Wednesday, 18th September 2019 | Sales,Marketing,Management

Five common pieces of business advice you should ignore

Building a business is hard enough without becoming waylaid by bad advice. Dig into the truths behind these common misconceptions to build a solid, long-term strategy for success.

In business, there are certain pieces of “advice” that, for better or for worse, are repeated so often they’re considered to be true. While business owners can and should learn from those who came before—there’s no reason to reinvent the wheel—some ideas are out-of-date, misguided, or just plain wrong. This article debunks five of the most persistent misconceptions, so you can focus your efforts on ideas that work.

#1. If You Build It, They Will Come

This notion is based on the unrealistic idea that your business is so unique or special that it will attract customers by simply existing—but there’s a reason why even storied and successful
companies like McDonalds and Coca-Cola advertise: Buyers need to know about you, remember you, and choose you.  In Canada, an average of 150,000 new small businesses are created every year, but only 51% survive the first five years. That’s a lot of competition against difficult odds, and marketing—even
having something as simple as having a web presence—is a crucial part of making the cut. 

#2. Never Turn Down a Paying Customer

There’s something idealistic (but ultimately, wrong) about the idea that your business can satisfy every single customer, and it often takes a lesson learned the hard way to see why that’s bad
business advice. The truth is, sometimes it takes more time, energy, and resources than makes business sense to serve a customer who doesn't fit your typical process, business model, or price point. The savvy business owner learns to funnel those resources into growing their business by taking on the kinds of customers that they can service well within the model or business
processes they’ve established.

#3. Stay Away From Established Markets

It’s true that entering an established market requires a certain amount of work in differentiating yourself from existing competitors and marketing yourself effectively. However, these strategies
just as easily apply to new markets where you have to educate consumers about unfamiliar categories or products. There are challenges associated with both and the smart business owner
chooses based on other criteria.

#4. If You Want Something Done Right, You Have to Do It Yourself

This seductive idea appeals to the entrepreneurial impulse, but it’s often best ignored. Remember that in business time is money, and if you’re leading a company, your time is better spent on high-value tasks. Squandering your work-hours on tasks better given to employees or consultants is not only bad business, it can also lead to burnout. Learn to delegate strategically. Tasks like
marketing, social media, accounting, and legal are all excellent candidates for external help. As an owner or manager, you’ll find time to take care of your business’ most important issues, and your staff will appreciate an atmosphere of greater team involvement, the opportunities for growth, and a sense of increased self-confidence.

#5. It's All About Who You Know

If you’ve got a solid business network, great. You’re a step ahead—but only for the moment. Business growth requires ongoing networking to acquire new customers. Your sales and marketing efforts should prioritize continuous networking to ensure you’re always making fresh connections. 

Building a business is hard enough without becoming waylaid by bad advice. Dig into the truths behind these common misconceptions to build a solid, long-term strategy for success.

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Springing Forward: Essential Marketing Tips for Small Businesses

As the world awakens from the slumber of winter, small businesses have an opportunity to tap into the vibrant energy of spring and breathe new life into their marketing strategies. Just as nature undergoes a transformation, so too can your marketing strategies. Spring presents a golden opportunity for you to refresh your approach and connect with your customers in meaningful ways. Here are six essential marketing tips tailored specifically for small businesses like yours as we transition into the season of growth:

Host Engaging Events:

Springtime calls for outdoor gatherings and community events that bring people together. From street fairs to garden parties, consider hosting events that showcase your brand and provide value to attendees. These events offer a unique opportunity for you to connect with your customers on a personal level, fostering relationships and building brand loyalty.

Refresh Your Branding:

Just as the world outside undergoes a transformation, consider giving your branding a fresh update. Infuse your website, social media profiles, and marketing materials with imagery and messaging that captures the spirit of the season. Whether it's incorporating vibrant colours or using nature-inspired themes, refreshing your branding can captivate your audience and make your brand stand out.

Offer Springtime Promotions:

Take advantage of the season to offer enticing promotions and discounts that resonate with your audience. Whether it's a spring sale, a limited-time offer, or a special promotion tied to seasonal activities, create a sense of urgency to encourage customers to take action. By aligning your promotions with the themes of spring, you can drive sales and attract new customers to your business.

Connect with Your Community:

Spring is a time for renewal and connection, making it the perfect opportunity for you to engage with your local community. Partner with other businesses or organizations to co-host events, sponsor local initiatives, or participate in community clean-up efforts. Demonstrating your commitment to your community can build goodwill and strengthen your brand's reputation.

Embrace Seasonal Content:

Spring offers a wealth of opportunities to create content that resonates with your audience. From tips for spring cleaning to ideas for outdoor activities, leverage the season to provide value to your customers through your blog, social media, and email newsletters. By sharing timely and relevant content, you can strengthen your relationship with your audience and position your brand as a trusted resource.

Track and Measure Results:

As you implement your spring marketing initiatives, be sure to track and measure their effectiveness. Use analytics tools to monitor key metrics such as website traffic, social media engagement, and sales performance. By analyzing the data, you can gain valuable insights into what's working and what's not, allowing you to refine your strategy and optimize your efforts for maximum impact.

Spring gives your small business an invaluable chance to revitalize your marketing endeavours and forge deeper connections with your customers. By integrating these essential marketing tips into your strategy, you can harness the vibrant energy of the season and position your business for growth and success in the months ahead. So let's seize the spirit of spring and spring forward together towards a bright and prosperous future for your business.

Marketing

Money-Saving Strategies for Small Businesses

Financial planning is crucial for small businesses, especially in today's dynamic economic landscape. At iCapital, we understand the importance of maximizing savings to ensure the sustainability and growth of your business. Here are some updated money-saving tips tailored for small businesses in Canada:

1. Embrace Technological Advancements

Investing in digital solutions can streamline operations and significantly cut costs. Consider integrating cloud-based accounting, project management, and communication software to eliminate the need for expensive hardware and maintenance. Additionally, leveraging AI tools can further enhance efficiency and productivity.

2. Negotiate Vendor Contracts

With economic uncertainties, vendors are often open to negotiation. Review your contracts regularly and negotiate better terms or discounts with suppliers. Consolidating purchases with fewer vendors can also lead to volume discounts and cost savings.

3. Go Green

Reducing your environmental footprint can also translate into cost savings. Implement energy-efficient practices such as using LED lighting, optimizing heating and cooling systems, and reducing water consumption. Not only will this lower utility bills, but it will also enhance your business's sustainability credentials.

4. Remote Work Opportunities

The shift towards remote work has proven to be cost-effective for many businesses. By allowing employees to work from home, you can reduce overhead costs associated with office space, utilities, and maintenance. Invest in collaboration tools and cybersecurity measures to support remote work effectively.

5. Optimize Marketing Strategies

Digital marketing offers cost-effective avenues for promoting your business. Focus on targeted online advertising, email marketing campaigns, and social media engagement to reach your audience efficiently. Monitor the performance of your marketing efforts and adjust strategies based on data analytics to maximize ROI.

6. Automate Routine Tasks

Automation can streamline repetitive tasks, saving time and reducing human error. Explore automation tools for accounting, inventory management, and customer service to increase efficiency and productivity while minimizing labour costs.

7. Monitor Cash Flow

Maintaining healthy cash flow is essential for small businesses. Implement robust cash flow management practices, including regularly monitoring accounts receivable and accounts payable and optimizing payment terms with vendors to avoid unnecessary expenses and late fees.

8. Seek Financial Assistance

In challenging times, accessing external funding can provide a lifeline for small businesses. iCapital offers flexible small business loan options designed to support businesses with up to $250,000 in assistance within 48 hours. Whether you're looking to navigate cash flow challenges or seize growth opportunities, our financing solutions can help you achieve your goals.

Effective cost-saving strategies are vital for the success of small businesses in today's competitive landscape. Small businesses can thrive and achieve long-term sustainability by embracing technology, optimizing operations, and seeking strategic financial assistance.

At iCapital, we're committed to supporting small businesses in Canada with tailored financial solutions and expert guidance. Contact us today at our toll-free number 1-877-251-7171, to learn more about how we can help your business succeed.

Small business financing Canada

Embracing AI: Small Business Marketing Success

Venturing into Artificial Intelligence (AI) may seem like treading uncharted waters, but it's an opportunity for small businesses to revolutionize marketing strategies and spark growth. Much like the buzz surrounding ChatGPT, AI tools offer myriad capabilities, ranging from task automation to personalized customer experiences. In fact, research shows that 39% of small businesses have already invested in AI tools to innovate their customer engagement and retention strategies, leveraging AI to save both time and money.

Unlocking the Power of AI Tools

AI tools span a wide spectrum of applications to streamline processes, analyze data, and optimize marketing campaigns. Let's explore some key AI tools commonly embraced in small business marketing:

Data analysis

AI-powered analytics programs sift through vast volumes of marketing data, distilling valuable insights and trends that inform strategic decisions and fuel campaign optimization. This enhances efficiency and facilitates cost savings, with 25% of businesses using these savings to increase wages and benefits.

Natural Language Processing (NLP)

NLP technology empowers chatbots and virtual assistants to engage customers in natural conversations, enriching customer service and sales interactions.

Automated decision-making

AI algorithms offer actionable recommendations, guiding marketing strategy decisions to ensure resource allocation aligns with business objectives and budget constraints.

Content generation

AI-driven tools churn out written content, such as blog posts and social media captions, at scale, freeing up time for creative endeavours while maintaining quality and consistency.

Real-time personalization

Leveraging customer data, AI enables personalized marketing experiences by delivering tailored recommendations and offers, thereby enhancing engagement and driving conversions.

Leveraging AI for Marketing Success

Incorporating AI tools into the marketing toolkit can yield substantial benefits for small businesses. Here's a roadmap to harnessing AI for marketing success:

Harness data insights

Utilize AI analytics platforms to extract actionable insights from marketing data, empowering informed decision-making and continuous optimization.

Elevate customer engagement

Deploy AI-powered chatbots and virtual assistants to provide personalized customer experiences, fostering satisfaction and loyalty.

Make informed choices

Rely on AI-driven recommendations to shape marketing strategy, ensuring alignment with business objectives and market dynamics.

Streamline content creation

Utilize AI content generation tools to produce high-quality written content efficiently, maintaining relevance and resonance with the audience.

Deliver tailored experiences

Leverage AI to deliver real-time personalized marketing messages and offers, nurturing deeper connections and driving conversions.

Designing an AI Marketing Strategy

Designing an effective AI marketing strategy requires careful planning and strategic execution. Here's how to do it:

Identify Business Requirements

Assess business needs and objectives to determine how AI can support marketing goals.

Decide AI Framework

Choose AI tools and technologies that align with business requirements and budget constraints.

The Right Approach

Adopt a strategic approach to implementing AI in the marketing strategy, focusing on areas where it can deliver the most significant impact.

Evolve

Continuously monitor and refine the AI marketing strategy to adapt to changing market dynamics and emerging trends.

By embracing the power of AI, small businesses can unlock new avenues for growth and competitiveness in the ever-evolving digital landscape. With careful planning and strategic implementation, AI can be a game-changer for small business marketing, driving engagement, loyalty, and business success. So, let's embark on this exciting journey together and seize the opportunities that AI has to offer.

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Cybersecurity Strategies for Small Businesses

 

As we embark on a new year, the ever-evolving digital landscape presents opportunities and challenges. In 2024, one of the paramount challenges demanding attention is the persistent threat of cyber attacks. 

Safeguarding your business against these threats is not just advisable—it's imperative. Let's explore the crucial cybersecurity strategies every small business should adopt for a secure and prosperous journey throughout 2024.

Understanding the Landscape

The IBC’s 2023 Cyber Security Survey revealed a concerning trend among small businesses. Despite over 60% considering their size immune to cybercriminal attention, small businesses with 1,000 or fewer employees experienced a surprising 43% of yearly cyber attacks in 2023.

Crucial Cybersecurity Strategies for Small Businesses

Educate Your Team

Empowering your team with effective cyber threat identification skills is essential. Regular training sessions can equip them to recognize phishing emails, use strong passwords, and identify potential security risks. A well-informed team serves as the first line of defence against cyber adversaries.
Ensure your training addresses these common security issues:

1. Phishing attacks: Deceptive tactics to trick victims into sharing sensitive information or deploying harmful software.

2. Malware attacks: Cyber threats involving malicious software executing unauthorized actions.

3. Ransomware: Malicious software designed to deny access to files, demanding a ransom for decryption.

Employee Training and Awareness Programs

Acknowledge that your employees are not just integral to your business—they are the first line of defence against cyber threats. Regular training and awareness programs inform your team about the latest cyber threats and preventive measures. Cultivate a culture of cybersecurity awareness where every team member actively contributes to the protection of your business.

Strengthening Your Digital Shield

Crafting an impenetrable shield for your small business involves developing good cybersecurity habits through daily practices:

1. Regular Software Updates: Keep all software, including operating systems and security applications, up-to-date to patch vulnerabilities.

2. Security Audits: Conduct routine security audits to identify and rectify potential weaknesses in your systems.

3. Password Policies: Enforce strong password policies, promoting the use of complex, unique passwords.

4. Require long, varied passwords for sensitive accounts.

5. Enable two-factor authentication for added security.

Invest in Cybersecurity Technology

As cyber threats advance, upgrading defences is crucial. Invest in state-of-the-art cybersecurity tools like antivirus software, firewalls, and intrusion detection systems to serve as your digital guardians, actively monitoring and thwarting potential threats.

Proactive Preparedness

Craft a comprehensive incident response plan that includes:

1. Communication Protocols: Clearly define communication channels during a cyber incident.

2. Data Backup Strategies: Regularly back up critical data to minimize the impact of potential data loss.

3. Mitigation Steps: Establish procedures to mitigate potential damage during and after a cyberattack.

The Stakes Are High

In 2023, small businesses accounted for a significant portion of annual cyber attacks, emphasizing the need to view cybersecurity not as an expense but as an investment. Cybersecurity is not a luxury—it's a prerequisite for sustainable success. As you navigate the intricate web of business operations in 2024, remember that a secure foundation is key to achieving your goals. Despite the challenges in the digital realm, informed decisions and proactive measures can help your business emerge stronger and more resilient than ever.

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