Monday, August 12, 2019

Crack the Small Business PR Code with These 3 Pro Tips - Small Business Trends

Crack the Small Business PR Code with These 3 Pro Tips - Small Business Trends


Crack the Small Business PR Code with These 3 Pro Tips - Small Business Trends

Posted: 11 Aug 2019 09:00 AM PDT

PR and media coverage doesn't have to be limited to the big corporate brands out there. As a small business you possess more opportunity than ever to use the fragmented media landscape to your advantage. By being able to reach your specific audience directly you ensure that you have control of the message you put out and who reads it.

When it comes to big corporations and their PR, sure they have bigger budgets, bigger brands and weight behind them. But a small business can be agile. As a result, moving quickly when ideas come together provides creative freedom.



PR Tips for Small Business

While big corporations send PR releases, small business can be agile testing different angles and subject lines simultaneity to find what is getting the best response from journalists. Think about it,  what PR stunt can you pull out of your hat, that your mammoth competitor could never do?

#1 Use Tools to Find Opportunities

Sometimes a small business just doesn't have breaking news or coverage worthy stories. That's by all means not a problem and shouldn't be considered a hurdle for media coverage.

Small businesses may also not have the budget or personnel that needs to be dedicated to finding newsworthy information and pitching journalists. This results in a tepid attempt at PR by simply taking a sales page about your product and blasting out via news wire.

Then, nothing but tumbleweed and crickets.

PR instantly becomes a poor channel and shouldn't be considered. With the vast range of tools to cater for any issue out there, you should consider looking at what is out there.

Pro Tip

Use external sources and tools, which there is plenty of, to your advantage. There are so many options out there for collecting public-facing data, for free, and using your industry knowledge to align with potential PR opportunities.

For example, consider Google Trends tactic which provides search information from a vast array of time ranges. This takes into account search volume and dates etc to average out the results and paint an image of interest in a subject and break out subjects that are linked.

Data is everywhere and we still struggle to understand it. As an industry insider you may be able to decipher the data and find a link between A and B. This will inevitably be of massive interest to key journalists and publications.

By using this information and gathering the editorial calendars of relevant outlets you can start to try and link peaks and troughs to your industry insight.

Here's Where Tools Come in Handy

Mark Thomson of PayKickStart, a shopping cart platform, mentioned to me:

Sometimes I just have no idea what journalists want to hear. It's tough to figure out what is the next story they are writing. So I go to Google News or Google Trends and do some quick analysis on what journalists are talking about which relates to keywords I am expert in such as Ecommerce. Just by looking up trends and news on Ecommerce and latest articles I can usually tell what type of info/angle I should pitch. 

What this means is that you can reach out and provide insight into the outlets. As a result, an industry insider is available for comment and will be included in coverage. By adding a comment consistently and with value to stories you start to develop solid relations.

Inevitably, you will start to see potential stories and trends that you can share with your core outlet contacts. This is where PR coverage starts to take place.

#2 Become Exceptional at Media Relations

Start thinking about PR as strategic account management. From a small business perspective, every activity is reviewed based on commercial output. Resources are thin so this is completely understandable, which is also why small businesses struggle with even the foundational processes of PR.

There are 2 common and major issues that the PR world is guilty of.

Not Understanding Journalists

Journalists follow specific beats and cover specific angles. Which you will only know when you conduct research, without research you are literally just sending out a random message to the majority of journalists and outlets.

Imagine how enraging it is when a cold caller contacts you, pitching something that is for another industry. It's a waste of time. But again, without research on the journalist, you are more than likely an uneducated cold caller.

Not Understanding the Outlets

Top media coverage is what every business, no matter the size, dreams of. But for example a B2B company, top media is going to be a serious battle as your industry may have never been covered or of interest.

Therefore, you need to understand which outlets are focused to your industry and your business. Aligning industry insight with the outlets' angles ensures you are reaching the right audience.

Pro Tip

Spend time researching outlets and journalists. It's straightforward and not groundbreaking insight but overall it's such a basic process but so few small businesses (some PR pros are also guilty) do it well or do it at all.

#3 Create an Editorial Calendar

The above tips should culminate in a solid, forward-looking content calendar for the entire year if possible.

The first 2 tips are there to help you build a foundational understanding of your industry's PR landscape. The data that you can source and the outlets/journalists who would be interested in your comment provides the perfect start to getting media coverage.

Once you have the understanding you should focus your efforts on developing a solid content calendar. Below are 2 quick tips for getting this started, properly.

Collect Outlet Calendars

First things first, shortlist key industry media outlets that are super relevant to you. Then reach out to the editor@outlet.tld and introduce yourself and request their editorial calendar.

Most are happy to provide this as they can use it as a sales tool for advertising. Regardless once you get this calendar you should add all the stories etc into your calendar.

Create Your Own

Now using your Google Trends skills and industry insight you can start to search through keywords that are relevant. Be it product-based, competitor, repeat event – the point is to start reviewing any trends and potential comments you can see.

Pro Tip

Pull the Google data out and review your outlet calendars – are there any trends between the data you see and the proposed content? Yes, great. Add a comment to the story a month before it goes live. No, no problem just keep searching. There is bound to be something of interest for you to find based on global internet searches.

Image: Depositphotos.com

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What Are the Best Business Loan Terms for Your Small Business? - Nav

Posted: 12 Aug 2019 12:03 AM PDT

It can be confusing to navigate all the available loan products being offered by banks, lenders, and online financial companies these days. The best way to know which loan is best for your business situation, however, is to know about each of them in advance. 

From long-term financing to a quick cash advance, the more you understand, the more likely you are to narrow down the long list to just those that work for you. Then, you can just apply to those that meet your finance goals and are most likely to approve you.

Traditional bank loans

These are the loans people think of first when considering small business financing options for their companies. While not quite a cumbersome as those loan application meetings we see in old movies, they can be a complicated and often lengthy process. While most are agreeable to online applications, the majority still require a face-to-face meeting. 

Existing bank or credit union customers might get a reduction in the already-low interest rates of 3-6%, as well; these are usually offered if you're willing to make automatic payments from a connected account at the same institution. Many of these loans are considered long-term loans, especially if they are used to buy real estate. 

SBA loans

The SBA loans are a category in themselves. The most popular include the SBA 7(a) loan, the SBA 504 loan, and the SBA microloans. Each gives you a different loan amount, rates, and approved uses for the money. The different SBA loan terms also include how long you get to pay them back and how long you have to wait from the date of application until you get your money. 

For the borrower in a hurry, SBA loans might not be the best choice, although SBA express offerings are shortening that timeframe for qualified businesses with excellent credit who need an approval answer within a few days. SBA loan rates are also very competitive – among the best in the industry, at 7.5 – 10%.

Medium-term loans

The exact definition of a medium-term loan will vary by industry or financial institution, but many brick-and-mortar institutions define them as those that need to be paid back within 2-5 years and often require collateral as security. If your credit score is excellent, however, it's possible to get one without security. Interest rates can vary, hitting 30% at the peak. 

Short-term loans

Usually offered by online lenders, short-term business loans are designed to be repaid within a few months but can sometimes last 18 months. Those will excellent credit will benefit the most from these, paying similar rates to other loans. Those with subpar credit histories, however, can often pay up to 80% for financing through medium-term loans. 

Business lines of credit

These popular small business loans give you funding like a traditional loan but offer you access like a credit card. You can borrow just what you need, as long as you don't go over your limit and pay the minimum owed each month.

 Lines of credit may charge interest, monthly or annual fees, or a mix of both. Note that many of them will charge interest (at a rate of 7 to 36%) on day one, unlike credit cards, which often come with a 21 to 30-day grace period. 

Equipment financing

If you just need to upgrade your grills, factory lines, or 3D printers, and not pay for other working capital types, the equipment financing option may be for you. With an APR of anywhere from 8 to 30%, getting a good deal will entirely depend on the loan amount and your business credit score. 

A good personal credit score, along with the equipment you're financing as collateral, could help a borrower lower their rate. Equipment loans are rarely considered short-term financing, with much longer repayment periods than some other financing options. 

Invoice financing

Many new businesses may have trouble getting financing when they have a short history to demonstrate their track record. That's why invoice financing is popular among startups and others who have billed for products and services, but just haven't been paid yet. 

By getting a loan based on future accounts receivable, the lender is assuming the low risk. Expect to pay a bit more for the privilege, however; invoice financing can be among the most expensive in the industry, from 13 to 60% APR. 

Merchant cash advance

One of the more expensive ways to borrow money, the application process is super simple. The lender uses your credit card sales records to determine how much cash flow you normally have, then offer you a cash advance based on those numbers. 

To pay the loan back, a small percentage of each credit card sale will be taken. You'll need to do a bit of planning to accommodate the repayment of the loan, but it's a loan option that is available to those with even less-than-excellent credit scores. The cost to borrow in this manner, however, is high. Some accounts may be charged an APR of over 100%! 

With all of the loan types we explored, they will each have their own rules or "terms." This isn't to be confused with "term loans." These are simply any loan with predetermined repayment terms. Unlike a line of credit or credit card, which can be paid and then borrowed against again and again, term loans have a set loan amount and repayment period to meet. Easier to get than some standard bank loans, they are most usually offered online and may have higher fees or APR. 

Common Business Loan Terminology

In addition to understanding the various types of loans, there are many additional factors that can affect the affordability of your loan, how you repay it, and the value you get from it. Since many of the terminologies will also be included in your application and loan contract, it's smart to familiarize yourself. 

These common loan terms are used by most banks, and even just one can be the difference between an affordable monthly loan payment and something that can make repayment difficult.

Accounts receivable

Accounts receivable (or "AR") is a term used to describe all the monies that a company is owed but hasn't collected yet. For most businesses, this can be measured by invoices created or sent but not paid. 

Accounts receivable is a key indicator in the health of a business, and some business lenders will issue credit based on the total AR outstanding at any time. 

Annual revenue

Whether a fiscal business year starts in January, or some other month, the total twelve-month sales done by a company is its annual revenue. Not to be confused with profit, it is the gross amount collected, not including business expenses or debt yet to be paid. 

APR

Anytime you apply for a credit card or loan, you'll see the term "APR." Short for Annual Percentage Rate, it calculates the cost to borrow money. It combines the compounding business loan interest rate and fees into one number, giving you a better overall view of what you can expect to pay to borrow money in a given year. Most lenders will share the APR freely with you before you apply, but if they don't, a simple APR calculator can help. 

Business credit scores

Just like you have a personal credit score that documents your creditworthiness, you can also have a score for your business. This will track things like on-time payments, amounts owed, variety of debts, and length of credit history. 

The better business credit score you have, the more likely you'll be to qualify for those great interest rates on loans and credit cards!

Business credit reports

Business credit reports can be pulled in the same way personal ones can, but they aren't automatically generated just by being in business. To ensure that your on-time payments are being tracked and recorded in your history, ask your vendors and merchants if they can report your on-time payments to credit bureaus. A credit report can take time to build, but it's worth it. 

Cash flow

Cash (and cash equivalents) coming in and out of a company is its cash flow. This includes money being paid to the company by customers and payroll going to employees from the business. 

Money flowing in and out, measured by reports, is its cash flow. Companies try to focus on cash flow coming in and increase that number over time. 

Collateral

Many loans are considered secured loans. That is, they require you to put something of value that you already own for security in case you can't make payment. This item is referred to as "collateral." It can be the actual item you are financing (such as a house or car) or an unrelated item. 

If you were to take out a $1 million-dollar loan to refinance debt, for example, the bank may ask that you offer up a piece of collateral unrelated to the loan to ensure that they aren't taking unnecessary risk. Your home or a piece of business property might be used to secure the loan to the bank's satisfaction. 

FICO score

According to the makers of the FICO (Fair Isaac Corporation), it is calculated based only on information received from the three credit bureaus. "By comparing this information to the patterns in hundreds of thousands of past credit reports, FICO Scores estimate your level of future credit risk, or how likely you are to repay a loan on time." FICO claims that 90% of top lenders use their scores. 

Lien

When you borrow money and put up your car or home as collateral, you are granting a lien to the bank for that item. If you were to then not be able to pay the loan, the bank could seize the car or home to help them recover the losses.

If you are financing an item with a loan (such as business equipment), the lien would usually be put against the item being financed. A loan without a lien is considered an unsecured loan. 

Secured/unsecured loan

The difference between a secured loan and an unsecured loan can be a big one. With unsecured business loans, you aren't offering up any collateral to guarantee payment. If you were not to make your monthly payments, the bank has nothing to take from you to help them recover what they are owed. 

A secured loan, on the other hand, uses something as collateral – either the item the loan is paying for (such as a piece of property, a car or equipment) or another item put up to help secure the loan. 

Working capital

Many small business loan terms, especially those through SBA-approved lenders, dictate how you use the money. Working capital is one of the allowed ways to spend loan funds. Working capital is comprised of all of the liquid assets (such as cash) and other assets that can be accessed easily to pay for the daily operations of a business. 

When businesses get funding to use as working capital, they spend it on everything from payroll to raw materials to paying the light bill. 

Frequently asked questions

It's impossible to cover all the nuances of various business loans and standard funding in one article, but the questions people usually have are also mentioned here:

What's the benefit of a business loan payment calculator?

Like any other loan calculator, business loan calculators can tell you a number of things, including how much your monthly loan payment will be for the length of the loan, the amount of the loan, and various origination fees and interest rates. These can help you plan out your monthly budget. 

Simply tweak the monthly loan amount to what you can afford to see what you should borrow. Likewise, you can lengthen or shorten the loan term to see how much long-term business loans will cost compared to a short-term loan.

How do SBA loan terms differ from other loans?

SBA loans aren't actually given out by the SBA. The Small Business Administration matches lenders with qualified borrowers and often subsidized the loan to help reduce risk to the lender and encourage them to offer more loans to less-qualified businesses owners. 

Because of this, the loan terms come partially from the SBA and business lending guidelines under the program, but lenders also have some flexibility in how they lend. Rates (within a range), payment terms, and other considerations may be set by the lender independently from the SBA.

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The iPhone Isn’t As Fast As You Think…And Other Small Business Tech News This Week - Forbes

Posted: 11 Aug 2019 04:00 AM PDT

Here are five things in technology that happened this past week and how they affect your business. Did you miss them?

1— Want the phone with fastest internet in the U.S.? Don't buy an iPhone.

A study conducted by OpenSignal found that Samsung devices download at 28Mbps, and iPhones at 20Mbps, making Samsung 8.2Mbps faster than iPhone downloads. The results are unexpected due to the fact that Apple only sells premium-priced phones, while Samsung's models vary from premium to cheap. Priorities other than fast internet, such as facial recognition, camera innovation, long battery life, and application processors and graphics, appear to be what Apple is focusing on, according to OpenSignal. (Source: ZDNet)

Why this is important for your business:

Faster technology means more productive people. More productive people means more profits. Therefore, Samsung equals more profits?

2 — Google unveils advanced G Suite protection for high-risk employees.

At the New Tokyo summit this past week, Google announced their new protections for G Suite, Google Cloud Platform (GCP), and Cloud Identity customers. Admins in G Suite are now able to enroll high-risk employees in an advanced protection program, which will allow them to receive anomalous activity alerts automatically. "High risk" people are those that are more likely to be targeted for an online attack, such as IT administrators, CEOs and those who work in security-sensitive roles in finance and government.  The program will require the use of two-factor authentication hardware keys as well as the ability to automatically block access to third-party apps. (Source: Engadget)

Why this is important for your business:

Don't get too excited yet, friends. The features are only available in Japan, Canada, France and the UK. But we should be seeing them sometime soon here in the U.S. and I'm sure these features will be popular amongst by G Suite clients.

3 — HR tech startup TalentGuard snags $4M to help companies keep employees longer

TalentGuard, a talent management SaaS (software-as-a-subscription), has raised $4 million and will use that funding to better engage with and coach employees. (Source: Crunch Base News)

Why this is important for your business:

TalentGuard is used mostly by big corporations. But the smartest small business owners I know are always keeping their eyes on what the big guys are doing. Why? Because ultimately they'll want to do the same. So what are the big guys doing with applications like TalentGuard? They're using it to better map out career progress of their employees, track certifications and competencies, plan and administer compensation, ensure that development and learning is on track, manage performance reviews and create strategies for succession. Employees are and always will be your biggest asset and applications like this are helping big companies make the best use of that asset.

4 — Windows is now officially irrelevant, and here is why that makes Microsoft happy

The Justice Department has started an antitrust review of whether or not big tech companies have unfairly acquired and used market power against their competition, but they're leaving Microsoft out of the picture. Despite Microsoft maintaining its monopoly over operating systems, Windows is not believed to be a vital influencer in tech anymore or able to use its Windows monopoly to harm competitors, effectively leaving the government out of Microsoft's business. (Source: Computer World)

Why this is important for your business:

For those of us old enough to remember the days of Microsoft's anti-trust struggles it's amazing now to realize that Windows isn't the dominant operating system anymore. That's important to remember when you're investing in technology. In a cloud based world, your computer's operating system – be it Windows, iOS, Linux or something from Google – shouldn't make a difference.

5 — An SMB study reveals the majority of small businesses aren't taking cyber-attacks seriously. 

A report recently released by Verizon shared that approximately 43% of all cyber-attacks target small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs), edging closer to 50% for the last several years. However, another study—published by Keeper Security— detailed that 66% of individuals holding senior positions at SMBs do not feel threatened by the possibility of cyber-attacks, and 60% do not have a plan in place to prevent cyber-attacks from happening. Despite a 2018 study reporting that 60% of SMS that have been cyber attacked go out of business within half a year of the attack, SMBs do not seriously consider cyber security a threat until it is too late. (Source: CPO Magazine)

Why this is important for your business:

I'm not sure what it will take for business owners, CEOs and leaders to take cyber security more seriously. But let's hope attitudes will change. At the very least, please get cyber insurance!

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