Understanding Your Business' Buying Cycle and Making the Most of It

by Crestmark 9. June 2014 11:50

Making sales is part of running your day-to-day business – it’s what brings in revenue and keeps the business moving forward. We all hope that customers come to us ready to buy, but in reality, there’s a lot more to it than that.

 buying cycle

The traditional buying cycle is broken down into three segments that your customers move through in the process of making a purchase. By understanding your business' buying cycle, you can take the right steps and make the most of it.

Awareness

The first step in the buying cycle is when potential customers discover that they have a need for your product. They're not ready to buy, but they are aware of their need and your potential to fill that need. You can find these potential customers through marketing efforts and by increasing awareness of your brand. Introduce yourself. Capture their attention without pushing for a sale. The use of email newsletters, blogs, and direct mail alerts about upcoming sales are examples of the soft, but necessary, approach during this fragile part of the buying cycle.

Consideration

During this second phase of the buying process, your potential customers are seeking information. They're considering a purchase and want to be educated about your company and your products. The availability of information is critical in this stage. Prospects are likely to read customer reviews, visit your website for product descriptions and make comparisons of their options. Their sense of urgency has elevated beyond curiosity, and this stage is often triggered by an event that sparks an increased interest. For example, they may have run out of an item or have an upcoming project where use of your product could make or break their success.

Identify the various triggers that prompt people to buy your products and make it known that you can provide solutions to these problems. Build website and newsletter content around these issues. Make testimonials from previous customers available and accessible for those in the second step of the buying cycle. Quench their thirst for information, and continue to build their trust.

Making a Purchase

When someone is ready to buy, you need to be ready to sell. Customers want attention in this third and final phase. If they already have a contact for your company, it's important that this person is available or that your customer can somehow initiate the sale right away. Providing around-the-clock automated ordering or live support is another option to help your customers make their purchases when they're ready. Information about forms of payment and how to contact your company should be visible on all of your marketing materials and on your website to capture the lead and close the sale.

Identifying and understanding how your customers fit into the buying cycle can help your business gain qualified leads and increase your sales. So take a look at your business – what can you do to improve your customers experience in each of these stages? The proper planning and implementation here can be a huge step forward for any business.

 

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How Online Banking is Changing the Industry

by Crestmark 22. May 2014 05:16

Back in the day, people walked into their banks and stood in long lines to deposit checks or make withdrawals. With the birth of automated tellers, direct deposit and online banking, consumers have slowly withdrawn from face-to-face visits. Online banking is changing the industry and the role of bank branches has changed with it.

      

While online mobile connections make simple transactions more accessible and efficient, there is still a need for the local bank branch. A recent survey from Bankrate.com reveals that 30 percent of Americans haven't visited a bank branch within the past six months. When they do go, the purpose of their visits is no longer to make a simple deposit or withdrawal – they want consultation and personalized attention.

Impact of Age

The Bankrate.com survey also found that the age of the consumer has an impact on how they do their banking. For example, 52 percent of banking customers age 50 and older have visited a bank branch within the past 30 days. Only 42 percent of consumers age 30 and younger have made their way to a bank branch in the last 30 days.

Older Americans are traditionally slower to adopt new technology, such as online and mobile banking, but as time passes, they have learned to embrace it. According to a study by Digital Insight, 36 percent of seniors and 60 percent of Baby Boomers were actively using digital banking in 2011, as compared to 40 percent and 64 percent respectively in 2013. That number is predicted to increase to 55 percent of seniors and 70 percent of Baby Boomers by 2016.

Impact of Technology

Fewer customers visit bank branches to handle routine transactions that can now be done on their mobile devices and desktop computers. As a result, the size and layout of bank branch locations is beginning to change. They're smaller, and the teller line is no longer the central focus. The emergence of automated kiosks for express services and financial loan officers with tablets who can cater to customers anywhere in the room is a direct impact of technology.

While mobile and web technology are expected to continue eclipsing brick-and-mortar branches in the future, don't count out the branches completely just yet. People may have taken day-to-day transactions into their own hands, but consultation for financing and resolution of account problems have come to the forefront of face-to-face banking needs, and the value of real human interaction there isn’t likely to diminish anytime soon.

 

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Economic Impact Abounds As NCAA Narrows to Final Four

by Crestmark 2. April 2014 09:42

March may be over, but the madness is in full swing as the NCAA tournament comes down to the Final Four. With barely a week to go in this annual fascination with college basketball, companies large and small are feeling the financial effects – some good, some not so much. Whether they're plagued by employees losing productivity or bolstered by a sudden influx of tournament-hungry patrons, the impact is undeniable. 

march madness

A Blow to Productivity

According to a recent report from outplacement and career transitioning company Challenger, Gray and Christmas, more than 50 million American workers are participating in office pools. While the annual practice may have cost companies approximately $1.2 billion in lost production time in the first week of the basketball tournament alone, the firm has cautioned corporate executives to avoid taking a hard line against bracket pools, friendly discussions at the water cooler and those taking time out for updates. A blow to employee morale and loss of camaraderie could be even more costly to a company's bottom line in the long run.

A Rise in Morale  

While the setback to productivity has declined as the basketball games have transitioned to evening and weekend play, the excitement of bracket busters and newly formed kinships at the office continues. Companies that allow employees to wear their favorite teams' colors or check office pool updates on the clock can still reap the benefits of enthusiastic workers. A pre-tournament survey by staffing services firm OfficeTeam found that 32 percent of the 300 senior managers surveyed believed that support of March Madness activities had a positive impact on worker morale, compared to just 20 percent in 2013.

A Boon to Business

On the other side of the financial fence, many merchants have seen a rise in business during the NCAA tournament. Hotels, restaurants and shops in host cities have experienced a surge in bookings, as have providers for air and ground  transportation. Mid-West bracket host city Indianapolis, for example, expected a $20 million spending impact from this past weekend's showdowns between the University of Kentucky and University of Louisville, as well as the University of Tennessee and University of Michigan. Kentucky eked out a win against Michigan amid an economic boost for Indianapolis merchants.

Meanwhile, restaurants and sports bars throughout the country offering televised games with food and drink specials are drawing record crowds of their own. In some cases, employees for these businesses are picking up extra shifts and working longer hours to meet the demand.  

With the semi-final games set for Friday, April 4 and the championship on Sunday, April 6, 2014, the eyes of millions of Americans are on the Florida Gators, Connecticut Huskies, Wisconsin Badgers and the Kentucky Wildcats. While there's no doubt that the economic impact of the NCAA tournament has created both winners and losers, only three games remain until it's back to business as usual.  

 

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Four Ways to Know if a Business Line of Credit is Right for You

by Crestmark 11. September 2013 11:05

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Starting a new business is not the only time an entrepreneur may look for help with financing. Some small business owners—especially those who operate seasonally—experience fluctuations in cash flow throughout the year. A line of credit can help to smooth over the ebb and flow of sales and cash flow throughout the year. 

A business line of credit provides on-demand funding, and there are a number of different types of lines of credit ranging from unsecured, meaning that it is not backed by any kind of assets; to secured, backed on a general basis by all assets of the company, or by specific assets that are structured into the funding formula of the line of credit.

Here are four questions to ask yourself before approaching a lender:

1.) Does your business have uneven cash flow? The best use of a business line of credit is for paying off expenses in the short term that can be easily paid off in the long term. This works well for short term expenses such as payroll and inventory.

2.) Are you able to pay off the balance of your credit line? It can be tempting to carry a balance on a line of credit, but this will ultimately damage both your relationship with the lending bank and your company's financial health. Unless you are able to pay off the balance quickly, you should not run the risk of borrowing against a line of credit, but possibly consider a term loan for long term items like buying equipment.

3.) Would a business credit card be more appropriate for your needs? A line of credit will have a lower interest rate and higher credit limit than most business credit cards. It will not, however, provide line by line tracking of expenses along with date and location of purchases. This can be very valuable for record keeping and future planning, and also allows you the flexibility to provide individual cards to key employees/staff for travel or other day to day business expenses.

4.) Are all business owners available to apply? If your business is a partnership or has multiple owners, at least 80% of the owners must be represented in the credit application. This makes applying for a line of credit a decision that must be made across all owners of your business.

If you are just starting out, looking to obtain working capital for your existing business, or want to grow from your established base, Crestmark’s business development team can work with you to determine which type of financing solution is the best fit for your current business situation.

 

 

 

 

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Top 5 Mobile Apps for Entrepreneurs

by Crestmark 29. July 2013 03:56

As an entrepreneur, staying organized while on the go will help keep your business—and even your day—running smoothly. And while the ability to keep constantly connected to your work with a smartphone or tablet can sometimes be overwhelming, a number of business-minded apps have been developed over the past few years to make your life a little easier.

1. Evernote: With a motto like “Remember everything,” this is going to be a top-pick for any busy entrepreneur. Evernote makes it easy to keep notes, files, and even clippings of entire webpages in one place which can then be accessed by both mobile devices and the Web. Potentially one of the best examples of this is using it for travel since you can keep all itineraries, confirmations, scanned travel documents, maps, and plans in Evernote, ready for when you need them.

2. Pocket: How would you like to have a virtual cloud that can store anything from articles to videos, straight from your browser or apps? That’s exactly what you can do with Pocket. Formerly called “Read it Later,” Pocket can save just about anything for you to read when you’re ready.

3. Square: A card reader, simple pricing, and smarter business tools make it easy for businesses of any size to do what they love and get paid fast and easily. Use the free secure card reader sent to you to swipe cards on-the-go from anywhere. The Square Register app is free and easy to setup – just link your bank account and you’re able to accept payments almost instantly. You have the option to pay a flat monthly fee of $275.00 or a 2.75% fee per swipe. You will see your payment quickly and directly deposited within 1-2 business days.

4. Mint: This one is valuable for business and personal use. Named Best Finance App by the 1st Annual App Awards and TIME Magazine's 50 Best iPhone Apps of 2011, Mint enables you to track finances in real-time. You can enter transactions manually or sync your accounts automatically to track investments, sort transactions by category, set budgets, and create alerts.

5. FreshBooks: Speaking of finances, this cloud accounting app makes tracking time, logging expenses, and invoicing clients portable and painless. It also boasts team timesheets for projects involving more than one person’s billable time, multiple datacenters to back up secure data, and online payments so you can accept payments and put that money to work faster.

 

As an entrepreneur or business owner, what apps make your life easier? 

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