Small business owners are turning to more creative ways to market or to finance their businesses in order to remain competitive.
And yes, this is being done more out of necessity than just the typical result of business competition. Not only are businesses looking for more creative ways to attract and retain customers but they are also looking for alternative ways to fund business improvements, pay for advertising, purchase inventory or buy new equipment and more.
It's been said that "necessity is the mother of invention" and in today's economy business owners are finding that creativity and resourcefulness are just as necessary as a great service and product. Necessity has spurred a few interesting ideas for business owners looking for ways to grow or stay in business.
We can look at any number of factors for the falloff in the economy and say 'that's where the problems started', whether it was the "housing crisis", "job layoffs", "banks not lending" and on and on. The bottom line is people are not spending like in "better times" and a lot of business owners are feeling the impact when they see the "percentages" that their business has dropped off from past years.
In dealing with a wide range of business types I have watched different businesses take a lot of creative approaches to improve business. I've had auto repair shops do things like hire a decorator to remodel waiting areas or to decorate the restrooms because statistics show them that a large percentage cars are being bought in for service by women. They feel it is very important to keep the waiting area and restrooms fresh and clean to offer a shop that women will be comfortable coming into. And in many of these cases the shop owner never even thought about how the shop looked before, he only cared about doing quality auto repairs.
More auto shops are looking for Customer Financing to help their customers who need "emergency" short-term financing to get and keep their vehicles on the road. This has proven to be an extremely effective way to attract new customers as well as up-selling existing customers on repairs that they need.
Now owners are in many cases paying attention to "other" details, like what will attract new customers. Owners are focused on what they can do in their advertising that will differentiate them from the competition.
You see restaurants offering special discounts that you never would have seen two-three years ago.
We see more medical offices offering Customer Financing programs in addition to programs, like Care Credit, GE and Chase that are based on a patients credit rating because they are finding that even some of their patients that last year had great credit have run into issues that have left them with less than perfect credit now. And that patient will no longer quality for financing that require a 650 or better FICO. They need an alternative to help those without great credit to get financing for needed health care.
Attracting new customers and patients is important but being able to provide the additional services when the customer does patronize your business is just as important. One of the most effective resources that many owners are starting to finally to utilize to attract new business is "LOCAL SEARCH MARKETING". Here's why: and it's important that you think about this as if it happened to you.
Imagine you recently got a puppy for your son or daughter. And at 1 am on Saturday your child woke you saying something was wrong with the puppy. Now you need "Emergency Veterinary" service. Your kids are crying the Vet you would normally go to is not open. Do you look in the "Yellow Pages" or do YOU go online and type in the search term "24 hour Emergency Vet in your zip code"? Or perhaps you need a dentist or a doctor for a specialty whether in an emergency or not, do you search online? If you answer yes, then imagine how many of your "potential" LOCAL customers do the same.
To research a product or service in their area 97% of consumers use the Internet. And 90% of those use search engines compared to 48% who use the Yellow Pages. And MOST of those will make a "Buying Decision" based on their Internet search results. That is very powerful! And it's amazing that more businesses are not EFFECTIVELY using Local Search Marketing when taking into consideration how inexpensive it is. (By the way, I'm not talking about expensive pay-per-click campaigns that can cost a small fortune).
Now, let's talk about the most important thing that "many" businesses at some point want or need. A CASH INFUSION - WORKING CAPITAL - A BUSINESS IMPROVEMENT LOAN - whatever we want to call it, many businesses at some point need money to grow, remodel, expand or stay afloat. But banks are tightening credit or not lending and the reality is many businesses still need to borrow.
In today's economy a lot of business owners are looking at "creative" short-term solutions like "Credit Card Receivable Financing" or "Merchant Cash Advances" which are based on your businesses future credit card sales or a fairly new funding option that is based on your "Business Banking History".
These funding options can get an existing business $5000 to $500,000 in as little as 5 days with no out-of-pocket fees for an owner with a FICO score as low as 500. The lenders look at the businesses cash flow and not on collateral or solely on credit score.
You know your business. How many times have you thought 'if I had the money right now I could buy that inventory for $20,000 and easily sell it for twice that' or 'if I had such and such equipment I could add another $10,000 per month in revenue'. But as we all know, that's not how the banks look at lending.
With these creative alternative financing options your business can get approval in 24-48 hours and have funds wired to your bank account in days - not weeks or months. The lender will want to know if you have been in business at least 1 year, and will require very little documentation.
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