Signpost Local Marketing Blog

Microloans: Here’s How They Work

When you’re running a business, sometimes you just need a bit of extra capital to keep things going. Maybe you have to repair an important piece of equipment, order extra inventory, or make up for a slow month—but in these scenarios, a $500,000 loan won’t solve your problem.

Your answer? Microloans.

Here’s a breakdown of what microloans are, what you can use them for, and where you can find them for your small business.

What is a microloan?

A microloan is pretty much what it sounds like: a small loan.

Generally speaking, microloans tend to be between $500 and $50,000, depending on the needs of the business and the type of microloan lender. They come with low interest rates and short terms, and they’re a great way to bridge small-time cash flow gaps and to get your new business up and running.

Microloans appeal to a few different types of people:

  • New business owners who don’t have much experience taking out loans or who are microloans a good option for my local businesscouldn’t qualify for a large, low-rate, long-term bank loan. (And who, on the other hand, can’t satisfy their financing needs with a business credit card.)
  • Businesses of any age with low or nonexistent credit scores, in need of a microloan to help them grow—and eventually improve their scores.
  • Entrepreneurs who only need a small amount of cash. (More debt than you actually need can hurt your business, even if you do get a lot of extra money to make use of.)
  • Business owners in underdeveloped countries. Almost $40 million in microloans has been lent out to nearly 75 million entrepreneurs across the globe, as of a 2009 report, fostering economic empowerment and success.

Whether you’re looking for a microloan because you couldn’t qualify for a larger one or you simply don’t need more cash, it’s a good financing option for your business.

What can you use a microloan for?

Microloans are often a pretty flexible business loan: you can spend the money on most things you need for your business.

Let’s break their usage down into 4 categories:

1. Working Capital

Do you just need more cash on hand?

If so, getting a microloan to increase your working capital is a completely viable option. Whether you had a slower month than expected and need extra capital to make payroll, a new hire wound up costing more than you planned for, or something else entirely, there are plenty of scenarios where you have a small cash flow need that a microloan can help with.

Most microfinancing institutions will allow you to use your microloan for general working capital purposes—since that’s the reasoning behind microloans in the first place.

2. Equipment

Most businesses rely on some sort of equipment or machinery.

Maybe that’s the car you use to transport goods, the exercise equipment you offer, a specialty pizza oven, or a vital computer. No matter what the equipment is, it could always break or benefit from an upgrade—and a microloan can help.

3. Inventory

Do you want to test out offering a new product? Did you receive a large order without the cash on hand to fill it? Or did something go wrong, and you need to restock your inventory as soon as possible?

A microloan can help you solve all these problems. Purchase the supplies and materials you need with a small, low-rate loan that even new businesses might qualify for.

4. Furniture or Fixtures

From office chairs and lighting fixtures to restaurant tables and seats, a microloan can help you fill the space in your small business.

However, it’s important to remember that, as with all loans, microloans need to be paid back plus interest. Use that extra capital on something that will help out your bottom line—otherwise, you might have some trouble with repaying that cash back.

Where can you find microloans?

There are many microfinancing institutions out there, so do your research before picking one. Let’s run through 4 popular choices to consider:

1. The Small Business Administration

As usual, the SBA should be your first stop. For their microloan program, the SBA distributes funds to local nonprofits that lend to small businesses in their community. (Check out their list of participating intermediary lenders here.) Some give special benefits to women, minority, and veteran entrepreneurs, as well.

SBA microloans can fall between $500 and $50,000, with an average of $13,000. They come with terms of up to 6 years, and interest rates 8 – 13%. With an SBA microloan, you can’t purchase real estate or refinance other debt.

2. Accion USA

Accion’s microloan program is similar to the SBA’s: as of January 2014, they’ve made more than $450 million spread across roughly 50,000 loans. In addition to funding, Accion USA also provides educational opportunities for its small business borrowers.

3. TrustLeaf

Rather than gathering funds from the government or other institutions as a non-profit, TrustLeaf allows you to crowdsource your microloan from friends and family. You spell out the terms and conditions of the financing upfront, and people who know and trust you can lend out small amounts—that add up to what your business needs.

4. PayPal Working Capital

Certain PayPal users qualify for PayPal Working Capital, a microloan program that doles out funding between $5,000 and $60,000 based on your business’s financial history and activity. Uniquely, this program requires no credit check, comes in the form of a line of credit, and gets repaid through your monthly business sales rather than a fixed monthly payment.

No matter what your need is or which option you choose, a microloan can help your business push through obstacles. Don’t discount microloans because of their smaller amounts—sometimes, a smaller loan is all you need to succeed.


Meredith Wood is the Head of Content and Editor-in-Chief at Fundera, an online marketplace for small business loans. Prior to Fundera, Meredith was the CCO at Funding Gates. Meredith manages financing columns on Inc, Entrepreneur, HuffPo and more, and her advice can be seen on Yahoo!, Daily Worth, Fox Business, Amex OPEN, Intuit, the SBA and many more.

10 Holiday Ideas for Your Loyalty Program

The holidays are a great time to thank your best customers for their patronage throughout the year. It’s especially important to reach out to one of your most engaged groups of repeat customers and source of highest lifetime value: the customers Holiday Ideas for your loyalty programcurrently enrolled in your loyalty program. And with 69% of customers reporting they’d prefer to do their holiday shopping at businesses where they can accumulate loyalty points or rewards, it’s safe to say they feel the same.

But as loyalty programs continue to evolve, it’s important to understand changing consumer expectations, and commit resources to differentiating your program. This should also apply to your holiday loyalty promotions, as your business will be competing with lots of others for the time and attention of your customers during this hectic season. But, with the right mix, you can win their attention and holiday shopping dollars. It’s vital to remember that it costs six times more to sell to a new customer than an existing one, so it’s prudent for local businesses to invest more in this area.

Download our 2016 Complete Holiday Planning Kit!

Continue reading

New: Suggested Offers are Email Promotions That Write Themselves

What would you do with almost an hour back each week? We ask a similar question of local business owners when we interview them for The Art of Local. But, with our latest release, Mia intends to do just that. Today, we’re excited to announce Suggested Offers!

It takes the average local business owner 45 minutes to create a new campaign. But thanks to the millions of data points across just as many campaigns created by similar businesses, Mia has learned what works best and when. Mia makes suggestions when she thinks your business needs a boost–for example, if you haven’t sent a promotion in a while and you don’t have one coming up. Drawing on those successful seasonal offers as a template, she can prebuild a campaign that will have the most impact for your bottom line.

Current Signpost customers, keep an eye on your inbox! Mia will be sending you Suggested Offers, tailored to your company. With one click of a button you can approve these suggestions, and Mia will send them out to your customers at the optimal time to drive more business.

AI-driven Email Campaign

Mia makes it easy to edit or make changes to these prebuilt campaigns as well. Simply click “Edit before sending”, approve the changes once you’re finished editing, and Mia will send at the optimal time.

With a return on investment of 4300%, email marketing remains one of the most effective marketing tactics at your business’s disposal. And now driving even more revenue for your business is easier and more powerful than ever with Mia.

As always, let us know if you have any questions. Or, if you’d like to see how you can start generating more revenue for your business along with more five-star reviews, new  customers and loyalty, schedule a free demo today!

Getting Your Local Business Involved in Giving Tuesday

Happy Giving Tuesday! The Tuesday following Thanksgiving was first designated as such back in 2012 as a way to officially kick off the charitable season, and serve as a reminder of one of the prevailing values of the season. Despite getting its start in New York, it’s turned into an international movement that aims to bring together individuals, communities and organizations with shared values of service and giving back to foster this spirit all year round.

Last year, 71 different countries participated and raised $116.7M online alone! DespiteHow Local Businesses Can Participate in Giving Tuesday having a global presence, much of the focus remains on direct impact at the community level. Many local businesses lead the charge to help get the word out and give back to their communities. There’s no wrong way to celebrate, as long as you remain focused on this goal.

Some businesses choose to donate a portion of their revenue from today to local charities or organizations. Other SMB owners close their business for the day and encourage employees to join them in volunteering their time and expertise. Or, you can partner with an organization for the day to come up with some creative events or promotions.

If you’re looking for more great ideas, be sure to check out the official website of the holiday. You’ll find plenty of suggestions and opportunities for local businesses to get involved. Officially it only lasts a day, but you can maintain the spirit of giving throughout the entire year!

Word about Giving Tuesday spread through heavy social media coverage, with the #GivingTuesday hashtag. Be sure to embrace this aspect as you document how your business is spending the day!

Download our 2016 Complete Holiday Planning Kit!

Making the Most Out of Small Business Saturday

Thanksgiving week is finally upon us! While most consumers across the country will be gorging themselves on delicious fall favorites with loved ones, still others will be small business saturday black fridayfinalizing plans to leave the feast behind in order to wait on line for those doorbuster deals (which seem to start a little earlier every year). For business owners, this week is more like a marathon than an occasion for reflection, but no matter the outcome you’ll be giving thanks once it’s all over!

Don’t let the craziness of this week be all for naught; come armed with a plan that will allow you to make the most out of your efforts, and drive more customers in-store. Be realistic about your goals for the long weekend and the resources or means by which you’ll be achieving them. Knowing more about your target audience and their priorities will help you to concentrate on the approach that will have the most impact. Oftentimes, it can be tempting to set your sights on all of the weekend’s events: Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday and Giving Tuesday. But, if you can prioritize one or two of these, and approach in a thoughtful or new way that will engage your customers, you’ll find much more success!

Download our 2016 Complete Holiday Planning Kit!

Set Yourself Up for Success By Knowing Your Target Customer

Black Friday seems to steal the show in terms of promotion and press coverage, but many times the only customers willing to sacrifice their Thanksgiving evenings, or brave the crowds and craziness are those in pursuit of a REALLY good deal. They tend to be motivated overwhelmingly by price and steep discounts, and tend not to have much loyalty to specific stores or brands. If you spend enough time creating compelling incentives to get them in-store, you have a chance of earning their business, but these types of customers can be capricious and may not offer much, in terms of lifetime value, to your business.

A well-executed plan to highlight a less flashy day, could be a better use of your resources. Of course, you should always do the math to determine what makes the most sense for your business and available resources (and which your available time and/or that of employees should inform). You can think of Black Friday as an opportunity to attract new, deal seekers; Small Business Saturday as a way to celebrate your business and engage with those customers who are already familiar with you, as well as welcoming some first-timers, and Giving Tuesday as a great way to use your business’s position in the community to team up and give back.

Getting More Value Out of Small Business Saturday

We studied the outreach among local businesses on Signpost’s platform during this same week last year to see if we could identify any insights to help you get a competitive edge this holiday season. Of all the communications during this same week in 2015, emails that were sent out on Small Business Saturday, had nearly a 29% increase in click-to-open rates, as well as redemption of offers. Businesses looking to maximize engagement should plan to send out an email or SMS offer this Saturday, to entice more customers to stop by and make a purchase.

This could be due to increased efforts in recent years to bring about more visibility and promotion to highlight the day. Consumers are embracing this less crowded day, both as an opportunity to celebrate all that local businesses do for their communities and to show support. By devising creative events, grouping products together in gift sets or bundles, and going the extra yard to make this hectic time easier for your customers while maintaining a fun and festive atmosphere, you can find great success this weekend. This isn’t limited to retail, or businesses with a physical location either; you can schedule promotions or services for this Saturday to help give your business a lift! Or, partner with other businesses in the community to offer exclusive pairing, bundles, or events at their space.

Looking Ahead: Giving Tuesday

Giving Tuesday is a great opportunity to engage with and give back to the community. If you start prepping ahead of time, you can get your clients involved and make it a real win-win for both charitable organizations and your business. Whatever you choose to do to celebrate, be sure to start advertising it ASAP, to give your customers advance notice. If your business will be closed, or if you’re running special donation-based drives, the sooner you can get it on their radar, the better!

Infographic: Holiday Season Shopping By The Numbers

For many local business owners, the holiday season really is as the song claims, “the most wonderful time of the year”. However, each year we hear more about the impending rise of online shopping, and are left wondering what impact it will have on brick-and-mortar’s bottom line. But for all the gloom-and-doom projections about the dominance of ecommerce giants, like Amazon, 85% of holiday revenue came from in-store sales last year (amounting to about $532M).

In the quest for increasingly creative and unique gifts, we’re seeing consumer focus shift from traditional retail mainstays (e.g. apparel, accessories, electronics) to experiences. These activities are making the wish list more and more, opening up entire industries to great potential success throughout the season. We created the following infographic, to help us make sense of these changing holiday trends and to ensure that businesses across various industries can create a plan that allows them to get as much as possible out of these last remaining weeks.

Download the Free 2016 Holiday Planning Toolkit for Local Businesses 

2016 holiday shopping infographic

 


Sources:

  • https://nrf.com/sites/default/files/Images/Media%20Center/2015%20NRF%20HSK_Final_Small.pdf
  • https://nrf.com/resources/consumer-data/holiday-headquarters
  • https://www.listrak.com/resources/holiday-insights/2016-holiday-retail-predictions.aspx
  • http://www.fierceretail.com/operations/half-consumers-to-begin-holiday-shopping-before-nov-1
  • https://www.giftcardgranny.com/statistics/

The 2016 Holiday Planning Toolkit for Gym and Fitness Businesses

Holiday season at fitness clubs has traditionally felt more like the calm before the storm, than a time for booming business. With people so busy with holiday events, parties, shopping and more, fitness goals often fall by the wayside. However as you know, with all the indulging that people tend to do during this time, it’s more important than ever to stay on track.

With the new year looming on the horizon and the promise of plenty of Resolution’ers flocking to fill your gym or classes, most fitness businesses remain focused on those preparations. It’s tempting to spend this “downtime” during the holidays to create an acquisition strategy in hopes of edging out competitors and attracting more new members to your business. Of course marketing and employee training or more customers this holiday season for fitness businessprep ahead of this busy season is important, but fitness clubs shouldn’t sacrifice the revenue potential of an effective holiday marketing strategy.

Last year, holiday shoppers spent $53 million on health and personal care. So, there’s absolutely an opportunity here to generate lots of new business, with less competition from your preoccupied rivals. With a bit of planning you can create a powerful strategy to drive more new business and finish 2016 strong. The best part is that these holiday campaigns will continue to work for you as we go into 2017, and amplify your New Year’s promotional efforts.

There is also something to be said for increased retention and engagement for members and students who joined during this calmer time, ahead of the craziness. They have time to develop a better impression of your facilities overall, when classes are less crowded and they have more interaction with the instructor or trainer, or don’t have to wait to use their favorite machines and equipment.

That’s why we created this comprehensive toolkit, which includes a best practice guide on how your fitness business can make the most of the season, a week-by-week planner to help aid in promotional efforts, both in-store and with your communications plan and campaigns, including email marketing. There’s also a printable calendar to help you with planning and keeping an eye on all holidays and events, while creating your plan and an infographic explaining the best data-driven techniques and opportunities. Download our free toolkit today to get the most out of this holiday season!

Download the 2016 Holiday Planning Toolkit for Gyms and Fitness Businesses

The 2016 Holiday Planning Toolkit for Salons

Have you heard? The holiday season isn’t reserved just for retail anymore! As consumers seek out creative gift ideas for those on their holiday lists, they’re turning more often to options that can provide an experience over possessions.  All sorts of service businesses can stand to gain an extra boost during these vital last few months of the year, but perhaps none so much as salons, who help us look and feel our best all year long, especially during the many celebrations and family events the season brings.

With company or community holiday parties, family photo shoots for greeting cardssalon holiday guide, seasonal recitals, concerts, plays and many more, there’s no shortage of important life events taking place during this time. We all want to make sure that we’re in fine form for these (and the countless photos and videos that will be circulating for years to come!).

And don’t forget about gift cards! In fact, 41% of clients trying out a new salon for the first time, did so because of gift cards! For the customers who may be apprehensive to go this route, for fear of it feeling too transactional with a concrete dollar amount, instead promote it as being for a specific service or treatment. The gift giver can pay the full amount of the treatment, but only mark it as “Green tea spa pedicure” on the actual gift card. This will also provide good suggestions for those who may not have thought of it on their own. Create bundles with these gift cards and a few favorite products and advertise them as the perfect host or hostess gift at holiday parties.

Finally, remind your clients to treat themselves this holiday season. It can be a stressful time for consumers everywhere, so encourage them to indulge in some pampering, or offer specials to those proactive shoppers who finish their shopping early!

You might not be in retail, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a productive and successful holiday season. The key is to plan head and set clear goals that will keep you on track, and ensure that you finish the year strong!

Download the free 2016 Holiday Planning Toolkit for Salons now!

The 2016 Holiday Planning Toolkit for Local Businesses

It may be hard to believe, but it’s already that time of year again! Is it just us, or does it feel as though the holiday season starts a little earlier every year? Retailers can hardly More holiday shopperswait until the day after Halloween to swap out the jack-o-lanterns for holly balls and twinkling lights. It’s easy to see why, with holiday sales expected to increase this year by 3.6% over last year, totaling over $655 Million in 2016.

If you’re like most local businesses, you might rely upon this extra revenue to help you finish the year strong. But due to increasing competition with e-commerce giants, it’s vital to come armed with a plan. It’s not all gloom and doom for those who make the necessary preparations, and the good news is that studies show 85% of holiday revenue came from in-store sales in 2015. Give your business a competitive advantage by planning out your week-by-week schedule of promotions, email and text message marketing suggestions, events and more!

Download our 2016 Complete Holiday Planning Kit!

Attracting New Customers for Your Pet Boarding Business

October is Pet Services Month here on the Signpost Local Marketing Blog! We’ll be surfacing insights and strategies specifically for marketing your veterinary practice, grooming, training and boarding businesses while driving more new and repeat customers. 

Not a pet care professional? Don’t worry, we’ll still be sharing insights that will help you to promote  your local business, acquire new customers, and encourage loyalty. Want your industry to be the next featured month? Drop us a line, and let us know!


Promoting Your Pet Business

Let’s face it, our pets are part of our family. And although dogs were originally domesticated in order to provide protection and warmth (amongst other rational reasons!) for their owners, they’re now more likely to be treated as our children or “furbabies” than livestock. So, it may come as no surprise that the boarding and pet sitting options for our precious pets must exude attention to detail, comfort, and above all else, TLC.

In order to get your boarding business found by more new customers, you must focus on accentuating the differentiators in your approach and amenities. Follow these best practices, to reassure your target customers that their beloved pets will be in good hands.

Continue reading

« Older posts

Copyright © 2016 Signpost Local Marketing Blog

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑