Effectively Using Social Media for Your Business

One of the first things I ask anyone who wants to start a social media program is, “What are you trying to accomplish?” There are two distinct benefits from social media: customer acquisition and customer retention. There are other ways to use social media i.e. brand awareness, customer support, etc., but the benefit of those activities feeds back into lead generation and/or customer retention.

When asked, most marketers rank lead generation above customer retention in their priorities for social media. That may be a mistake. Typically, it is easier and more cost effective to keep a customer than it is to acquire a new one. In addition, if you have a successful social media presence within your customer base, it will help pave the way for future customer acquisitions. 

Since the approach for customer retention can be very different than the approach for customer acquisition; I’m going to break this article out into two sections: part one will focus on using social media for market retention, and part two will focus on the customer acquisition side of social media.

The key to successfully using social media for market retention is making sure your customers are aware of your social media activities and that your content is engaging enough to keep them coming back. To get started, you need to advertise yourself.  Advertise on your business cards, write it on your packaging, put it in your email signature – post it wherever it is relevant.  Then, once your customers are aware of your social media activities, make sure you are providing content that is engaging enough to keep them coming back. Your content should gear toward educating, informing and strengthening your relationships. By offering relevant content, you will keep your followers engaged and enrich your customer’s loyalty and advocacy.

Many businesses make the mistake of only using their social media platform as a sales tool to push discounts and deals. That’s fine to do once in awhile, but people are so inundated with advertising they have become conditioned to ignore that type of messaging- almost treating it as white noise. If that is the only type of messaging you are putting out there, chances are your social media platform will become just more of the same – white noise.

An important thing to keep in mind, social media is not just traditional advertising on a new platform. It’s networking with your customers in an environment that is inherently different.  That makes social media somewhat resource intensive, simply because you need to make sure your content is fresh, that you are engaging with your audience and that you are listening and actively responding. The minute you stop making this a priority, you will begin to lose the value of your social media, and you will start to lose your following.

The Value of Using Social Media for Market Retention

Personalizes Your Business

Social media puts a face to your business, and it personalizes your brand. Social media provides an avenue to interact with clients in a conversational, relaxed way. Social media uses humanization and approachability to influence how customers and prospects perceive your company.

Another Avenue for Providing Information

Social media is the perfect venue to distribute information to your customer base on your products, services or upcoming promotions, but remember, that should only be a small percentage of your overall content. Providing valuable information isn’t just about your agenda. Social media, unlike traditional marketing, isn’t meant to push your products and services onto people in hope that they’ll buy. In fact, by doing only that, you’re likely to have an adverse effect on your customers. Conversely, by providing valuable information that focuses on industry pain points, highlighting industry success stories, publishing how-to’s and other relevant articles will help gain your audience's interest and keep them engaged.

Allows You to Monitor Customer Satisfaction

When customers are not happy with the quality of products or services they tend to talk about it; many people are now turning to social media to have these conversations. By monitoring social media websites and activities, you can manage your brand more effectively and address any negative information you find. The main thing to remember about this interaction is to be candid.  If you are not, people will see right through you, and you will only hurt your cause. 

Uncovers Additional Service Opportunities

Adding social media provides you with additional ways to offer customer service. When an unhappy customer is discovered on the internet, it creates an opportunity for you to address their concerns and turn an unsatisfied customer into a happy one. The best part is your efforts will be out there for all to see, which promotes a positive perception of your business.

Builds Customer Loyalty

Social media provides you an avenue to make your customers feel important by periodically asking for suggestions, feedback or to share success stories. If a client makes a complaint, make sure you take each one seriously and that you send the individual a personal response.  People love to talk about themselves and to feel valued. Social media provides the opportunity for this two-way dialogue and creates a win-win scenario for the company. You have the opportunity to make your clients feel valued while gaining the knowledge and introspection of the market.

Social media affords your business more opportunities than ever before, to raise the bar and increase your base of happy, satisfied customers. Just remember, if you are going to add social media to your business, you need to make a full commitment and make it a priority. You will need to make sure you are timely and consistent with your approach and that you are adding value, honest information. Once you have the basics mastered of customer retention, you will be able to focus on the value of social media as a sales tool too. Stay tuned for our next blog to learn about the different ways social media cuts through the clutter to promote your products and services!

Capitol Connections – Unforeseen Cost of the Dodd-Frank Reform

As an executive board member of the Equipment Leasing and Finance Foundation, Randy Haug of LeaseTeam, Inc. understands the importance of being an advocate for the industry. It is this understanding that brought Randy, accompanied by Russ Hallberg and Jesse Johnson of LeaseTeam, to the Capitol Connections last month. While each year has its issues and challenges, the ultimate goal is to educate members of Congress, and select Administration officials, on concerns of the ELFA and the industry it serves. What many officials are unaware of is the significant role that the equipment finance industry plays in the American economy, which is why it is so important for the members of the ELFA to convene together in educating policymakers on the far-reaching impact their decisions can have on the industry. This year’s Capitol Connections proved to be just as important as any other year, with Section 1071 of Title 10 – Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act being a major point of concern.

Section 1071 of title 10 - Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform was intended to “promote the financial stability of the United States by improving the accountability and transparency in the financial system.” This bill requires “financial institutions” and other businesses that extend credit to collect and maintain certain data in connection with credit applications made by women- or minority-owned businesses and small businesses. The bill also requires the companies to maintain, store, and submit that information annually to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Furthermore, the businesses will be required to make this information public if requested to by the CFPB. Despite the good intentions of 1071 Dodd – Frank, there are unforeseen circumstances of the bill, which was needed to point out to protect the future success of the industry.

According to the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, a creditor may not consider many different factors during the application process, including ethnicity, gender, and age (Federal Trade Commission, 2013). While this data should not play a role in an application process, the acquirement of the data can prove to be misleading to the applicant. If the claimant does not receive approval for credit or their interest rates are higher, then the applicant might presume that their ethnicity, gender, or age could have played a role in the disproval.

Additionally, the usage of the word financial institution makes it applicable to most anyone that offers credit. According to the Equipment Leasing and Financing Association, the unintended consequences of increasing the borrowing cost of, and restricting the availability of credit to, the small businesses the amendment is designed to benefit, without providing commensurate benefits beyond the robust protections already afforded to the borrowers under ECOA.” Furthermore, small businesses that offer credit to their customers would have to do major software upgrades to collect and house the data that needs to be obtained as a result of Section 1071 Dodd-Frank. This requirement could put a financial burden on the small business or institute that they simply do not have the resources overcome. Inevitably, the small business itself could either decide that it no longer offers credits to its customers, or it might even cause the business to close.

Thankfully, “these concerns were acknowledged by members of Congress and a repeal of this provision was included in the Financial Choice Act passed by the House Financial Services Committee in 2016, and its inclusion in discussion drafts in 2017” (ELFA, 2017). However, continued support from the ELFA and members of the equipment finance industry is necessary while Congress considers it for financial regulatory reform. When ELFA members come together, it gives them the opportunity to voice their concerns and protect the interest of the industry that they serve.

Contract Activities

Need to make changes to your contract activities in ASPIRE? This work queue shows all activities associated to the transaction. Workflow activities can be added to a transaction through this work queue, or through Contract Profiles upon status changes. Want to learn more? Click the link and login with your password. Once you have logged in, click Knowledgebase. Then you will click the ASPIRE v5 Help link. From there, click on the area for Contract Explorer. Look under the Tasks area and click Activities. http://ow.ly/Ug18w 

Want to learn more about what ASPIRE has to offer? Visit our website at www.leaseteam.com

A Food Truck’s Road is Often Paved in Leases and Loans

The food truck industry has become one of the fastest growing sectors in the United States. But it wasn’t until 2008 economic collapse that we saw food trucks start to take off. As a result of the recession, many restaurants were closing, and highly qualified chefs found themselves out of a job and quite literally thrown on the streets. So with a consumer’s need for quality and variety that fast food dollar menus couldn’t provide, chefs found a way to meet this demand by way of food trucks, and with that Gourmet Street Food was born. However, owning or leasing a food truck is not easy; it takes a lot of hard work and more often than not, the one thing standing in between them and reaching their goal is getting a lease or a loan.

According to Statistic Brain, the average start-up cost for a Food Truck is $90,300. It is unlikely that the average person has that kind of money laying around, so it makes sense that they would look into financing their food truck. But just like any start-up, a bank isn’t going to hand over cash because someone has a dream – don’t we all wish this was the case?

When applying for a lease or a loan, a food truck entrepreneur needs to have a lot of heart, but it also helps to have a detailed business plan in place. Food Truck Entrepreneur Maria Bonita developed a comprehensive business plan when they applied for a loan at First National Bank, which allowed them to show the lender that they have a targeted strategy to protect their investment. Not only does a bank consider an applicant’s business plan, but they will also examine their credit, collateral, and the kind of property they will be purchasing. While an older truck may seem like the better deal, a lender may view it as a bigger risk, since they will have a hard time reselling it if the loan defaults. A less risky option for a Food Truck Entrepreneur and a Lender would be leasing a food truck, which would give the lessee the opportunity to see if the industry is right for them before they become a purchaser. Furthermore, organizations like the Small Business Administration have programs in place to help entrepreneurs find the necessary capital to start a small business.

With so many institutions now recognizing the potential that these entrepreneurs bring, it shouldn’t be a surprise that the elevated mobile fooderie trend has continued to grow over the years, and it’s not looking to stop anytime soon. In 2015, the industry increased their revenue by 12.4% to bring the yearly total to $1,200,000,000. These numbers alone prove that it’s not just the American Dream that is benefiting from the Food Truck Industry, but it’s also the American Economy.

Accounts Payable Process

Complete control over the entire Accounts Payable process? Yes, please.

The Accounts Payable module activates the tools and screens that are necessary in ASPIRE to control all aspects of the A/P process, including recording and managing incoming vendor invoices, and the ability to view the Vendor Invoice, Vendor Invoice Fundings and Purchase Order History.

The Module lets users create vendor purchase orders, process vendor invoices, and create one or many invoice fundings for each vendor invoice for equipment on a contract in ASPIRE, relating all on the contract. Purchase orders can be configured using document templates to meet your needs and sent to the vendor from the ASPIRE document repository. The funding of vendor invoices allows ASPIRE to calculate interim interest charges, to include support for the timing and amount of progress payments. The interim interest charges can be automatically invoiced out of ASPIRE, either before or after the booking of the deal.

And with ASPIRE's sophisticated framework, segregation of duties and clearing account concept, any errors are clearly identified during the reconciliation of the defined clearing account between the A/P system and ASPIRE, ensuring the risk of errors is minimal throughout the process. 

To learn more about ASPIRE's Accounts Payable module, visit our website at www.leaseteam.com or send us an email to info@leaseteam.com.

Accounts Payable

Are you having trouble with your Accounts Payable in ASPIRE? The Contract Vendor Invoices screen allows users to track vendor invoices, associate the invoices to equipment items, and with the GP AP integration module, and transfer the invoices through Accounts Payable. ASPIRE is compatible with Great Plains version 10 and version 2010. Want to learn more? Click the link and login with your password. Once you have logged in, click Knowledgebase. Then you will click the ASPIRE v5 Help link. From there, click on the area for Contract Explorer. Look under the Tasks area and click Accounts Payable. http://ow.ly/Ug18w 

Want to learn more about what ASPIRE has to offer? Visit our website at www.leaseteam.com

Augmented Reality & Asset Management

The farmer’s life isn’t an easy one. Long before the sun pierces the fields that line the horizon, a farmer is up preparing to take full advantage of every hour of sunlight awarded to them. The preparation and execution of each day is vital, not only for their lively hood but to so many others that rely on them. With the world’s population set to increase by 34 percent by 2050 and the world’s rural population set to decrease by 30 percent, farmers might ask themselves “How will we feed all these people?” (FAO, 2009). With high demand comes opportunity, making the Ag Industry one of the leading segments in the leasing and financing industry. 

Over the past few decades, advancements in technology have paved the way for the Ag industry to meet these exponential demands. Keep in mind that it wasn’t until 1954 that tractors outnumbered horses and mules (Spielmaker, 2014). Biotechnology has given way to more sustainable crops, and advanced onboard computers have allowed farmers to harvest remotely long after the sun sets behind the fields. With new technologies, comes new challenges and from there innovative solutions are born.

With these new technologies, many farmers face an inability to work on their machinery, making the idea of owning such an advanced and expensive piece equipment seem daunting. Trading in screwdrivers for computer knowledge isn’t something that the average farmer can do. So how does a farmer combat this gap and prevent downtime? Well, in the past they would rely on a service tech, but unfortunately, they may not be trained to understand the tractor's engine control unit or TECU sufficiently, and as any farmer knows, you can’t afford to waste a single day with downtime.  As a result, major companies in the heavy equipment industry have tapped into a technological advancement that can drastically shorten downtime for farmers. Augmented Reality, commonly referred to as AR, is a technology that superimposes a computer-generated image on a user’s view. Augmented reality isn’t necessarily a “new thing.”  The example of AR most people may be familiar with is the yellow lines that are superimposed on a football field to indicate the goal-line or first down markers.  It’s also exploding in the social media scene as Snapchat filters. These may be the most known examples of augmented reality, but its uses go far beyond the entertainment industry.

Major equipment companies, like Caterpillar, have been working diligently with augmented reality technology to lessen possible downtime that can come with the advanced machinery. Recently, they partnered with Scope AR to provide augmented reality-based video and voice support services, called CAT LIVESHARE, to help maintain the equipment in their dealer network. This advanced service is like no other seen in the Ag Equipment Industry (John, 2017). Through layering augmented reality over a live video call and screen sharing, service workers can repair or troubleshoot mechanical issue efficiently. Not only can AR lesson downtime, but it can provide service in harsh conditions to large fleets.

While the future of the agriculture industry may seem as volatile as the weather conditions it faces, AR is a promising development. A company that leases equipment with this technology has a better chance of their equipment being maintained correctly which will ultimately lead to better performance, decreased downtime, and an increase in the resell value of the equipment. Augmented Reality is a technology that has the potential to provide a win-win situation for everyone that is involved. Farmers can rest assured long after the sun goes down that their investment is going to serve them for the entire life span of the lease, and the lessor has the added security that their customers and their equipment are going to be well maintained.

Sources

D. S. (2014). Historical Timeline — Farm Machinery & Technology. Retrieved April 18, 2017, from https://www.agclassroom.org/gan/timeline/farm_tech.htm

2017 Industry Future Council / Staying Ahead of Tomorrow (Rep.). (2017, February). Retrieved April 4, 2017, from Equipment Leasing and Finance Foundation website: http://www.store.leasefoundation.org/cgi-bin/msascartdll.dll/ProductInfo?productcd=IFC2017

F. (2009, October 13). How to Feed the World in 2050. Retrieved April 4, 2017, from http://www.fao.org/wsfs/forum2050/wsfs-forum/en/

J. (2017, March 08). Scope AR and Caterpillar Launch CAT LIVESHARE for real-time remote support, training and equipment maintenance using augmented reality. Retrieved April 18, 2017, from http://im-mining.com/2017/03/10/scope-ar-caterpillar-launch-cat-liveshare-real-time-remote-support-training-equipment-maintenance-using-augmented-reality/

SuperTRUMP Pricing Integration

In this edition of Module Monday, we’re going to take a look at one of the many industry-leading provider integrations offered through ASPIRE: the SuperTRUMP Pricing integration. 

Our partnership with Ivory Consulting Corporation brings its leading SuperTRUMP pricing software straight to ASPIRE. The SuperTRUMP integration allows users to leverage advanced pre-tax and after-tax pricing for the modeling of leases and loans. ASPIRE users get increased efficiency and accuracy during the origination phase of a transaction through SuperTRUMP’s tax-effective pricing engine that can structure and update pricing and seamlessly pass that structure into ASPIRE.

Wanting to learn more about SuperTRUMP and Ivory Consulting? Join us at our User Conference June 6-8. Ivory Consulting will be onsite explaining why SuperTRUMP can help your company successful. 

Have a specific question? Send us an email at info@leaseteam.com

Contract Changes

Not sure where to go for your contract changes in ASPIRE? Display changes made to contract level pricing and economic changes only. The history screen displays the contract details as soon as the deal is saved for the first time with a primary pricing option. To view all the change records, click the Search button with the blank search box. This screen is read-only with no capability to edit or delete entries. Want to learn more? Click the link and login with your password. Once you have logged in, click Knowledgebase. Then you will click the ASPIRE v5 Help link. From there, click on the area for Contract Explorer. Look under the Inquiry area and click Contract Changes. http://ow.ly/Ug18w 

Want to learn more about what ASPIRE has to offer? Visit our website at www.leaseteam.com

Facing The Future of Biometric Technology

It may come as no surprise to you that over the past few years’ fraud in online banking has increased dramatically. The Center for Strategic & International Studies has reported that cyber crime and the theft of intellectual property have cost the United States an estimated $100 billion every year (CSIS, 2017). Identity theft is at an all-time high; it seems like a constant battle to ensure that your identity is kept safe from cyber hackers and malware. However, in the Equipment Finance Industry, it’s not just cybercrime that we are combatting; it’s also physical theft of heavy machinery with the construction industry being one of the most heavily targeted. In 2014, the National Crime Bureau and National Equipment Register indicated that an estimated $300 million to $1 million is lost nationwide due to construction theft and law enforcement is likely to recover less than a quarter of the stolen property (NCB, 2015). It seems like between the two; it is an uphill battle to keep your identity and assets safe. However, there are new advances in biometric technologies that may help in the fight.

You may be familiar with biometrics by way of fingerprint scans and possibly even iris scans. Biometric fingerprint identification has become a favorite tool for many smartphone users; banks have even begun to utilize this method as an extra precaution for clients accessing their online bank accounts. This technology is an excellent way to help keep your account safe; however, to keep up with evolving risks, many financial institutes are starting to implement a more advanced technology. According to whatis.com, facial recognition is a biometric method of identifying an individual by comparing a live capture or digital image of them with their stored record for that person. This technology is quickly becoming the standard for the future of online security, and it’s not just financial institutes that are seeing the benefits of this technology. Just recently, the tech world has been buzzing with news that the Samsung 8 will feature biometric facial recognition instead of the, now seemingly dated, password and passcode screen lock. The Samsung 8 may be many users first experience with Biometric Facial Recognition, but they will likely go on to find it many other places; like ATMs and verifying online transactions.

With the advancing technology, new businesses are springing up all over the country. According to the Equipment Leasing & Financing Organization, 2017 is looking to be full of growth, especially in construction machinery investments (ELFO, 2017).  However, with the increase in new business, also comes an increased risk of equipment theft. Although there are avenues that companies can use to try and recover their stolen property, they still have to deal with the headache of replacing the equipment or experiencing downtime. Could biometrics be the key to preventing theft in the first place?

The New York Department of Motor Vehicles is currently using facial recognition to prevent identity theft and fraudsters. Since 2010, the state has stopped an estimated 14,000 people from obtaining multiple drivers’ licenses (Kravets, 2016). You might wonder how this technology could benefit the leasing and financing industry? Perhaps companies could use the same biometrics to create keys for their employees. Maybe someday a DMV biometric identification card could be used to operate leased and financed machinery; hypothetically, the engine on these pieces of equipment would not turn over unless an authorized user started it. There’s not only an opportunity for biometric technology to help prevent theft, but it could also increase the resale value of the equipment. The value could increase by using biometric recognition to ensure only qualified users were operating the vehicles could increase the residual value and potentially lower insurance rates as well.

Let’s face it; biometric facial recognition is a technology that goes far beyond the scope of enabling access to your smartphone, and we’re just starting to see the potential in biometric technologies.  How will it impact the equipment finance industry? Only time will tell.

Citations

2014 Equipment Theft Report [PDF]. (2015, October 1). Des Plaines: National Equipment Register National Insurance Crime Bureau.

Kravets, D. (2016, August 28). Enhanced DMV facial recognition technology helps NY nab 100 ID thieves. Retrieved April 13, 2017, from https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2016/08/enhanced-dmv-facial-recognition-technology-helps-ny-nab-100-id-thieves/

Q2 2017 Equipment Leasing & Finance U.S. Economic Outlook (p. 1, Your Eye on the Future). (2017). Washington, D.C.: Equipment Leasing & Finance Foundation

Whitehouse, S., Sen., McCaul, M. T., Rep., Evans, K., & Bhalorta, S. (2017). From Awareness to Action, A Cyber Security Agenda for the 45th President (p. 5, Publication). Washington, D.C.: Center for Strategic & International Studies.

What is facial recognition? - Definition from WhatIs.com. (n.d.). Retrieved April 13, 2017, from http://whatis.techtarget.com/definition/facial-recognition