Set GoalsIt’s surprising how much of an impact setting goals and tracking progress can have on your business. Remember to set goals that are not too broad, such as “obtain new customers.” You’ll want to add specific numbers that are ambitious but achievable. In this case, an example of an achievable and trackable goal is: “Obtain 30 new customers in the month of October 2020.” Setting goals not only allows you to track success but also can help you stay focused and motivated.
Ask For Reviews and ReferralsReferrals and reviews are some of the most effective ways to generate new business. The best way to ask your customers for referrals and reviews is to be direct and ask via email, phone, or in-person. Focus on your “best” customers, those whom you’ve already built relationships with. These customers have already gained your trust, and as a result, gives you a higher chance at receiving positive reviews or referrals. If appropriate to your business, you may want to gently remind clients of how much you appreciate referrals via your email signature or a well-placed sign in your business. Another method is to offer incentives. Inform your clients that for every referral or review, they’ll receive something in return. You could offer incentives such as gift cards or a discount off a future order.
Build PartnershipsPartnerships allow your business to provide more value to your existing and new customers. An effective business partnership consists of different companies with similar missions and audience demographics offering complementary products. Brainstorm ideas that your demographic may enjoy:
- Host giveaways on social media
- Deploy email marketing campaigns to each other's contact base
- Share a blog post on each other's service offerings.
Offer Discounts and PromotionsOffering new customers a promotion or discount for a limited period of time incentivizes them to give your product a try. Whatever you can do to eliminate complexity when using your product or services the first time is helpful. Free trials, samples or great return policies are ways you can lower what is commonly referred to as friction. You’ll also want to keep in mind that building trust and credibility is crucial during this period to convert the user into a paid customer. Other ideas of discounts and promotions you could try for your business are:
- Loyalty or reward points
- Percentage-based or flat discounts
- Free shipping
- Product bundling
What Is a Business Credit Score and Why Does It Matter?A business credit score is similar to a personal credit score. Your business credit score indicates whether your company is in good standing to apply for loans in the first place and if so, potentially receive lower interest rates (because you’re deemed to be less risky). Credit scores fall within a range of 0 to 100. The higher the number, the lower the perceived risk. One key difference between a personal and business credit score is that business credit scores are publicly available. Since business credit scores are not covered under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, any person is able to view your business credit score without permission. Overall, If you are looking to get approved for a loan, work with potential vendors, or receive better rates, having a strong credit score can help long term with saving money and keeping cash flow liquid. Next, we’ll go over different steps to begin establishing credit for your business.
Ways to Establish CreditThe first step in being eligible to establish business credit is to incorporate your business. Incorporating a business or forming an LLC is the best way to ensure that the business is separate from the owner and begins to accumulate its own history. Once the business is incorporated, you will be able to open a business bank account. Opening a bank account makes a positive difference when managing your business finances. Having a business bank account allows you to collect receipts and write checks for expenses. You’ll also want to obtain a business credit card. There are a wide variety of options available depending on your needs. If you are feeling overwhelmed with all of the options, we recommend reading our blog post on credit card options and their benefits. In order to build a good credit score, you must make payments on time. Paying on time will show that you are reliable and can effectively manage your finances. It is recommended, at a minimum, to check your credit score on an annual basis. Doing so allows you to check for errors. In fact, a study by the FTC says, “26% of individuals noticed at least one error on their report." Should you notice an error in your credit score, you'll need to notify the commercial credit bureau who is reporting the incorrect data.
How To Access Your Credit ScoreThe three major business credit bureaus are Dun & Bradstreet, Equifax, and Experian. Each of these bureaus has its own method of determining your companies creditworthiness. Typically the report will include your: credit summary, public records, business credit score, and payment trends. While the price to check your credit score varies by bureau, Nav offers free credit score reports by signing up for an account.
Separate Your Personal Finances From Your Business FinancesIt is important to know that blurring the lines between personal and business is never a good idea. Your company is its own independent entity. Keeping your personal finances separated from your business will not only reduce problems in the long term but also make it easier to manage and keep track of your finances. One of the main reasons you should separate your business from personal finances is for tax purposes. The IRS allows business owners to claim deductions for business-related expenses. In order to successfully claim deductions, you must provide clear documentation that indeed the expenses were indeed business-related. Using your personal bank account to pay bills can be very risky. Instead, you can transfer money into an account in the name of your business as needed, which is called capitalizing your business. If there is no clear distinction between you and your business, creditors are able to claim your personal assets in order to satisfy a debt so consider opening a business bank account ASAP if you haven’t done so already
Use a Business Credit CardOpening and making regular payments on a business credit card can help begin to build your business credit. Having a good credit score affects your business’ ability to qualify for increased credit lines, loans, office leases, equipment, and better terms from vendors. In addition, business credit also impacts your business insurance cost. While there are a multitude of credit cards for which you can apply, we recommend reading our latest blog post to find the best business credit cards for your particular situation.
Pay Bills on TimeMissed or late payments on your business credit can have serious consequences. One of the most common penalties is late fees. The average cost for late fees on a credit card ranges from $26 to $39. Over time these fees can add up. Making payments on time affects your credit score as well. In fact, 35% of your credit score is based on payment history. The graph below shows a breakdown of the different factors that can affect your business credit score.
Choose the Right Accounting SoftwareManaging your business accounting can be an overwhelming task especially if you are tracking documentation manually. Having accounting software eliminates the guesswork from bookkeeping. FINSYNC allows you to put your accounting on autopilot. FINSYNC syncs with the majority of US banks, credit unions and credit cards. Our all-in-one solution allows you to create customized reports, track income and expenses, accept payments, and automatically reconcile your accounts with the right invoices and bills. It’s easy to get started. Sign up for a 7-day free trial, no credit card required.
Processor FeeEach transaction run on a card passes through a digital system provided to you as the merchant by a processor. This company is who you’ll obtain any hardware needed such as a point of sale device or online capabilities such as a virtual terminal or connectivity to your online store. The processor fees are somewhat negotiable and range from .1% to 1% per transaction and the fee structure is determined when you sign with a processor. This is the only part of the transaction that can be negotiated with some providers.
Assessment Fee: Visa, Mastercard, DiscoverThis fee is often quoted as part of “Interchange Fees” below because it is out of the control of the processor. Visa, Mastercard & Discover charge an assessment of .15%. This is commonly abbreviated as V/MC/DISC. American Express does not charge a similar fee because it is the issuing bank and makes its revenue on the interchange fees (see below).
Transaction Risk: Interchange FeesInterchange fees are collected by the issuing bank(s) and vary depending on how risky each transaction is. Debit card interchange fees can be as low as .05% + $.21with riskier credit card interchange fees as high as 3.5% per transaction. Interestingly, American Express is both the card brand and the issuing bank. A. Type of Card: Debit or Credit Debit card transactions are generally cheaper for you as the merchant because they are coming from available cash in your client’s bank account. The use of a numerical PIN is also an added security feature. For this reason, you’ll see only debit cards accepted at certain retail establishments such as gas stations and Costco and other discount clubs. Credit card transactions mean your client is taking “credit” or a short term loan to pay you, so the risk is generally higher. B. Payment Method As a merchant, your ability to use common sense and security features to avoid fraud and chargebacks plays a large part in how much you’ll give up in Interchange Fees. Fraud is often perpetrated with stolen card numbers. Thus, if you accept credit cards in person and can utilize built-in security features such as the chips that are now present in all cards, your card activity will be considered less risky and you’ll give up less in interchange fees. Alternatively, if you only accept cards online and have no ability to verify whether or not the person making the payment is actually the owner of the card being used, you’ll typically pay higher interchange fees. C. Services or Products Offered Some products or services are more likely to be charged back and thus result in higher interchange fees. An even riskier category known as “High Risk” is reserved for industries that present significant challenges. If your business falls into this category, you may have to seek a “High-Risk Processor,” a specialist in working with industries that more common processors will not accept. Sum the 3 fees above together and that’s what you will give up for each transaction you process by charge card. Some processors will take their fees out of each transaction, depositing the net to your bank account. Others will sum all of their fees at the end of the period. Now that you understand the relationship between fees and risk, you can start to shop for the right processor. Beyond pricing, you’ll want to be sure you find the right technology capabilities that will make your life easier as a payments administrator and create the best payment experience for your clients. FINSYNC offers card payment capabilities integrated with other back office functions. Clients can pay emailed invoices by charge card and you can process a card over the phone via FINSYNC’s virtual terminal. To learn more, connect with our team.
Best Credit Card for Establishing CreditAre you just starting up your business and have limited or poor credit? The Wells Fargo Business Secured Credit Card is the way to go. This card will help you begin to build your business credit while also earning 1.5% cashback on all purchases made. There is also a very low annual fee of $25, which you can have waived after you’ve built up your credit. However, keep in mind that because this is a secured credit card, the rewards won’t be as good as those of unsecured cards. Regardless, this is a great starting point as you begin to build up your credit.
Best Credit Card for StartupsIf you’re an up-and-coming startup with funding, the Brex Credit Card for Startups could be right for you. Brex offers up to 7x point rewards, depending on the purchase. Regardless, you’ll be sure to earn points on every dollar spent. Some other benefits of the Brex card is their instant access to a credit line after you sign up. Keep in mind that you typically will need to have at least a $100k bank balance at any given time. So if you are an early-stage business with capital in the bank, this card could be for you.
Best Credit Card for Cash Back PointsLooking to earn cashback rewards on all your purchases while not paying any annual fees? The Blue Business Plus Credit Card from American Express is a great option. With this credit card, you’ll earn 2x points on all your purchases up to $50k each year. After the $50k, you’ll earn 1x points on all purchases. If you’re looking to double down on your point earnings, then this card could be for you.
Best Credit Card for Business TravelIf your business requires you to travel a lot, the Chase Ink Business Preferred Credit Card is a top pick. This card offers 3x points on the first $150k spent on travel, phone service, internet, cable, and advertising. To sweeten the offer, they’ll even throw in a 25% bonus if you redeem your points through Chase Ultimate Rewards. If you find yourself using multiple airlines and hotel brands, you can transfer points between partnering airlines and hotels. To top it all off, you can earn an additional 100k bonus points if you spend $15,000 or more within the first 3 months.
Best Credit Card for Large ExpensesThe Discover It Business Credit Card is great if you expect your business to have large expenses within the first year of opening the card. This card offers unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases and no annual fee. In addition, Discover will match all of the cash back you earned within your first year. That’s right, there is no minimum or maximum amount needed to be spent to receive the cash back matching offer. For example, if you spent $400 Discover will match to $800.
Best Overall Credit Card for Small BusinessesIf you’re not looking to spend a lot of time finding the best card for one specific reward, and prefer a simplistic yet rewarding credit card, then the Capital One Spark Cash for Business is a good bet. This card might be the best overall for small businesses. With an unlimited 2% cash back reward on all purchases, this card can seriously reduce your expenses. The first year has no annual fee and if you spend $4,500 within the first 3 months, you’ll even get a $500 cash bonus. Also, if you have employees, you can receive employee cards for free, and increase the rate of cashback earnings.
Payments Made Simple with FINSYNCFINSYNC Pay allows you to preserve cash by shifting cash expenses to your card credit and amplify your rewards. Even if your vendor does not accept credit, you can pay them electronically using the credit on your card. Getting started is simple and secure. Sign up for a free trial today.
What is QuickBooks Offering?In simple terms, QuickBooks now offers its users a deposit account. They call it “QuickBooks Cash, a New Business Bank Account With a 1% High-Yield Interest Rate.” This account replaces what is referred to as a checking or operating account from which businesses transact with customers, vendors and employees. For years, businesses who use QuickBooks have been able to synchronize their business checking accounts with QuickBooks, so all their deposits and withdrawals get imported into QuickBooks. Your bank might even have been pressured into providing a special type of export file type to be imported into QuickBooks. With this announcement, QuickBooks has eliminated the need to synchronize with any other bank or import any type of file. QuickBooks is now functioning as the bank, so every payment and deposit that goes into or out of that QuickBooks deposit account is now automatically in QuickBooks. Good for businesses from an efficiency standpoint; perhaps not in other ways. Certainly, bad for banks.
Why is QuickBooks Offering Deposit Accounts?QuickBooks began offering loans a few years ago. QuickBooks’ deposit accounts are a natural offshoot of growth for Intuit, who has slowly, but steadily crept into all aspects of small business finances. Their offering promises to make small business accounting even easier by cutting out that “middleware”, meaning the small business bank or credit union. Offering a deposit account makes sense for QuickBooks, as long as it is understood that they are now directly competing with all the banks who have recommended QuickBooks to their small business customers for years.
What Does This Move Mean for Small Business Banking?QuickBooks is now a competitor to any bank who caters to small businesses. Of particular concern, small businesses touch and interact with QuickBooks on their computer and mobile device screens every single day, multiple times per day. How often does your bank interact with your small business customers? QuickBooks’ move has thrown gas on the “digital transformation” fire that COVID19 and PPP started, and is forcing financial institutions to respond, not only with digital solutions, but with more frequent, data-driven customer interactions.
How Should Banks Respond?In short, pick the technology partners that help them grow with their customers electronically. ! The COVID19 pandemic and PPP have pushed traditional banks to transition faster than they had planned into more and more electronic and online services for their customers, simply due to the fact that in-person transactions have become problematic. Therefore, there are three ways that all banks who cater to small businesses should change:
- Embrace the digital banking transformation fully and completely.
- Stop recommending your largest competitor.
- Start recommending a solution that keeps you at the center of the relationship.
How do you do it?Embracing digital banking solutions sounds simple, and strategically, that might be simple to move to the top of the strategy board. But turning every single banking transaction into a digital transaction is not nearly as easy as it sounds. Financial institutions, once they’ve embraced digital throughout the organization, must decide to build it internally or partner with a fintech software company. It’s not difficult at all to stop recommending QuickBooks. The question is, when your small business customer needs a solution to help them manage their money, what solution will you recommend? Of course, we’re biased, but we’ve spent 9+ years building a solution that helps financial institutions get in sync with their business customers digitally. With payments, cash flow management, automated accounting, and more, FINSYNC helps small businesses and their bankers succeed by connecting the small businesses to the financial institutions every day, multiple times per day. Here’s how:
- Your businesses receive the best cash flow management tools that don’t compete with you for deposits or other lines of revenue.
- You receive non-interest, recurring revenue on FINSYNC’s services.
- When your businesses need capital, they’re defaulted to your lending team through FINSYNC and your team is provided the tools they need to analyze and fund deals faster.
Learn MoreRead our recent press release on FINSYNC's launch of Cooperative Structure to Help Community-Based Financial Institutions Compete. Schedule a free, no obligation overview of how FINSYNC can help you and your business customers succeed today.
Watch the Video:
What Is Invoice Financing?This article from BlueVine about how to choose a factoring provider offers up a simple explanation of what factoring actually is.
How Does Invoice Financing Work?The basics of invoice financing are simple: a business wants or needs cash sooner than its customer’s payment terms (net30, net45, net60, net90, etc.), so the business “sells” that invoice payment to an invoice financing company for 97% of the value of the invoice at full payment. For example, if you invoiced BigCorp, Inc., for $10,000, but their payment terms are net60, you could ‘sell’ that invoice to an invoice financing company for 97% of that invoice amount, or $9,700. You get a large portion of your payment in 1-3 business days, so you have cash immediately, and the invoice financing company earns $300 on that advance to you when your customer pays the $10,000.
Why Is Factoring So Paperwork Heavy?The simple answer to that is that the invoice financing company is taking a lot of risk by paying your business in advance on the promise that your customer will pay their invoice on time. It doesn’t have to be that way, but invoice financing does require some back and forth. Using the example above, you would need to provide the invoice financing company with your invoice to your customer, proof that your customer has accepted and agreed to pay the invoice, and proof that you delivered the customer’s order, so that the invoice financing company can assess the risk of that transaction. Because every company’s invoicing, payable, and receivable systems are unique, each transaction is essentially manual, unless there is an existing relationship with the invoice financing company and your customer is a well-known, trustworthy customer who always pays their invoices on time. When an individual invoice is being financed, that transaction is unique, and the invoice financing company is offering the business an advance payment for that one invoice. Paperwork, time, and human interaction are required.
Paperwork Heavy, Until NowFINSYNC customers enjoy a very simple process for invoice financing. Drag and drop your invoice onto the payment request screen, and click “Collect”. That’s it. Your financial institution now has everything they need to make a decision on financing that invoice. The very short video below demonstrates the entire process in just a few seconds.
Apply for Business Financing in Three Easy Steps
FINSYNC customers start by logging into their account. If you don’t have a FINSYNC account, you can create one free here https://info.finsync.com/free-trial-payments.
Once you log in, you’ll arrive at the main user dashboard. At the top right, you’ll see the green PLUS sign. Click there to expand that menu. Then click on “Apply for financing”.The next three screens are straightforward information gathering screens, some of which are already pre-populated from your FINSYNC account.
Loan InformationThe first screen is information about the loan itself. Banks, credit unions, and other lenders refer to this as their “product type”, and this information helps the lender know what category your loan fits into in their business model. The information needed for the loan includes the following:
- type of loan
- purpose of the loan
- what collateral you have
- term of the loan
- payment frequency you’d like to request
Business InformationThe second screen is all about your business. The lender needs to know standard information about your business. The fields to complete include the business’ name, address, and phone number, how long you’ve been in business, your current debt, and whether or not you own or rent your property.
Personal informationThe final screen is where you’ll enter or update your personal information. This information is mostly pre-populated from your FINSYNC account and otherwise pretty self-explanatory. At the bottom of that page is the personal authorization form. You’ll check the consent box, which authorizes the lender to perform a credit check, and type in your name, and click submit. That’s it, you’re done. What’s next? Well, generally in 1 to 4 days, you’ll get a decision from a lender. In the event that a lender needs more information from you, we’ll contact you directly. It’s that simple.
- You are self-employed and have no employees; OR
- You did not reduce the salaries or wages of your employees by more than 25%, and did not reduce the number or hours of your employees; OR
- Your business experienced reductions in business activity as a result of health directives related to COVID-19, and the business did not reduce the salaries or wages of their employees by more than 25%.
What Are The Differences?There are two major differences between the PPP Forgiveness Application and the PPP EZ Application:
- In the EZ form, there is no Schedule A section, and
- Certain questions in the long form have been removed from the EZ form because they are not relevant.
How Does the EZ Form Work?
The main workflow of the PPP EZ form is the same as the long form, as illustrated in the graphic below. Our form follows the SBA PPP EZ form instructions, which you can find here.
The video below provides an explanation of the EZ form and also walks you through how we’ve implemented the PPP EZ application into our PPP Forgiveness Solution.[embed]https://youtu.be/ZjD_oH0rzUg[/embed]
Embrace Customer FeedbackIt’s essential to establish tools and practices that encourage customers to provide continuous feedback. A way to do this is to set up easy lines of communication online and ensure that you respond to customers’ posts quickly. Creating online surveys can be a powerful and inexpensive tool to gain feedback on a new product or service. Let’s say you’re going to make changes and want to make sure they’re working for your customers. Emailing an online survey or including it in a regular newsletter can yield valuable insights. And your customers will appreciate the opportunity to communicate how they feel directly, rather than having to go to an online review portal or social media. With surveys, it’s wise to let customers post anonymously, which ensures they will provide honest answers. It’s that honest level of feedback that will ultimately help you improve your business and customer retention. And speaking of social media, it’s essential to keep tabs on what’s being said about your company on the major sites, especially online review portals. Some customers may look for answers by posting on your own social media pages, which you should be able to easily spot and then provide a response to ensure they’re satisfied. But in many cases, customers will give feedback without directly messaging or linking to your company’s social media account. It may seem daunting to track what anyone is saying about your company online, but there are tools that enable you to automate this task by seeking out when your company is mentioned.
Respond QuicklySeeking out and monitoring customer feedback is only part of the customer retention equation. To close the loop on this effectively, you have to make it a priority to respond on a timely basis, even if it’s just to inform them that you’re working on their request. The goal is to make sure customers feel their concerns are being taken seriously. It also pays to be proactive. Set up a regular schedule of outreach, whether via email or other forms of direct contact, to invite customers to share questions or concerns they may have before you roll out a new offering. This is also a good opportunity to pitch customers on this new product or service.
Reward LoyaltyA customer loyalty program is another tried and true way of increasing customer retention, and digital communications technology has made this easier than ever. Something as simple as discounts earned through points accumulated from previous purchases or even for filling out online surveys will serve as a tangible reward that your customers will come to appreciate and factor into their purchasing decisions. And, let’s be honest, such programs are increasingly expected by customers. A loyalty program will pay off in the end, because studies show it can cost five times more to acquire a new customer than to retain an existing one. And according to one study, a 5% increase in customer retention can increase profit by more than 25%.
Offer Flexible Payment OptionsConvenience, whether in the form of delivery options, product returns and exchanges, or customization, gives customers more reasons to stick with your business. The same principle applies to payment options. Technology has led to many innovations in how we access our funds and pay for goods and services. Offering flexible payment options can make the difference between landing a customer or seeing them go elsewhere. This is especially the case with younger consumers, who have become accustomed to using apps to make purchases. This doesn’t have to be expensive or onerous. Intuitive payment platforms make it easy for businesses to accept check, ACH, debit or credit card payments — even if you don’t have a merchant account set up. Focusing on staying adaptable with payment methods, social media engagement and other forms of technology-driven outreach shows your customers that you’re keeping their needs and preferences in mind. And that goes a long way to ensuring they keep coming back. Eddie Davis is the VP of Business Development for FINSYNC, a consolidated cash flow management platform focused on helping businesses grow. FINSYNC’s intuitive online tools help automate payments and accounting and provide valuable insight through cash flow analysis. The lending network gives businesses access to fast, affordable financing. Connect with Eddie on LinkedIn and follow @FINSYNC on Twitter. Please visit Hyken.com to view the original article.
|Cash Flow Management|