Social Media Strategy For Small Businesses

For new businesses looking to expand their marketing efforts, social media appears on the surface to be the perfect way to boost your business for little to no cost.

There are, however, a few things businesses looking to use social media need to be aware of if they are to maximise its effectiveness.

  1. Customers

Market where your customers hang out online. Depending on the type of business you are and who your target audience is, you need to find out where they hang out online. For example, if your customer base is:

  • other business owners, you might find LinkedIn could be a good place to market.
  • stay-at-home parents, LinkedIn might not be the best place for spending your time and efforts.
  1. Commit

Commit to your chosen social media channels. The worse thing you can do is start a channel, then give up in the first 30 days and leave the channel dormant.

This makes it look like you are out of business.   Or – worse – not interested in your customers. So, focus on may be one or two channels. You don’t have to do them all.

The other thing we suggest here is checking that the channel is something you will actually use for posting content etc. Trying to force yourself to use a platform you don’t use yourself makes social marketing even harder, as you will see it as a chore from the outset.

  1. Consistency

Be consistent in your messaging and frequency. Plan ahead of time so you or your staff know how many posts you/they will be creating each month and set aside time each day to check and respond to comments and enquiries.

Don’t forget, each platform will have its own messaging system so do check those inboxes for enquiries.

This could be where you get enquires that turn into sales.

  1. Communicate

Communicate with your audience and engage with them. This is about building a relationship with your customer base, not simply using social media as a selling tool.

The clue is in the title, its social.

Don’t just set up lots of ‘selling’ messages; make your channel useful for your customer base. In fact, the golden rule is at least 5 or 6 informative messages for each ‘selling’ message.

Share useful information with your audience about your product or service and the industry you are in, but don’t merely try and ram sales messages down their throats. This will not work.

  1. Content

Once you know which social media channel you are going to use and know what you are going to say, this will help you decide how best to say it. Certain channels offer the facility to run live video (Facebook Live for example) or, if your product is very image-based, you can use Instagram.

Once you know the type of content you need to share, you can create or curate it to save time and effort. Some tools will allow you to pre-post content and have it drop fed into your platform.

That said, however, do make sure you actually visit the platform and share content on an ad-hoc basis too. This shows you are in the channel and active. Batching content is merely a time saver, not a replacement for actually showing up on your platform (i.e. you still need to be active on your platform and engage with visitors).

We hope this gives you some ideas and helps you create a social media strategy that’s appropriate for your business. Don’t try and do everything or copy a successful case study. You need to find what’s right for you.

Finding the best loan for you

best loan

Here at See Business Loans, we’re experts in finding personal and indeed other forms of loans. We know the funding markets in their totality and are pleased to share the potential benefits of that expertise with our clients.

However, from time to time you might see mentioned in the markets sentiments such as “finding the best loan”. What does that mean?

A personal loan for business purposes

In some cases, it might be possible to apply for a personal loan and then use it for business purposes.

If that sounds odd, a classic use of such a technique is often in a business start-up situation or when a business has only been operational for say less than a full accounting year. In such cases, potential business finance lenders may have little or nothing to go by in terms of assessing the merits or otherwise of the business’s performance.

In these instances, while they might not be able to lend to the business as a legal entity, they may be willing to do so to you as the business owner.

Typically, personal lending requires some form of security over an asset. One advantage is that it may be the case that when you compare personal loans against business loans, the former might be more cost-attractive.

If you’re applying for a personal loan which you intend to use for business purposes, you must openly and accurately declare the intended use to the potential lender.

The use of “best”

For some, the most attractive loans might be those that might be described as “the cheapest”.

Herein lies a problem though because it can be a mistake to focus exclusively upon cost. To give just one very simplified illustration:

  • one loan might bring with it a slightly higher interest rate than another meaning higher monthly repayments and if the term is the same, that means higher cost. However, the more expensive borrowing might provide you with the larger capital sum you really need.

Selecting the lower-cost loan might end up with you compromising on how much you borrow and that might starve your business of the injection of financial life blood it needs.

We recognise the need for a cost-effective solution but we always recommend a focus on the totality of your situation. For that reason, when we compare personal loans, we always operate on the basis of looking for the most appropriate products as matched against your position and requirements, rather than simply “the cheapest”. Remember, that what one person thinks is the best loan for them may not be the best loan for you.

Differences between “personal loans for business” and “business loans”

Broadly speaking, a true business loan usually involves lending to a company as a legal entity. Personal lending is, of course, lending to an individual.

In theory, this means that the directors of a LTD or PLC have limited liability for the debts incurred by the company, including loans. While this is an important distinction under law, in practice, its effects are diluted – and particularly so in the case of smaller companies.

It is not uncommon for directors or business owners to be asked to underwrite the loan their company is receiving, by personal guarantees against their own financial position and assets. So, the lines between personal and business borrowing can be blurred.

Credit history checks

If you’re applying for a personal loan or indeed acting as a guarantor for a business loan, you will typically be subject to a credit history check.

Contrary to some myth, having problems on your credit history files is NOT a showstopper in terms of you securing a loan. They may though affect how much you can borrow and how much you will need to pay for that borrowing.

Keep in mind that every time you apply for a loan and are refused, that fact is noted on your credit history files. It may adversely affect your score.

As a consequence, it’s important to only make full applications to lenders who will be receptive to your particular request. Again, that’s where we can help and we invite you to contact us for further information.

Comparing business loans

Comparing business loans

The market’s options for business finance have rarely been more diverse or dynamic than they are today.

Here we’ll examine just a few of the potential routes open to you.

Some background

From a potential lender’s viewpoint, there are typically three generic characteristics of a business seeking a capital injection:

  • it has encountered a short-term cash flow or other funding problem. Typically the business remains viable and offers potential for future success. The current problems are likely to be relatively easy to resolve with a little time and some bridging finance to help.

Examples in this area might include a business struggling to get its bills paid on time by a major client or perhaps some problems have been encountered due to currency fluctuations and the lack of forward forex contracts;

  • it is successful and wishes to expand and grow its activities, requiring finance to do so. Examples here might include expansion overseas or the purchase of new and expensive capital equipment;
  • its basic business performance is not generating sufficient profits for survival. This might be for any number of serious strategic reasons, such as a flawed business proposition or an incorrectly structured company. Such problems may be difficult to remedy in the short term and expensive overall. In some cases, they may question the basic viability of the business.

Examples here might include being unable to complete on price with overseas competitors in lower-cost economies or offering goods/services for which there is little market demand.

Each of these three categories may require a different approach when trying to compare business loans.

The types of finance

At See Business Loans, we’re experts in comparing business loans and finding solutions.

Even so, it’s impossible to say in advance which solutions might be applicable to your business. To do so, we’d need to sit down and analyse your position with you, so that we could identify some potential solutions.

That’s because as the above breakdown of company characteristics indicates, depending upon your position, some funding sources might be far more appropriate than others.

For example, some fund providers specialise in helping overcome short-term cash flow woes. Examples of solutions in that area might include:

  • invoice factoring;
  • invoice discounting;
  • short to medium term directors’ loans; etc.

In other situations, it might be more beneficial to consider funding through solutions such as HP (Hire Purchase) where capital equipment is required for expansion or perhaps equity re-capitalisation, which essentially involves lending based around equity you might have tied up in existing assets.

Yet other options might include Business Angels – typically wealthy individuals who might be willing to inject finance into businesses they believe have potential for the future. They’re typically more risk-inclined than some funds providers but they might wish to take a share in your business, perhaps for a limited period, to protect their investment.

To start thinking about how to compare business loans, we would need to get things started by having some initial discussions with you to understand just where your business currently stands.

General principles

As a brief introduction, here are a few general points about finding business finance:

  • it’s typically always easier if your reasons for the finance request are positive (expansion, cash-flow, growth, new product development) than if they’re negative (your business proposition is fundamentally flawed);
  • to obtain business loans, you’ll typically need to show that you’re an existing business with some form of demonstrable track record – usually in the form of accounts. Green field “start-up” finance is available but it’s typically regarded as a separate form of business lending;
  • in the case of smaller businesses and sole traders operating as a Limited Company, your own personal credit history will typically be examined.

Why not find out more by contacting us without delay?

Types of business finance

Types of business finance

We’re often asked to list the basic types of business finance that are available.

At See Business Loans, rather than present long lists of product names and detailed explanations, we prefer to discuss our client’s exact situation and the types of funding solution that might be applicable. That avoids listing lots of approaches that simply might not be the optimum (or even an available) solution for you in your unique business circumstances.

The options

Recognising this risk as well as the limitations of the space available in a typical blog of this nature, we’re pleased to offer below a brief list of just some of the business finance approaches that might be options for you.

They include:

  • conventional loans. Some of these may be unsecured but that will typically assume your business has a substantial trading history and one that’s success-based. Small companies or those with unclear or variable trading histories may need to secure the loan against an asset or underwrite it by personal guarantees from directors (which in turn might include security against their assets);

You might see this approach described as “debt finance”;

  • equity finance. This usually involves an investor (or investors) taking a share of your company and its equity, in return for a substantial capital injection. That share of your business will give them a significant say in how you run your affairs. You will typically need to have at least some trading history in the shape of accounts in order for this approach to go forward;
  • equity re-finance. This basically means you’ll be using the value of any assets you have (minus any outstanding finance debt on them) and freeing that up to use for business finance purposes;
  • Business Angels and private investors. In a sense, these are closely related to equity finance above except that they’re more commonly found in the early developmental stages of a company looking for business finance lending. Such lenders will be looking for exceptional prospects and a high degree of latent talent in the business. They may be happier to take higher risks but they will also expect higher returns than some other forms of funds provider;
  • invoice factoring / discounting. This is a form of funding aimed at companies that are either struggling with credit control (i.e. getting their customers to pay) or those who just need immediate access to cash when they raise an invoice. It’s usually an approach designed to speed cash flow and therefore provide rapid funds for business re-investment;
  • personal loans. In some cases, it might be advantageous to take a personal loan (perhaps securing that on your own assets) then lending or investing the sums to or in your own business. There are pros and cons to this approach and we will happily discuss those with you;
  • venture capital. This might cover a wide range of potential approaches. Venture capital companies are looking for high-return prospects and this approach might typically be slightly more common with larger business operations.

Summary

In the above, we have really only scratched the surface of the business finance options that might be available to you.

It’s also worth repeating that because these options might be available, doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re all equally suitable for a given individual business and its circumstances.

Our primary role is to match your position with one or perhaps a range of solutions that will be appropriate in your context. Of course, we’ll need to know more about that context before we can offer any meaningful observations.

So, why not contact us for an initial and entirely non-committal discussion? We’re waiting to hear from you and would love to help!

 

Business loans tips

Business loans tips

At See Business Loans, we’re in an excellent position to offer some “top tips” for those seeking business finance.

In our experience, with appropriate preparation and planning, success is much more likely than in situations where a business has just cast around looking for finance from a number of randomly selected sources.

So, here are our tips for success in finding business loans:

  • get expert advice in advance. Not all types of finance will be either suitable or advantageous in your position. Unless you’re an expert in business funding, you may struggle to identify those options that are suitable and those that aren’t. The result might be wasted time, money and in some cases, perhaps damage to your credit history if you’re subject to loan application refusals;
  • prepare your request professionally. Few if any providers of business loans welcome applications that have been poorly thought-through and prepared. Once your reputation has been damaged by the submission of a poorly structured funding request, it may be difficult to repair it. We can assist in this preparation of course;
  • understand your own business case. This is related to the point above but however well prepared and presented your proposal is, if it doesn’t make sense in basic business terms then success is unlikely;
  • brush up on (or learn) the basics of accounting and financial business metrics. It might be imperative that you can demonstrate that you understand your own business position in quantitative rather than just qualitative terms. So, if you’re uncomfortable talking about balance sheets, P&Ls, depreciation, asset valuations, cash flow management and so on, then some homework is advisable;
  • be open. Cite all pertinent material facts. Don’t attempt to obscure or hide the reality of your business and/or personal financial position. Don’t downplay business problems you have or have experienced.

Funds providers will often see any such attempt immediately and not only might your request be rejected but your professional reputation could suffer too;

  • look at your existing assets. It’s far from unusual to see companies attempting to raise business loans when they actually already have substantial cash tied up in their existing assets. That equity could be accessed (called technically asset re-financing) as a very cost-effective way of injecting capital into other areas of your business.

Business plan

Finally, make sure you have a comprehensive, credible and well-understood (by you) business plan. Fund providers want to see a number of things including your plans for the future showing how your business will grow. That’s because it’ll indicate how safe their money is in your business.

So, make sure you have a credible quantitative plan going forward and that you can explain it with conviction and in-depth knowledge. Try to avoid plans that consist largely of wishful-thinking, optimistic hopes and unlikely scenarios. These are typically poorly received by lenders/investors.

Link your funding request to your plan. Funds providers like to see that the injection of their capital with have “x effect” on your plans for growth and profit. It’s not uncommon though to see funding requests and business plans that do not appear to relate to each other. Remember, lenders want to see what you’ll be doing with their money.

It’s true that even the best-prepared funding requests can’t compensate for flawed business thinking or for a proposition that indicates a low probability of a successful outcome for the business concerned.

Even so, many funding requests do create problems for themselves even where the underlying case is highly meritorious. This should, of course, be avoided.

This is where we can help. Why not contact us without delay for further advice and assistance in terms of preparing a proposal that will stand a high chance of succeeding in finding business loans?