Branding, services, promotions, products, pricing, prints, blogs, advertising, research and social media — all of this is marketing. With all the marketing options out there, it can be difficult for small businesses to know what to do. Marketing is a concentrated effort to do push your brand across a variety of platforms and hope that enough makes it through to your customer. Customers need to hear your message several times, so brand, brand, brand!
Here are some simple steps to help you market your small business:
1. Get organized. Getting an organized plan is the first step in any marketing effort. Make one. Start with brainstorming, create themes and transfer action items to a calendar or to-do list. Start small, and try to get a good ROI for everything you do. Create an elevator pitch: What can you tell people about your business, products and services in 30 seconds or less that keeps them interested and wanting more? Get customer input early — if you are opening a storefront or restaurant, try hosting a soft opening or invitation-only event to get your kinks worked out and your mishaps and mistakes out of the way. Whatever you do, make a good first impression.
2. Get a website. In today’s technology-based world, the first thing a potential customer or employee does is Google your business. You need a website to show you’re real and to offer information about your business to potential customers. Make sure your website is mobile friendly and be sure to ask for search engine optimization. Use Google Analytics to track the traffic to your website, but be leery of people who promise you top positions on search engines. While there are lots of things that can be done to increase your ranking on various search engines, unless the developer works for Google, I would be leery of a promise to get you to the top. Remember that you get what you pay for. There are a ton of do it yourself web-
site services, but depending on the features you need on your site, some things are better left to the experts.
3. Leverage social media. Let’s face it, everyone is on social media these days, and the majority of traffic still occurs on Facebook. If you are not using Facebook for your business, create a page today. You are leaving an opportunity on the table if you don’t. There has been a shift the past few years with more and more retirees joining the social media world. I guess they realize that if they want to keep up with their kids, grandkids, friends and neighbors, they better get with the program. In fact, retirees are often my best brand ambassadors and help promote our events.
4. Set up and claim your business online. Whether you get on board or not, information about your business is and will be on the internet. Wouldn’t you rather proactively control what people
read or see about your business when they Google it? Do a search on different browsers to see what information you see about your company and then claim or create a listing for your business.
5. Use Google AdWords. Try utilizing Google AdWords to specifically target the types of products or services you offer. Remember to focus on the quality of a few keywords instead of choosing too many. AdWords are great for targeting specific geographic locations and give you the ability to control your budget with flexible pricing options.
6. Create local awareness and establish a network. Join chambers, business associations, community groups, etc. Find ways to get involved. Networking is a great way to capture business
leads as long as you don’t come on too strong. It allows you to meet new contacts and create more brand awareness and new referrals. Sponsor sporting events, nonprofit events or anything that is for a good cause. Get your name out there while also being a good community steward. Give away SWAG (promotional items with your business name, logo and contact info on them). T-shirts are a great example of free walking advertisements for your business.
7. Offer coupons or free products/services. Create loyalty early on. A happy customer will come back and will tell their friends about you. Create a buzz with brand ambassadors. These can be family and friends who help promote your products or services.
8. Advertise. If you build it, they still may not come. You must get out there and tell people who you are, why your product or service is different from the competition and how to find you. Advertising is not a one-size fits all solution. Find what works for you, but whatever you do, you must advertise. More than anything, focus on consistent, repetitive branding. Many marketing professionals believe in the “rule of seven,” which means people need to hear or see your message at least seven times before taking any action. In today’s world of constant connectivity,
you must make sure you’re seen and heard. The most common reason that people do not buy your product is that they do not know about it yet.
Option 4: Tapping Home Equity
Drawing on your home equity, through a home equity loan, home equity line of credit (HELOC), or cash-out refinance, is a fourth way to secure an investment property. In most cases, it’s possible to borrow up to 80% of the home’s equity value to use toward the purchase, rehabilitation, and repair of an investment property.
Using equity to finance a real estate investment has its pros and cons, depending on which type of loan you choose. With a HELOC, for instance, you can borrow against the equity the same as you would with a credit card, and the monthly payments are often interest-only. The rate is usually variable, however, which means it can increase if the prime rate changes.
A cash-out refinance would come with a fixed rate, but it may extend the life of your existing mortgage. A longer loan term could mean paying more in interest for the primary residence. That would have to be weighed against the anticipated returns that an investment property would bring in.
What is required to be approved for investment property financing?
Each lender and type of financing will have varying requirements. Private lenders may simply require a relationship with the borrower. Hard money lenders may only require a hot real estate market and a good estimated after-repair value (ARV). Home equity loan, home equity line of credit (HELOC), and conventional loan lenders will have the strictest requirements on income and credit scores.
Is a home equity loan or a HELOC better for investment property financing?
Home equity loans and HELOCs are very similar products with important differences. If you intend on buying a single property and need an exact dollar amount for purchase, repairs, and
rehab, then a home equity loan is a good choice. If you plan on buying and selling multiple properties in quick succession, then a HELOC is more convenient because you will have revolving access to cash as you draw from and pay down your credit line with each purchase and sale, as opposed to taking out and paying off multiple home equity loans.
The Bottom Line
Investing in a rental property or tackling a house-flipping project are risky ventures, but they offer the potential for a big payoff. Finding the money to take advantage of an investment opportunity doesn’t have to be an obstacle if you know where to look. As you compare different borrowing options, keep in mind the short- and long-term costs and how each one can affect the investment’s bottom line.