The Bounce Back Loan Scheme (BBLS) has been a lifeline for organisations right across the UK, and is helping SMEs to access finance during the coronavirus outbreak.
The loan can be spent in any way that you want or need to, and is available to businesses that have been adversely impacted by the current situation. Now that companies are starting to receive their loans, it’s time to consider how the money should be best spent. With between £2,000 and up to 25% of your turnover available to borrow (with a maximum amount of £50,000), the money could help to either keep your business afloat or grow and prepare for the future.
If you have bills to pay, they need to be taken care of first. However, there are other ways to consider spending your loan which could help now, over the coming months and years including investing in your online presence and strategy.
How does the BBLS work?
The Bounce Back Loan Scheme is available to smaller businesses that have been affected by the coronavirus outbreak. The government guarantees 100% of the loan, with no interest for the first 12 months, and a six-year loan term. It can also be repaid early without any fees. Businesses from almost any sector can apply, as long as they are not receiving funding from another funding scheme set up to help during the coronavirus outbreak. Eleven lenders are participating in the scheme, and you can apply for a loan via their websites. If one lender does not accept your application, you can apply to another.
How Should You Use Your Bounce Back Loan?
If you have just received your loan or it is due to you, you need to decide on the best way to spend it. For some businesses, the most important thing will be to first pay the bills and keep everything running. What you do with your loan will, of course, depend partly on how much you receive and how much your business has been affected by the current situation.
We asked some of the region’s leading experts for their opinions on how businesses should be spending their loans, and what they are doing with their own loans. Here’s what they had to say….
Picking Up After the Pandemic
Mike Pye has been working in the Marketing industry for over 13 years. It’s all he’s ever done, and in 2015 he launched his own successful marketing consultancy. He has this to say about the next step businesses should take:
“We advise businesses to take a step back and consider where they want to be over the next 3, 6 and 12 months. What does your business look like in the future, and where should you invest to have the biggest impact? Businesses need to use this time productively to make sure they are in the perfect position to pick up where they left off when things improve.”
Helen Fleet works as an outsourced Finance Director across a broad number of sectors. She assists businesses with their cash flow planning, pricing approach and profitable growth strategy. She runs HF Financials Strategy and has worked in finance for over 20 years. She says that businesses should take the opportunity to build on growth:
“The bounce-back loan has provided an opportunity to invest in marketing strategies, including website improvements and diversification into new products. It is an opportunity well taken to ensure they can build on any growth they had before the pandemic and through diversification, future proof their business to ensure they are less dependent on certain sectors, products or large clients which previously left them vulnerable.”
Once your business is back where it was before the pandemic, you should think about how to keep the momentum going and turn it into further growth. As Helen points out, it’s also smart to start protecting your business and thinking about how you could lessen the impact of a similar situation occurring in the future. Investing in your website is just one way to do this. Marketing your business well, and building your brand helps you to raise brand awareness and broaden your reach.
Focus on Engagement
We all know that people need people. Whether it’s strengthening your own team or working on public relations to reach out to others. Some of our experts suggest that working on engagement should be a priority when deciding what to do next.
Martin Murphy is a published author, speaker and founder of Elite Leadership Global. He’s on a mission to make effective leadership and teamwork easy to learn. He says that engaged workplaces are key to recovery and growth:
“The challenges we presently face is another opportunity to evolve and make the elite team concept the obvious pathway to building engaged and rewarding workplaces that will be an important part of your growth as we start to move towards recovery.”
Matt Neary founded Conker PR in 2006 and has 22 years’ experience in both B2B and B2C PR and marketing. His approach is more outwardly focused, with a suggestion to create a PR strategy to promote your business.
“Firms still need to trade, so having a robust and well thought out PR strategy that is comprised of media relations, social and link-building content is one of the most effective ways of maintaining your profile. Cut the waffle, be informative, be relevant but most importantly be yourself.”
There are different ways to get people connected, whether it is internally or externally. A strong and engaged team is just as important as engaging with the media and your target market.
Investing in Branding and Marketing
Of course, many of emphasise the importance of investing in branding and marketing to prepare your business for the future. Your Bounce Back Loan could be well spent on different marketing channels, including your website. Investing in your brand is essential if you want to communicate clearly with your customers and tell them what you stand for.
Adrian Bentley is an award-winning brand consultant with 27 years of experience. He says that businesses need to focus on what defines their brand:
“Whether you’re a £50m t/o fourth-generation family business or a side hustle start-up, clearly articulating what your business stands for (and what it doesn’t), what makes it unique and why customers should choose you over any of your competitors, will help you fast track all future business decisions.
“Once nailed, your brand definition (most agencies I’ve come across call it your Brand DNA) will become your blueprint for clear, consistent, and compelling communications. No more wasted time chin-rubbing whether something’s on or off-brand. You’ll know in a heartbeat – saving time and money.”
The look of your website and its usability are important factors to consider, but there should also be a lot going on behind the scenes too. Search engine optimisation is a must for any business that wants their website to perform well, and it’s worth investing in an ongoing SEO strategy.
Andy Kinsey – Head of Search at media agency Smithfield – is based Manchester and has been an SEO specialist for over 15 years. He thinks it’s worth investing in SEO for long-term results:
“Whilst organic search isn’t likely to be an instant win, there has never been a better time to invest in SEO as part of your marketing mix. It can’t be stressed enough during these uncertain times that SEO is enduring, it won’t disappear overnight, and it will help your business in the long term if you invest well.”
Investing in things for the long-term will help to protect your business in the future. Your branding and SEO are two things that will always help your business to grow and gain a desirable position against your competitors.
Boosting Your Web Presence
Working on your website is part of improving your web presence and investing in digital marketing. If you are going to put money into digital advertising, it’s smart to make sure that your website is at its very best before promoting it. A good website will help you to improve the performance that you see from your marketing campaigns, and will increase traffic, reduce bounce rate, and improve conversion rates.
Chris Buckley is the MD of a digital agency called Pixel Kicks and he also runs a niche online business selling hand casting products. Chris has a background in web development as well as internet marketing such as pay per click. The Bounce Back Loan his agency has received has allowed them to invest in digital marketing to drive traffic to their new website:
“Together with the launch of our new website and branding, we have a three-month PPC campaign ready to coincide with the launch. The loan has ensured that we will have a healthy advertising budget across all three key platforms that we’ll be targeting – Google Ads, Facebook and LinkedIn. We’ll be splitting the ad spend equally across each platform, assessing the performance at the end of each month and making adjustments as necessary.
“With the time invested in a new website, you have to make sure it’s as visible as it can be. Though SEO has always played a large part in our inbound leads and will continue to do so in the long-term, the PPC campaign will ensure that we’re getting eyes on our key landing pages straight away.”
As well as investing in your own website, it may also be a smart time to expand your reach in other areas online. For eCommerce businesses, this might mean starting to sell on Amazon, eBay or other third-party sites, where there is a possibility of expanding your reach and increasing sales.
While it’s easy to get started on these sites, finding success isn’t quite so simple. There is a lot of competition, and establishing a presence so that you can encourage people to buy your products can be tough. Investing in this area of your business may include getting professional help from experts in the area to firmly establish your presence in these marketplaces.
Prabhat Shah is an eCommerce & Digital Marketing consultant helping SMEs increase their web presence and sell efficiently through marketplaces. We work with Prabhat to organise the UK’s largest independent Amazon Sellers Conference in Manchester. He thinks that now could be the right time to grow your business and invest more in marketing and sales:
“With the rise of sales via Marketplace it may be the right time to increase your inventory, invest in branding and advertising and if you are not trading on marketplaces, it may be the right time to invest in creating your presence on sites like Amazon and eBay.”
The Benefits of Investing in Your Website
Investing in your website delivers some fantastic benefits to your business. The performance of your website makes a significant difference to how successful you are at collecting leads and sales. From the technical stuff to what your website looks like, it can all affect how visitors respond to your site. For example, Pinterest increased search engine traffic and sign-ups by 15% when they reduced perceived wait times on their site. On the other hand, the BBC found that they lost 10% of users for every additional second it took for their site to load. These sorts of metrics that are related to the performance of your site are important to pay attention to if you want a website that offers a great experience and benefits your business.
Of course, it’s not just things like page loading speeds that matter. While slow speed can quickly get people to exit your site, other things can turn them off. For example, how your website looks also affects the performance. Good website design, with on-brand graphics and copy, are essential. It only takes 0.05 seconds for users to decide whether they want to stay on your site or not. So it’s essential that they get the right first impression. SEO plays into this too, both in terms of copy and what you have going on behind the scenes.
One particular area where it might be worth focusing your money is in responsive design. 57% of users say that they won’t recommend a website if it doesn’t work well on mobile, so a responsive site that adjusts to different devices is a must.
When you invest in your website, you’re investing in the future of your business. Your website isn’t something that you can set up one time and then leave. You need to constantly update it and keep making improvements so that you can continue to appeal to both new customers and existing ones.
Updates vs New Websites
If you don’t already have a website, then you need one! You need to establish a solid web presence, and while it’s not impossible without your own site, there is no other way to have complete control over what you show the world. All of the other places where you can establish an online presence are third-party options, requiring you to follow the rules set out by whichever company is hosting you. When you have your own website, you get to control what you put out and the image that you present.
The question of whether you need a new website design if you already have one might be slightly trickier though. The key question is: it worth investing in a brand new website? Well, there are a few reasons you might ditch your current site and pay to have a new one developed. For example, your business might have outgrown your website; perhaps you started out with a simple banner website to promote your brand, but now it’s time to do something more and create a more functional website.
Anyone can set up a simple website on their own, but investing in professional help for is the way to go if you really want to make it work for your brand. Web design and development services don’t just make you a website that looks good, they also make sure that you get a site that performs well.
There are so many factors that go into a good website, from the SEO to the usability and ease of navigation. Rather than try to go it alone, especially when you might not have time to do it justice, it makes a lot more sense to leave it to the professionals. You can maximise the ROI of your website by choosing the right agency to deliver creative solutions for your website.
A new website helps you to establish your brand presence and engage with your customers. It’s one of your key marketing tools that you should be using to promote the growth of your business. If you’re thinking about how to protect your business for the future, investing in your website, whether it’s new or an existing site, is one of the best things that you can do.
Getting your Bounce Back Loan gives you the perfect opportunity to really invest in your site and start achieving your goals. An investment in your website is an investment in the future of your business.