Digital Marketing for SMEs: Business without boundaries

Information availability and decision-making is becoming increasingly dynamic in nature. This constant state of change has impacted customer expectations and many organizations are grappling to keep up. Amidst this chaos, a few companies have found opportunities and strategies to leverage this change.

Most companies which are successful in understanding and fulfilling new-age customers’ expectations have exponentially grown and created very strong value propositions and brands in the minds of the customers.
Some proponents of change defining the business ecosystem today are big data, cloud computing, mobile and content. Digital Marketing as a science, art or technique sits right in-between all of these factors. Is digital marketing complex and difficult to understand? Is it a type of marketing that only large companies with large budgets can afford to execute? Read on to find out.

In many ways digital marketing has democratized business reach to consumers. It has presented a level playing field for small and large brands alike. This is one platform where intellect and ingenuity trumps everything else.
Applications of digital marketing are aplenty – from exploring new markets to growing a stronger brand in existing markets, all in a budget that you can decide and control in real-time.

In this day and age, the question isn’t whether you should do digital marketing, but rather, the pertinent questions are “how” and “where to start from”. Following are 5 simple things small businesses can implement to mobilize their digital marketing:

1. Website for E-Commence and Product Catalog
A website is just like a salesperson. It may need attention and hand-holding early on, but over a period of time, it becomes independent, yielding a steady stream of income. Do bear the following aspects in mind while building your website:
• Does your website have all the information that you would like your customers to know?
• Does your website provide your contact details in case the customer wants to place orders or make enquiries?
• Is it easy for the customers to navigate and find information about your brand and products?
• Is your website persuading customers to take specific actions?
• Is it easy to update information on your website?
Once you have all the content ready for your website, you can use one of the many website builders to set-up the framework. Most of these builders offer plenty of templates and customization options. In case you plan to sell your products online, some of the payment gateway companies can offer to set up the infrastructure for free. Sounds complicated? It’s not. You needn’t be a software geek to implement a fully-functional website.

2. Create local awareness about your business
It is quite possible that some of your prospective customers, even though located very close to you, may have never heard about you. Even if they have heard of you, they will resort to searching information about you on the internet.
Facebook and Google provide you with options to create local awareness and an identity on the internet. You can even place your business on Google maps to help customers locate you. All of this at little or no cost.

3. Catalyze word of mouth with referral schemes
Very few marketing campaigns can outshout the voice of a customer operating as a brand ambassador. While social media can intensify word of mouth, it takes experimentation and genius to go viral.
Win-win referral schemes help you achieve similar results with greater certainty.
There are plenty of plug and play tools which can help set-up referral schemes, leverage your customer’s social network and give your brand a fair chance of going viral. You can track and manage these schemes on the go. Much like your website, these tools are very easy to implement.

4. Advertise on Digital Media
It would be wise to advertise online if a good portion of your customers reside on the internet. Digital advertising unlike conventional advertising is highly targeted and permits small spends. You can choose from promoting your brand in existing markets to exploring new opportunities in new locations, all at the click of a button. And the good news is, all major online advertising platforms provide advertisers with account managers to help them set-up and run marketing campaigns. If you are lucky, you may even find free coupons to run your campaigns.

5. Email-Marketing to connect with your customers
Emails are a very convenient and effective way of communicating to your customers. You can use emails to inform your customers about new products, features and offers. Free guides and manuals can help your customers use your product better.

E-mail provides for two-way communication; feedback enables you to know if your email was received with a smile or a frown.

Much like this blog, you will find plenty of guides, free tools and services that can help you execute digital marketing. It may be tempting to do all of the above or possibly more to join the digital business bandwagon, but begin by evaluating your options and strategizing accordingly. If executed well, one or two targeted options are likely to provide better results rather than a scatter-gun approach.

Hope these points demystified digital marketing for you. So go on, roll up your sleeves and get ready to build a business without boundaries.

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Samarth is a marketing professional with expertise in Digital Marketing. Lead generation, customer engagement & retention, brand building and people development are some of his areas of interest. During his leisure he likes hanging out with friends & family, riding his bike to nearby destinations (sometimes even without a destination), watching movies​ ​​and reading.

​Samarth is a Marketing Manager at Capital Float.​

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6 Quick Tips to Consider Before Applying for a Short-Term Business Loan Online

Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs) have received a tremendous fillip of late, with the Government pitching in to give a hands up to this very vital business sector. SMEs engaged in businesses ranging from electronics to ad services, or from engineering to textile to handicrafts routinely face a cash crunch that handicaps their everyday operations, as well as hampers plans for expansion.

SMES and the short-term loan

It takes immense courage to begin your business, and taking risks of establishing, sustaining, and expanding it can be prohibitive for many. Financing is the fundamental issue here, and many businesses are compelled to shut shop or to approach banks in order to raise short-term business loans.

Finances are the lifeblood for any enterprise, and any business plan worth its salt must include sound planning for fund sources as well. Short-term business loans and short-term finance are available in plenty and offer SMEs a chance to overcome their temporary financial problems as also provide an opportunity to expand their business. However, these loans are not without pitfalls. Here are some tips that will help an SME to take a well-considered decision when it comes to applying for short-term business loans:

1. Do your homework

SMEs are recommended to do adequate research to identify the option that are most suitable to them. Occasionally, and especially if the borrower has a good credit score, a simple overdraft or line of credit can help the SME to tide over their cash flow problems. Bank loans carry low-interest rates, but the paperwork involved and time taken to sanction can be burdensome. Crowdfunding, inventory financing, and credit card financing are options that can be explored. Promoters also help to finance a large chunk of working capital requirements. But if a short-term loan is a final option, a careful look at the costs involved can help to tip the scales over.

2. Try online loans

Short-term online loans are meant to be repaid anywhere between 90 days to three years. They are quick, convenient and flexible. A good deal of the paperwork process is cut off and friendly financiers also help eliminate the traditional application method of back-and-forth conversation. The huge advantage lies in not necessarily having to offer collateral. Provided an SME finds the right fintech lender, they can benefit from the speed of digital processing. Additionally, preclosure penalties and hidden charges are also avoided. Genuine financiers will also provide the convenience of flexible loan tenures.

3. Measure business liquidity

There is always a possibility that even a profitable SME can run into cash-flow problems, regardless of the numbers reflected on the cash-book records. Delays in receivables have hurt many a lucrative business, and are in fact a common cause for cash-flow mismatches. In such cases, measuring the liquidity of the business can be very useful for an SME in order to find an alternative way to mitigate problems of a cash crunch. The proper evaluation of liquidity can be extremely beneficial, and can be measured in two ways:

Quick Ratio It shows the capability of business in covering current liabilities with current assets, and utilises the formula:

Quick Ratio= (Current Assets – Inventory)/ Current Liabilities 

Working Capital

It is measured by calculating the difference between the current assets and current liabilities, with the formula:

Working Capital = Current Assets – Current Liabilities

Getting these figures in hand can help measure business solvency, and thus available funds can be duly channelised and prioritised.

4. Capitalise on credit score
It pays to maintain a good credit score history, in more ways than one. A good credit ranking can help you bargain for lower interest rates on short term business loans. Also, it opens up room for tapping into other means of raising money, such as getting into partnerships or seeking non-traditional lenders for funding.

On occasion, the lender may analyze both your business and your personal debt load, in addition to your credit score. If any of these is already high, the lender may hesitate to extend or provide fresh credit for your business. So, it is important to keep a tight rein over your credit utilisation, so that the services offered by the lender are not affected by your credit score.

5. Check APR

While comparing and selecting the best short-term business loan and finance service, one must always keep in mind the number of applications they are filing for apply for the term loan. After receiving multiple loan offers, one must select the most suitable loan offer by comparing the Annual Percentage Rate (APR) of every term loan lender. This is perhaps the most important calculation to estimate how expensive a loan is. Once you understand the logic of short-term business loans, it is easy to decide whether or not getting a particular loan is a right choice in terms of its actual cost.

6. Be ready for lender’s queries

Things don’t end here. There are chances that the lending party can contact the SME for verifying their documents that they submitted while applying for term loan. Thus, the SME owner must always be ready for answering any query regarding their documentation or regarding their future goals for the company. A small preparation toward this can prove to be very beneficial in getting a loan finalised. Ergo, shortfalls of cash may be inevitable, but not insuperable. A little bit of math and careful consideration of the choices can help you get the cash you need—hopefully at the price you can afford— without having to fall into a debt cycle.

Oct 24, 2018

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5 Practices Business Owners Can Adopt at the Beginning of a Financial Year

The start of a brand new financial year is filled with several emotions for SME owners, ranging from relief after the intense pressure of March, anticipations and excitement for the year ahead. Amidst these, business owners often don’t find the opportunity to celebrate the year that has gone by and the new financial year up ahead.

The new financial year is the only occasion that is of sole significance to an SME, whereas every other event, festival or celebration involves friends and family. It is that time when the SME can celebrate with their team the previous fiscal year that was full of learnings, experiences, peaks and troughs. The beginning of a financial year also presents a unique prospect to start over; SMEs can renew their enthusiasm and vigor as they make new business decisions.

Indeed, celebrating the new financial year can become an ongoing ritual for SMEs as it also helps establish a stronger workforce with a refined drive towards the company’s vision. To gain an advantageous start, here are some practices to ease you into the new fiscal year, so that you can look forward to bigger success celebrations at the end of it.

1. Set financial goals
Whether your financial goals are numerical or tangible, they should be defined in a manner that lets you evaluate if they can be achieved or not. These can be long-term, such as profitability, margins, sustained cash flows, etc. that may not be accomplished over the span of the financial year ahead or specific goals that are short-term.

For example, a retail store that has rented a space might learn that the building owner plans to sell the building eventually, and intends to acquire the space for further expansion. For a smooth sale without depleting the working capital, the retailer should have a clear sense of the cost of down payment, mortgage and additional costs. Based on this, they can create a strict budget for the year and stick to it. Another option is to avail collateral-free finance options such as Term Finance or Merchant Cash Advance that offers flexible modes for repayment.

2. Evaluate the scope of debts
The beginning of the year is the best time to assess the debts that you might have accumulated over the past years. Start by weighing each of your existing loans based on its cost, interest rate and other subsidiary factors such as prepayment penalty. Always ensure that the loan with the highest ticket size is repaid first.

Business finance is not often a liability-encountering measure, but also an instrument for growth, expansion and diversification of your business. If you have a promising business opportunity at hand and are reluctant to accept it due to a shortage of funds, this is when you should consider availing business finance. To determine the customized credit solution that best suits your business, check out Our Products.

3. Improve book-keeping
Unorganized compilation of financial records is the most recurrent theme for SMEs who let go of trickling financial losses, only to discover a gaping hole in its wake. Unexpected, unrecorded cash expenses often eat their way into the profitability of a business, resulting in a long-lasting impact that might take several years to recover from.

It is integral to maintain records of operational and financial performance, and the method you adopt to maintain these play a major role in determining the accuracy of the data. If you have been managing business accounts on your own, it is advised that you hire an experienced tax accountant or opt for an enhanced accounting software this fiscal year. This will keep you free to focus on other tasks, with the assurance that you one step closer to higher profits.

4. Plan for new partnerships
Large corporations can perform the role of different stakeholders to an SME; they can assume roles as business partners, product distributors or customers. Contrary to conventional belief, small businesses have much to gain by associating with bigger businesses that operate differently from the way the SMEs function. This ensures that the partnership remains fruitful for both the entities involved, and avoids situations where they find themselves competing with each other If you feel that your enterprise will benefit from such a collaboration to supplement time, logistical organization and resources, this new financial year is when you can make that move.

5. Identify a new customer base
For any SME, extending the outreach of your brand to a wide demography of consumers is instrumental to evolve into a larger organisation. If you envision a steady rate of growth, what best time to target a brand new audience than the start of the financial year? You can also think of ways to improvise your product or service for a high-potential customer segment that is less exposed to competition. At the end of the day, this is an exercise that promotes out-of-the-box thinking.

A sound financial budget prepared with the above points in mind ensures that you are better prepared to face the new fiscal year. Also, it gives you an edge over your competitors on several fronts, and getting a business finance partner for your needs becomes much simpler when you are armed with a well-calculated plan.

Capital Float exists to serve the unique business aspirations of ambitious SMEs like you. With a growing base of 80,000 customers in over 300 cities across India, we provide customized credit solutions for the diverse needs that you might have. Paperless loan application, minimal documentation requirement and quick processing ensure that you receive funds when you need it. Choose from our new, innovative financial solutions for FY 18-19 and get ready to #BreakLimits!

Oct 24, 2018

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Starting Your Entrepreneurial Journey? Build Your Credit History Along The Way.

There has probably never been a better time to start a business in India. Multiple positive developments in the recent past have laid the foundation for a thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem for years to come. Some Governmental initiatives such as “Make in India”, “Startup India” etc., have indicated that at the highest level of policy-making, there is now a strong desire to support new businesses. Increasing digitization and improving infrastructure means that even the youngest of businesses can now reach out to millions of potential customers.  The brightest minds in the country are now being drawn away from previously coveted corporate jobs and are opening up to the challenge of executing an indigenous endeavour from ground-up. These are exciting times.

These young businesses can bring significant value to the Indian economy. At their helm are smart, passionate entrepreneurs with products or services which cater to tangible demands in the market. With the right support and nurturing, many of these ventures can grow into successful businesses. However, far too often, we see many of these budding entrepreneurs failing to realize their true potential. While there can be many reasons why a young business fails to scale up, research globally has identified a clear obstacle – lack of appropriate and timely credit.

The problem of the “Missing Middle” in developing economies is well documented. Such economies have a large number of micro-firms, some large firms but very few medium-sized firms. The absence or the paucity of medium-sized enterprises isn’t because these businesses lack the potential to be profitable, but because access to finance is traditionally a cumbersome process. In India, less than 1/4th of the financing demand of SMEs is met by formal institutional supply. Small businesses fail to benefit from the leverage which debt financing provides and is essential for propelling growth. As a consequence, SMEs contribute to only 8% of the Indian GDP – a stark contrast with the 40%+ contribution made by small businesses in developed economies.

This is not to say that the financing needs of SMEs are being completely ignored. For more than two decades lending to small businesses has been a priority agenda item for policy makers and regulatory bodies. A host of initiatives have been launched but on-ground progress has been slow. A key bottleneck is that these small-medium sized businesses are unable to furnish adequate credit history.

In a country like India, with a thriving informal finance ecosystem, most small businesses do not build credit records in their initial days as they can access finance through informal lending channels. As the size of their operation increases, so does their financial need. At this point, they are unable to turn to formal means of credit supply due to the lack of universally recognized documentation. At this stage, their growth is stunted as the informal market is unable to provide required financing at reasonable rates.  It is a perfect Catch 22 scenario – to get credit you need to have prior history but to have prior history you need to secure credit!

Building credit history with a bureau, e.g. CIBIL, takes time. Start small, be patient and build it over time. In India we now have personal as well as business credit scores available separately, though the former continues to be the more dominant decision input to most underwriting models. The credit worthiness of the promoter of a small business is crucial since the fortunes of the business are so closely entwined with his personal credit standing. It is thus vital to establish and grow your personal credit score. Start with small loans and service them in a timely fashion. If you are unable to get unsecured financing (e.g. a credit card), you can potentially start with a secured loan (e.g. auto loan) or a loan which is backed by a guarantor. Do not over-leverage your self – having multiple loans outstanding and/or high utilization on your existing limits negatively affect your score. Avoid such credit behaviour. Most of these points apply to business credit scores as well – start small and diligently service re-payments.

The entrepreneurial journey can be a deeply rewarding one. Focus on building your credit history along the way to help achieve your goals.

vaibhav

Vaibhav has over seven years of experience in the financial services industry across analytics, sales and trading. He has worked across major financial centres in Asia managing equity portfolios of large institutional investors across the region. In his last role prior to joining CF, he was a member of the Program Trading desk at Deutsche Bank’s Sydney office. He holds a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree from IIT Kharagpur in Electronics Engineering and is a CFA Charterholder. 

Vaibhav heads Business Development at Capital Float. 

Oct 24, 2018