6 Inexpensive Marketing Ideas for Your Small Business

7 Inexpensive Marketing Ideas for Your Small Business

You can offer the best product or service for your small business’s industry, but it’s not going to drive sales unless your target audience knows about it. While you can always promote your products or services using paid advertising solutions like TV and radio commercials, there are other, cheaper ways to reach your audience.

#1) Website:

Even if your small business operates locally, it can still benefit from having a website. When someone searches for your business online, they’ll see your website listed in the search results. Here, they can learn more about your business, including what it offers, when it opens and closes, where it’s located and more.

#2) Logo Exposure:

Your business’s logo is a powerful marketing tool that can attract customers and drive sales. Over time, customers will associate your business’s logo with what it offers. To take advantage of the marketing power of logo recognition, though, you must convey it to the public. Tech companies like LinkedIn and Amazon proudly display their respective logos in their workplace. Another idea is to include your business’s logo on t-shirts, hats and other products, which you can give away as part of a contest.

#3) Word of Mouth:

Don’t underestimate the marketing power of word of mouth. If customers enjoy your product or service and believe it’s worth the cost, they’ll share their thoughts with friends and family. And each word-of-mouth referral is free marketing for your small business. To encourage referrals such as this, offer exceptional customer service that exceeds customers’ expectations.

#4) Sell to Existing Customers:

Assuming your business already has customers, consider marketing to them instead of seeking only new customers. According to a study cited by Harvard Business Review, marketing to existing customers costs businesses up to 25 times less than marketing to new customers. Existing customers have already given you their seal of approval, so they are more willing to buy your products or services than new customers.

#5) Contact Local News Companies:

Advertising your small business in a nationally distributed newspaper can be expensive. And while it may offer more exposure than locally distributed publications, it’s usually not worth the cost. Local city or county newspapers offer an inexpensive alternative that may actually drive more customers to your business. Many local publications have segments dedicated to local businesses. Here, they interview local business owners, talking about their business and the products or services they offer.

#6) Signage:

Finally, signage is always an effective, inexpensive way to promote a small business. Purchasing a large, professionally designed sign with your business’s name and slogan can attract countless new customers to your business.

Don’t let the high cost of marketing hurt your small business’s finances. Consider the ideas described here to promote your business on a budget.

Edward Schinik has been with the Investment Manager since 2009 and has been with one Affiliated Investment Manager since 2005.

The Best Investing Podcasts to Listen to

The Best Investing Podcasts to Listen to

Podcasts offer a wealth of information that allows you to learn as you commute, work out, run errands, and do chores. If you want to learn more about investing, check out our six picks for the best investing podcasts.

Planet Money:

It’s important for investors to have a sense of how the economy works to make smart choices, and this National Public Radio podcast on business and finance fits the bill with a back catalog of more than 800 episodes to explore. Founded in 2008 by Adam Davidson of the New Yorker and Adam Blumberg of Gimlet Media and hosted by a rotating group of NPR journalists, Planet Money comes out twice a week and will give you an in-depth education about how money works in the U.S. and beyond.

Radical Personal Finance:

Hosted by former financial planner and investing expert Joshua Sheats, this podcast covers investing and personal finance advice appropriate for anyone who wants to improve his or her overall financial picture. You’ll find deep dives about a host of investing issues, with some episodes on complex topics approaching the two-hour mark. Sheats says that the show is designed as a comprehensive curriculum and master class on personal finance.

Motley Fool Money:

Motley Fool has been a source for understandable, actionable financial advice since 1993 and its casts of expert hosts this weekly look at the top business and investing stories of the past few days, including stock picks, analysis, and interviews with industry experts.

Invest Like the Best:

If you are an advanced investor and want to learn more about unusual investments such as cryptocurrency, get the scoop from this podcast by Patrick O’Shaughnessy, principal and portfolio manager at O’Shaughnessy Asset Management, a quantitative money management firm. This podcast has produced more than 60 episodes so far, each of which ranges between 50 and 80 minutes.

Bigger Pockets Podcast:

If you’re specifically interested in real estate investing, the Bigger Pockets podcast covers everything from long-term rental properties to short-term flipping, exploring the nuances of making money from real estate. They offer tips and resources and provide interviews with real estate investors who give listeners real-world advice on profiting from properties.

Money Mastermind Show:

This podcast has five co-hosts that offer broad coverage of personal finance and investing topics designed to help listeners master their own economic pictures. The personal finance bloggers behind this show chat with a weekly guest about a relevant topic, providing detail coverage of many aspects of investing.

Edward Schinik is the Chief Financial Officer and Chief Operating Officer of Yorkville Advisors.

5 Common Financial Mistakes Guaranteed to Ruin Your Retirement

5 Common Financial Mistakes Guaranteed to Ruin Your Retirement

Preparing for retirement is not usually an exciting or fun topic and often the rewards are far enough off that it’s difficult to really engage. And, even worse, short-term benefits can lead to long-term difficulties that could be easily avoided with a little planning. It’s critical to have a good retirement plan and process for updating it and improving it as time goes on. Running out of money in old age is a terrible experience.

Unfortunately, in addition to that, there are some very easy mistakes that are often made that can make a huge negative impact on your retirement. Here are five:

Buying on Credit:

Credit is one of the wonders of the modern age. It allows for home and vehicle ownership by many more than could possibly manage if they had to pay in cash. It powers industries and businesses and is definitely a good thing. However, consumer credit can be a tricky beast. It’s tempting to buy just a little more than you need and put it on the card. It’s easy to buy a car that costs just a little more and pay it off over time. The more you have on credit, the more you’re paying on your debt, the less you’re putting aside for retirement. Worse, if retirement comes earlier than you expect, you’ll still have that debt to pay back on a restricted income.

Ignoring Your Credit Score:

While avoiding buying too much on credit is important, it doesn’t mean you can ignore your credit score. You may well need to put something on credit. Whether an emergency expense on a credit card, or an early replacement of a vehicle that has broken down unexpectedly, having the credit available, at a reasonable rate of interest is important. It can save your bacon in many circumstances. A poor credit score, though, means many of those options are either unavailable to you or are so expensive that taking advantage of them would be foolish. Manage your credit score to keep your options open.

Using Standard Savings Accounts:

Many people simply put retirement savings into a standard savings account and let it go. This is a great way to be beat out by inflation. If you have a certain sum of money, in 10 years it will be worth significantly less than it is today. That’s just how inflation goes. So sticking your money in a standard savings account, or under the mattress, just means that money will be available but worth much less than when you set it aside. Also, it’s very easy to pull money out of those accounts and that temptation can be overwhelming. Putting retirement savings in a tax-protected account provides some tax benefits and puts up barriers to early withdrawal.

Living Beyond Your Means:

The less you spend on a new car, new house, and gadgets and toys, the more you can put towards retirement. Don’t starve yourself, but realize that it’s all a trade-off. More toys now, or being comfortable in retirement.

Being Too Risk Averse:

Investment is required these days for successful retirement. If you have the time, if you’re a younger person, don’t be totally risk averse, you have time to work the market and take advantage of the ups and downs.

Edward Schinik has been with the Investment Manager since 2009 and has been with one Affiliated Investment Manager since 2005.

How Behavioral Science Can Help Prevent Business Disasters

How Behavioral Science Can Help Prevent Business Disasters

In the wake of the 2008-2009 mortgage crisis, millions of lenders, bankers, mortgage brokers and others in both the real estate and mortgage industries all fell back on the position that it was something that no one could have seem coming. In fact, many did see it coming, but no one wanted to listen to them because no one wanted to believe what they had to say. In fact, any number of disasters ranging from oil spills to public relations nightmares can actually be avoided with the application of behavioral science.

Behavioral science is the science of studying how people act and behave in certain situations. In turn, this gives behavioral scientists the ability to also predict how people are likely to act and behave in a given set of circumstances. For the most part, the majority of business disasters actually stem more from cognitive bias than completely unpredictable and unavoidable events. The three main cognitive biases that tend to be responsible for the majority of business disasters are the overconfidence effect, optimism bias and the planning fallacy.

1. Overconfidence effect:

It is a strange conundrum that on the one hand, confidence is one of the most strongly admired traits in leaders and yet on the other hand, over-confidence may be their greatest downfall. Overconfidence is the belief that nothing can go wrong that you can’t fix, no job too big that you can’t handle or nothing you don’t know about a certain topic or facet of your business. Overconfidence has led to the crashing of many ships and the doom of many businesses.

2. Optimism Bias:

The optimism bias can rear its ugly head in a number of ways, all of which can create some significant repercussions. Optimism bias is the belief that everything will go as well or better than can possibly be expected. It’s the belief that everyone will execute their role in a given plan flawlessly and that no safety or security precautions are necessary. The optimism bias only looks at results and fails to count adequate costs. The optimism bias will often lead businesses and even government organizations to accept the lowest bid on a contract, even when renowned experts tell them that no one can safely deliver on a bid that low.

3. Planning fallacy:

The planning fallacy is closely related to the optimism bias. It is the unwillingness to pad budgets for unexpected costs or leave ample time for things to go wrong. Even average individuals fall into the planning fallacy when they only leave themselves 15 minutes to get to an important meeting when Google tells them it is a 15 minute drive.

Understanding these three inherent weaknesses can help any number of businesses prevent any number of disasters. Boards are often put in place to help compensate for overconfidence in their CEO or other executives, but often fail to act when the CEO plays on their own optimism biases. Similarly, even executive boards can fall into the trap of planning fallacy when presented with an opportunity that seems too attractive to pass up. Only when boards, CEO’s and other executives admit to their own propensity towards these cognitive biases can true business disasters be avoided.

Edward Schinik has been with the Investment Manager since 2009 and has been with one Affiliated Investment Manager since 2005.

Why Investors Should Consider Investing In Tech Stocks

Why Investors Should Consider Investing In Tech Stocks

Investors have been pleased with the gains in the technological industry over the last year. Huge tech stocks such as Facebook, Amazon, and Netflix have made a substantial impact on the market. Even smaller stocks such as NVIDIA, Shopify, and Arista have seen large increases after every period. While research continues to show that investing in the technology sector could potentially bring lucrative rewards, many investors are still hesitant to invest in tech stocks due to a lack of understanding concerning the technology. If investors are not aware of what the tech companies can do, it is difficult for them to see the long term growth of their potential investment. Here are a couple of variables that investors should look at to see if a tech company is on the rise.

Good Margins:

Many investors feel that tech companies should be doing more than just promoting their products and services. Investors should pay attention to a company’s operating margins. By looking at a company’s operating income and dividing it by their total revenue, investors can get a realistic idea of a company’s profitability. If a company has shown that they can increase their operating margin, that is a symbol that the company still has appeal. Appealing companies are able to uphold their competitive advantage over their peers.

Increased Revenue Streams:

Investors are looking for tech companies that have shown the ability to maximize their revenue growth. When companies start working on a project that has the potential to be special, investors are quick to jump on the opportunity. Companies that are able to grow their revenue at a high rate send a signal to investors that their products and services are popular.

Why Do Investors Avoid Tech Companies?

Many investors have noted that they avoid tech companies because of the difficulty in measuring the competitive advantage in the industry. Investors have also noted how difficult it is to identify which companies have great potential because most companies still have room to develop. It’s hard to predict where the next major discovery will come from. Many investors fear partnering with a company only to see them passed by an unlikely competitor that happened to create the next great technological advancement. Regardless of the risks, the potential rewards of investing in the technological industry are too lucrative for many investors to turn down. The World has embraced the arrival of the mobile and digital age.

Edward Schinik has been with the Investment Manager since 2009.

How to Fund Your College Education by Investing

How to Fund Your College Education by Investing

Modern education costs have climbed significantly in recent decades. The cost of a four year college education now rivals buying a house, and larger numbers of students are exiting college deeply in debt.

Fortunately, there are some steps you can take to help manage the costs associated with higher education. With some careful planning and consistency in the execution of that plan, a four year degree can be within reach even for those of limited monetary means.

It Starts With Planning:

The first step in affording a college education is proper planning. The type of school you attend, where you will live and whether you plan to work through school are all key considerations. Once you have done some planning, it will be far easier to try to determine how much you will need to afford a college education.

Start Investing:

The sooner you start investing for college, the better. The power of compound interest in truly amazing, and can help grow your money rapidly. It is not only important to get the ball rolling on investments, but to then make sure to invest regularly. This can be accomplished easily today through automatic bank account withdrawals or even automatic paycheck deductions. Making saving completely automated will not only help you maintain discipline when it comes to saving, but may also help your funds grow faster.

Choose Investment Products:

In the world of investing, there are numerous ways to put your capital to work. Determining where to put your capital to work will be an important decision that could have a dramatic impact on returns. The longer period of time you have to save, the more risk you may be willing to take. In this case, stocks may potentially be a worthy investment. You may want to focus on stable, dividend-paying blue chips as the cornerstone of your portfolio.

If you have a short time frame of two years or less, you may want to consider investments that display less volatility. Savings accounts, CDs and money market funds may be worth consideration. An established mutual fund or diversified ETF may also potentially be a good choice.

Avoid Withdrawals Until Necessary:

The longer your money is able to work for you, the higher the potential return on investment. Do not begin taking money out until absolutely necessary, and only take out what you need to cover key expenses such as tuition, housing, food and other necessities.

A part-time job may also be a great way to stretch your college savings. Any income from a job can be used to pay expenses, which may allow you to keep your investment capital working harder and longer.

Although the cost of higher education has become a major issue for many, some careful planning combined with good investing sense and discipline can pave the way for you to attend college and focus on what’s really important: Your studies.

Edward Schinik is the CEO of Yorkville Advisors.

How to Make a Business Plan and Stick to It

How to Make a Business Plan and Stick to It

Introduction:

There are a variety of ways that companies can write a business plan. Many people advocate including a number of sections, but numerous sections can lead to clunky and long business plans. Your business plan should allow a potential investor to understand what your company is about, how it will be run, and how it will be financed. These are the main things that you will need in order to develop a concise business plan.

Summarize:

The first section of your business plan should be an executive summary, which will summarize your whole business plan. This summary should describe all of the goals of your business, and primarily that. By the time that a reader is done reading your executive summary, they should know exactly why your business is operating.

Describe:

This section is where you go into detail about all of the intricacies of your business and the industry that it operates in. You should go into further detail about the companies that you will competing with and working with, and how your business will measure up to those already existing companies. You do not need to propose any strategies to improving the industry, in this section, you just need to mention how your company will fit into the industry and what innovations your plan to bring.

Strategize:

In this section you will want to expand on how your business will offer services and products that are different from what is already on the market. You should analyze your competitors, in this section, and describe how you can improve upon what they offer. Here, you should also mention possible weaknesses that your company has and how these weaknesses can be remedied.

Finance:

Your investors, or anyone reading your business plan, will want to know how your operations will be funded. Anything financial should be included in this section, including the costs of your products and services, and any debt that you will initially be taking on.

Sticking to the Plan:

Business plans can be tough to stick to, but you should develop your business plan with failures and obstacles in mind. By including setbacks, you will have a document to reference when things do not go according to plan. As soon as you find your business straying from the original plan, assess why and make adjustments to get back on plan.

Conclusion:

Your business plan does not need to be elaborate and extremely detailed; in fact, this may place your business off track. You should aim to develop a short business plan that can quickly describe what your business is about and the way that the company will be run. There will be instances where your business will not be running according to plan, but you should create room for these instances in your business plan. A properly written business plan will be precise enough to give your company direction, but short enough that you can quickly skim it to understand the objectives.

 

Edward Schinik has been with the Investment Manager since 2009 and has been with one Affiliated Investment Manager since 2005.

 

Three Financial Mistakes to Avoid in Your 50s

 

Three Financial Mistakes to Avoid in Your 50s

There may never be a good time to make financial mistakes, but there are some completely disastrous times to make mistakes. One such time is when you’re in your 50’s. When you’re getting close to retirement, and there are fewer years to save and grow your money, financial mistakes can devastate your plans to leave work and relax into your golden years.

Once you know what might be considered a mistake, it’s much easier to stop yourself from making them. Here are 3 mistakes you should avoid at all costs once you hit 50.

Paying For a Child’s College Tuition:

If you have a college savings account with funds set aside to help your children through college, that’s a great way to help them out. But if you haven’t saved anything for their tuition, don’t be tempted to dip into your retirement savings to help them pay. It’s hard to say no to your kids, especially when they’re in need, but taking money out of your retirement savings puts your entire future in jeopardy.

Cosigning On a Loan:

From private student loans to auto loans, there are many opportunities for you to get dragged into the debt taken on by friends and family members when you cosign on their application for credit. Cosigning a loan isn’t just helping your loved one by improving their rates; it’s guaranteeing that you’ll step in and make payments if they default. While your loved one may never intend to do so, it can happen, and if it does, it will drag down your retirement.

Increasing Your Debt:

Debt is a reality of life, but it shouldn’t be a reality of your retirement. While a limited number of financial liabilities may make it into your retirement years, you generally want to avoid driving up your debt in your 50’s. Paying interest out of your retirement funds is painful, and when that interest outweighs what you earn on your savings, it can make a huge dent in your nest egg that can prevent you from living in comfort as you age.

Your 50’s give you one of your last chances to create the kind of retirement you’ve always dreamed of. Avoid making mistakes as much as you can and focus instead on giving yourself a more stable financial foundation so you know you can continue to care for yourself and you won’t be a burden to your loved ones in the future.

 

Edward Schinik has been with the Investment Manager since 2009.

How to Finance a Handover

How to Finance a Handover

You have worked hard to build your business. Years, even decades, have been committed to building your business and earning your reputation. Now that the time to begin considering a succession plan has come, there are a number of key issues to consider. Once you have made the decision to hand your business over, perhaps the greatest question you may need to consider is how the deal will be financed.

There are numerous ways to finance a handover of your business. The method you choose may depend on not only the particular buyer, but also whether you want to receive regular payments from the handover of simply get a lump sum payment once the transaction is complete.

Whatever you decide to do, the very first step will be getting all of your paperwork in order. This may include tax records, inventory, accounts receivable, accounts payable, real estate holdings and more.

Once you have all of the necessary information in order, it’s now time to make some decisions.

What is the Business Worth?

Before any financing for a handover can take place, the business must be assigned a value. This can vary greatly from business to business, and can depend largely on the type of business being discussed. Although there are some common methods of valuation, such as X times trailing earnings, you may be best off consulting a business broker or advisory firm.

Where Can the Business be Improved?

Anyone seeking financing to purchase a business will not only scrutinize the financials closely, but potential lenders will also take a very hard look at all aspects of the business before loaning funds to purchase it. If you see any major gaps in operations or other areas that can be improved, in may be wise to make such improvements before looking to sell.

Would you Prefer an Income Stream or Lump Sum?

The answer to this question may largely depend on your goals after selling the business. There may also be some significant tax ramifications to consider as well. Although financing may look attractive at first glance, that potentially higher rate of return may also come with some serious headaches.

Post-Sale Protection

Just because you have sold a business does not necessarily mean that you no longer have any liability in the business. Any transaction should spell out who is responsible for issues arising from pre-sale operations. In addition, any financing agreement must also lay out terms of the sale and how you will be paid. You should also include a course of action should the buyer default on financing payments. This is an area in which a qualified business attorney is money well-spent.

The process of handing over a business can take considerable time,often a year or more. In the meantime, make sure to continue to run a tight ship and run things “business as usual.” Patience may pay large dividends when it comes to handing a business over, and making sure all potential issues are covered will help ensure a seamless transition.

Edward Schinik has been with the Investment Manager since 2009 and has been with one Affiliated Investment Manager since 2005.

How to Trim Your Car, Home and Health Insurance Premiums

How to Trim Your Car, Home and Health Insurance Premiums

Some types of insurance are required, such as your auto insurance and your homeowner’s insurance. Even without a lender’s requirement for home insurance or your state’s requirement for auto insurance, you may understand the true financial benefits associated with purchasing coverage and maintaining an active policy. Home, auto and health insurance are among the most common types of insurance that people purchase, and they are all designed to help you pay for unexpected expenses. In some cases, coverage can save you thousands of dollars or more. However, the cost of insurance premiums can be substantial, and you must pay your premium regardless of whether you actually use the insurance or not. These are some effective ways to save money on your premiums so that you can get the coverage that you need.

Choose a Higher Deductible:

When you buy home, health or auto insurance, the decision about the deductible amount is yours. However, there are usually some upper and lower thresholds provided by the insurance companies. For example, with a homeowner’s insurance policy, you can usually request a deductible that equals one to two percent of the replacement value of the home. You could also set a reasonable fixed dollar amount, such as $2,000. Remember that a higher deductible amount yields a more affordable premium. When choosing a higher deductible, do so with care. When your deductible is too high, it is not affordable to file a claim as needed. A smart way to combat this problem and still enjoy the benefit of a higher deductible is to increase your savings account balance accordingly.

Shop for New Rates Periodically:

There are many factors that can affect the rates that you qualify for. For example, your auto insurance rates may be based on your credit rating, your age, your driving history and other factors. While shopping for rates on a new insurance policy is wise, remember that you also should shop for rates annually in order to avoid paying for your insurance policies.

Look for Discounts:

Another great way to potentially save money on your insurance premiums is through discounts. Health insurance discounts are not common, but you can usually find numerous discounts for home and auto coverage. For example, a home insurance discount may be available if you have a security system. An auto insurance discount may be available if you have a great driving record. In addition to these and many other common discounts that may be available to you, remember that some insurance companies offer an additional discount if you bundle coverage together or if you set up automated payments.

Auto, home and health insurance are veritable necessities, and it is not wise for most people to be without these coverage types. However, paying for them can be expensive. As you can see, there are multiple strategies available to save money on the various types of coverage that you need. Now is a great time to review your existing coverage and to make updates as needed.

Edward Schinik is the Chief Operating Officer with the Investment Manager.