Credit score isn’t the only thing lenders look at when they’re considering your small business loan request. Important as that is, it’s really only one data point and doesn’t tell the whole story. Lenders use your credit score as a measure of whether or not you will make your scheduled loan payment. There is some debate about whether that’s really the best measure, but the credit score (whether good or bad) does give an indication of what you’ve done in the past.
Lenders also want to know if you have the ability to service the debt associated with a small business loan. That’s why they ask about time in business and revenues. Being willing doesn’t necessarily mean able.
Many of the small business owners I speak with are looking for extra capital to execute a marketing plan with the goal of attracting new business. With this in mind, how you approach your marketing plan could play a big role in how successful you are at gaining approval for a small business loan. As you consider how you’re going to use those precious marketing dollars, here are three suggestions for making the most out of your marketing spend:
- Make sure you know ‘who’ your targeting: On the surface this sounds like a question not even worth asking, but it’s surprising how many people fail to ask. If you follow this blog, you know that I’m an avid motorcyclist. I fit squarely in the leather-wearing, laid-back, long-distance touring, Harley-Davidson camp. Although I believe there are other great bikes out there (some may even be better), I’m not interested in making a change—I ride a big heavy-weight touring bike. Marketing a sport touring or sport bike to me would be a waste of time and a waste of marketing dollars. If your company sold Japanese sport bikes and the only question you asked to target your market was, “Does he or she ride a motorcycle?” You would likely be spending your marketing dollars on other guys and gals like me who won’t even look at your marketing materials. The more targeted your marketing, the better your results will be.
- Does your product or service fill a need in the market? There are millions of new products introduced every year. Some of them fill a market need or solve a market problem, but many do not. What’s more, many entrepreneurs create new products that fill a need, but it’s a need their customers aren’t willing to pay to fill. Unfortunately, market research with friends and family is never a good idea. And, the only real way to see if anyone will buy your product is to put a price tag on it and put it on the market. Count how many people see it and how many of them make a purchase. Those closest to you will seldom tell you what they really think of your great idea—most are too invested in your success. You also need to avoid the trap of being a focus group of one. Just because it resonates with you and you might gladly pay for it, doesn’t mean your product or service resonates with the market.
- What are you offering to get your potential customers to act now? The primary goal of your marketing materials should be to get people to take action—now, not later. In marketing terms, now usually means never. Maybe it’s a special introductory discount or even something completely unrelated. I’ve seen anything from a jar of local honey or free airline tickets work to help sell gas appliances, timeshares, hearing aids, and financial services. In the marketing and advertising business they say, “Offers work.” They won’t convince people to do something they wouldn’t already be inclined to do, but they do encourage more people to act now instead of later. And later, in marketing terms often means never.
One of the things most lenders will want to see is a business plan that shows what the business owner will do with the influx of cash. Your marketing plan should be part of that document and should answer, at the very least, the three ideas outlined above. It’s not a guarantee you’ll get the small business loan you’re looking for, but it is one more reason for the loan officer to say yes instead of no.