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CS Santosh has suspected head injury after crash in Dakar Rally

Santosh crashed around 135km into Stage 4 of the rally on Wednesday.

The post CS Santosh has suspected head injury after crash in Dakar Rally appeared first on Buy It At A Bargain – Deals And Reviews.

How to Use Machine Learning to Improve Your Digital Marketing

Machine learning is on the verge of transforming the marketing sector. In many ways, it’s already started. According to Gartner, 30% of companies will use machine learning in one part of their sales process by 2020.

What’s more, these companies are using machine learning to get ahead of competitors by tackling some of marketing’s toughest challenges, such as personalization, instant customer support, and big data.

In other words, machine learning isn’t just for computer scientists. Marketers should sit up and take notice. Below, I’ve covered five ways you can use machine learning to supercharge your digital marketing efforts.

What Is Machine Learning?

Before we get into the marketing side of things, let’s take a second to establish what artificial intelligence and machine learning are.

Artificial intelligence is simply any form of intelligence demonstrated by a machine instead of the natural intelligence displayed in humans and animals. When most people think of artificial intelligence, they think specifically of computers that replicate some level of human intelligence, like a chess-playing computer I mentioned in the introduction.

Machine learning is a branch of artificial intelligence that enables systems to find new and better solutions automatically by learning from mistakes and experiences. The more data and experience a machine learning algorithm has access to, the better it becomes in the future.

Machine learning systems can largely be divided into two subsets: guided and unguided. Guided machine learning systems are supplied with data sets and solutions by humans in the first instance. They are taught which patterns to look for initially and will then get better at identifying those patterns going forward.

Unguided systems are given access to unsorted and disparate data sets and are left to decipher patterns independently without guidance from humans. Unguided systems will create an algorithm and then look for ways to improve it going forward.

Using Machine Learning to Improve Your Marketing

We know that marketing teams don’t want for lack of data. Marketers struggle with making sense of all the data they have at their fingertips and then putting that data to use. This analysis is where machine learning comes in.

The primary reason to add machine learning to your marketing stack is that it can make sense of vast amounts of data much faster and much more effectively than humans.

Machine learning can use data to identify patterns and make predictions almost instantly. Marketers can then use these insights to optimize a huge portion of their workflow, from running more tests and improving their website’s UX to personalizing the customer experience and automating consumer engagement.

The long and short of it is machine learning can be used to improve just about every part of your digital marketing efforts. Below we discuss five of the most important ways.

Analyze Data Sets

However you use machine learning in your marketing efforts, the process will probably begin by analyzing data sets.

For instance, machine learning can be used to analyze and find user activity patterns on your website. Rather than sifting through data in your Google Analytics profile yourself, a machine learning algorithm could do the job in seconds, predicting future user behavior and identifying patterns that you can use to optimize your site.  

Sure, humans are perfectly capable of analyzing data themselves, but you can’t do it half as fast or accurately as AI-powered solutions.

Marketers can also use machine learning to gain a better understanding of their customer base.

Take customer segmentation, for instance. Dividing up your audience into different groups can make your marketing efforts much more effective, but it’s time-consuming to do so yourself. On the other hand, a machine learning algorithm could automatically segment your customer base based on actions and behavioral patterns that you couldn’t hope to identify.

Create and Optimize Content

You don’t need me to reiterate the importance of content in your digital marketing efforts. However, you may need clarification on how machine learning can improve what you write and publish and why using machine learning in your content marketing strategy is essential.

For starters, machine learning can help your articles rank higher in search engine results. It’s one thing to be a great writer; it’s another to write in a way that pleases Google, so it rewards you in the SERPs. You need to make sure you use all relevant keywords, discuss every relevant topic, and cover all of your bases in general.

That’s pretty hard to do without smart content creation tools like Frase.io, which uses machine learning to compare your content against Google’s top results and make sure you hit all of the relevant points.

Machine learning Frase

Second, you can have machine learning algorithms write content for you. Phrasee is an AI-powered copywriting tool that uses machine learning to create email subject lines and push notifications that its algorithm believes will drive the highest ROI.

Machine learning AI Copywriting

You can even use AI to help you curate content for your customers. Curata offers a machine learning content curation software that helps marketers find and publish the most relevant and engaging content for their audiences.

Machine Learning Curata

Increase Personalization

Personalization matters for consumers. Research by Accenture shows 91% of consumers prefer brands that remember who they are and provide relevant offers and recommendations as a result. What’s more, if they don’t get a personalized experience, over half of consumers are only too happy to switch to a competitor.

Here’s the good news: machine learning lets you deliver the most personalized customer experience possible. You can employ a machine learning algorithm that tracks user behavior on a granular level, learns what products they like, and creates a personalized homepage and recommendation list as a result.

Amazon, for instance, uses AI algorithms that take into account the purchase history of users, the items in their cart, and their viewing habits to offer the product recommendations that are most likely to convert.

The same algorithm could also generate personalized offers for every customer and email them to consumers when they are most likely to purchase.

Improve Marketing Automation

Better personalization is one way machine learning can transform how your brand engages customers, but it’s not the only way. AI and machine learning can also be used to better automate your marketing efforts and significantly improve customer engagement as a result.

Let’s say you automatically send an email to customers when they sign up for your newsletter or abandon their cart. While most brands will send a generic email, companies that adopt machine learning can tailor content and offers based on that consumer’s browsing history. If they looked at your brand’s range of dog toys before signing up for your newsletter, a relevant offer on chew toys would make them much more likely to re-engage with your brand.  

For SaaS brands, AI-powered marketing automation tools can analyze much larger and disparate data sets to better segment leads. This allows sales reps to prioritize those leads that are much more likely to convert.

Marketing automation is incredibly powerful. According to Invesp, marketing automation leads to an over 14% increase in sales productivity and an over 12% reduction in marketing overhead.

It’s entirely possible to do this without machine learning, but AI makes your automation efforts much more personalized and much more powerful.

Utilize Chatbots

Chatbots are a powerful customer service tool. Eight out of ten consumers who have engaged with them report a positive experience. If you run an online business, they are all but essential.

With chatbots, you don’t have to have a human on-hand to respond to consumers. Instead, machine learning-powered chatbots can automatically answer consumer queries with a scarily-high rate of accuracy. That’s because your chatbot will learn from your website’s content and the conversations it has with consumers to constantly improve the answers it provides.

Because the chatbot is continuously learning and improving itself, it will deliver an even better customer experience with more conversations. You may want to have your chatbot pass an incredibly complicated query onto a human at first, but soon the bot will become so effective there’ll be no need for a human to interject.  Eventually, you’ll have a smart enough chatbot to upsell the consumer, not just answer their questions.

Consumers probably won’t be able to tell they’re speaking to a robot, either. Some chatbots, like IntelliTicks, employ another branch of AI, Natural Language Processing (NLP), to have human-level conversations with customers.

What’s more, data gathered by AI-powered chatbots can be analyzed by another machine learning algorithm to generate insights that marketers can use to optimize their efforts going forward.

What is the Future of Machine Learning?

Things move fast in the world of machine learning. Expect advances in marketing AI to happen rapidly.

Improved unsupervised machine learning algorithms are in development right now, for instance. These algorithms don’t need input from humans at the start, making them much easier and faster for marketers to implement.

Personalization will become even more powerful, too. Machine learning algorithms will become better at discerning what consumers want for one, but the ways they can be integrated with online stores will improve, too. Soon, marketers will be able to customize every part of their sites for individual users, much like social media timelines are personalized for every user.

Finally, expect big advances in mobile machine learning. AI-powered digital assistants will become a more prominent part of our life, and marketers will have to develop strategies to contend with this. Mobile applications will also be able to integrate machine learning features in the same way websites can right now.

Don’t get overwhelmed, however. Before you start worrying about what the future holds, work your way through the suggestions I’ve made above first. You’ll then be ready for whatever occurs in the future.

Conclusion

It’s clear: machine learning can transform your digital marketing efforts.

Don’t rush into the world of machine learning, however. Adopting solutions without first understanding how the technology works and its role in your company will typically do more harm than good.

Machine learning is powerful, but it isn’t a silver bullet. Adopt one solution at a time, however, and you’ll be fine.  

Continue your education by reading my articles on AI’s role in SEO and AI-powered digital assistants.  

Which machine learning strategy are you going to implement first?

The post How to Use Machine Learning to Improve Your Digital Marketing appeared first on Neil Patel.

Stock Photos are Dead: Create These Blog Images Instead

Illustration by Laetro

The use of images in your blog posts is a no-brainer.

Images are an easy way to break up chunks of text, add context, or give your readers a more accessible medium through which to digest your content.

With the growth of written content online, it’s harder to have your content be unique from others. Writers need to adapt to the changing landscape.

How can you continue to engage your audience when so many bloggers have written on the same topics—and will continue to do so?

The answer is original imagery.

Blog Image Trends: Why Stock Photos Are Dead

With more content available on the web every day, it’s more important than ever to stand out.

While finding ways to put a unique spin on your blog post topics is critical, there are only so many angles on one subject. You need other types of content, such as photographs and illustrations, to make your mark.

Unfortunately, stock photos just don’t cut it anymore when you have the resources and time to make an impact.

stock photos are dead- use these blog images instead
Illustration by Laetro

This reason is in part because blog images don’t only live on your blog. They make the rounds on Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest whenever your posts are shared. Chances are, your users have seen similar stock photos many times already, and they’re bored with them.

With so many articles to read, videos to watch, and social media news to ingest, the average reader won’t spend hours looking for the best article on your topic. They’ll choose the most visually appealing option nearly every time.

This is backed by visual content statistics, such as those collected by Venngage. When surveying marketers on content that helped them reach their marketing goals, original images performed best 40% of the time compared to stock photos at 13%.

So before you use stock photography in your next blog post, ask yourself:

Will my readers interact with the same stale image they’ve seen numerous times when researching this topic? Or will they choose to interact with an original image that more perfectly captures the content?

Top Reasons You Should Use Interactive and Original Images on Your Blog

Your goal as a digital marketer is to increase conversions.

So how do you do this even better than you already are, given the changing online landscape?

There are plenty of ways to drive traffic to your website. But what’s more important is driving the right traffic—the users who will engage with your content.

Images can help. According to BlogTyrant, images can up conversions by over 300%.

stock photos are dead - use these blog images instead
Illustration by Laetro

But keep in mind the kinds of images you use can have an impact on your conversions, too.

For years, stock imagery was the norm. But, it’s time to move away from those pictures.

Why? According to a study done by Marketing Experiments, readers are 35% more likely to convert when presented with a non-stock photo.

Original images offer authenticity stock ones can’t provide. They offer your readers a peek behind the curtain, allowing them to see a deeper side of your content.

Unique blog image content can offer other benefits, including increased customer trust and brand recognition.

According to Brain Rules, a slogan alone only sticks in the minds of 10% of people. When related imagery is added, though, retention rises to 65%. That’s an increase you can’t ignore if increasing brand recognition is on your radar.

Original image content has an often-overlooked SEO benefit, too, and that’s the improvement of Google’s E-A-T score. The E-A-T score lets Google assess content quality based on these three standards:

  • Expertise
  • Authoritativeness
  • Trustworthiness
stock photos are dead, use these blog images instead
Illustration by Laetro

How can original imagery improve your E-A-T rating?

Whether you shoot and edit photography on your own or you work with a digital illustrator, your unique imagery will have a personal spin. If done right, this will become a vital part of your personal brand strategy.

You show expertise by including images that clearly demonstrate you understand your content.

You show authoritativeness by having consistent, unique branding people recognize immediately.

You show trustworthiness by providing information through images that are accurate and increase user’s knowledge.

A strong personal brand will bump all three elements of an E-A-T rating.

Placing Images on Your Blog

Images, just like text, can also be perceived as “fluff.” Because of this, you need to know when to use pictures on your blog to optimize user experience and benefit your SEO.

You should use images to do three very specific things.

Break Up Large Chunks of Text

According to a study by Microsoft, the average attention span of heavy screen users is a mere eight seconds.

That means you have eight seconds to captivate your audience—and large blocks of text may make them click away pretty quickly.

However, you don’t have to write two sentence posts to make them take fewer than eight seconds to read. Instead, employ clever tactics to keep your readers engaged.

breaking up text in blog images
Illustration by Laetro

One tactic is to introduce other media, such as photos or digital illustrations. This creates a less intimidating reading experience while also making the post more visually appealing.

Explain a Concept

Some concepts are too abstract or complex to explain effectively in writing, especially if your audience isn’t strictly experts in your topic.

Custom diagrams and visuals can help readers understand the material.

Enliven the Content

As much as you like to think your content is witty and engaging, some topics just won’t interest readers for very long. You can use original visuals to add some life to otherwise “dull” content in these cases.

When Should You Use Custom Illustrations or Photos?

The cost of custom graphics may be prohibitive for some bloggers, but it is possible to find some middle ground.

Use custom illustrations and photography sparingly. Ask yourself where they make the most sense and insert them accordingly.

If you’re creating a landing page for a new product or service, for example, this would be the place to splurge. After all, you want this content to stand out from your competitors—what better way than with a custom graphic?

You can also utilize custom illustrations to drive a point home or explain data.

Whether a comic strip panel, a diagram, or a flow chart, you can use custom illustrations to share ideas with your readers in a way words simply can’t.

When Should You Create Interactive Graphics?

You can take your blog’s imagery one step further with interactive graphics.

Interactive graphics are custom graphics that support reader interactions like mouse pointer movement, clicks, or keyboard input.

This form of original imagery is commonly used in infographics, though other display types include side-by-side comparisons, flow charts, and graphs.

The most obvious use for interactive graphics is to catch the reader’s eye.

Perhaps more importantly, they can also be used to break complex information down into bite-sized chunks. For example, take a look at this nifty interactive graphic that shows users how Google search works without becoming overwhelmed.

Examples of Successful Blog Images

There are plenty of ways to use images on your blog.

Here’s one creative example from Oberlo:

Examples of successful blog images

Instead of one lengthy infographic, the content creators chose individual infographic “slides” to answer each question on their post about social media statistics.

This use of graphics achieves two things:

  1. It makes the information easy to digest.
  2. It makes it simple for readers to share information on social media.

As mentioned above, one of the benefits of original blog imagery is the personal branding aspect. When you use a particular style consistently, it becomes synonymous with your brand.

Copyblogger provides an excellent example of this:

Copyblogger example of blog image

Their featured images consistently use quotes overlaid on eye-catching images. They work as a watermark of sorts, as anyone who sees their imagery elsewhere will be able to identify them as belonging to Copyblogger immediately.

And what about interactive content? Your options are only limited by your imagination.

Take a look at this comprehensive timeline of the Marvel Cinematic Universe:

marvel examples in blog images

As you scroll through the timeline, new images and text content can be seen. This example tells a complex story in a linear, non-intimidating format.

What to Use Instead of Stock Photos

You know you should be using unique imagery on your blog. But what should you use instead of stock photos?

There are plenty of options for every budget and skill level.

Take Your Own Photos

You don’t need a professional setup to take photographs for your blog. Even a smartphone camera can be used to take your own photos.

Depending on the amount of time you have and your budget, you can edit these photos on your phone or by using software like Photoshop.

Edit Stock Photos

Not all stock photos are bad, but you must be purposeful in the ones you choose.

It’s best to choose stock images that haven’t been used too often. How can you know. Using Google’s reverse image search, you can search images to see how many results they get. The less, the better.

Even more than that, though, you can make tweaks to existing stock photos to give them a new look.

Some quick edits include:

  • Flipping the image horizontally
  • Adding a text overlay
  • Adding an image effect or filter
  • Cropping the image (from rectangle to square, for example)

The easiest edits can be done using free or low-cost online tools or your computer’s in-built image editing software.

Use Online Tools and Software

Tools exist which enable you to edit or create images in any format and style. You can use these tools to edit stock photos, as mentioned above, or build imagery using digital assets.

Many tools like Lucidpress even have pre-built templates to inspire your designs.

Use Custom Images

Images are so much more than photographs, and you don’t need to rely on photography alone to add visuals to your blog.

Custom images can also include digital assets, illustrations, and iconography.

How to Get Original or Interactive Blog Images

It’s never been easier or more affordable to get original and interactive blog images.

When it comes to hiring a professional, you have options. You can easily find freelancers on sites like Fiverr or Upwork or use a service like Design Pickle.

If you know of a digital artist with a style you like, you may be able to commission them. They are often more expensive than the freelancers you’ll find on the websites mentioned above, but they’re great if you need a specific style.

For bloggers strapped for time, there are services you can hire to do the heavy lifting. The service may be a creative agency or a blog content specialist. Either way, you provide details, and they’ll commission work on your behalf.

Do you have more time than money? You can also create blog images using tools like Canva, Pixlr, or PicMonkey. For a more professional finish, you can invest in a creative suite like Adobe Creative Cloud.

How Much Do Original Blog Images Cost?

As with most services, there are options for almost every budget.

If you hire a freelancer for a one-off gig, then the price varies based on the number of images, the complexity of the work, and how you plan to use the final product.

In some cases, you may be able to get a discount when you buy in bulk.

Commissioning a professional is likely to be the most expensive option. Unless you have money to burn, this should be reserved for high-impact projects, like illustrations for sales landing pages or campaign launches.

Tools to Create Blog Images

Whether you’re on a limited budget or just want to let the creative juices flow, you can opt to create your images.

There are free and low-cost options, such as Canva and PicMonkey. These tools have limitations, including watermarks, if you don’t opt for premium memberships. You also need to be sure all assets used in your design are copyright-free.

For 100% original work, you may find creative suites like Adobe to be the best bang for your buck. With access to tools like Photoshop, InDesign, and Illustrator, you can create and edit various blog illustrations, diagrams, and original photography.

There are plenty of tutorials available online for creating graphics using Adobe Creative Cloud—so if you’re unable to pay a designer for their services, you don’t have to just guess about how to do this.

If you’re in a time crunch, there are even services that offer quick turnaround times on unique illustrative designs. With tools such as Laetro, you can have a one-of-a-kind illustration in only 24 hours.

Conclusion

There’s no need to scroll through page after page of stock photos to find the right images for your blog post. You can create original blog images, whether by yourself or with the help of a professional.

Original blog imagery, including photography and graphics, can take your blog posts to the next level. It also helps build your overall brand and take your marketing to the next level.

With plenty of options at your fingertips, from free tools like Canva to paid software like Adobe to freelance artists, there’s no reason not to use original images on your blog. 

Which of the tools mentioned above are you most likely to use to create images for your blog? Or do you prefer ones we haven’t mentioned? Let us know!

The post Stock Photos are Dead: Create These Blog Images Instead appeared first on Neil Patel.

How to Finance a Business in Any Economy

COVID-19 wreaked havoc on the world’s economy.  Business owners are helpless as they watch their businesses slip away. It can seem like there are no options, but there are.  Do you know how to finance a business? There are lots of options, regardless of what the economy is like?  

Best Options for How to Finance a Business 

The economy changes direction much like the wind.  It’s just the way of the world.  Still, none of us have ever seen anything quite like COVID-19 before.  Things may never truly be the same, which means adapting to a new normal is going to be vital. You can’t adapt the way you do business however, if you can’t afford to do business at all.  You need to know how to finance a business regardless of the economy.

How to Finance a Business: Credit Line Hybrid

One of the best options for how to fund a business is the credit line hybrid.  This is revolving, unsecured financing.  It allows you to fund your business without putting up collateral, and you only pay back what you use.  

Do You Qualify? 

You do need good personal credit.  It should be at least 680.  In addition, there can’t be any liens, judgments, bankruptcies or late payments.  Furthermore, in the past 6 months you should have less than 4 credit inquiries, and you should have less than a 45% balance on all business and personal credit cards.  It’s also preferred that you have established business credit as well as personal credit.

If you do not meet all of the requirements, it’s okay. You can take on a credit partner that meets each of these requirements.  Many business owners work with a friend or relative to fund their business.  If a relative or a friend meets all of these requirements, they can partner with you to allow you to tap into their credit to access funding.

how to finance a business Credit Suite

Get up to $150,000 in financing so your business can thrive.

Why is a Credit Line Hybrid Awesome? 

There are many benefits to using a credit line hybrid.  First, it is unsecured, meaning you do not have to have any collateral.  Next, the funding is “no-doc.”  This means you do not have to provide any bank statements or financials.  

Not only that, but typically approval is up to 5x that of the highest credit limit on the personal credit report. Additionally, often you can get interest rates as low as 0% for the first few months, allowing you to put that savings back into your business. 

The process is pretty fast, especially with a qualified expert to walk you through it.  One other benefit is this.  With the approval for multiple credit cards, competition is created.  This makes it easier, and likely even if you handle the credit responsibly, that you can get interest rates lowered and limits raised every few months. 

How to Finance a Business: Credit Cards

Don’t discount credit cards when considering how to finance a business.  In fact, they are probably the easiest and fastest source of funds to help keep you afloat right now.  You have to be smart, and you have to be responsible, but they are definitely a legit option. 

Brex Card for Startups

This Brex Card has no yearly fee.  You will not need to supply your Social Security number to apply. Also, you will not need a personal guarantee. However, this card does not work for every  industry. 

To determine creditworthiness, Brex checks a company’s cash balance, spending patterns, and investors. Rewards include 7x points on rideshare and 4x on Brex Travel. Also, you can get triple points on restaurants and get double points on recurring software payments. Get 1x points on everything else.

Capital One® Spark® Classic for Business

The Capital One® Spark® Classic for Business is another to check out. It has no annual fee and there is no introductory APR offer. The regular APR is a variable 24.49%. However, you can get unlimited 1% cash back on every purchase for your company and there is no minimum to redeem.

While this card is within reach if you have fair credit scores, beware of the APR. If you can pay promptly, and completely, it’s a good deal.

Ink Business Unlimited℠ Credit Card

The Ink Business Unlimited℠ Credit Card has no annual fee and a 0% introductory APR. After that expires, the APR is a variable 14.74 to 20.74%. 

You can earn unlimited 1.5% Cash Back rewards on every purchase made for your company and get $500 bonus cash back after spending $3,000 in the initial 3 months from account opening. You can get rewards for cash back, gift cards, travel and more using Chase Ultimate Rewards®. It takes superb credit to get approval for this card.

Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express

The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express also has no  no annual fee and  a 0% introductory APR for the first year. After that, the APR is a variable 14.74 to 20.74%.

You can get double Membership Rewards® points on everyday business purchases like office supplies or client dinners.  This applies to the first $50,000 spent each year. You get 1 point per dollar after that.  You will need great to exceptional credit to qualify.

American Express® Blue Business Cash Card

Another one to look into is the American Express® Blue Business Cash Card. Note: the American Express® Blue Business Cash Card is identical to the Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express. However, its rewards are in cash instead of points. You get 2% cash back on all eligible purchases up to $50,000 per calendar year. After that, it’s 1%.

There is no yearly fee, and there is a 0% introductory APR for the first one year. Afterwards, the APR is a variable 14.74 to 20.74%.  You will need great to superb credit to qualify.

Capital One ® Spark® Cash for Business 

Check out the Capital One® Spark® Cash for Business. It has an introductory $0 annual fee for the initial year. After that, this card costs $95 per year. There is no introductory APR deal. The regular APR is a variable 18.49%.

You can get a $500 one-time cash bonus after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months from account opening. Get unlimited 2% cash back. Redeem any time without any minimums.  You will need great to outstanding credit scores to qualify.

how to finance a business Credit Suite

Get up to $150,000 in financing so your business can thrive.

Discover it® Business Card

Another one to check out the Discover it® Business Card. It has no yearly fee. There is an introductory APR of 0% on purchases for twelve months. After that is over,  the regular APR is a variable 14.49 to 22.49%. 

You get unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases, with no category restrictions or bonuses. Also, they double the 1.5% Cashback Match™ at the end of the first year. There is no minimum spend requirement either.

You can download transactions easily to Quicken, QuickBooks, and Excel. Note: you will need great to exceptional credit to get approval for this card.

Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card

If your normal course of business includes travel, and you think you may return to that once everything calms down, have a look at the Marriott Bonvoy Business™ Card from American Express. It has an annual fee of $125. There is no introductory APR offer. The regular APR is a variable 17.24 — 26.24%. You will need good to outstanding credit to get this card.

Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card

This is a great option if flying is your thing.  Even if you don’t fly in the course of business, you can use the rewards for personal travel.  Take a vacation from being stuck in your house! 

The Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card does have a $550 yearly fee! There is no introductory APR offer. Instead, the regular APR is a variable 17.24 — 26.24%.

That doesn’t sound great, but this does.  Get up to 100,000 Bonus Miles and 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles. You can earn 80,000 bonus miles and 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles after you spend $5,000 in your first three months. Plus, get an extra 20,000 bonus miles after your first anniversary of card membership.

Get triple miles on Delta purchases and 1.5 x miles on eligible purchases the rest of the year after you spend $150,000 in a calendar year. Get a companion certificate annually upon renewal. And you get one $100 statement credit every 4 years. Or you can get one TSA Pre ® statement credit every 4.5 years which is an $85 value.

You will need great to excellent credit to qualify.

How to Finance a Business: Online Lenders

Online lenders are private companies that operate completely online.  They are also known as private lenders or alternative lenders. 

BlueVine 

You will find with most any online lender, they often offer options more similar to invoice factoring and lines of credit.  This is because these present fewer risks than straight term loans.

The minimum loan amount available from BlueVine is $5,000 and the maximum is $100,000. Annual revenue must be $120,000 or more and the borrower must be in business for at least 6 months. Your personal credit score has to be 600 or above. It is important to note also, that BlueVine does not offer a line of credit in all states.  

Upstart

Upstart is an online lender that uses a completely innovative platform for loans.  The company itself questions the ability of financial information and FICO on their own to truly determine the risk of lending to a specific borrower.  They choose to use a combination of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to gather alternative data instead.  They then use this data to help them make credit decisions.

This alternative data can include such things as mobile phone bills, rent, deposits, withdrawals, and even other information less directly tied to finances.  The software they use learns and improves on its own. You can use their online quote tool to play with different amounts and terms to see the various interest rate possibilities.  Typically, business loans are available ranging from $1,000 to $50,000.  Interest rates vary greatly, ranging from 7.5% to 35.99%.  Repayment terms can be either 3 -year or 5-year. 

To be eligible for a loan with Upstart, you must meet the following qualifications:

  • Credit score of 620+
  • No bankruptcies or negative public records
  • No delinquent accounts
  • Meet debt to income standards (they only note they will check this ratio, not what their standards are.)
  • Have fewer than 6 inquiries in the past 6 months on your credit report, not including those related to student loans, vehicle loans, or mortgages

These are the requirements they list on their website.  One independent review said that the requirement for the debt to income ratio is a maximum of 45%. It also says that the minimum annual income has to be at least $12,000.  

Fora Financial 

Founded in 2008 by college roommates, online lender Fora Financial now funds more than $1.3 million in working capital around the United States. There is no minimum credit score, and there is an early repayment discount if you qualify.

The minimum loan amount is $5,000 and the maximum is $500,000. The business must be at least 6 months in operation and the monthly revenue has to be $12,000 or more. There can be no open bankruptcies.

OnDeck 

Obtaining financing from OnDeck is quick and easy. First, you apply online and receive your decision once application processing is complete. If you receive approval, your loan funds will go directly to your bank account. The minimum loan amount is $5,000 and the maximum is $500,000.

Just like any other online lender, they do have certain requirements to qualify for a loan.  For example, a personal credit score of 600 or more.  Also, you must be in business for at least 3 years. Annual revenue must be at or exceed $100,000. In addition, there can be no bankruptcy on file in the past 2 years and no unresolved liens or judgements.

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Get up to $150,000 in financing so your business can thrive.

How to Finance a Business: When to Go Another Route

Of course, you may want to try to fund your business without debt.  While it is certainly possible to get some funding without debt, it is much more likely your business will have to take on at least some debt. However, non-debt options are definitely great for reducing the amount of debt your business takes on.  Start with trying to find investors.  Although for small businesses, this will likely look different than you imagine.  Most likely you will need to find angel investors or consider crowdfunding

Grants are also an option.  This is especially true if you meet certain criteria.  While grants are available to business owners of all types, there are many specifically geared toward minority business owners, women business owners, business owners that are veterans, and those in low-income areas. 

How to Finance a Business: There Is No One Size Fits All

The truth is, the answer to the question of how to finance a business is going to be different for almost every business owner.  Varying credit scores, revenue amounts, and times in business will all make a difference. Sometimes it helps to have someone walk you through the process of figuring out what types of funding and financing will work best for your specific situation. Either way, you need to know all the options and look at each one carefully to figure out the be combination for your business.

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Overtime – Episode #411 (Originally aired 1/20/17)

Overtime Episode #411 (Originally aired 1/20/17) – Bill and his roundtable guests Jane Fonda, Keith Olbermann, Heather McGhee, Jon Meacham, and Department of Labor Secretary Thomas Perez answer fan questions from the latest show.

The post Overtime – Episode #411 (Originally aired 1/20/17) appeared first on Buy It At A Bargain – Deals And Reviews.

How to Build Business Credit Without Using Personal Credit

You need to know how to build business credit without using personal credit. It’s possible, but you have to start at the beginning and work through the process. 

How to Build Business Credit Without Using Personal Credit: There is More to the Process than You May Imagine

That’s right, there is a process for how to build business credit without using personal credit.  Just like any process, you can’t start in the middle. You can’t start at the end. There is no other place to start and make it work than the beginning. 

How to Build Business Credit Without Using Personal Credit: Set Your Business Up to Be Fundable

The first step in how to build business credit without using personal credit is to separate your business from yourself.  Until you do that, your personal credit will come into play every time. Your business has to be a separate, fundable entity all on its own.  How do you make this happen?

Set Up Separate Contact Information

First, make sure your business has its own phone number, fax number, and address.   That doesn’t mean you can’t run your business from your house.  There are ways to separate contact information and still do that.

Check out our best webinar with its trustworthy list of seven vendors to help you build business credit.

In fact, you can get a business phone number and fax number that will work over the internet instead of phone lines.  Also, the phone number will forward to any phone you want it too so you can simply use your personal cell phone or landline.  

Furthermore, you can use a virtual office for a business address. That is different than what you may think. A virtual office is a business that offers a physical address for a fee.  Sometimes they even offer mail service and live receptionist services.  In addition, there are some that have meeting spaces for when you  need to meet a client or customer in person. 

EIN

Next, you have to get an EIN. As you may know, that’s an identifying number for your business that works similar to how your SSN works for you personally.  You can get one for free from the IRS.

Incorporate

Not surprisingly, incorporating your business as an LLC, S-corp, or corporation is necessary for separation.  In addition, iIt lends credibility to your business as one that is legitimate. It also offers some protection from liability. 

The truth is, which option you choose relates more to your budget and protection needs.  In fact, the best thing to do is talk to your attorney or a tax professional when making that decision.  

You Need a Separate Business Bank Account

Why?   First, it will help you keep track of business finances.  It will also help you keep them separate from personal finances for tax purposes. 

There’s more to it however.  There are several types of funding you cannot get without a business bank account.  Many lenders and credit cards want to see one with a minimum average balance.  In addition, you cannot get a merchant account without a business account at a bank. That means, you cannot take credit card payments.  Studies show consumers tend to spend more when they can pay by credit card.

Licenses

A legitimate business has all of the necessary licenses it needs to operate legally.   If it doesn’t, warning signals are going to alert lenders that there may be a problem. Make sure you have all of the licenses necessary to legitimately run your business at the federal, state, and local levels. 

Website

You might as well not exist if you don’t have a website.  However, having a website that looks unprofessional or isn’t user friendly can be even worse. Often, this is the first impression you make.  If it appears to be unprofessional that will be bad.

Spend the time and money necessary to ensure your website is professionally designed and works well.  Pay for hosting too. Don’t use a free hosting service.  Along these same lines, your business needs a dedicated business email address.  Make sure it has the same URL as your Website. Don’t use a free service such as Yahoo or Gmail. 

How to Build Business Credit Without Using Personal Credit: Get Initial Accounts Reporting

Now that your business is separate and can have its very own credit, you have to get accounts reporting.  This is the crux of how to build business credit without using personal credit. There are a few ways to do it. 

Ask Current Vendors to Report Payments to Credit Agencies

Vendors you already work with may be willing to extend credit without a credit check.  If not, they may give you net terms on invoices.   The worst they can say is no.  If they say yes, ask them to report the payments to the business credit agencies.

Check out our best webinar with its trustworthy list of seven vendors to help you build business credit.

Ask Monthly Service Providers to Report Payments

You already pay utilities, rent, and internet each month.  Ask those providers to report your payments to the business credit reporting agencies.  If they say yes, make certain your accounts are set up in your business name with your business contact information.  Then, those payments will help build business credit.

Work with Starter Vendors

Starter vendors are the key to how to build business credit without using personal credit.  They are part of what we like to call vendor credit.  These are certain retailers that will extend Net 30 terms in your business name without a credit check.  Then, after you pay, they will report those payments to the business credit report agencies (CRAs). 

This starts a sort of snowball effect for building business credit.  They do not check your credit score, so it doesn’t matter that it may not be great.  As you make these payments responsibly and they are reported, you begin to build positive business credit history.

How to Build Business Credit Without Using Personal Credit: Work Through Getting More Credit

There are actually more kinds of credit beyond vendor credit.  You have to work through them in order. Once you get enough initial accounts reporting from vendor credit, you can apply for revolving store cards (AKA retail credit).  These are vendors as well, but they do check your business credit. 

Generally, these are credit cards limited to use at the stores that issue them.  For example, Office Depot cards can only be used at Office Depot. Best Buy cards can only be used at Best Buy.  

After retail credit comes fleet credit.  This includes fleet credit cards that are limited to use for fuel and auto repair and maintenance costs. Examples include fleet cards issued by Shell, Fuelman, and WEX.

After this comes more universal cash credit.  If you have enough accounts and you handle them responsibly, you should qualify for approval here.  It includes general business credit cards that are not limited to where you can use them or what you can use them on. Often, they even have nice rewards such as cash back. 

Business Credit is Just a Piece of A Much Larger Puzzle

Of course, when it comes to funding your business, business credit isn’t the only thing that makes a difference.  It is arguably the biggest factor, but other things come into play as well. You need to know what those things are so you aren’t going in blind.

Other Business Data Agencies 

There are other business data agencies that affect credit reports indirectly.  Two examples include LexisNexis and The Small Business Finance Exchange. These two agencies collect data from various sources, including public records.  That means, they could have access to information relating to automobile accidents and liens, among other things. I think you’ll agree that most business owners do not expect things like this to affect their ability to get funding. However, it can. 

While you may not be able see or make changes to the data these agencies have on your business, you can make sure that any new information they receive is positive.  Enough positive information can help counteract any negative information from the past. 

Identification Numbers 

Other than the EIN, there are identifying numbers that go along with your business credit reports.  You need to be aware that these numbers exist.  Some of them are assigned by the agency, like the Experian BIN.  At least one, however, you have to apply to get. It is absolutely necessary that you do this. 

Dun & Bradstreet is the largest and most commonly used business credit reporting agency.  Every credit file in their database has a D-U-N-S number.  To get a D-U-N-S number, you have to apply for one through the D&B website. If you do not, you will not have a credit report with D&B.  When a lender tries to pull your business credit score from them, it will not be there, no matter how well you have paid your business accounts.

Business Information

On the surface, it seems obvious that all of your business information should be the same everywhere you use it.  However, when you start changing things up, you may find that some things slip. 

This is a problem.  A ton of loan applications are turned down each year due to fraud concerns because  things do not match up.  Maybe your business licenses have your personal address but now you have a separate business address.  Change it. Perhaps some of your credit accounts have a slightly different name or a different phone number listed than what is on your loan application. Do your insurances all have the correct information?  

The key to this piece of the business fundability is to monitor your reports regularly.   

Financial Statements

This encompasses a broad spectrum of things.  First, there is the obvious. Both your personal and business tax returns need to be in order.  Not only that, but you need to be paying your taxes, both business and personal.   

Business Financials

It is best to have an accounting professional prepare regular financial statements for your business. Having an accountant’s name on financial statements lends credence to the legitimacy of your business. If you cannot afford this monthly or quarterly, at least have professional statements prepared each year. 

Personal Financials

Often tax returns for the previous three years will suffice.  Get a tax professional to prepare them.   This is the bare minimum you will need.  Other information you may need could include check stubs and bank statements, among other things. 

Bureaus

There are several other agencies that hold information related to your personal finances that you need to know about.  Everyone knows about FICO.  Your personal FICO score needs to be as strong as possible. It really can affect business fundability and almost all traditional lenders will look at personal credit along with business credit. 

In addition to FICO reporting personal credit, there is ChexSystems.  In the simplest terms, they keep up with bad check activity.  This makes a difference when it comes to your bank score.  If you have too many bad checks, you will not be able to open a bank account.  That will cause serious fundability issues. 

Everything is fair game.  Have you ever been convicted of a crime? Do you have a bankruptcy or short sell on your record?  How about liens or UCC filings? All of this can and will affect the fundability of your business. 

Personal Credit History

How to Build Biz Credit Without Using Personal Credit SuiteEven once you know how to build business credit without using personal credit, your personal credit score matters.  It has to be in order because it will definitely affect the fundability of your business.  Work on improving it while you’re building business credit without it.  The number one way to get a strong personal credit score or improve a weak one is to make payments consistently on time. 

Also, make sure you monitor your personal credit regularly to ensure mistakes are corrected and that there are no fraudulent accounts being reported. 

Application

Consider the timing of the application.  Is your business currently fundable?  If not, do some work first to increase fundability. Next, ensure that your business name, business address, and ownership status are all verifiable.  Lenders will check into it.  Lastly, make sure you choose the right lending product for your business and your needs. Do you need a traditional loan or a line of credit? Would a working capital loan or expansion loan work best for your needs?  Choosing the right product to apply for can make all the difference.

Check out our best webinar with its trustworthy list of seven vendors to help you build business credit.

How to Build Business Credit Without Using Personal Credit: It Is Possible

You need to know how to build business credit without using personal credit, especially if your personal credit is bad. However, you cannot just ignore personal credit.  It affects the fundability of your business as well as many other factors. Take the time to improve your personal credit and evaluate the other pieces of your complete fundability picture while building business credit.  Then, you will always be able to get the funding you need.

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