Ways to grow your business with a Bounce Back Loan in 2020

Group of people jumping in the air on op of a mountain

Contents

Intro
What is the Bounce Back Loan
10 ways to grow your business with the Bounce Back Loan

1. Clarify your brand
2. Plan for the future
3. Know your audience
4. Audit your website
5. Plan your business development
6. Establish your company culture
7. Make way for content marketing
8. Bring a new product/service to life
9. Implement automation
10. Outsource
Final notes

Intro

Coronavirus. COVID-19. Pandemic. 

When we think back to the beginning of 2020 (a mere five months ago), we didn’t imagine a world where these words would become parts of our everyday lives.

If you’re a business owner, you might find yourself frustrated, confused, and worried about the complexity of the pandemic’s effect on your company.

It’s easy to say: stay positive. However, we thought you might want to know that you now have a different solution to explore.

A few weeks ago, UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak unveiled the government’s latest COVID-19 measure for self-employed people: Bounce Back Loans.

In this article, we’ll explore what the loan is and the ways you can use it to help grow your business.

In a world that’s become a little scarier, humanity has shown itself more than ever. Trying times force us to think outside the box. If you’re wondering what the next step is for your business, try to proactively think of your big picture goals.

What is the Bounce Back Loan?

The Bounce Back Loan Scheme was launched due to fears that small businesses weren’t able to access coronavirus funding quick enough. 

Here’s what you need to know in a nutshell (correct as of May 19, 2020):

  • Borrow between £2,000 and £50,000 (capped at 25% of your annual turnover for 2019 or an estimated annual turnover for new businesses).
  • No interest will be applied and no repayments will be made in the first 12 months.
  • After the initial 12 months, all banks will charge a fixed annual rate of 2.5%.
  • You can repay the loan early without a penalty. 
  • The loans are set up to last for six years; a year interest-free and five years at a fixed annual rate of 2.5%.
  • The loans are unsecured
  • Your business must have been established before March 1, 2020, and must be trading as a going concern.
  • Credit ratings won’t impact your eligibility.
  • The Bounce Back Loan does not affect your eligibility for other government-funded personal support. You can still get the self-employment income support grants, and you may still be eligible for universal credit.
  • The banks currently accredited to handle Bounce Bank Loans are Bank of Scotland, Barclays, Clydesdale Bank & Yorkshire Bank, Danske Bank, HSBC, Lloyds Bank, NatWest, Santander, TSB, RBS, Ulster Bank, The Co-operative Bank, and Starling Bank. 

The Bounce Back Loan has come as a welcome relief for small business owners and a lifeline for many. It’s important to plan how you’ll spend your loan in a way that’s beneficial to your business.

10 ways to grow your business with a Bounce Back Loan

Here at Outlaw Social, we’re committed to helping businesses to keep moving forward. Here are our top solutions for growing your business with the Bounce Back Loan.

Number 1: Clarify your brand

Brand awareness infographic

Businesses that have a clear message and sales funnel are more likely to emerge strongly from the pandemic. 

Clarify your message, create a marketing plan that works, and hit play on growing your business.

When you confuse your audience, you risk losing potential sales. There are a few steps you can take to help create a clear brand message:

  • Create a story: Stories influence how the brain works. Humans are a species of social networkers; we think in stories and they’re one of humanity’s most important tools. Not only does it need to be blatantly obvious what your business provides, but it also needs to be obvious how your brand aligns with your customer wants.
  • Think about your customer: You need to show how your brand fits into your customer’s story, not the other way around. Answer the questions they have as they search for products and services like yours.
  • Develop your engagement: Social media is now one of the biggest platforms for sharing stories. In some ways, we can view social media as an infinite number of mini-networks. It’s crucial to have a well-prepared digital media strategy that’s consistent and user-focused.

Put yourself in the shoes of your customers. Take some time to think about these three questions:

  1. What does your company offer?
  2. How does it make your customer’s life better?
  3. How can customers buy your product or service?

These questions will help you to look at your company and brand objectively. It’s a common flaw for business owners to be so close to their company that they can’t position it in simple terms. This can cause issues when you’re trying to communicate your brand to your customers.

Let’s imagine we’re in an elevator. If I asked you to give me your ‘elevator pitch’, what would you say? Do you think I could easily understand what you do in under 30 seconds?

Here’s our top tip to begin the process of simplifying your brand:

Talk less about your business and more about the solutions you provide to your customers.

Creating a brand message doesn’t stop. You should apply it to everything and every piece of content your brand publishes. As your company evolves, so will your message.

Our Team at Outlaw Social can help you to create brand personas, content plans, and establish your key objectives.

If you need help creating a clear message for your brand, we’d love to hear from you. View our services here.

Estimated costs for clarifying your brand: Creating a brand style guide and customer personas can start from £200-£400 and a full brand strategy workshop can range between £1000 and £2000.

Number 2: Plan for the future

Think about your marketing strategy and plan for the long-term. 

Stay ahead of digital trends and engage with your audience to create a competitive advantage and return for your growth marketing. 

This means more than just having a website and a few social media profiles. It involves actively using them and creating a dynamic digital presence with regular updates and changes.

Brand awareness infographic

A good marketing strategy can help you reach your target audience, expand your customer list, and, more importantly, achieve a good percentage of ROI. 

Here are three essential reasons why you should have a marketing strategy:

  1. Your competitors have one: Keeping up with the market gives you a competitive advantage. This includes things like maintaining a website that focuses on great user experiences, having a strong social media presence, and developing audience engagement through channels such as a newsletter.
  2. You will know your strengths and weaknesses: You might have heard of SWOT analysis. This is where you write down and discover your business strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Knowing this information helps you to identify opportunities and areas for growth. Knowledge is power.
  3. You will know your audience: A well-planned marketing strategy will help you to identify your target audience and determine the most beneficial ways of communicating with it. 

Your marketing strategy is one of the most important documents your business will own. It’s your roadmap. Going back to it every once in a while will help you to stick to your plan and adjust the areas that will change as you develop.

Invest in a marketing strategy that helps you to plan for the future. 

With extensive knowledge in crafting marketing strategies and content plans, Outlaw Social can help you to get started on a marketing strategy that will help your business grow.

Estimated cost for creating a marketing strategy: For most small to medium sized businesses, marketing strategies typically can be developed in a half-day workshop with a day or two post-workshop research and development. Costs will range from £1000 to £2000 and will provide you with a fully developed marketing document to navigate your business forward.

Number 3: Know your audience

Create customer personas to find out about your audience. These can help you to find out exactly what your user needs are. Knowing their problems and what they’re thinking about at each stage of their purchase journey enables you to shape the type of message your audience will engage with.

One of the greatest rules in marketing is that you can’t be everything to everybody. Many businesses are launched without any prior insight to their target audience. This is one of the main reasons why many start-up businesses fail. 

Example of a user persona

Launching a business means understanding your profitable market sector and target audience. This way, you can develop your products and services to tailor to your user needs.

Target market analysis might be new to your strategy, so here are three of the main benefits of it:

  • Saves time and money: User personas are crucial to focus your marketing efforts. Many small businesses waste time and money on reaching out to the wrong audience. By creating user personas, you let the wants and needs of your customers stand at the core of your marketing strategy.
  • Gives you a competitive advantage: If you truly understand your customers, you will gain a competitive edge and be more likely to attract loyal customers who will purchase from you again.
  • It helps you make confident decisions: There are numerous benefits to audience analysis. It is one of the most accurate methods for conducting market research and, when done right, it will greatly enhance your planning and overall strategy.

Think. Who are you talking to? Some questions you might ask yourself are:

  • Where do they live?
  • How old are they?
  • What are their interests?
  • Where do they spend their time online?
  • What social media platforms do they use?

And so on.

Do you need help with figuring out your user personas and how to target them? We work with businesses to help them define their customer personas and target markets through thorough audience analysis

Estimated cost for audience analysis: Usually this can be incorporated into a wider marketing strategy cost as mentioned above, however as a stand alone cost you will look to pay a consultant or agency 1-2 days of times, approximately £500-£1000 to fully flesh out and present an audience analysis.

Number 4: Audit your website

Take a look around your website and try to see it through the eyes of your user. Is it serving a purpose to your customers?

A website audit can include:

Google Analytics: Find out about the performance of traffic to your website. This might help to reveal trends and demographics for you to target.

Keyword research: Work with your marketing team or agency to figure out whether you’re site is using keywords correctly. If you’re not already targeting the ideal keywords in your industry, you might be missing out on business opportunities. Your marketing professional will be able to show you how you’re currently ranking for each term.

SEO audit: Use a dedicated tool to crawl your entire website. You’ll have a list of missing metadata, technical recommendations, and link integrity. An important part of this step is to find out your site’s overall site speed. Users love fast-loading websites and abandon websites that take too long to load.

Competitor analysis: Take a look at your top five online competitors and benchmark their sites’ usability and user experience against yours. Do they enlighten you to potential changes?

Content gaps: What’s missing from your site? A strong call to action? Easy navigation? Important information, such as contact details?

Professional marketing agencies, like Outlaw Social, can help you to perform a website audit as the first step in a comprehensive strategy. You can’t get more traffic if you don’t know what’s keeping the traffic away.

By thoroughly auditing your site’s architecture and content, you can:

  • Improve your domain’s search engine ranking to drive more traffic
  • Save money on lost sales and high bounce rates
  • Create a strategic SEO plan that supports your business goals

There are many issues that can affect your website’s ranking in search engine results. Backlinks, crawling errors, keywords, and site mapping to name a few. The benefits of addressing any issues and creating a website that’s user-friendly and rich with quality content are endless. They include:

  • Improved visibility in search engines
  • Detailed competitor analysis
  • Potential sources of revenue
  • Capitalise on trends
  • Improve your user experience
  • Increase click-through rate
  • Decrease bounce rate
  • Increase conversion rate
  • Discover qualified leads
  • Increase brand awareness and customer trust

Estimated cost for a website audit: Audits will range between £100 to £2000 depending on the depth of details a provider needs to go to, and it is usually balanced against how much improvements to your site could be worth in revenue to your business. The output of such audits will be a prioritised list of recommendations.  At Outlaw Social we can provide a free in-depth website audit, with a complimentary zoom call review, as well as a return on investment report to show you the potential revenue increase from investing in website improvements. To request your complimentary audit, please email us at hello@outlawsocial.co.uk 

Number 5: Plan your business development

Put together a business development plan. Business development is the process of implementing strategies and opportunities across your organisation to promote growth and boost revenue.

Before you begin writing your business development plan, you need to complete a SWOT analysis to make sure you’re focusing on the right things. Identify your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats – these will form the basis of your plan.

Read The Ultimate Guide to Business Development by Hubspot.

Customer relationship management (CRM) software has been around for over 30 years and has helped businesses to build better customer relationships based on data.

Fast forward to today, CRM software is more powerful than ever before. It’s a mandatory piece of software for almost all businesses. Selecting the right one depends on your industry, the needs of your business, and your target market.

It can all get a little bit daunting, so we’ve broken down their common features:

User interface and setup: The core purpose of any CRM is to facilitate the management and organisation of your customers. This includes contacts, leads, and active accounts. With so many options for data input, it’s important to find a CRM that has a streamlined interface. Ease of use is crucial. Here are screenshots from HubSpot and Salesforce, both are great examples of robust CRM systems.

Screenshot of HubSpot dashboard
Screenshot of Salesforce dashboard
  • Pricing: When it comes to pricing, most CRM software companies will offer different models and the needs of your business will determine the most appropriate. Let’s take a look at HubSpot and Salesforce again. HubSpot’s pricing model is great for small businesses that require basic CRM functions, while Salesforce is a better investment for businesses that get value out of advanced features.
  • Reporting: It’s one thing to store your customer data – it’s another to analyse it. One of the biggest benefits that businesses get from CRM software is reporting and analytics. How many leads are waiting on contracts? What was the year-over-year growth? These are the kinds of questions you want your CRM to answer for you.

Another area of business development is prospecting. This is the process of initiating and developing new business by searching for potential customers, clients, partners, or buyers for your business.

The goal is to move people through the sales funnel until they convert into revenue-generating customers. This includes things like reaching out to prospects on LinkedIn, identifying stakeholders, communicating with influencers and decision-makers, and communicating with people who align with your target audience.

Our friends at StormSPACE can help with prospecting solutions.

Number 6: Establish your company culture

Group of coworkers smiling with devices

Company culture is an integral part of any business. It affects nearly every aspect of a company.

Without a positive corporate culture, many employees will struggle to find real value in their work, and this leads to a variety of negative consequences for your business.

Discover how to align your brand and culture with our partner Kirsty Innes.

Positive company culture is crucial for business success. Does your business culture contribute to achieving your business goals? Or does it hinder them?

Think of your company culture as your fingerprint. It’s the one thing that makes your business truly unique. It’s your personality.

A strong culture, in which leaders and employees agree upon and care intensely about business values, can improve performance by motivating employees and coordinating their behaviour towards a vision and goals that benefit the company. So, why should you care?

  • It’s in your DNA: Your culture is the formula that provides guidelines, boundaries, and expectations for your team and customers. This is your story and your chance to compel people. With a clearly defined company culture, you can motivate people to buy into your brand. It’s the most powerful resource you have to attract, hire, and retain the highest level of talent in your business.
  • Strong cultures equal high performers: Research shows that businesses with a strong culture tend to produce superior results. When a culture is strong, it leads to motivated employees and high-performing managers. 
  • It’s more important than ever: Strong communication is key. Company culture is quickly proving to be a necessity to achieve business success, rather than a ‘nice-to-have’. Millennials see the world differently, necessitating a change in corporate cultural priorities in today’s workplaces. For Millennials, a career means much more than a stable place to work for 25 years and employees are looking at company values, meaning, community, and culture more than ever.

Here are five steps to creating a positive culture:

  1. Develop a culture deck: This can take form in the context of a presentation that showcases and defines the behaviour of your business. Provide examples, photos, and short phrases that illustrate your culture.
  2. Be unique: Don’t try to accommodate everyone. Be true to your values and remember that there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ business model.
  3. Lead, don’t control: The rules should be put in place for everyone. This means there are no exceptions for any subgroup, including senior-level management. Your leadership team should consist of your strongest cultural fits.
  4. Hire to fit your culture: A CV might look great, but will the person fit in with your company culture? If their beliefs and values are different from your brand’s, you might create a friction area further down the line. Of course, everyone should own their own unique qualities, but be mindful of attitudes and complacency in your workforce.
  5. Address it often: It’s one thing to define your company culture, but it’s another to live and breathe it. Address it often and recognise your employees as individuals, teams, and units that demonstrate your culture.

Number 7: Make way for content marketing

Content marketing is one of the main ways businesses communicate with their customers and target audiences, it allows businesses to gain warmer leads to their product/services, whilst engaging and inspiring anyone who happens to search for the topics they’re marketing.

Video marketing is currently seen as the ‘cutting-edge’ form of content marketing. Video gives users the flexibility to engage with the content they want to see when they want to see it.

It really all comes down to grabbing attention. It’s quite staggering that by using video in your content, audiences are ten times more likely to engage with that content piece (like, comment, share, embed etc.).

Here are a few things to think about when it comes to content marketing:

Lose the “it’ll do” mentality: If your content is mediocre, your value and ROI will be mediocre too. Plan your content, make them user-friendly, and make sure the content adds value to those who are engaging with it. If that means it takes a little more time to produce, then take a little more time — otherwise, you risk being lost in the sea of subpar content.
Think about your audience: Think about who your targeting with your content and style it in a way that’s going to resonate with that audience.
Quality over quantity: Stop! Don’t start posting 40 social updates per week and hoping for good results. You’re only going to annoy your audience. Think about adding videos to existing content pieces (blogs) that have done well and republish them. It gives you a reason to reinvent old content and keeps the SEO gods happy, too.

Content marketing can be greatly profitable: CMI reports that over 70% of brands now hire someone to manage their content creation and distribution to make sure it’s professionally executed. The benefits of outsourcing your content marketing are endless, but here are our top three:

  • Publish more quality content: There’s a limit to how much one person can write in a day, week, and month. Putting together high-quality content takes time. Research, writing, and proofreading equal a whole chunk of time. Good content takes time to research, create, and publish. If you want to put out blog posts that are well-researched and comprehensive, it may not be practical to expect even a full-time writer to manage more than one post a week. If you want to publish content more frequently without dropping the level of quality, you’ll need more writers. This is where outsourcing can really help you to scale up as you can simply outsource as much content as you need, or that your budget will allow.
  • Be more flexible: Having an in-house writer can be an important part of your marketing efforts. However, outsourcing content is more flexible when it comes to creating more quality content at a quicker pace. There may be times throughout the year where it doesn’t make sense to invest heavily in content, and other times where you want to produce as much content as you can. Outsourcing offers you the flexibility to scale back and scale up smoothly as your business grows.
  • Varied viewpoints: Writers and content producers likely know a lot about various topics and industries. It can be extremely beneficial for your overall content marketing plan to introduce new talent and ideas with writers who can express concepts in a way you may have never considered.

In most cases, you’ll find that outsourcing your content marketing will boost your ROI (return on investment). Some of the things you can measure include:

  • The number of views and subsequent conversions on a particular piece of content
  • The increase in your social media following, shares, and engagement
  • The increase in your sales and/or business revenue following the implementation of your content marketing plan

If you outsource to a content marketing agency like Outlaw Social, you’ll have help to produce content that relates to your business goals. If you’re publishing high-quality, optimised content on a regular basis, then increased leads, conversions, and engagement are sure to follow.

Estimated cost for outsourcing your content marketing: Social media management services are usually charged on a monthly recurring basis and can cost anywhere between £300 and £1000+ (depending variables such as quality of content, amount of channels, and frequency of posting). When it comes to pieces of content such as blog articles and newsletters, they can be priced on an individual basis or on a retainer basis and can range from £50 up to £500 per piece produced, based on variables such as word count, quality of writing required, and placement. Marketing agencies like Outlaw Social often offer hybrid solutions for content marketing, to allow businesses to be omnipresent without their costs spiralling out of control. Content is the heart of your digital presence, so always make sure to properly vet your suppliers to check they have experience creating content for your industry or specific tone of voice. 

Number 8: Bring a new product/service to life

Can you create a new coronavirus related angle for your products? Maybe you need to source something new in order to compete in the short term.

Consider how your business might genuinely be able to help others. 

There’s nothing stopping you gaining some exposure through:

  • Sending out press releases
  • Alerting relevant influencers
  • Posting on your social media channels
  • Sharing Facebook and Instagram Stories
  • Uploading videos to YouTube

Any sale made during times like these is crucial. These are people who have already committed to making a purchase. So they’re in a prime position to get them buying again. Follow up with email marketing and referral links.

If you really can’t move the needle with sales right now, then maybe spend the time on something that can pay off in the longer term. Did we mention content marketing?

Number 9: Implement automation

Automation is one area you could invest in. For example, in finance, this might be automating your purchase ledger process, your expenses process, or setting up recurring templates for sales invoices. All of these areas will save you time in your business, which could be used on more valuable tasks. 

Number 10: Outsource

There are several benefits of outsourcing various departments in your business. Founder of Empowered by Cloud, Laura Taylor says:

“The lockdown may have given some thinking time for business owners and it is a real opportunity for businesses to change how they do things… Outsourcing your finance department may be a way of streamlining your business. Having access to a team with varied experience for exactly the amount of support you need is a great alternative to paying an in-house team or using inexperienced people to complete finance tasks.”

Outsourcing your marketing efforts or business processes is another beneficial opportunity. Outside insights and innovation are priceless. 

As business owners, we all get stuck in a rut sometimes. Either out of familiarity or necessity, or a little of both, we sometimes stick with the same strategies or tactics without exploring other options. 

Outsourcing is a great way to break out of this rut by giving you access to individuals who have a fresh perspective on your business and can offer new ideas for innovating your marketing efforts.

Final notes

The whole world may be reeling from the coronavirus takeover. But this doesn’t mean you need to sit back and let your business collapse. 

Some brands are still making consistent sales. If you decide to use the Bounce Back Loan, try investing in some of the ideas in this post and do everything possible to make your business one that succeeds.

This blog is brought to you by Outlaw Social with support from Founder of Empowered by Cloud, Laura Taylor. Empowered by Cloud is geared up to help energetic business owners gain insight into their business finances by using Xero, the latest apps, and automation.