Friday, 31st January 2020 | Marketing

5 emerging trends for small businesses in 2020

Canadian small business owners are always looking for ways to carve out—and keep—a competitive edge. Business growth depends, in part, on understanding trends and adapting to them so it’s good practice to stay abreast of the latest. As we move into 2020, there are five key trends to consider to boost your market share.

Canadian small business owners are always looking for ways to carve out—and keep—a competitive edge. Business growth depends, in part, on understanding trends and adapting to them so it’s good practice to stay abreast of the latest. As we move into 2020, there are five key trends to consider to boost your market share.

#1. Voice first

Voice search—the technology behind searching the internet verbally, as on a smartphone, smart device or a computer—is growing, fast. The trick for small business owners is to keep up with the way this affects search engine optimization (SEO) and to take steps to remain in the top results. This works much the same way as in traditional searches. For example, if you’re a sunglasses retailer in downtown Calgary, you want your store to be the one devices return when local customers query, “Where can I buy sunglasses?” SEO is a complicated and ever-developing aspect of online marketing but there are many widely accepted methods for improving your business' ranking.

#2. Artificial intelligence (AI)

The future has finally arrived! Whether you’re aware of it or not, robots (AI, really) are now a big part of the online customer service landscape. Some common examples include chatbots answering FAQs and “live chat” inquiries, and automatic product or service recommendations. Keep your eyes peeled for AI-backed tools that can boost your customers’ experience of your business.

#3. Customer reviews really matter

When was the last time you looked at customer reviews to help make a decision about a restaurant or retailer? If you’re like most Canadians, it hasn’t been long. Buyers have lost trust in companies and sales departments so they’re increasingly turning to other people's opinions to help with their decision-making. Customer reviews like those posted at Google My Business or other trusted providers go a long way toward helping people decide if they want to buy from you, so make sure to prompt your happy customers to comment.

#4. People love video

Video posts perform better than other content across social media channels so it can only help your business to provide this type of visuals. The good news is that video needn’t cost a lot—it can even be shot and produced on a good smartphone. This year, figure out a way to leverage this medium to capture and retain your buyers’ interest.

#5. Workplace 2.0

Believe it or not, the traditional desk job is disappearing. Depending on the type of business you run, you might find that in order to attract and retain quality employees you have to offer some sort of remote working situation, even if it’s only part-time. This means you need to invest in the technology—usually apps and cloud storage—to make remote work, work.

As we Canadian small businesses look to this next decade, there are numerous emerging technologies and trends to incorporate into our standard practices. Those of us who welcome cutting edge methods into our marketing strategies have a better chance of reaping the benefits.




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Three small business marketing must-haves for 2020

As we head into a new year, now’s the time to revisit our business plans and make improvements. Typically lower on the priority list than time-sensitive tasks like inventory or cash flow, marketing is frequently put on the back burner. The downside, of course, is marketing feeds into your bottom line, so keeping it fresh and current will actually help the business prosper. The good news is marketing doesn’t have to be onerous. These three must-haves are quick, simple, and effective. Set aside the time and make your business shine in 2020.

  1. Have a Google My Business profile
    It’s super simple and free to set up a Google My Business profile and it’s one of the most effective ways to increase your visibility to prospective buyers. This is because once you have a profile, your listing can show up on maps, in search, and across other Google platforms. Additionally, your profile will give you more channels to communicate with your customers and an easy way to receive customer reviews—both crucial elements to your marketing strategy. And, Google will send you statistics every month that can help you fine-tune your efforts.
  2. Ask for Google reviews
    Google is one of only a few places buyers check before they patronize your business. Indeed, 99% of businesses are assessed this way. By adding a "Give us a review" ask to the end of your sales process, you’re likely to solicit more reviews and leave a great impression as a business that cares, even in those customers who don’t post. Even if only a small portion of customers review the business, by asking for the review you’re establishing that you are interested in their feedback, which will go a long way towards building trust and warm feelings.
  3. Have a (good) website
    If you don't have a website, or if your site doesn’t look good or perform well, you're losing business. It’s as simple as that. Buyers are fickle. They're impatient. And they want the information they want when they want it. Your website—even a simple one—needs to provide people with the information (or functionality) that they want, on-demand. This will keep your business in the running with your competitors.

None of these tactics are earth-shattering yet without them you’re missing valuable opportunities to get your name out there, build your credibility and do more business. If you don’t already have these three things in place, put them on your first-quarter of 2020 to-do list.




Three cash flow strategies for Canadian small businesses

All small business owners know that maintaining a steady and sufficient cash flow is key to success. While planning for expected costs like inventory and wages is straightforward, the unexpected expenses like equipment repairs trip people up. And those of us working in a seasonal industry face a whole extra set of challenges. There’s no way around it—healthy cash flow is crucial, so today we’re sharing three strategies small businesses use to successfully manage cash flow.

  1. Adjust for lean times
    Timing is everything. Perhaps the trickiest tip on this list, managing timing may also be the most effective. Every business experiences an ebb and flow. Some of these changes can be anticipated like seasonal differences, for example, or payroll. As a small business owner, it’s up to you to understand these cycles and plan against lean times. This is a skill that gets better with practice, but there are certain immediate steps you can take to help. If, for example, you have the opportunity to adjust the timing on delivery of the products or services you provide, consider working out a staggered schedule so you are receiving payment as regularly as possible.
  2. Invoice differently 
    There are several strategies around payments and invoicing that can help you manage your cash flow. When taking on a new client, include payment terms and late fees upfront. Establish a standard payment window (net 30 is typical but in some cases, you might want to ask for net 15) and invoice immediately on project completion. When negotiating for a new project or contract, particularly if it is involved and longer-term, ask for a deposit and milestone payments so you aren’t left waiting for income until the very end.

  3. Minimize expenses 
    Reducing expenses is the other side of handling cash flow. Fewer expenses mean less money leaving your accounts. Take the time now to analyze whether or not your business is operating as lean as it can. If you use equipment, for example, consider leasing rather than buying. Not only will this standardize the expense into smaller payments, but it’s a tax write-off. Selling unused equipment or inventory can also free up cash for your operation. Finally, if you work with vendors, consider negotiating with them. Just as you would consider a price break for a loyal and paying customer, so might your suppliers.

Like any other Canadian small business owner, you’re going to have to plan to keep a steady cash flow but if you follow these strategies you’ll be ahead of the game.



Accounting ,Management

5 important considerations when applying for a business loan

Managing money is one of the key tasks of running a small business. Changes in facilities or staff, acquiring inventory, or just the natural ebb and flow of your industry can all affect your cash flow. This is why business loans are commonplace. They play an important role in financial viability. This said, deciding to take a loan—and selecting the institution to take it from — shouldn’t be done lightly. Before you decide, here are five things you should consider.

1. What do you need the loan for?

This is a question to ask yourself, not to justify that decision to take out a loan, but to clarify the best products and terms for your needs.  Once you’ve determined the purpose of your loan you can pinpoint your best option.

2. How much do you need?

While carrying debt is not, in and of itself, a bad business practice, taking as much as you can get is risky. Your debt load can affect everything from day-to-day operations to your credit score, so after you identify what you need the loan for, put a realistic number on your project.

3. How much time do you have?

If you need funding quickly, you’re going to want to work with a lender that’s equipped to meet your timeline. Traditional bank loan applications are cumbersome to complete, and it can take a long time before you’ll have access to the funds. Private lenders simplify their application process and can get your funding, fast—sometimes as soon as 48 hours, however, the rates tend to be higher than with the big banks.

4. Do you need a lump sum or are incremental amounts better?

Your answer to this question will help you decide the type of loan that’s best for you. Traditional banks offer lines of credit where you can take out payments on an as-needed basis, but if you need your money upfront, you’ll probably want to apply for a term loan. This is a loan that granted in a lump sum with regular repayments until the balance is paid.

5. What is your existing debt load?

Before applying for a loan you’ll need to inventory your current debt load. If you’re already carrying debt, you must first calculate how much more you can afford. Taking on debt is normal—but taking on too much debt will put the company in a precarious financial situation. At iCapital, we’ve helped dozens of small business owners make this calculation. It’s surprising how many people apply for additional funding when it would be the business is an extremely precarious position. Ensure that you are on the path to success rather than bankruptcy by doing the math before submitting your financing application.

In the end, selecting the right institution to borrow from, and amount to ask for, comes down to identifying what you need, what you can get approved for, and what you can realistically pay back. With this approach, you’ll be taking on healthy, planned debt rather than putting your company at risk.


Small business financing Canada ,Accounting

Food Trends in Canada

Is there a secret to success in the restaurant business? We’re not sure, but if you have it, we’d like to chat.

Until then, it helps for you to stay informed about the ongoing changes in the marketplace. The sooner you identify and take advantage of new trends, the more you will benefit and the easier it will be to adapt to future changes.

Below are five trends worth watching:

  • Fewer Menu Items - With customers valuing the ‘experience’ of dining out, more restaurants will stop trying to cater to every taste. Instead they will look at menu themes or focus on a few dishes that they do exceptionally well.
  • Now You Need to Satisfy Both Boomers and Millennials - One wants healthier options and the other wants to deal with more connected and responsible businesses. And both of them have money to spend. Boomers will appreciate more gluten-free, low-salt and vegetarian options. Millennials will need to hear about you on Instagram or other social media, and they want to know that you offer socially responsible foods, like free-range chicken.
  • Beverages Refined - While different, more exotic dishes have been an ongoing trend, in 2015 that trend will shift to your beverage menu. You will see a wider variety of teas and coffees (even Tim Horton’s now has its Dark Roast option), exotic juices and alcoholic options that include ciders (gluten-free), low-alcohol choices and oil-infused cocktails.
  • More Hybrids - It started when chef Dominique Ansel combined croissant and donut pastry dough to create the Cronut in 2013. In 2015, the hybrid trend will grow to include dishes like ramen burgers, brioche/souffle mix (another mash-up from Ansel) and dessert pizza.
  • Localization & Personalization - In 2015, local restaurants will continue to battle their big-box cousins for the hearts and tastes of diners. Two powerful weapons in that fight will be menu items made from local foods and offering customers more ‘choose your items/ingredients’ options.

Remember, no matter how hot the trend, what works for one restaurant doesn’t always work for another. Stay informed, talk to your customers and find out what works best for your business.


Marketing ,Management

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