Most small business owners know that social media can be a great tool to use to help market their business and build relationships with customers. However, when it comes to how to use social media most effectively, many are left scratching their heads. And it is no wonder—the world of social media is constantly changing and what worked yesterday may not work today. With that being said, there are some simple tips that have stood the test of time in social media.
1. Post consistently. Many business owners that begin using social media start strong. They post frequently at first and as time goes on those post become less and less frequent. To avoid this, create a social media schedule. Tools such as Hootsuite allow users to schedule posts to multiple social media platforms. Posting frequently increases your chances of being seen by customers and helps your business stay top of mind.
2. Stick to brand image. If your brand is upscale and sleek, your social media accounts should reflect that. If your brand is fun and upbeat, you need to get that across on social media. Every time a business posts on social media they need to determine what impression someone that has never heard of them might get from that post. If that does not match up with the image the business is hoping to convey, do not post.
3. Market to target customers. Social media is great because so many people use it on a daily basis. It can be tempting for a business to want to market to everyone that broadly fits into their target audience. If a business is paying for views on social media, they should work to narrow their audience to the people most likely to purchase from them. For example, a women’s clothing store that primarily sells to women over 50 will want to exclude young college aged women from the targeted demographic even though they may on occasion sell to women that fit this description.
4. Social media is meant to be social. It is a great way for businesses to build relationships with customers. Encourage engagement by asking questions. When a customer posts about a great experience they had with your business, thank them. If a follower has a question, answer them. This type of engagement not only helps build brand loyalty, it also helps your business page have greater visibility due to social media algorithms that reward pages that users interact with.
5. Use the right platform. Twitter is not the same as Facebook. Facebook is not the same as Instagram. Instagram is not the same as Pinterest. Because no two social media platforms are the same, they should not be used the same way. Knowing which social media platform to use is going to come down to what your business trying to get out of social media. Are you trying to convert someone over to your website? Are you trying to promote a new product or simply promote the brand? Is the goal to reach recent high school graduates, or parents with children under the age of five? Using the right social media platform allows business owners to spend their time and marketing dollars in the most efficient manner.
If you are interested in learning more on how you can leverage social media in your business, the Small Business Development Center is hosting a workshop on Creating a Social Media Strategy for Your Business on September 26th from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. at their Savannah location, 513 E Oglethorpe Ave Suite M. The course is $69 and attendees must register at www.georgiasbdc.org/southern-coastal.
(Source: Valerie Cote, Consultant, UGA SBDC at Georgia Southern University)
As a business consultant, I routinely help small businesses with access to capital. My role in the process is to assist with business plans, acquisition and expansion plans, strategic plans and financial projections that may be needed to accompany a funding request. Before we begin that process I always have a discussion about the 5 C’s to make sure that in addition to the business the client themselves is a worthy loan candidate.
- Capacity: How are you going to repay the loan? First we look at the cash flow of the business. Can you clearly demonstrate that it is or will make money? Most lenders require that your net income be at least 1.25 times the proposed debt. You can use a simple formula to calculate this. Net income + Depreciation + Amortization/Proposed Loan Payments (Principal & Interest). If you meet that threshold, the lender will look at payment history. This is your personal credit because lenders require a small business owner to personally guarantee a loan. Last they will look for other sources of income in your household such as a working spouse to be a “backup” sources of repayment.
- Collateral: What security can you provide? It sounds harsh but I always ask my clients “what do you own of value that they can take from you if you default on the loan?” They will not consider things like cars, boats, household items, jewelry or office equipment. They will take a lien on business assets but it is generally 50% or less of depreciated value leaving a huge collateral shortfall. Your best source of collateral is usually real estate which might be personal, business or both of them depending on the amount of the loan and the equity in the properties.
- Capital: How much money have you or will you invest in the business? Prospective lenders like to know that you have personally invested money. They also want to know that your business has enough extra capital to handle any unforeseen needs. They have a specific percentage that they require you to invest in your business and the range is 10 to 25% depending on a variety of factors so be prepared because there is no 100% financing.
- Conditions: How are you going to use the loan? Lenders will require that you provide details on how you are going to use the money and where you are going to get all the money you will need. This is a Sources and Uses of Funds Statement and you will need to provide detail/quotes/contracts as supporting documentation. Lenders will also consider the history of the business as well as the economic outlook of your industry. If the business is in a declining industry, be prepared to explain the conditions that will make yours profitable.
- Character: Who are you? Do you have experience in your industry? Have you ever managed a business or employees? What is your educational and work background that qualifies you to run this business? Lenders want to know that you have the credentials and experience to run a successful business. Be prepared to share a resume and references to back up your claims.
If the client meets the criteria of the 5 C’s, we can move on to the business planning and financial projections phase. At this time, the client might also begin discussing loan types with a lender. There are a few specialized programs for small business owners so it is best to see which one matches your needs. If you would like to discuss any of the above, you can contact Becky at firstname.lastname@example.org or 912-651-3200.
The SBDC along with the Creative Coast are hosting a Free Small Business Financing Forum on August 25 2017 from 2pm-4pm at the Creative Coast located at 2222 Bull St. A panel of experts will discuss several of the funding options available for your business and how to determine the best fit for your needs. Although it is free, online registration is required at georgiasbdc.org/southern.
(Source: Becky Brownlee, Business Consultant, UGA SBDC at Savannah)
Please join us in welcoming Business Consultant Valerie Cote to the UGA SBDC at Georiga Southern University.
Ms. Valerie Cote joined the organization on July 1 and has been making her way through her initial onboarding, training and mentoring with other representatives from the SBDC network. In the fall – she will begin consulting with clients in the Statesboro area on a full-time basis.
Valerie has deep Georgia Southern roots – as she received her MBA from the university in 2015 and she previously worked for the university as an accountant during 2012 and 2013. She is excited about returning to the GS family and being part of the SBDC statewide network.
Valerie brings a wealth of experience and knowledge about small business operation and growth to her new role as a consultant. Her experience at the university and in the private sector will be invaluable to the small business owners in Bulloch County and the surrounding area. Please join the entire SBDC organization in welcoming her back to GS, the SBDC and the Business Innovation Group.
When most “first time entrepreneurs” think about having their own business – they quickly default to the position that they have to start a new business from scratch. They feel that they must create a completely new entity, of their own design, in order to satisfy their dream of business ownership. However, the truth is that the vast majority of first time entrepreneurs would be far better served by acquiring an existing business and then making that business their own.
There are a number of benefits and advantages to buying an established business, particularly for the first time entrepreneur. All of these benefits and advantages can be quite significant and can set the foundation for a long-term, successful business operation. The following are three key reasons why an individual new to business ownership should consider buying versus starting a business.
- Transfer of Knowledge: The current business owner will often remain in the business for a set period of time and will transfer to you the knowledge that it takes to operate the business. They will not only be imparting knowledge about their specific business, but they can provide you with general guidance about simply operating a business. The key here is that you can learn from their mistakes and not your own – which can be costly when trying to establish a new business.
- Established Revenue Stream: By acquiring the business – you also acquire access to all of the current customers of the business. This provides you and your business with a baseline of revenue that you can use to not only sustain the business, but that you can use to leverage and grow the business. Most first time entrepreneurs fail to appreciate just how difficult it is to recruit their first customers. By acquiring your first business – you simply bypass this significant challenge.
- Easier path to Financing: Financing the purchase of an existing business is often easier than securing the financing needed to start a business. Existing or established businesses come with a financial history – one that can quickly illustrate not only the viability of the business, but the current and possible future value of the business. These factors assist potential lenders in getting comfortable with the prospect of providing the funds required to purchase the business. Also, most businesses sell with some level of “seller financing” – an option that is not available to you if you start a business from scratch.
Buying an existing business should by no means be seen as taking a shortcut to business ownership or that is somehow diminishes the position of being seen as an entrepreneur. You will become an entrepreneur post acquisition, because you will not simply be satisfied with how the business is today. You will make improvements and you will place your own identity on the business. That is what makes you an entrepreneur – not the manner in which you came to be in business.
Mark Butler is the Area Director of the UGA Small Business Development Center at Savannah.
Please join us in welcoming Director, Angie DiCiro to the Georgia Southern University SBDC.
MBA – University of Phoenix
BS – The United States Military Academy at West Point, NY
Mrs. DiCiro brings over 20 years of financial industry experience that includes leadership roles in commercial, small business and construction lending, with an emphasis on commercial real estate projects. She also brings a wealth of leadership, logistics and contracting experience through her diverse career as an Army/Army Reserve officer. She is certified in the Myers Briggs Type Indicator for administering and interpreting both the MBTI® Step I™ and MBTI® Step II™ assessments.