilities; next, calculate your equity, or how much money you have invested in your company. Then, divide your liabilities by your equity. If the number you produce is large, that means a large proportion of your business is owned by outside sources, like banks.

 

What Tools Do You Need to Expand Your Startup?

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For a while, it was just you and your computer. Then it was you, your computer, and a few other folks. Now, you are thinking your startup is ready for a full-fledged expansion.

Congratulations! Not many startup entrepreneurs make it to this stage, so you should consider yourself fortunate and fantastic as a business leader. However, a larger business has many more moving parts, which means you will need to be well-equipped with the right tools to steer your growing business to success. While this is by no means a comprehensive list of all the tools you’ll need as your startup expands, these will help you maintain order (and sanity) while you build a bigger business.

Strategy Organization

Growth shouldn’t happen spontaneously or chaotically. Whenever your startup expands, you should have planned it months in advance. To help you organize your strategic growth, you can turn to the Small Business Administration, which has compiled a helpful list of tips and tricks for gaining funding for your expansion, planning new markets and locations, merging, and more. Additionally, you should employ a few simple tools and techniques to assist in directing your growth, such as:

SWOT: Strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats. This assessment tool should provide you with an honest picture of the state of your startup.

Boston Matrix: a product and service portfolio analysis tool. This will help you understand your offerings to determine how you should alter your strategy.

Affinity and interrelationship diagrams: Charts that organize growth information visually. These tools group like concepts and objects, helping you to prioritize projects and resolve issues.

Communications

The reason behind this tool should be relatively obvious: Without internal and external communication capabilities, your startup will disintegrate. However, prior to your initial expansion, you might have relied on less formal communication systems to build your business. For example, many startup entrepreneurs use their personal phone numbers and email addresses. As your startup grows, you will need more extensive and powerful communication tools, which means you need to contact a Cisco distribution partner.

Cisco is easily the biggest and best industry communications services provider in the world, capable of providing all sorts of solutions to your growing business. Thanks to Cisco OIP, you can rely on regional resellers to obtain the communications tools you need — phones, networks, etc. — to expand efficiently and effectively.

Recruitment Networks

In the beginning, you might have been everything for your businesses, from the CEO to the grunt. As your startup grows, you must come to rely on others to accomplish essential tasks, which is a difficult transition for many entrepreneurs. However, it makes all the difference if you have a strong, trustworthy team, which means you must have foolproof recruitment networks.

Long before you initiate the hiring process, you will probably engage with freelancers and contract workers. For this, you can use services like Toptal, which efficiently matches clients and vetted developers and designers. When you are ready to take on long-term hires, you can continue to use Toptal, and your experience with the network will improve your likelihood of finding the talent you need and want. Then, you can delegate confidently while you focus on more important responsibilities, like further expansion.

HR Services

Human resources — now more often known by the flashier title “people operations” — is exceedingly complex, encompasses a vast swath of business administration, and can be terribly expensive. For startups intending to grow, HR is a worrying prospect because it is indispensable; you can’t have employees without valuable services like payroll administration, training and development, and conflict resolution. However, you probably can’t afford an entire HR department at this stage of your startup.

Fortunately, there is a compromise: software and outsourcing. For the inhuman aspects of HR, you can rely on digital tools like Gusto, which manages payroll and benefits. For everything else, you can use a third-party HR services provider, like an ASO, HRO, or PEO.

Social Media Marketing

There is an unfortunate misconception that social media marketing is easy and cheap. In truth, effective social media management is time-consuming and tricky to master. Unless you want to hire a team of experienced (read: expensive) social media gurus, you can make the tedious task of social media management easier by relying on these essential tools:

  • Buffer: scheduling and management tool. Rather than monitoring and posting in real-time, you can upload your posts for dozens of social sites and tell this program when to publish them.
  • MeetEdgar: evergreen content tool. This service recognizes your most popular posts and shares them again at strategic intervals.
  • Sprout Social: engagement tool. If you are struggling to monitor social media mentions, brand advocacy campaigns, and content strategies, this tool is invaluable.

 

The Best Degree Choices for Stay at Home Moms

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Have you recently found out that you’re going to be a mom? Maybe you have already had your baby and you are busy enjoying those first few weeks together. Becoming a mom is one of the most special times in life, and it can be hard to even imagine leaving your little one for 10 minutes never mind for a full day while you go to work. This is exactly why so many women make the choice to be a stay at home mom.

Unlike decades ago where a stay at home mom meant you were giving up your career to stay at home, today’s moms have all kinds of doors open to them. They can make that choice to stay at home with their kids, while still actively pursuing their career. The idea that you can’t have it all is being torn to shreds as women show it is indeed possible to have a career and be an involved mother.

Here is a look at some of the best degree choices for those moms who have chosen to stay at home, but still want to have a career.

A Master of Financial Economics

It doesn’t matter if you’ve had previous job experience in the financial sector or not, the master of financial economics is a wonderful option as it provides many different career options. What’s great about this degree is that you can obtain it through an online master of financial economics program, meaning you can do all the work from home on a schedule that works for you. You can graduate in as little as two years, and you don’t need GRE/GMAT in order to qualify.

Some of the jobs you can get with this degree include a portfolio manager, a financial manager, an equity analyst, a financial analyst, or an investment strategist. As another tidbit of information, those with their master’s in financial economics typically earn up to 25% more than an MBA graduate in certain jobs. You could open your own business from your home deciding just how many clients you want to take on.

Bachelor’s Degree in Marketing

Marketing is a field that is absolutely exploding right now and is one that you can easily get into from home. Things such as PR reps, marketing reps, and brand strategists are all the rage, and are being hired by small, medium, and large-sized companies. If you’ve got a good eye for detail, are creative, and have excellent communication skills, this could be the path for you.

Masters in Accounting

Another option is to look into a masters in accounting. Once you have your CPA certification you can start your very own business from home taking on small clients to do their personal taxes, and companies looking after their entire financial portfolio. Those with a masters in accounting are very much in demand right now and command some rather high wages.

The Right Career Path Exists

Today, deciding to be a stay at home mom no longer means you have to sacrifice your career in return, instead you can have it all and feel fulfilled as a mother and a professional in the workforce.

 

Starting a Bail Bond Business

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First of all, what are they?

Bail bond companies, such as Amistad Bail Bonds, pay the money the courts are asking to free a suspect back into the community (for a fee of their own) until his or her trial starts when he or her, or their family, cannot raise the amount themselves. Basically, they are like knights in shining armor that come swooping in in order to protect a person from themselves in prison, or to give them the chance to really get themselves together before their impending court date.

Where to run your business from

You could run your bail bond company from an office, but you could just as easily run it from you home. In fact, running it from your home might be the ideal choice, at least at first, especially if you do not have a high number of employees working for you, as it would save on costs. But, if you were to start your bail bond company from home, you’d have to ensure you definitely had certain things. You’d need a dedicated and-line used for business purposes, as well as a dedicated fax line. You’d need computers, printers and scanners that are trustworthy and relatively modern. You’d need a postage machine. You’d need to set up an answering service, both on your phone and your email, to let people that try to contact you out of hours that you will be in touch as soon as. And you need a website that is always up and running — to ensure this is the case, enlist the service of an uptime robot, such as UptimeRobot.

You need all of these things because, like any other home-based business, you need to look and be as professional as can be in order to beat the stigma of working from home being deemed as unprofessional. You also need these things at home because being a bail bondsman means you are liable to be hit with business demands at any point, because suspects could get realised from prison at any point. No, this doesn’t mean working all day and night and being on call. This just means that during your working hours you are always willing and able to take the business that comes your way, and have the resources to do just that.

Target a market and hone in on your USP

Although bail bond companies are in a very specific market, you will still have to target a specific market and hone in on your own unique selling point (USP) just like any other business. What this means is that you should target specific kinds of cases that you are willing to deal with in regards to the justice system, such as abuse allegations, fraud allegations, battery allegations or DUI convictions. You could choose your target cases just on personal preference, depending on what your own beliefs are in regards to certain things. Or, you could choose your target cases based on the statistics in your geographical area; for instance, if your business is based in an area where a certain type of case is more rife than another, then go for the one that is more rife as that will draw you more business.

By doing this, you will instantly forge the DNA of your business as this will be what your business is known for. And, in part, you will also be creating your USP, too. But, you won’t yet be honing in on it. No, to do that you’re going to have to do a lot more. For instance, you’re going to have to really tap into your chosen market and make certain things available to your potential customers; this, for example, could be the promise to give a certain amount of money back to them if they do in fact appear for their court case and do not flee.

Advertise your business

It may sound redundant to mention that you must advertise your business, but as a bail bond company you absolutely must do this. You must do this because, quite frankly, most people still do not believe such companies exist or can help them.

When it comes to advertising your business, you should be thankful that pretty much anybody could come to you a a customer, as anybody could find themselves in trouble with the law — of, course, other people’s misfortune is not something to be thankful for, this is just a figure of speech. More to the point, then, you should be thankful for the fact that you do not have to do anything explicitly different or difficult when it comes to advertising — you can take the usual routes. This means you can utilize all the usual advertising techniques, such as billboard branding and search engine optimisation (SEO).

How much capital and funds in general do you need to start the venture?

After doing all of the above, you could find yourself starting this type of business with as little as $10,000 (which really is little when it comes to business starting). If you then go on to spend around the $1000 mark in advertising per month, you’ll find yourself frequently and consistently making this money back; in the not-too-distant long run, you’ll even begin to start making a profit.

The biggest thing you should consider when it comes to your funds is the actual bonds you will be writing and paying. First of all, make sure you can pay the bond you promise to pay. Second of all, make sure you get legal clarifications in regards to the collateral you hold on any bonds that you pay, because if the suspect you pay for flees, you will have to pay the bond in full anyway. In to stop yourself being out of pocket then, make sure you have lawful monetary collateral to back you up.

Starting a bail bond business, or venturing into the bail bond sector with your current business, may not ever have been something you have considered before, but it should be. It should be because there is big business to be made in it!

For stonewall advice on starting a business, make sure to check out this article.

Enhancing Workplace Creativity

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It’s becoming increasingly important for companies, especially small businesses, to have employees who are not only capable but also very creative. Obviously, this matters a lot more in some industries (marketing, design, media) than it does others, but having employees who can think resourcefully and come up with solutions fast is always welcome.

Obviously, the easiest way to ensure that your workplace is a creative one is to hire creative individuals in the first place, but if you haven’t done that, or if you simply want to enhance the creativity of the staff you already do have, here are a few things that may work for you:

Encourage Collaboration

Anything that you can do to encourage more interactions, communication, and most importantly collaboration, between your employees is sure to be fruitful. There are numerous ways you can do this, from using a news aggregator that collects information and makes it available for sharing, to making the office open plan or setting up more communal areas – the choice is yours – but you can be sure that the more contact they have, the more ideas will be shared, and the more creative your team will be as a whole.

Make Brainstorming More Equal

Brainstorming might be an old technique, but it is still a very good way to enhance creativity in the workplace. However, the way we traditionally hold brainstorming sessions is perhaps not the best because often ideas given by the most popular employees, or those suggested at the beginning of a session are given more thought and attention than others.

The good news is, there is a simple solution to this – allot each employee some time to brainstorm, have them write down their ideas and then get together to discuss them collectively at a later date or time, keeping them anonymous. That way, all ideas will be given equal attention, and you can find the most creative solutions there are.

Give Employees Time to Produce

If you’re one of those bosses who presents your staff with a problem, oh, 30 minutes before you want a solution, don’t expect them to be working at their creative best! Creativity takes time, it takes absorption of ideas, it takes research, and that is why you should always allot ample time for your employees to get their work done.

Be Prepared to Listen

This should be obvious, but many business owners simply do not take the time to listen to their employees and the new ideas they have. If an idea seems on the surface to be too far out there compared to what is usually done, they shut it down immediately. This only stifles creativity, and you shouldn’t do it if you want to hit upon genuinely new ideas and improvements for your company, nor if you want your employees’ to feel that their creative input is valued.

Use Restrictions

That being said, placing other restrictions on your team could prove to be very fruitful. You see, although it sounds quite counter-intuitive, when you only have a limited amount of tools at your disposal, it can really focus your mind and help you to think in more creative terms than you would be with no limits applied.

Here You Go Again On Your Own!

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There was a time when the idea of starting a business entirely on your own was practically inconceivable. After all, there are so many different things that go into creating a successful business, how are you possibly supposed to be able to take care of all of them by yourself. The very idea of running a business on your own has always seemed laughable. Of course, all that has changed in the modern world thanks to one simple but significant thing: the internet. The internet has changed just about everything about modern life and business is certainly no different. It’s now easier than ever for a single person to break out of the confines of their previous job, strike out on their own, and be genuinely successful doing it. With that in mind, here are a few ways that you can create a successful business all on your own.

Simple web design tools

There’s no doubt that if your business doesn’t have a website, then it might as well not exist in the minds of many customers. It’s lucky then that it’s never been quite so simple or easy to build a gorgeous, highly functional website. There are plenty of tools online that you can use but figuring out the right one for you can be a challenge. That’s why sites like http://WebsiteBuilders.com are so useful. They allow you to find the best tools to create a website that you can be genuinely proud of.   

Accounting made easy

Accounting is one of those things that, unless you’re a very specific kind of person, is never going to be especially engaging or exciting. Not only that but it’s often pretty complicated as well. However, if you’re not the kind of person for whom accounting has any appeal, don’t despair. There are plenty of tools available online that can make the whole process far easier. From invoice creation software to simple tools for calculating how much tax you should be paying, you no longer have to worry about wading through piles of documents that you barely understand.

Social media marketing

Marketing has always been one of the most important parts of any business, but it’s also been one of the more expensive. After all, a large scale marketing campaign isn’t going to come without some significant costs. However, the rise of social media has given many businesses the chance to market themselves to a potentially global audience without spending a single penny. All you need to be able to create content that people will actually want to share with one another. Of course, that’s not exactly easy but it’s certainly going to save you a lot of money.

Of course, it’s important to remember that there’s a big difference between being “easier than ever” and actually being easy. The truth is that there are still plenty of challenges that you’ll have to face trying to get out on your own. You need to be willing to put in a lot of hard work if you really want your solo business to be a success.

The Art Of Making Your Content Go Viral

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“So, content is King is it?” I can hear you saying it now, “I have the content. I have lots of content, but why aren’t I king yet?”. There are many reasons why (besides living in a democratic republic or not being next in line to the throne by blood) your content may not be making you king. You see, when Bill Gates made that statement way back in 1996 he misled a lot of people. It’s not having content that makes you King (although the quality of your content is a major factor), it’s the way in which you implement and share that content, whom you share it with and when that will determine its success. There was a time when simply having some form of content marketing (however ill-strategized) gave businesses a leg up, but those days are long gone. Content marketing is no longer a novelty, in fact it’s used by around 94% of brands. In order to make your voice heard among the masses, you need to give yourself a viral boost. But how?

If there were a single, foolproof way to make your content “go viral”, everyone would be doing it and the exercise would be pointless. However, there are some ways in which your content can be tweaked to enhance your likelihood of going viral.

What is “going viral”?

Many use the term “going viral” in relation to online content without a particularly clear idea of what it means. So, for the sake of clarity, virality is how quickly and widely a piece of content is shared around the world. When content goes viral it’s very often a case of the right people noticing, consuming and distributing the content at the right time. The rise of social media celebrities means that certain people are well placed to share content with their sizeable following and boost its distribution exponentially. These people are called influencers.

While many books and articles claim to be able to impart the secret of virality, the truth is that it’s a process that will occur organically under the right circumstances. While you can’t force these circumstances, there are some things you can do to help yourself…

Invest in regular, high quality, relevant content

Sounds like a no-brainer doesn’t it? The fact, however, is that too many businesses think that they can build a powerful content strategy on cheaply sourced, poorly written or irrelevant content, just as you can’t build an impenetrable fortress on sand. Your content should be posted regularly (for regularly read daily), and should be of high quality, written in a way that is SEO friendly (use the Yoast plugin if you need guidance with this). Outsourcing your content is all well and good, but the more specialized your field, the more specialized your content should be. Your content should be attuned to the demands of your target market and address issues, news and trends that matter to them.

Dare to be different

In an age where more providers than ever are dishing out free content to your target audience, it pays to do what you can to make your content look or feel different. For example, turning a regular series of blog posts into an instant Flipbook gives your content the look and feel of a magazine. This will be more appealing to readers and increase their chances of sharing it.

It’s okay to make lists

A small but vocal online subculture look at list articles with disdain, but look at Buzzfeed and you’ll see that some of their most shared articles are in fact lists. Lists are popular because they represent digestible yet information dense format that’s suited for consumption in small doses while on the go (which, in case you weren’t looking is how people consume their content these days).

Have personality

Aside from providing specialist information and the kinds of insights that only you and your insights can give, it’s important to have personality. After all, intelligence is attractive in our friends and loved ones but nobody wants to hang out with a walking encyclopedia. Finding the right balance between personality and making your content feel weighty is a tricky one. Your tone should be engaging without glossing over salient details. You should be funny without being flippant, you should be articulate without being confusing and information dense without being dry.

Finally, know your onions

You can have the punchiest and most engaging prose style in the world, but if your information is incorrect or unfounded, audiences will not forgive you for it. Having someone tear your insights to shreds on social media because you didn’t do you research isn’t a good look on any business.

First Impressions: Wow Your Clients With Your Office Space

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When it comes to making first impressions on your clients, your office space says it all. A cluttered office says that a business is unorganized and that may put clients off. A dank and dreary space could affect your client’s mood and may lead to them taking their business to your competitors, who have a light and airy office. If you’re not thinking about how your office represents you when clients come to visit, you may be unintentionally giving off the wrong vibes. So, how can your office make the best impression?

Office Furniture

The furniture you use is important for both your clients and your employees. Using light colored furniture will give the illusion that smaller spaces are larger than they are. Adding pops of color to the room with cushions, bean bags and accessories will make the space seem inviting. Of course, the furniture also has to be functional and comfortable. Your employees need furniture that will help them to be productive. Look for fun and bright ergonomic chairs for employees to sit on and a meeting table that stands out from the crowd to impress clients.

Remodeling

There comes a day when every office needs to be remodeled to suit growing expectations. If you’re hiring civil engineering companies, make sure they use materials that won’t block the signal you’re receiving in the office space. The last thing you want to return to is slow internet speed and frustrated clients. If you invest in data hardware throughout the office, you can be sure that clients visiting the office space won’t have to put up with slow signals. It’s also vital for when you’re making presentations. The quicker you can get through them, the happier your clients will be.

Show Off Your Brand

They say that the one thing that makes a business look trustworthy is a great brand. As soon as your client walks through the office doors, it has to be obvious where they are. After all, the client may have spent all week visiting your competitors, so your office space needs to say who you are and what you’re about immediately. One of the best ways for your brand to stick with a client is to plaster it over the little things in the office. Let your client walk away with a pen that has your logo on it, use mugs with the logo on it to serve coffee and any paperwork the client takes away should have a clear and concise header.

Use Digital Storage

No client wants to walk into an office that seems to be in utter chaos. If your employees are running around trying to find hard copies of files that could easily be stored online, it’s probably time for a change. Not having hard copies around makes an office space look much tidier, far less cluttered and it’s more impressive if someone can find what a client needs with the click of a button, rather than a rummage through the filing cabinets.

Make your client feel at home and you’re on track for a great relationship.

The Small Things: Overlooked Necessities Every Business Owner Needs

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When it comes to running a small business, there are certain things that you know you’re going to need. A laptop or desktop computer, a smartphone, office supplies, business cards… the list goes on and on. But then there are the more subtle things that you end up forking out for last minute down the line. The little bits and pieces that you had never even thought about but end up paying premium prices for in a hasty rush. It’s best to avoid this where possible. After all, you’re only digging into your own profits. Preparation and organisation is key to every business, so it’s time to get up to date with the seemingly minor things that prove relatively essential when it comes to keeping the bigger things ticking over. Here are a few overlooked necessities that every small business owner should be aware of and well stocked up on.

Eyelets

Eyelets. Everyone’s seen them, but (until you get started with your own business) have never purchased or considered purchasing before. Now, you may think that eyelets belong the realm of shoe designers and shoe manufacturers, but they actually have so many more uses and chances are that you’re going to need a few in the not too distant future. One of their main uses is in advertising. Ever seen a huge banner declaring the opening of a shop, a sale, or a special event? Well, the string that keeps it hanging up isn’t just magically attached to the banner. Take a look at Eyelets for Banners and Flute Sheet | Eurotech. This will help you to get a better idea of how a banner is set up. An eyelet will generally be placed in each corner, where the string can then be run through, allowing you much more control over the positioning and placement of your advertising. So, what kind of eyelet will best suit your needs? Clear plastic ones are perhaps best. They are transparent, meaning that they won’t clash with your banner or draw attention away from its message. They also won’t rust which is extremely important considering the banner is likely to be left outdoors to face the elements. Perfect!

Correction Fluid

We all make mistakes and when you’re in an office, these can mount up pretty quickly. People often make orders over the phone and rapidly change their mind once you’ve already written down their initial request. If you throw out each piece of paper that contains a mistake, you’ll quickly end up with an overflowing waste paper basket. Not only is this terrible for the environment, but it eats into your profits too. So, stock up on correction fluid. Opt for fast drying options that allow you to continue writing over previous errors as quickly as possible. Foam wedge applicators are also generally preferable, as they allow for precise but even coverage. Alternatively, try out correction tapes. These perform a similar task but you don’t have to worry about drying at all.

Keyboard Protectors

When you set up a small business it’s likely that you’ll be carrying out much of your work online. This means more time spent tapping away on the keyboard of your laptop or computer. The more you type, the more problems your device can face. After all, you’re more likely to get crumbs or spill drinks on the keys causing potentially serious damage or, in the best case scenario, sticky keys. Invest in a thin keyboard protector. This will simply slot over your keys and prevent any foodstuffs or generally dust and dirt from slipping behind the keyboard. It will also help to protect your keypad from the potentially excessive wear and tear of everyday use. This means less money forked out on repairs or replacements. While you’re at it, consider laptop cases and carry cases too. These extras will each protect your device in a different way.

A Drinks Machine

It’s not until you start going through your expenses that you start to realize just how much you end up spending on drinks throughout the working day. You need to stay hydrated. You could also probably do with the caffeine boost that many hot drinks offer too. So why not invest in a machine for your office. Water dispensers are brilliant, as most have the option of dispensing room temperature water or cold water. You can choose between the two depending on your current preference. A coffee machine is also a good investment that will also be much appreciated by your employees.

Whenever you notice there’s a little something missing from your small business, take steps to implement whatever it may be. This will help you to be more productive and in turn generate more profit.

How to Choose the Right Loan for Your Small Business

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As a small business owner, or an entrepreneur about to launch a startup, you will know what its like working with a small budget. However, did you know that money problems are the second most common reason behind business failure?

While SMEs and startups do not necessarily need huge funds to thrive and grow, if your business begins to experience negative cash flow, it could be the beginning of the end.

When your business needs a cash injection, you may be tempted to apply for a Market Invoice business loan. A loan can help your business thrive but with so many what might seem complication options to choose from, you may be unsure where to start.

To help you apply for the right loan, here are some things to consider about borrowing for your small business.

Secured and Unsecured

There are two types of loans: secured and unsecured. The former is secured using business assets, which ensures that should you fail to make repayments, the lender can recover losses by selling your assets. This could include business cars, property or equipment. The latter involves no collateral but does often require a longer trading history by way of guarantee.

It is important to note that the type of loan you will be able to secure will depend upon your company’s history, trading time and credit history.

Research the Criteria

When applying for a business loan, your company will usually have to meet a certain set of criteria. For an SME, many lenders will ask to see two years trading records, turnover and profits, as well as your credit history.

For startups, the required criteria are usually more basic and may include permanent UK residence and less than two years trading.

Tip: After ensuring that your business meets the conditions, make sure you have all documentation required to make the application process quicker and smoother.

Fixed and Flexible

In addition to secured and unsecured, you can choose between fixed and flexible loans. Fixed loans have fixed payments. As such, when you agree to the loan, you agree to pay the same fixed sum every month until the debt has been cleared. Flexible loan repayments, on the other hand, differ depending on interest rates.

Both types of loans have their benefits, as fixed allow you to predict and allow for expenditure, while flexible loans could save you money if interest rates drop.

 Purpose of the Loan

Before applying, it is important to think about why the loan is needed. Think carefully about how long you need the loan, how much money you need to borrow, how quickly you need the money and what you can secure the loan against.

Considering these questions will help you to determine what type of loan is best for your business.

There are a range of business loans available on the market, with some aimed at SMEs and others tailored for startups with no-to-little trading history. Before applying, do some research, think carefully about what type of lending is suitable for your business and take your time, to make sure you select the right loan.