What You Need to Know Before Applying for a Business Loan

On the internet, it might seem quite easy to start a business of your own. In most cases, all you need is a domain name, web hosting, and an idea for your business. However, if you’re going to start a much larger business where you might be hiring employees and need investment money, you might be considering your different options for funding the company or even taking out a business loan.

While there is nothing wrong with investing in your company and getting funding for the necessary start-up phases, it is wrong to not have a clear understanding of what you should know beforehand. Not all business loans are the same, nor are the methods of getting funding for your business. Just like the internet has changed the rest of the world, it definitely changes the way people can create a business, get access to investment money, and build a successful brand in the process.

To help with this process, below you will find a list of resources and key data points that you should know before applying for a business loan.

Review Online Lenders and Banks

Not only has the internet completely change the way business is done in the world today, it’s now offered the opportunity for anyone to get started with an online business of their own. At the same time, it’s also eliminated the need to walk into a bank and apply for a loan in person. Now everything can be done online, along with the necessary research and due diligence to find a quality lender or bank that is right for you or your business.

With this in mind, it’s important to read through online reviews of top lenders and banks, while also searching what the best small business loans are. Not only will you find ratings for each lender, you will also find real reviews from customers and clients who have already gone through the process. No matter what type of loan you might be looking for, it’s likely there is already a resource guide online covering that exact topic and focus. Once you’ve found a selection of top lender that fit your needs, you should narrow down your list to just a few and then make your final decision based of each of the key points below.

Explore Your Funding Options

As mentioned earlier, there are many different options when it comes to borrowing money. Gone are the days when you have to dress up in a suit, throw together a huge business plan and walk into a local bank and pray they will accept your idea. Now it’s all about filing online and finding the right investor or bank for your loan request.

For those in need of getting their hands on money fast, cash advance and payday loan websites are an opportunity (though they usually come at a higher cost), while PayPal also has their own working capital borrowing program as well (which has proven to work well for many existing online businesses). The benefit to having so many options is having the ability to find the right borrowing method that not only fills your need but also has a wide range of payment options to choose from.

Know Your Credit Score

One of the most important factors when getting any type of loan is going to be your credit score. Individuals have a personal credit score and businesses actually have a credit score as well. Depending on the quality of the score and your financial history, the amount that you can actually borrow will vary along with the interest rate that you will have to pay the loan back.

A high credit score is anything above 700, while a low credit score it would be anything below 600. The higher your credit score, the more success and lower fees you will find when borrowing.

A recent article in HuffingtonPost had the following to say in reference to credit scores and loan financing:

FICO credit scores range from 300 to 850. Higher figures represent greater creditworthiness. Anything above 600 is typically considered all right, but you ideally want a score in the 700-850 range for optimal borrowing capability.

As Experian notes, credit scores are calculated using the following formula:

  • 35 percent: Payment history
  • 30 percent: Amounts owed
  • 15 percent: Length of credit history
  • 10 percent: New credit
  • 10 percent: Types of credit used

Have a Good Idea on How Much You Need

Before applying for a financial loan, it’s best to know why you are going to need the money in the first place and also how much you are going to need. Based on your personal and business history, along with your credit score, the amount of money you can apply for it and be accepted will vary. Another consideration here for how much you should be borrowing will also come down to your repayment plan and interest rates charged by your bank or lender. There is also a big difference between a credit line and a bank loan, as one will charge interest on the total amount borrowed versus the other which will only charge interest on the amount you actually take out.

Understand Loan Repayments and Interest Rates

As a business owner or entrepreneur, you are very good at what you do — which is running your business. However, this doesn’t mean that you will know everything there is about business financing and the terms and conditions that might be placed into your potential long. This is why it’s extremely important to take the time and research all loan repayments and interest rates before applying for your next loan. with so many different options now available online, not all loans are built the same way as traditional bank loans. Some might have upfront costs, others will have interest rates that you can pay over time and some will have a combination of both.

After reading through each of the resource guides and key points above, you should have a much better understanding of what it takes to get a loan for your business, while also knowing how much to request in the process. For more resources and business funding options, be sure to read through our six ways to fund your startup idea article.

3 Ways to Find the Necessary Funds to Start Your New Business

So, you’ve decided to start a business. Congratulations! You’ve got a great idea and a plan, but now comes the hard part: finding the funds to turn your idea into a viable business. Fortunately, there are lots of ways to obtain the funds you need to get your business off the ground — and also quite fortunate, starting a business on the internet is actually much more cost-effective than if you were to start an offline / franchise type of business.

Before jumping into a few different ways you can gain access to money to fund your project or business idea, let’s first list some of the cost considerations you should have in mind when starting a new business.

  • Domain, website, hosting and design
  • Paying staff and employees
  • Company registration (Inc, LLC)
  • Office supplies, desks, computers
  • Legal counsel, outside consulting services
  • Insurance for yourself and employees
  • Rental, mortgages and franchising fees
  • Equipment, inventory, and products

As you can see, before we even get started with the investment and funding options available, there are already plenty of things you will need to map out and consider when starting a new business. As exciting as it is to go live with your new site or business, the more time you spend on the foundation and pre-planning process, the less headaches and more success you will potentially have in the future.

Once all of this is in place, you can then start exploring your options with the following business funding and investment options.

Self financing

Of course, the easiest and most straightforward way to finance your business is to pony up the cash yourself, making this an attractive option for many people. However, even if you can afford to go this route, there’s one big caveat that needs to thrown up: If your business flops, you are on the hook for all of the funds you have invested into it.

If you do want to go this route, there are several ways you can do it. First, you could simply tap into your “rainy day” fund for the start-up capital you’ll need. This could be in the form of your savings account, inherited funds, etc. One of the biggest advantages of investing your own money in your business is that it sends a powerful message to future investors that you are fully committed to your venture. Investors may be more likely to invest in your company if they see that you have something on the line, too.

You can also liquidate some assets to pay for the start-up of your business. If you have real estate, stocks or bonds, or something else of value that you can (and are willing to) part with, this can be a quick way to get the funds you need for your business. Remember, however, that there can be some consequences of liquidation some assets, such as real estate, in terms of taxes.

If your credit limit allows, you could also use your credit card to finance your business start up. This is a convenient way to order supplies, for example — while also allowing for the opportunity to rack up a bunch of rewards or bonus cash in the process. However, always be aware that because credit cards carry with them hefty interest rates, so your purchases could end up costing you much more than it would originally seem.

A home equity loan is another possibility for personally financing your business. If you own a home, you can borrow against the equity in it in the form of a line of credit. However, there are some restrictions that may make this a less-than-desirable option for some people.

Taking out a loan

If personally financing your business start-up endeavor isn’t the best option for you, there are other things you can do. If you don’t own a home, for example, you can approach a bank or another type of lender for a personal loan. Personal loans from banks typically come with lower interest rates than do credit cards. If your credit is quite low, you may struggle to find a bank willing to lend you money. In those cases, it may be best to go to an alternative type of lender for a personal loan. Click to find out more about your borrowing options if you find yourself in that scenario.

Finally, you can always borrow money from family or friends if none of these other options are viable for you. People who know and trust you may be able to help you out, and you can repay the loan when your business starts bringing in money.

Paypal Working Capital

For anyone that already have a business online and might be simply looking for money to put back into their company, there are many ways to borrow money from banks and lenders, but these often come with a lot of verification, history reports, and high interest rates. Paypal has not only changed the way customers and business make financial transactions in the world today, they’ve also changed how businesses can borrow and access lump sums of money as well.

Through the use of Paypal Working Capital, Paypal customers can borrow up to $100,000, while not having to go through a credit history check in the process. The decision on how much money can be borrowed and by whom, ultimately comes down to the account history and how much volume is currently being pushed through the account. What also makes PPYC unique is that the borrow money is paid back through the use of incoming payments to the account, and you get to select how fast the loan is paid back (usually in 15%, 20% or 30% increments). There is also a flat percentage fee that is owed on each borrow amount as well.

Money is Simply Waiting There for You

These are just a few of the ways that you can find the money necessary to start your business. There are lots of others, depending on your current financial situation and business goals, but these are some of the quickest and most convenient ways to get the cash flow you need to get your business off the ground.

How to Make Money Creating Online Courses Around Business Needs

There are plenty of ways to make money online, but selling online courses and training material has to be one of the best methods. The reasons for this are many, such as low overhead costs when getting started, digital products have an extremely high-profit margin and there is a never ending need for good quality training material online — and lastly, people and brands are willing to pay good money for them as well!

Just take a look at what Udemy has created in a short period of time with their online marketplace for video courses and training material. The site now has over 17 million students and more than 27,000 instructors contributing content to their site — all while also working on a rev-share business model.

The hardest part of the course creation process is knowing what to build and how you are going to sell it. If this is something you are personally going to be creating and promoting, it should be something around your expertise and that you are known for. A perfect example of this would be if I was going to create an affiliate marketing or blogging course. Since I already have authority in these spaces and a loyal following, it would just make perfect sense for me to build something of value to sell to my audience.

With all of this in mind, today we are going to look at some different ways you can start creating successful online courses, while also doing some pre-planning and niche research in the process. The more research you do beforehand, the easier it will be for you to find success down the road.

Build a Course Around the Needs of a Business or Your Audience

When it comes time to create a course or training program, you will need to look at this from two different perspectives. Are you going to sell to businesses and brands, or individuals looking to learn something? If you are going to be selling to businesses and brands, you will likely need to have a more professional course, but will also have the ability to charge a lot more for it. Businesses always have money to spend, and if they are going to get value out of something, it’s usually a no brainer for them to invest in.

On the flip side, if you are going to create a course for individuals looking to learn something, you need to make sure you price it correctly. For example, if you were to create a course on how to make money blogging, it would be tough to sell it for a high ticket price, since your audience likely isn’t already established with a successful site or blog. The difference between these two demographics can be a huge contributing factor to the success of your business.

Sticking with a ‘business’ perspective, a great example of how you can take an existing industry report and turn it into much more (through an online course), would be this report on 50 Employee Engagement Ideas (From Glassdoor’s Top 50 SMBs). Businesses are all about productivity and they want nothing more to invest money in their company to see better ROI in the long run.

As for creating a course around this topic, all you would need to do is run through the list of 50 employee engagement ideas, then create a short video for each and a simple PDF checklist. This is more than enough for a business to invest a few hundred dollars into, then hand it off to their employees for a quick study. At the same time, you know the content and advice you are recommending is already proven and of value, as it’s based off a report from a reputable site like Glassdoor.

It might seem silly at first, but this is actually a perfect opportunity for someone to take existing data that is already out there and convert it into a video format that is easier to distribute and consume. When it comes to user engagement and learning, online video is consumed and absorbed at a much faster pace than written text. The latest video industry stats prove video is now more in demand than ever before, especially with mobile usage on the rise — which is how many students are currently taking their online video courses through. Creating just text and written content to your audience is simply leaving a huge gap in both your audience reach and potential revenue.

How and Where to Create and Sell Your Online Course

With the hardest part of figuring out what your course is going to be about, out of the way, it’s now time to consider your options for how to put your course together and where to sell it. There are many ways to accomplish this — some being more simple, cost effective and faster than others. If you are looking for a thorough guide on this process, I recommend you read this one on how to build an online course. Inside the reference guide you will find a collection of actionable tips, such as how to create quick reports to include within your course (as shown below)

The content within your course is going to be important, but how you deliver it to your audience is going to be even more crucial to it’s success. Here are a few bullet points to help with the course creation process, while also making sure your content is easy to consume by your audience.

  • Video is key, but PDF attachments and action sheets are also of value
  • When creating videos, be sure to use PowerPoint or Keynote
  • It’s best to create shorter videos versus longer videos for attention span issues
  • Break your course material into different sections and modules for easy viewing
  • Host your video course through a reliable video host like YouTube, Wistia or Vimeo
  • If possible, include a video of yourself speaking in the corner of each video
  • Make sure you have high-quality recording equipment so your sound is professional

In addition to planning for how you are going to create your online course, you will also need to consider your options for selling it online. As mentioned at the beginning of the article, Udemy is one option for selling online courses — however, most courses on the site are heavily discounted and can sell for as low as $10 each. Udemy is a great option and instantly puts your course in front of millions of potential buyers, but at the same time, you don’t own the customer data and have no way to follow-up or sell to them again, unless you use their internal communication platform, which can be limiting and also comes with its own terms and conditions.

Another option is to use a solution like Kajabi, which was specifically created to help ‘everyday people’ get online with their courses, without the need to learn any technical skills like web site design, payment processing and creating a members area. All of this can be accomplished through their drag and drop platform. Unlike Udemy, when using a platform like Kajabi, course creators will own 100% of the content and revenue from the site — however, there is also a monthly cost associated with using the Kajabi platform, where Udemy, on the other hand, is free.

Right Now is the Best Time to Create and Sell Courses Online

If you’ve ever had a passion or expertise for something and wanted to try and make some money from it in the process, right now is the perfect time to invest your time and efforts into creating and selling an online course. With there currently being over 2 billion users on social media and demographic/interest targeting options available through Facebook Ads, it’s simply a matter of going live with your course and then marketing it as effectively as possible. If you are going to price your course in the $500+ range, it’s recommended to go with a webinar solution, as this will allow you to really engage with your audience and pre-sell them on the concept, while also giving them a call to action at the end of the webinar. It’s also a great way to build a massive mailing list in the process.

Be sure to run through all of the recommendations and tips above, then get to work on launching a course of your own today!

Must Have Tools for Running a Successful Drop-Shipping Business

Drop shipping offers a great way for you to make money from home, to start your own business on a shoestring, or to attain financial independence. You don’t have to purchase inventory to get started, and you can sell virtually anything so long as you can find a reputable wholesaler to provide it. You can run the business while you are still working, or you can drop everything and put all your effort into making the business a success.

At the same time, there are plenty of Facebook groups and free resources online to help you get started with the process. In short, it’s definitely one of the most sought after methods for starting an online business right now and many newbies are finding success in the process.

For the more seasoned entrepreneur and online marketers, many people have made their fortunes on drop shipping. You just need to be persistent, use the right tools, and make the right choices for your business. Here are some of the top tools you should be using to be successful in your drop-shipping business:

Inventory Management System

Your inventory is everything. You need to know how much you are selling and how much is available. If you are drop shipping, you won’t have inventory on hand. But you will need to keep track of how much inventory is available through your wholesaler. You don’t want to disappoint or anger a customer by telling tell them that you don’t have the item available and sending a refund instead.

Over time, you may decide to grow your business by having the inventory on hand and selling in person at a store, a trade show, marketplace, or elsewhere. It is important that you have the right systems for inventory management so you always have what the customer needs in hand. Inventory management is also essential to make sure you don’t order items that you already have and cut into your profits.

Customer Management System

Sales don’t just appear out of thin air. In addition to running ads and other promotions, you need to generate leads and nurture them through your sales funnel. A good customer management system will help you keep track of your leads and where they are in the funnel.

Any time you get a lead – such as through a list serve sign up or a sale – you put that contact information into your CMS. You then keep track of all contact you have with the customer, including emails, phone calls, and sales. Over time, you build up quite a lot of information about your customer so that you have a more complete picture of what the customer wants and needs, and so you have more demographic information. You can use all that information to create better pitches that have a higher likelihood of success.

Content and Blog Management System

Just as important as the products and listings on your actual store, a blog can compliment your brand, service and increase sales in the process. This is something we are seeing many of the top e-sellers and dropshippers finding success with today. It’s no longer about just having an online store and listing products for sale, it’s about creating engaging content that grabs the interest of an audience and makes them want to buy.

This can all easily be setup with a WordPress blog, which is quite easy to learn — even for someone that’s never had a website or blog. Once you’ve added a blog to your online store, be sure to add social sharing buttons and also link back to your product pages whenever you reference something that can be purchased on your site. To see examples of how some of the top brands and e-commerce sites are already doing this, simply visit the ‘blog’ section on any of your favorite online stores.

Payment Processor

Paypal isn’t the only player in the game for payment processing. You have many options for accepting payments from your customers and for making payments to your vendors. It is important that you explore all your options so that you get the best terms. Even a small difference in fees can add up over time, cutting into your profits.
You must also consider whether the payment processor collects the payments that are most popular amongst your customers, and how good the customer service is. If your customers don’t like the payment process, you’ll also lose money.

Payroll System

When many people get started with drop shipping, they have a one-man operation. But once you start to make a little money and can grow your business, you may want to hire a few people to help you out. You may start with one assistant, but you may eventually have several people processing orders and answering customer inquiries. Once you have any kind of staff, you’ll need a system to help you manage payroll, from calculating hours and pay to determine the appropriate taxes. A good payroll system will do everything from issue checks to report taxes to the IRS.

Using the right tools for your drop-shipping business is more than a matter of convenience. Using the right tools can help you enhance your customer service, keep your costs low, increase your sales, and maximize your profits. Right after you find the right wholesaler to work with, you should start looking for the right software tools for your business – even before you have your website set up. The right software will help you create a solid foundation for the success of your business.

How to Fund Your Next Business Idea When You Have No Money

Starting a business is a dream for many, but this dream also comes with not only a time commitment, but usually a financial investment as well. For someone that is already financially stable, it’s probably no big deal to drop a few thousand dollars on a new business idea and see what comes out of it.

However, a large portion of would-be entrepreneurs and business owners won’t fall into this category. Especially younger audiences who would like to get started on the right foot before taking their chance at the 9-5 and corporate world. On the other side, we also have a great majority of people who aren’t in the best of financial situations, currently unemployed or simply don’t have the credit in place to borrow money or get a business loan.

The good news is that times have changed and it’s now easier than ever for anyone to start an online business, no matter what their current financial situation might be. To help with this process, I’ve listed some of the best options for getting your hands on investment money, fast cash or even working your way up to a positive cash flow one day at a time.

Pre-Sell Your Next Product Before Even Launching

For most entrepreneurs and businesses, the concept of selling means that you need to actually have something in place to sell before making any money. More often than not, this is true — however, there has been a drastic change in the way marketing and selling take place on the web with online courses and through the use of webinar training.

Time and time again we are seeing success stories of everyday people coming up with an idea for a business, and actually making money and sales before even going live with their course or product. This is referred to as “pre-selling” and more importantly… giving your business idea and model legitimacy.

The way the process works is quite simple. For more people it’s a matter of setting up a lead generation funnel that ultimately ends up with a 60-90 minute webinar where you discuss a problem, then provide a solution. At the end of the webinar, you then invite your audience to take action and get early access into your program (before it’s even live). This has quickly become one of the best ways to pre-fund your business idea before it’s even launched!

Apply for a ‘Bad Credit Loan’

As mentioned earlier, not everyone has the luxury of being in the right financial position to start a business, but for those who are desperate to get started and need immediate funding, there is always the option for ‘bad credit loans‘. While the name of the loan doesn’t have the best sound to it, it’s simply an option that’s available to anyone with less than perfect credit. In most cases, loans provided to individuals with lower-end credit scores are typically in the Loans from $250-$5,000 range. Interest rates will also vary based on credit history, the loan amount provided and how soon one plans to start paying back to the loan.

CreditLoan has a Guide to Bad Credit Loans that breaks down the process of what factors come into play when trying to get a loan, while also giving their audience an idea of how much of a loan they might be able to receive. With free credit reports being accessible to everyone these days, it’s important to keep an eye on your current score, as this can heavily influence how much you are paying for any existing or future mortgages, loans, credit cards and more.

Freelance Your Way to the Profit

Then there is always the option to simply start getting to work and making money online and saving up what you can. This can easily be done through the use of freelance writing, or any other type of freelance services you might be able to offer — however, writing is a great place to start, as everyone can do it.

Through sites like TextBroker or Contentmart, anyone can create a writer account and start completing writing jobs on these open marketplace sites. With over a billion active sites on the internet today, the demand for new and original content has no end in site. Having personally tested this method in the past, I was able to generate $1,000 in my spare time writing for these freelance marketplaces. I did this because I wanted to make sure that they were not only legit but also a viable way for someone to seriously start making $500-$1,000 with no technical or marketing skills required.

With all of this in mind, being able to pocket and save an extra $100 a week by freelance writing on the side can start providing you with a nice cushion while also building up your investment money for any other business ventures you might want to explore down the road. Make sure to look into checking accounts with great rates to keep your cash flow streaming with ease. You can check out a list of rates at http://aaacreditguide.com/best-checking-accounts/.

Find a Sponsors to Invest in Your Idea or Business

Keeping with the theme of coming up with original and new ideas for pre-funding your next business idea, here is another one that can work quite well. With so much competition and money in the online marketing space right now, companies have a ton of money to spend on advertising. This means they are also looking for new opportunities to sponsor ad campaigns, events, websites, webinars, podcasts and much more.

At the same time, there are literally millions of businesses and brands out there for you to pitch. This simply comes down to a numbers game. If you contact enough people, someone is going to bite and take you up on your opportunity.

This can be as simple as selling banner ad space on your site, doing a review on your blog, having a short 30 second commercial on your podcast or even co-hosting a webinar with your sponsor — these are all great ideas to quickly put some investment money right into your pocket from day one.

How to Start an Online Business with Little to No Money

As you can see, there are plenty of options for anyone to start an online business — no matter what their current financial situation might be. This can be as simple as starting a blog, becoming a freelance writer and getting paid for your work, or simply applying for a loan to get instant access to the necessary funding.

Depending on your business goals and current situation, everyone’s options will vary. Be sure to run through each of the scenarios above and see which might be best for you and your entrepreneurial journey.

10 Techniques to Keep Your Brand On Message as You Grow

Ensuring your messaging and communications stay on brand as your business grows is crucial. But growth, especially rapid growth, may mean you have new staff members who are unclear on what the message is, or how to best convey it.

New clients bring with them the temptation to expand to a broader brand message that, if done haphazardly, can hurt more than help. A muddled brand message may leave your target audience feeling confused about what you represent and what you offer, and may even cost you engaged clients.

So how can you keep your messaging consistent? We asked 10 members from YEC to share their recommendations for growing brands, from creating an internal guide to talking message with every new hire. Here’s what they had to say:

1. Identify Your Strategy Versus Tactics

My best tip on growing and staying on brand is identifying strategy versus tactics for your messaging and communications. Identify your brand’s purpose, positioning and personality. After those are identified, work on the strategy and tactics for marketing. Strategy is the overarching goal that matches the brand and won’t change regularly. Tactics are the things you do that fulfill the strategy.

Kenny Nguyen, Big Fish Presentations

2. Have a Brand Champion

Every company should have someone who manages all aspects of the brand. That person can then identify the advocates who can be trusted to speak on behalf of the brand to ensure that the proper messages are being sent out. Develop an approval queue so that there are always multiple eyes that oversee all communications.

David Ciccarelli, Voices.com

3. Imagine Your Brand as a Person

You really should try to communicate your messaging with the same “voice,” or write with the same sort of attitude. I find that it helps to imagine your brand as a person: Who are they, what kind of mood are they in, and what kind of word choices do they make? I find brands grow like a character, so this can be a great way to visualize them early on.

Matt Doyle, Excel Builders

4. Create a Content Strategy Document

We have an internal content strategy document that our marketing team put together outlining our goals and everything we want to communicate through our content and brand. We also hold regular management meetings to discuss updates and changes to our company, so our staff can communicate those changes with the rest of the team. This keeps everyone on the same page and reduces any confusion.

Kelsey Meyer, Influence & Co.

5. Make Sure the Guidelines Are Up To Date

Most businesses create a visual branding guide to help with print and website design projects… and just stop there. But it’s so important to stay up to date on creating guidelines for social media platforms, emails and blog posts, for instance. This way, when you have a new team member take on a particular project within the company, it’s easy for them to stay on brand.

Nathalie Lussier, AmbitionAlly

6. Enforce Strict Guidelines

As your business reaches mass appeal, many brand managers become tempted to update their messaging and communications in a way that connects with a broader customer demographic. However, the irony here is that you alienate more people when your messaging aims to speak to a wider audience. Use strict brand guidelines to stay true to your core values, which will attract even more loyal customers.

Firas Kittaneh, Amerisleep

7. Use Your Brand as a Backbone

Use your brand story as the backbone of all your communication efforts, especially when hiring new employees. Like the game telephone, the brand messages will morph and fizzle away as emphasis lessens. When your team is on top of the brand’s purpose and core ideals, they will also be on top of all incoming and future business prospects.

Maren Hogan, Red Branch Media

8. Break Your Message Down to Its Simplest Components

To see a brand through times of growth, it is critical that you are able to describe what it is in very simple terms. If your brand message becomes complex — or worse yet, becomes corporate — your employees will have a difficult time keeping on message as their workload increases. Breaking your message down to its simplest components will give your team tools to extend the brand as you grow.

Diego Orjuela, Cables & Sensors

9. Hire People Aligned With Your Brand

Your people are an extension of your brand and will be doing a lot of the messaging and communicating for your business. Hire people who align with your brand’s attributes, values and essence. If you hire people who live and breathe your brand, being on brand will come naturally. The key is to find people who align before you hire them, not after.

Robby Berthume, Bull & Beard

10. All Onboarding Staff Should Learn Brand Messaging

As your business grows, share brand messaging and voice with new hires as part of their training. This onboarding process should be the same for all new employees, no matter their department. Also be sure to take some time to educate new members of your company about your brand and how important it is to stay unified.

Stan Garber, Scout RFP

Using the Internet to Grow Your Brand and Reach 24/7

 

When the topic of brand exposure and reach come up, blogging and content creation are two of them most common responses. Once you integrates any form of content creation and marketing into your business, your branding and viral reach truly come into play. This is even more true if you put in the time, work and effort throw social media and advanced demographic targeting into the mix. If you don’t currently have a blog representing your personal brand or business, be sure to check out this how to start a blog guide. It takes less than ten minutes to setup and will make for a world of a difference in the longterm reach and branding for your business.

If you enjoyed this expert round up, I recommend you also take a look at some of our previous expert discussions on the power of chatbots, strategies to grow your Facebook marketing and also recommendations on the best tools for growing buzz around your brand.

Drop Shipping 101: A Quick Start Guide to Drop Shipping Business

Inventory and warehousing products are one of the most difficult aspects of owning a store. You need to have various stocking processes in place to keep track of everything, as well as hiring reliable personnel who can manage them. The actual thought of having to hold inventory, handle customer orders and run a real ‘brick and mortar’ business is more than enough to give any budding entrepreneur a headache or stress attack — hence why the world of affiliate marketing has become such a successful and attractive venture for many.

However, there is still massive opportunity and wealth in the world of selling physical products — even without the need to purchase, hold and ship products of your own. This is where drop shipping comes into play, which is another new type of warehouse management that has helped change the way businesses think about inventory.

This article is going to explain the need-to-know information about drop shipping and how it can help your business.

What is Drop Shipping?

Drop shipping is a method for selling physical products without needing your own warehouse, storefront or having to buy inventory in bulk while still getting wholesale prices from your supplier. It’s a method for retail fulfillment that doesn’t require the storeowner to even carry the products on hand. Instead, when a store sells an item, the business will purchase the product from a third-party organization and have it shipped directly to the customer. A drop shipper can sell anything from tube socks to PlayStations and never have to worry about warehouse space.

In many cases, drop shipping based businesses are quite similar to affiliate marketing, in the aspect that you are still marketing for customers, sales and leads, but you are actually keeping that consumer information and growing your own brand. Depending on the products you are selling, there is also potential for much greater profits as well. In short, if you have found success with affiliate marketing, there is a great chance you could find success with an e-commerce site powered through drop shipping as well.

Benefits of Drop Shipping

Starting up a inventory-based business requires a lot of hard-to-obtain seed money that will require some serious investment. However, it is much cheaper to start an ecommerce business and drop shipping helps lower costs even further. When you follow the drop shipping model, you don’t have to purchase any products until you’ve already made a sale and been paid by the customer. (ie: You get paid by the customer, then use their proceed to pay for the actual product from the drop shipper)

When it comes to overhead, you can’t really beat the one-two punch of ecommerce and drop shipping. Since you don’t have to worry about managing your inventory on-site or dealing with the hassle of a warehouse, your overhead costs can be relatively low. However, depending on the ecommerce platform you choose, which may come down to a comparison between Shopify Plus vs Magento Enterprise, your overhead will likely rise as a result of expansion.

Not to mention that an ecommerce business following the drop shipping model can be opened from anywhere on the planet with Wi-Fi. As long as you have the ability to communicate with customers and suppliers, you’re in good shape to run your business.

Again, for any experienced affiliate marketers, the transition to an ecommerce or drop shipping based business shouldn’t be hard to accomplish. At the same time, having such experience in the world of online marketing will help scale out your business even more. Adding email marketing, retargeting, Facebook Ads marketing and blogging into the mix, you may just find your ecommerce site quickly scaling past your other affiliate marketing efforts and earnings.

Downside to Drop Shipping

While drop shipping is a great way to keep your overhead costs down, it also comes with some challenges. Chief among these challenges is the issue of inventory. While not having to keep physical products on hand is a great way to save costs, it also means that you are at the mercy of third-party warehouses. For example, say that you only sell hand sewn tube socks and you only have one supplier of this product. If that supplier runs out of tube socks and you still have customers ordering them, you are going to have to either find a new source for tube socks, wait for the supplier to get more in stock or refund the cost of the items to the customer. A reliable drop shipper will have several sources for each other products listed on their page.

Drop shipping also puts you at the mercy of your suppliers. If they make mistakes while fulfilling orders, the onus falls on you to take responsibility and apologize to your customers. In today’s age of instant communication, being known for bad customer service is not something a fledgling organization can survive.

Ultimately, your methods for procuring product are entirely up to you. However, if you are looking for a low-cost, effective way to manage products without a warehouse—look no further than drop shipping.

Where to Find Drop Shipping Products to Sell

With all of this now in mind, the most important thing for any ecommerce or drop shipping based business, is to find the right products to sell. In previous years, this was quite task. Many online sellers have deals with direct distributors and privately purchase and ship items on drop shipping deals. Now the game has completely changed, thanks to sites like AliExpress. With millions of products on the site and thousands of merchants to choose from, there is definitely something for everyone on this site — most of which are easily set up for drop shipping based businesses.

If you wanted to get started with a drop shipping business of your own, all it would take is setting up an online store (using a platform like Shopify), integrating your products (user Oberlo) and then setting up a payment/shopping cart system (Samcart / Paypal) to accept payments and you are ready to go.

How to Start a Drop Shipping Business in 2017

As you can see, there is a whole world of potential out there when it comes to selling online, and drop shipping is just another option for you to consider. My best advice for anyone looking to get started, is to make sure they have a business model and marketing plan in place. It’s one thing to have an online store where you can sell products, it’s another to know how to market it and acquire new customers at a profit.

How to Start an Online Business with Groupon Money Saving Coupons

When it comes time to start a business of your own, saving as much money in the beginning phases is always of the utmost importance. The great news is that starting an online business is potentially a thousand times more cost effective than if you were to start a local brick and mortar store of your own. The same can also be said about franchising. With an online business, all you really need is an idea, a website, a domain name, hosting and some good old fashion time and effort… and you have a business!

In addition to the internet being a great way to minimize operating costs for a business, it also offers a ton of opportunity and savings as well. Once such example of this can be through online coupons and promotional offers. For many of us, we already have applications like Groupon sitting on our mobile devices and sending us some of the best local offers on a daily basis. In addition to each of these localized offers, Groupon also has coupons and promotions for many brands we all know and love on a daily basis.

This also includes brands and services that can be used to help start or grow an online business. That’s exactly what we are going to be looking at today.

With all of this in mind, I thought it would make for a great resource to remind all of the content creators, entrepreneurs and bloggers out there about some of the best ways to save money through their site. Whether it’s registering a domain name, setting up web hosting, ordering business cards or even getting your hands on some of the latest tutorials and video training material… Groupon has a relevant coupon on their site.

Grab Your Domain Name at a Discount through GoDaddy

One of the first things you will need to do when setting up an online business is to get a domain name. In most cases, this will simply be the name of your business or the focus of your site. When choosing a domain name, make sure it’s something unique, easy to remember and also represents your brand well. I personally recommend grabbing your personal name as a domain, if you don’t have it already. To learn more about the domain buying and name process, I recommend you take a look at my full how to start a blog guide, as this is a major factor in the whole decision process.

With all of that being said, there are plenty of domain registrars for you to choose from. I personally have a bunch with NameCheap and GoDaddy. In either case, Groupon has a dedicated page on their site for the latest GoDaddy coupons. Domain names are a cheap enough investment in themselves, but it’s always good to save some extra money here and there, even if it’s just a few dollars. Some of the latest promotions on their site include 93% off domains, making them only .99 cent each. 30% off new items and services offered through GoDaddy and also up to 50% hosting plans.

Look Like a Real Business with Your Own Business Cards

I remember when Vistaprint first came out in 2001 and their ‘free 500 business cards” promotion was all over the place. It was also one of the top affiliate programs at the top as well. Over the past 15+ years, Vistaprint has evolved into much more than just printing business cards, and are a full one-stop shop for anything you might need printing or created for your business.

Whether it’s business cards, site design, and promotional branding material, Groupon has a wide range of Vistaprint coupons currently available on their sites. Everything from coupons for 40-50% business cards, 20% off + free shipping and of course a new supply of printing promotions that are always going live on their site. In short… there’s no excuse for you to not have a set of business cards handy at your next affiliate marketing conference!

Become a Better Entrepreneur through Online Learning

If you want to be successful as an entrepreneur or business owner, you need to stay ahead of the current trends while also learning from others in the process. Gone are the days when you need to attend expensive classes or even college, now everything can be taught and learned online.

Udemy is an online resource for learning pretty much anything — even outside the world of business and marketing. I even have a quick little course of my own on their site that has had over 3,000 students. The majority of courses on their site are competitively priced, but a few money-saving discounts from Groupon won’t hurt either.

Take a look at some of the recent Groupon Udemy coupons on their site and see what their latest promotions are. Also be sure to check out these promotions or even use a one of the latest Udemy $10 coupon to save instantly with any online courses you might be interested in trying. Usually, you will find a nice 40% off promotion, which really gives you no excuse to not further educate yourself in whatever it is you might be looking to do.

Never Pay Full Price Again!

It’s really crazy to think that some people are still going directly to websites and making purchases without looking for coupon codes and discounts beforehand. Groupon is a great site for deal and discounts (especially in your area), but no matter what it is you are buying, always take a minute or two to search online for a few coupons.

3 Ways to Generate Ideas for a Great Domain or Company Name

If you ever wanted to start a new website or online business, you’ve no doubt thought about the brand or name that you would use for it. While this might seem easy enough, it’s actually quite tough. With hundreds of thousands of domain names being registered daily, it’s amazing that there are still any decent domain names left — at least in the .com, .net and .org TLD form. There are plenty of other extensions to choose from, but they just aren’t as brandable or desirable.

With all of this in mind, it’s important to create a well-known, understandable and trusted name for your site or brand once you do decide to go live. After all, look at any of the top internet brands in the world today, and they mostly all have a unique, generic or one-word domain name that makes them easy to find online. (ie: Target, Google, Apple, Facebook or Mashable)

The good news is that even if your first, second or third choice for a name isn’t available, there are still other options out there to help with this process. I’ve personally been using a wide range of methods to secure some really great domain names over the years. Some that I would have gladly paid thousands for, but was able to scoop up sometimes for under $100 each!

Before giving up and settling on a domain or brand name that just doesn’t fit, try each of the methods below.

Domain Name Generators

Heading over to your favorite domain registrar and filling out the domain registration form one name at a time and trying to find a winner is always exciting… but it can also be quite tedious in the process. Not only will this be a huge waste of your time, it will also limit your options for finding other available domain names you simply may not have thought of.

A better option is to simply perform a bulk-search or use a domain name generator tool to help with the process. Generators are also great because they can provide you with related keywords or phrases you might not have thought of otherwise. Your awesome domain name is waiting to be registered… a domain name generation tool can help you find it!

Search Domain Name Brokerages

The business of domain names is a massive one and continues to grow in size daily. As more domains get registered and the chances of getting your hands on a great one continue to diminish, the value of such domains continues to rise in value. A perfect example of this would be your personal name. If someone already owns it as a domain, it’s likely gone for good — so what are you going to do if you want to create a new site or brand? If you don’t have any other matching TLD options, you might end up going with a completely unique or catchy domain name, or one that simply combines two great keywords that would represent your brand.

This is where the business model of domain names definitely comes into play. New businesses, brands, and startups are created every day… and they each need a great name for their sites. Name Perfection is a domain marketplace where you can search through a wide range of registered domain names that are focused on startups and catchy business names. You can also sort through domains on their site by category, keywords, pricing and more. You can see a few examples of their existing domain names for sale below.

Another site worth mentioning for finding unique and available domain names is Flippa.com. Just like they have an auction marketplace for buying and selling websites, they’ve recently added domain names into the mix as well. With the listings on Flippa constantly being updated from active users on the site, it may take some time for you to skim through the site and find a winner — but still, it’s another good resource to add to the mix.

Domain Name Expiration Services

One of my favorite methods for getting my hands on great domain names is through expiration services like Pool and NameJet. The concept behind these sites and marketplaces are quite simple. Domain names get registered and if then if they aren’t renewed, they get expired. Sites like Pool and NameJet scoop up as many expired domain names as they can, then sell them in an aftermarket to their customers. Domains will usually start in the $70+ range, and the pricing will go up as other customers bid on the domains.

These services are great for putting in your personal name as a domain and simply forgetting about it. You never know when a great domain name might get expired, but through these type of expiration services, you might just get lucky!

How to Get Your Hands on a Great Domain Name

At the end of the day, it really comes down to only three options for getting a great domain name… and they are the following:

  1. Get really lucky and come up with something original
  2. Make a nice investment in a premium domain name
  3. Hire a brokerage or domain expiration service and wait

When it comes to representing your website or brand, you simply can’t go wrong with a great domain name. To see the type of money we are talking about when it comes to investing in a great name, be sure to check out this list of top selling domain names.

Expert Tips on How to Retain Your Employees as Your Business Grows

As your startup begins to gain traction, you’ll need to hire more staff to handle the increased workload or expansion of services. This has a dramatic effect on small businesses: Going from, say, a staff of 10 to a staff of 30 may sound incremental, but you’ll quickly find that the processes you’ve used up until that point may not work as well. More decision makers and more chains of command mean more chances for confusion.

The change in culture can carry an additional cost: loss of long-time employees. It’s easy for someone to feel uneasy with big changes, especially if they’re no longer sure of their place in the company.

To help you keep your staff as you scale up your company, we asked 14 members from YEC for their best advice on retaining employees.

1. Conduct Surveys

We love surveys. In fact, we just recently surveyed our employees about their benefits and which ones they appreciate the most. This helps us know which benefits should be restructured and which ones we should keep offering because everyone loves them. It definitely makes the team feel involved, cared for and like they truly have a say in what benefits are offered to them.

Kelsey Meyer, Influence & Co.

2. Keep Employees Informed

To help retention, make your employees feel like they have a stake in the company. Keep them up to date on company updates, initiatives and successes, as you would with fellow C-suite members. Consider holding a monthly or quarterly business review online to make sure all employees understand the status of the organization, as well as the “bigger picture” projects and goals.

Chuck Cohn, Varsity Tutors

3. Have an Open Door Policy

One way to retain more employees in the workplace is to create an atmosphere that promotes expression. We have an open door policy where anyone, at any time, can come and get things off of their chest. By removing a lack of communication, you’ll better understand what’s really happening within your company and help keep your employees happy.

Russell Kommer, eSoftware Associates Inc

4. Prepare for the Development of Your High Performers

Continuously write down a list of your high performers and think through professional development opportunities, exposure to different lines of business and “stretch” creative assignments that are unrelated to their core tasks. All these things keep employees interested in what they’re doing. For those that push back on new opportunities or challenges, they might not be a good fit.

Matt Murphy, Kids in the Game LLC

5. Promote Internal Bonding

Promoting and encouraging spontaneous conversations between coworkers about random (usually non-work-related) topics is beneficial to improving employee retention. Conversations like these can help synchronize your team, defuse messages and ideas across the organization, and can even jumpstart productive discussions. Not only that, but they also help build relationships within your team.

Dave Nevogt, Hubstaff.com

6. Ensure All Feedback Is Addressed

We provide a variety of avenues (surveys, one-on-ones, discussions, etc.) to encourage all team members to provide their input on areas for improvement and, perhaps most importantly, we make a concerted effort to ensure that all feedback is addressed whether we agree with it or not. It is of paramount importance for employees to know that their input is indeed heard; if not, they will stop offering it.

Kevin Yamazaki, Sidebench

7. Formalize Perks

Add perks that you can now offer because you have a larger group, such as greater benefits, group activities and group discounts, as well as social events that bring everyone together. You can formalize this with a quarterly plan and accommodate it in the budget.

Peter Daisyme, Due

8. Focus on Building a Team

Focus on building your team, rather than finding employees. My co-founder and I make time to interview every potential employee to make sure they will fit with our company culture. If you build a team of people who enjoy working together, they are more likely to want to stay. It is easier to teach an employee skills than it is to make a talented employee fit into your culture.

David Ciccarelli, Voices.com

9. Offer Them the Chance to Guide Their Own Growth

I hired my people to do things I couldn’t, so it only stands to reason that they would understand some things better about their roles than I do. I retain my better people by giving them flexibility as they continue at the company. They get a say in their direction, so it’s hard for a competitor to make them a better offer on interesting work.

Matt Doyle, Excel Builders

10. Create an Ownership Culture

Use open-book management and empower employees to become an integral part of company success. Let them make decisions that directly contribute to a company’s business goals and incentivize them likewise.

Dan Golden, BFO (Be Found Online)

11. Reward Long-Time Employees

Employees like to be valued, so I think it’s important to implement rewards for long-time employees, such as consistent pay raises, more vacation time or perks that new employees don’t get right off the bat.

Leila Lewis, Be Inspired PR

12. Talk About Change Before It Happens

Both early and recent employees can often become misaligned with the company when they feel taken aback by change. It should be clearly communicated to everyone in advance that as the company grows, not everything will be the same as when they started. This understanding will keep people open-minded and even result in great suggestions on how to change in a way that doesn’t alienate your team.

Roger Lee, Human Interest

13. Spend Time Talking With Employees

The bigger your company grows, the less time you will have to speak with your employees individually. Make more time to build relationships with your employees and you will reduce turnover. People like to be cared for and if they see that the boss actually takes the time to speak with them, they will take notice. Not a lot of companies show interest in spending that time and people will value it.

Diego Orjuela, Cables & Sensors

14. Build an Organizational Structure

After a few unexpected employee departures last year, our leadership team focused on building an organizational structure. This included outlining our core values, creating monthly goals for each employee and understanding who is accountable for every critical function. In the end, it’s helped every member understand who we are and the direction we’re headed in.

Ben Camerota, MVP Visuals

 

Keep Employees Longer with a Better Business Model

Now that you’ve learned some of the best ways to keep your employees happy and continuing to work with your company, it’s also important to think about how you can grow and scale your business in the long run. Most employees will want to work with a company that is not only rewarding for them and a fun place to be, but also one that is growing in size and profitability in the process.

To see more expert roundups like this one, be sure to view our previous articles on improved Facebook marketing and the best tools for monitoring your brand online.