Small Business Digital Marketing: Using the Internet to Grow Your Business

If you are a small business and you are not yet marketing yourself online then you are really missing out. On the other hand, maybe you’ve tried it but you just haven’t been able to generate the results you’d like? Either way, it’s time to change things and get serious about this opportunity…The sad truth is that most small businesses aren’t marketing themselves effectively using the internet. This is usually because they lack the expertise to implement their marketing campaigns in the right way, or they believe that it is expensive and thus not something they can afford.What can you achieve with small business digital marketing?The reality is that digital marketing is a constantly changing landscape. If you really want to succeed with it and generate great results for your business then you definitely need to know what you are doing. If it is done in the right way however then this type of marketing can enable you to grow your business and reach new customers in a way that has never been possible before.The digital world creates a wonderful opportunity for small businesses to grow their income, find new clients and better engage existing ones. From advertising through social media to reach new audiences, generating leads through carefully crafted website landing pages, or engaging existing customers through content-filled email newsletters, this tool can generate real tangible results for your company.Getting started with small business digital marketingThe first thing to get clear on is that you need a definite plan. Diving straight into the field without thinking about what you want to achieve, and how you are going to achieve it, is simply setting yourself up for failure. Failing to plan is probably the number one reason why most small businesses fail with this inception.It is very important to have a clear and detailed strategy. You should set out specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound marketing objectives and targets, and you should ensure that you think carefully about the digital marketing channels you are going to use to get your message out there.It is also important to remember that digital marketing isn’t an instant solution. Achieving effective results requires consistent action, on-going testing and regular reviewing of progress.Getting help with small business digital marketingAs we have already touched upon, digital marketing is a complex field that’s constantly changing. It is therefore crucial to have a good understanding of the subject and know exactly how to plan and implement digital campaigns for maximum results.Many small business lack in-house expertise and thus choose to seek the help of a digital marketing agency. This is often a smart decision because it brings much-needed expertise to the table. A digital marketing implemented by professionals is much more likely to generate great results than a campaign implemented by someone who is relying in trial and error. In addition, getting external help with small business digital marketing frees the company to concentrate on running their business, without worrying about their digital campaigns.
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Alternative Financing Vs. Venture Capital: Which Option Is Best for Boosting Working Capital?

There are several potential financing options available to cash-strapped businesses that need a healthy dose of working capital. A bank loan or line of credit is often the first option that owners think of – and for businesses that qualify, this may be the best option.

In today’s uncertain business, economic and regulatory environment, qualifying for a bank loan can be difficult – especially for start-up companies and those that have experienced any type of financial difficulty. Sometimes, owners of businesses that don’t qualify for a bank loan decide that seeking venture capital or bringing on equity investors are other viable options.

But are they really? While there are some potential benefits to bringing venture capital and so-called “angel” investors into your business, there are drawbacks as well. Unfortunately, owners sometimes don’t think about these drawbacks until the ink has dried on a contract with a venture capitalist or angel investor – and it’s too late to back out of the deal.

Different Types of Financing

One problem with bringing in equity investors to help provide a working capital boost is that working capital and equity are really two different types of financing.

Working capital – or the money that is used to pay business expenses incurred during the time lag until cash from sales (or accounts receivable) is collected – is short-term in nature, so it should be financed via a short-term financing tool. Equity, however, should generally be used to finance rapid growth, business expansion, acquisitions or the purchase of long-term assets, which are defined as assets that are repaid over more than one 12-month business cycle.

But the biggest drawback to bringing equity investors into your business is a potential loss of control. When you sell equity (or shares) in your business to venture capitalists or angels, you are giving up a percentage of ownership in your business, and you may be doing so at an inopportune time. With this dilution of ownership most often comes a loss of control over some or all of the most important business decisions that must be made.

Sometimes, owners are enticed to sell equity by the fact that there is little (if any) out-of-pocket expense. Unlike debt financing, you don’t usually pay interest with equity financing. The equity investor gains its return via the ownership stake gained in your business. But the long-term “cost” of selling equity is always much higher than the short-term cost of debt, in terms of both actual cash cost as well as soft costs like the loss of control and stewardship of your company and the potential future value of the ownership shares that are sold.

Alternative Financing Solutions

But what if your business needs working capital and you don’t qualify for a bank loan or line of credit? Alternative financing solutions are often appropriate for injecting working capital into businesses in this situation. Three of the most common types of alternative financing used by such businesses are:

1. Full-Service Factoring – Businesses sell outstanding accounts receivable on an ongoing basis to a commercial finance (or factoring) company at a discount. The factoring company then manages the receivable until it is paid. Factoring is a well-established and accepted method of temporary alternative finance that is especially well-suited for rapidly growing companies and those with customer concentrations.

2. Accounts Receivable (A/R) Financing – A/R financing is an ideal solution for companies that are not yet bankable but have a stable financial condition and a more diverse customer base. Here, the business provides details on all accounts receivable and pledges those assets as collateral. The proceeds of those receivables are sent to a lockbox while the finance company calculates a borrowing base to determine the amount the company can borrow. When the borrower needs money, it makes an advance request and the finance company advances money using a percentage of the accounts receivable.

3. Asset-Based Lending (ABL) – This is a credit facility secured by all of a company’s assets, which may include A/R, equipment and inventory. Unlike with factoring, the business continues to manage and collect its own receivables and submits collateral reports on an ongoing basis to the finance company, which will review and periodically audit the reports.

In addition to providing working capital and enabling owners to maintain business control, alternative financing may provide other benefits as well:

It’s easy to determine the exact cost of financing and obtain an increase.
Professional collateral management can be included depending on the facility type and the lender.
Real-time, online interactive reporting is often available.
It may provide the business with access to more capital.
It’s flexible – financing ebbs and flows with the business’ needs.
It’s important to note that there are some circumstances in which equity is a viable and attractive financing solution. This is especially true in cases of business expansion and acquisition and new product launches – these are capital needs that are not generally well suited to debt financing. However, equity is not usually the appropriate financing solution to solve a working capital problem or help plug a cash-flow gap.

A Precious Commodity

Remember that business equity is a precious commodity that should only be considered under the right circumstances and at the right time. When equity financing is sought, ideally this should be done at a time when the company has good growth prospects and a significant cash need for this growth. Ideally, majority ownership (and thus, absolute control) should remain with the company founder(s).

Alternative financing solutions like factoring, A/R financing and ABL can provide the working capital boost many cash-strapped businesses that don’t qualify for bank financing need – without diluting ownership and possibly giving up business control at an inopportune time for the owner. If and when these companies become bankable later, it’s often an easy transition to a traditional bank line of credit. Your banker may be able to refer you to a commercial finance company that can offer the right type of alternative financing solution for your particular situation.

Taking the time to understand all the different financing options available to your business, and the pros and cons of each, is the best way to make sure you choose the best option for your business. The use of alternative financing can help your company grow without diluting your ownership. After all, it’s your business – shouldn’t you keep as much of it as possible?

Market Mood Swings And How To Benefit From Them

You must have heard many news like – market dropped due to some political upheaval in the middle east or the market soared due to some referendum in Europe. In the age of globalisation, all the markets and businesses across the world are intertwined, hence any geopolitical event has the potential to move the global markets.But where does that leave the investors? What should be their ideal approach to counter such uncertain situations? The good news is – whether markets fall or rise, it’s an opportunity for the investors. Here’s how.Investors In The Market CycleThe reason we say that whether market falls or rises, it’s always an opportunity for the investor is because if the market falls, all the stocks on your watch-list, most likely, will be in the buying range. And when the market rises, it’s a perfect point for you to sell the stocks which have reached their target price.The key point is – if you have a long-term perspective in stock investment, it will be your armour against all the uncertainties of the stock market.Let’s take a look at the market phases which comprises the market cycle.The Bear MarketThe bear market is a market condition where the prices of the securities fall considerably and the market goes through a significant downturn. In such situations there is widespread pessimism about stock prices and a lot of panic selling takes place which further escalates the downturn.Though it’s a nature of the market to swing up and down, intraday traders and short-term investors, who deal in huge quantities, have no other option but to sell their holdings to minimise their losses.However, long-term investors have an advantage in this phase, as they can choose to hold their stocks while they also have an alternative to average their existing stocks and buy new stocks. Always remember, the bear market is a perfect opportunity to enter the market and build a robust portfolio.Market Accumulation Phase (Consolidation)This phase takes place after the markets have hit the bottom and some value investors think that the market situations is good to buy as the worst is over. Valuations of stocks are very attractive in this phase while the market sentiment is still bearish. Which makes it an ideal time to enter the market. In the accumulation phase, prices are flat, as the disillusioned sellers start selling while the wise investors pick it up at a healthy discount. Owing to such turn of events, market starts to pick up.To get through such phases, investors should just be patient and hold their stocks. Giving in to your impulse of selling stocks due to continuous consolidation will only bring you losses. It’s just a phase which passes sooner or later.The Bull MarketThe bull market simply means that the market is on its upward drift. The market index goes high and all the major stocks start soaring. This is the phase investors invest for. One thing investors should ensure while going through this phase is that it’s not a buying period, it’s the time to review your portfolio and sell stocks which have reached their target price. In a way, all the investment, and calculated risks you take while the market was down pays off when you reach this phase. If you make the right choices, you will be handsomely rewarded.