How Alternative Finance Could Accelerate Your Business Growth
With traditional banks hesitant to lend in the current economic climate, here's 5 ways you can grow your small enterprise differently
So you’ve survived the early stage of your business and you’ve decided that it’s time to take the next step.
There are many avenues you can invest your time and money in, and alternative finance can be an ideal way to fund projects aimed at expanding your business.
Alternative finance is the internet’s answer to traditional bank loans and options can include peer to peer (P2P) lending, crowdfunding and unsecured business loans – you can even get business loans with bad credit much more readily than in the past.
Here are five ways you can utilise alternative finance to take your business to the next level:
Upgrade your online presence
Sixty-four percent of all in-store sales were influenced by the internet in 2015, making it more important than ever to elevate your online visibility.
From your website’s design and programming to SEO, analytics and content strategy, there are a number of ways to draw visitors into your website and convert them into customers.
Creating a website strategy, based on keyword research and measuring and tracking user behaviour, helps you to meet the needs of your visitors as well as rank in search engines’ pages – but it takes a lot of time, effort and specialist knowledge to get there.
Pair this with a 360° approach to pay per click (PPC), email marketing, social media, media monitoring, Google My Business and link building, and suddenly you’re looking at a significant investment of time and money.
Whether you’re taking on a development project, new staff or working with an agency, you may wish to cover any initial costs using alternative finance until you start to see the return on your investment.
Invest in tech
The secret to outdoing your competitors doesn’t always mean growing your business in terms of size.
Instead, use technology to innovate your products and services so that you stay relevant to both new and old customers.
If you understand which tools are the most appropriate for your business and how to maximise your ROI, you can streamline your processes and free up your time to focus on expanding your business. If you find that you’re spending too much time on repetitive tasks for example, always look for a solution that allows you to automate the jobs that are wasting your precious time.
From social media posting and influencer outreach to reporting, accounting and invoicing, there are plenty of options available to automate most daily business tasks. For example, most social media networks allow you to schedule content release ahead of time.
Platforms like Hootsuite even allow you to do this through one user-friendly interface, allowing you to frontload a steady stream of content whilst freeing you up to respond to queries as and when you receive them.
Alternatively, you could use technology to add new products and services which practically run themselves, giving you the opportunity to increase sales without putting in any extra work.
Work with web developers to turn your content into interactive, web-based tools like workshops and trouble-shooters that can be used by anyone, anywhere, anytime – and potentially provide your business with an extra revenue source for years to come in exchange for a small initial investment.
More and more businesses are using brand licensing as a way of maximising revenues from their existing product lines.
For example, winning the license to develop products featuring huge global brands like Barbie, John Deere or Ferrari presents a huge opportunity for businesses to benefit from the heritage of these household names, much like Sambro does across many Disney, Nickelodeon and other key properties:
With proper investment in research, development and marketing, licensees can achieve fantastic growth in their categories, so consider using alternative finance to give any licensing ventures the best chance of success.
Where paid advertising offers a limited return on investment, creating content assets (articles, infographics, reports, videos etc.) helps your website and brand gain authority over time as well as offers cumulative returns on your investment. If you publish high quality, unique content to your own website and let authoritative publications know about it, they may want to reference you as a resource which signals your authority to the search engines.
Besides referring their own website traffic to yours, this also helps your website to rank in search engine results and draw in organic web traffic for weeks, months and even years to come.
Great website content also provides you with a steady supply of material for your social media and email marketing campaigns: you can also use your best content as a landing page to help drive conversions in your paid advertising campaigns.
You can also create useful content for other websites to publish in exchange for a link back to your website to help build your authority as a leader in your market.
For example, you could invest in carrying out a survey or other piece of research and use the data you gather to create a newsworthy press release. Sanctuary Spa did this to support a campaign it was running, gaining news coverage from The Telegraph, Metro, Express, Marie Claire and more.
By making use of alternative finance and specialist knowledge, you would be able to create a comprehensive and well-executed report that has the potential to reach thousands of new customers. Not only that, but the resulting content and media mentions will live on for as long as each website’s servers are running, giving you referral and search engine traffic for years to come.
Open a new location
If physical expansion is what your business needs in order to grow, ensure you’re maintaining a consistent bottom-line profit as well as evidence of steady growth over the past few years.
Also, look at economic and consumer trends to determine your business’ likely staying power. Ultimately, you don’t want to get roped into purchasing premises in a poor location due to constrained budgets. A cash boost via an alternative finance source will allow you to choose the location that’s best for your business needs, giving your expansion plans a greater chance of success.
Rob Straathof is CEO at Liberis