Alternative Ways to Financing Small Business

It has been a well established fact among entrepreneurs that you don’t get money from a commercial bank for your business unless you don’t need it.  What is meant by that seemingly paradoxical statement is that banks typically want to see that a business has collateral that can be seized if something goes wrong.   While that is true, the barriers are even higher for startups even while their needs are greater.  Startups don’t merit a second look from commercial banks, as their standard policy is that funding will never be made available for them.

crowdsourcing for business financing

Unfortunately, this is not something that a company seeking funding can fix easily. While an industrial marketing consultant can assist in making sure that the business has a well thought out plan in order to generate consistent earnings, that alone will not fix the fundamental problem of a startup’s request for funding. The company is truly not a good candidate for lending.

The fact of the matter is that although their need for capital may be great, the company will not have been in operation.  There is no way of knowing whether or not the company’s product or service will be a good one or whether or not management will be able to consistently deliver what they are selling.  If that doesn’t happen, it is unlikely that they will be able to repay a loan on a regular basis.  It would not be prudent for a bank to absorb a loss with an unproven concept, untested management and undocumented ability to generate consistent cash flow.

Alternatives to Investor Funding

Startups have traditionally relied on venture capitalists and angel investors to fill this gap.  However, in the years following a substantial decline in economic activity in the United States, both venture capitalists and angel investors have been reluctant to invest in companies new to the marketplace.  They have assumed, prudently in most cases that buyers have not yet demonstrated the kind of enthusiasm necessary to support new concepts.  And in the cases of smaller businesses, their projects typically aren’t large enough for these investors to partner with them.

But the fact that their project is smaller in absolute dollar size doesn’t make their need and/or opportunity any less important.  The need for capital is exactly the same of any large private business that can attract venture capital.  The need for these smaller companies mirrors large publicly traded companies that are capitalized by stockholders.  There is a market opportunity that they can seize, if someone will shoulder the risk with them on the startup costs to get their idea to market.

How Crowdfunding is Changing the Financing Landscape

What can a company in this situation do to move their project forward?

An interesting new development has taken place over the last five years filling the financing void for new concepts, called crowdfunding.   Crowdfunding is basically the establishment of a network of individuals who believe in a project and are willing to contribute toward its success.  Instead of a project having hundreds of shareholders or even one venture capital firm, it could have tens of thousands of investors contributing smaller amounts to get startup capital to an entrepreneur.   The most prominent name in the industry is the company Kickstarter, although there are many others such as: Indegogo, RocketHub, GoFundMe and Peerbackers.

The key to the success to any crowdfunding project is developing a network of interested investors.  Companies will need to apply traditional industrial marketing principles in order to attract attention including public relations, whitepapers and conference attendance.  However, just as marketing for manufacturing has changed since the 1990’s, so to has building a successful network of stakeholders.

While companies will need to attract individuals who may be interested in contributing toward the success of new projects, companies should also leverage their existing client base.  Those who have had a good customer experience will be easier to convince of a company’s ability to develop the systems necessary to deliver excellence in a new marketplace.  Businesses should expand the scope of their industrial marketing plan to include the possibility of adding new investors to new projects.

How then does a company reorient itself to capture this new source of capital to undertake new projects?  Is there something that companies can do to work with the ‘crowd’ to fund these new ventures?

5 Ways to Become Attractive to Crowdfunding Investors

Marketing for manufacturing should now include the possibility that those within the company’s stakeholder group could be potential investors.  Their line of thinking should be modeled after the commercial banking parameters.  In other words, the best time to begin crowdfunding is before the capital is needed.  Industrial marketing can and should include building a network of interested parties. So what should companies do to begin building their network?

  1. Companies should be active in building relationships with those in their contact database.  This means providing regular education on the state of the industry, problems in the marketplace and new opportunities to exploit.  Companies should share research that is of interest to those who are part of the universe in their email database.
  2. Companies should utilize public relations with news and community appearances with an eye not only to attract potential customers, but also to attract potential small investors.
  3. Companies should begin establishing a YouTube.Com channel creating videos of everything that a potential investor would want to know about the company, including new projects, current research, customer testimonials, executive commentary etc.  The YouTube channel should be created with potential investors in mind as well as customers.
  4. Companies must create interest in social media not only with potential customers but also with potential investors.  This is especially true with industrial companies that do not always have a need to interact with individuals at the consumer level.  Even though their customer base will probably remain other business customers, their investors could come from those who have followed them on social media.
  5. B2B companies should have a home for all of this activity apart from its company website.  A blog could serve the purpose of categorizing all of its YouTube videos, its research, its education and news that is not directed toward selling.  This provides organization a holding place as time passes so that when the need for funding comes, they will be able to point to one location for investors to find the information that they need.

Closing Thoughts

Business can prepare for potential crowdfunding projects before there is a need. In most cases, they can do so utilizing the existing industrial marketing framework they have in place.  Today’s marketing for manufacturing should be executed to attract customers and prospects for purchases as well as for potential investment.  A company confident about a funding source can evaluate new market opportunities with confidence knowing that their network of investors is growing.  They can do this irrespective of the fact that they do not have the traditional sources of financing needed by publicly traded companies or large independent businesses.  The question every executive should be asking is: does our company proactively build relationships with potential investors?

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Responsive Website Design for Today’s Market

Responsive web design refers to creating Internet content that is not only accessible but optimal when viewed by many different devices, be they laptops, smartphones, tablets, or the next new gadget (i.e. Google Glass). The proliferation of mobile devices has made this the standard expectation in the industry – customer attention and interaction now depends on it.

Responsive Website design

When a user views your site on their smartphone, will they be confronted with a distorted portion of a huge image? Will they be able to push the little buttons with their fingers, or use menus easily? Did you take into account that one popular device that needed some special optimization attention?

The Problem

In the absence of responsive web design, if an industrial marketing business wants their site to be easily accessible from desktops and mobile devices they need to create a separate version of the site for each platform. This means maintaining two versions of a domain, two versions of the content, two versions of the design, etc. Start adding different devices with different requirements (iPad, Xbox, Samsung) and the process quickly spirals out of control.

Two of the most pressing problems facing the responsive website design community are converting older sites to become responsive, and dealing with the massive amount of new devices constantly flooding the market.

So, how are web developers ensuring that their designs are responsive and always look beautiful, no matter the platform? Pictures and videos need to be sized appropriately; buttons need to be big enough and spaced far enough apart to be pressed accurately with fingers; resolution needs to be adjusted to fit screen size and connection speed; orientation needs to be accounted for, if the user might hold their phone upside-down or sideways.

Three Key Concepts

Experts agree that there are three key concepts involved in a responsive design process – media queries, fluid layouts, and fluid images.

  • Using media queries to detect device specifications – Different devices have screens with different heights, widths, resolutions, and aspect ratios. Media queries can be used within CSS3 to adjust for these factors and display properly sized content. Here is a code example, used to create a stylesheet with a maximum horizontal resolution of 720 pixels.
  • This code will ensure that the stylesheet is only loaded on devices with the maximum horizontal resolution specified.
  • Using a fluid grid to create a responsive layout– Proper use of media queries will give you the information you need to create a responsive design, but you will still need to do something smart with that information. Fluid grids let you specify the maximum size of a grid which will automatically resize to fit into a smaller frame. If we want our 720 pixel-wide grid to dynamically adjust to smaller screens, we will create a relative measurement for our grid that will be appropriate for any screen.

To do so, we can take the default font size for browsers (16 pixels) as one em (a unit of width) and divide our grid width by that amount. So, 720 pixels divided by 16 pixels = 45em. We can then use the following code to create a responsive grid with a maximum width of 45em, ensuring that the layout always looks good up to 720 pixels wide:

#container {
position: relative;
max-width: 45em;
margin: auto;
}

  • Using fluid images for perfect sizing – This is much like the previous point. Image sizes can be set to percentages of the total grid, meaning that they never grow bigger than their allocated proportion of the grid. If we have an image that is 360 pixels wide, for example, we know that it should never exceed its native resolution and only ever take up 50% of the total layout space. To create responsive images by setting image width as a percentage, we can use the following code:

img {
max-width: 100%;
width: 25%;
}

Combining these three techniques can provide a wealth of opportunities for creating responsive website designs that are dynamic and prepared for any platform. These clever methods let you write one set of programs to be used in multiple applications, instead of wasting your time writing the same code over and over for different devices.
So, are you doing everything you can to create responsive web content that looks great from every angle?

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Posted in: General Marketing, Mobile

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Are you a Jerk Online?

We work and play in a technological world where tone has lost its presence, or has it?? As we’ve all become accustomed to interpreting e-mails, text messages and chats to determine the other person’s personal feelings behind the messages, I feel many of us forget that our tones are still easily unveiled through electronic communications. And recently, with the uprising of different social media platforms, its making it easier to lose personality when communicating online.

Communicate online

I realized during a ‘Colder than Normal’ conversation I was having with a good friend and mentor that it was actually my own lack of energy and emphatic tone that was resulting in a less than personal conversation.? I had to literally stop myself in my tracks, trace back, and openly realize where I went wrong.? Technology makes it easy to lose the personal connection that enhances so many relationships in our lives.? We spend our days talking and interacting with computer screens more than human beings, but our philosophy behind the relationships must remain the same.? Would you believe that the way you write, text, e-mail or chat have a lasting impact to how other perceive you?? You better start.

Here’s a list of 4 simple things to remember when communicating electronically with others.

1.) Don’t short cut it

Treat your messages like they were conversations.? If you wouldn’t answer that person with a one word answer to their face, then don’t do it to their e-mail.

2.) Always personalize your messages

The greatest sound a person can hear is their name. It shows that you have an interest in that person more than just what they can do for you.? Even after exchanging a high volume of e-mail dealing with a particular subject, occasionally mix the person’s name into your text and show them you know who they are, outside of what they can do for you.

3.) Automate your responses and save time

I am a big advocate of automating your life and business. To many people’s surprise, automating e-mail messages can actually add more personal touch than not. Taking the time to automate e-mails such as when you need to reject an offer, answer a commonly asked question, or simply inform the other side that you’ll need some time before you follow up, can allow you create thought filled correspondence that leaves the other party feeling appreciated.

4.) Always follow up

The easiest thing to in today’s electronic marketplace is become so overwhelmed by the amount of e-mails you have, that some get pushed down and, eventually, forgotten.? Nothing is more irritating than sending an e-mail to someone and never hearing back.? Prioritize your inbox. Manage who you can answer at work, and outside work, and categorize those messages. Again, if you need more time, automate the responses so that the other party knows you’ve received their message, and will respond when its convenient.

Closing Thoughts

All these things add up to a more friendly, approachable and less forgettable communication channel. People remember good communicators, and good communicators remember people.? Time is a shortage in today’s world.? As many people scramble to organize their work and lives, it becomes easy to forget the basic principles we learn as children. Keep communication strong, offline, and on.

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4 Ways to Improve Your Product Launch Strategy

Bringing a product to market is expensive even before you take into account the industrial marketing costs associated with it.  There is the product design and blueprint that must be worked through and finalized.  If there are any patents or copyrights left to be considered, they must be carefully attended to with a legal team.  There is usually a prototype and beta test conducted in order to wrap up potential wrinkles in the product’s success.  Finally once these preliminaries are completed the product or service can be test marketed forming the overall product launch marketing strategy.

product launch marketing strategy

Often it is at this point when a company’s learning takes place regarding what the market truly desires from a product like the one you have designed.  Assuming that the product is manufactured well or the service is delivered flawlessly, you will get real feedback on whether the product or service design works well.  Companies routinely take these early comments into consideration as they strengthen their offer.  However, waiting to make the adjustment at this time can weaken the value proposition if changes are constantly being made.   How can companies get this feedback earlier in the process to strengthen the product or service before it is launched?

Rethinking the Product Launch Marketing Strategy

Businesses that integrate online marketing into their product launch are at an advantage if they leverage this relationship into product design.  Marketers are able to do research into the search patterns of those interested in topics concerning your industry.  They can give you information on what the searchers’ intentions might be as well as what they are reading on a regular basis.  They gather this data as part of what they do for B2B companies.  Starting with securing search pattern information, here are some steps that a company can take to get prospective feedback prior to product design.

  1. Companies should work with their industrial marketing consultant to determine what search phrases capture the interest of the market.  These search phrases will formulate the rest of the online research the company will conduct.
  2. Using the search phrases gathered from the industrial marketing consultant, the company should conduct meta-forum searches using sites such as Big-Boards.Com, Boardtracker.Com, Omgili.Com and Boardreader.com.  This will give the company access to people who are discussing the issues with other professionals in their industry.
  3. Using the same search phrases companies should look to industry blogs to find out what discussions are taking place in a related manner to the problems that your new problem look to solve. These blogs can easily be searched using Tehnorati.Com, IceRocket.com.
  4. Management should repeat the process looking for the conversations within social media using sites such as monitter.com, samepoint.com, yacktrack.com and socialmention.com.  Although social conversations will be less useful than other meta-searches, companies will be able to locate key industry personalities to talk to.

Takeaway

It is assumed that management is surveying its customer database, following news and trends and attending to industry trade publications.  Much can be learned from following these sources in terms of customer preference.  However, they do not offer a glimpse into more informal online conversations.  Is an industry most likely to share their true thoughts in a formal or informal setting?  Arguments can be made for both.

The question is, are you only taking formal conversations into account for customer preference?  If so, is it possible that you could be missing valuable information that could strengthen a product or service before it came to market?

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Facebook Stats you Don’t Know

Among all the social media sites out there, Facebook reigns king for the massive number of users it continually attracts, the ginormous

amount of content it contains, and the insane influence it has (have you ever heard of any other website getting its own movie?)

To help you wrap your head around the phenomenon that is Facebook, we ran some highly sophisticated formulas (and by that we mean crunching a lot of numbers) to help you understand just how BIG it really is. Get ready to be mind boggled!

Facebook?s Users

The world?s most popular site has 500 million users (and counting?) To put that in context, consider this: if the United States government were to assign each newborn a Facebook account at birth, it would take 125 long years of baby-making to match the current number of users.
But perhaps the biggest testament to Facebook?s popularity is the fact that 50% of its users log into the site everyday. Which make us think: if the federal government ever doled out Facebook accounts along with Social Security numbers, they?d have to sweeten the deal with an iPad for each new child!

Facebook Content

Facebook users share 30 billion pieces of web links, news stories, blog posts, notes, photos, and other web content each month (how much of that happens on company time, we don?t know). So how much information is this? Well, if each piece of content was a page in the Encyclopedia Britannica, you?d have to read all 29 volumes of the collection?24 times?every minute, to receive the same amount of content.

Facebook Connectivity

Thirty percent of Facebook?s users hail from the United States. That?s a lot of virtual connections, but also a lot of real, physical connections when you consider that if each U.S. user was linked fingertip to fingertip, they?d circle the world roughly 6,363 times. Now that is serious coverage.

Facebook Mobile

Facebook stormed the mobile world to become, hands down, the most frequently used mobile phone application at 200 million active users. So how many is that? Once again, we present you with a visual: the Samsung X820, one of the world?s slimmest mobile devices at just 6.9 millimeters. With the Samsung X820 standing in for each app happy mobile phone user, you?d need 132 stacks the height of Mount Everest to represent all those folks.

There?s no doubt about it: Mark Zuckerberg unleashed one heck of a site on the world. And with these big numbers only getting bigger everyday, overlooking Facebook when it comes to marketing your business is done at your (extreme) peril!? Are you on Facebook?? Comment and give us your BIG reasons you got involved with social media.

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