Marketing is how small businesses distinguish themselves from the competition. Without it, a company (and its products or services) has no way to stand out to either prospective customers or future employees.
Branding, engagement, and sales are all directly affected by how much you spend—or don’t spend—on your marketing campaigns.
But even once you put together a marketing plan, you might come up against a common issue: How are you going to pay for it?
If you’ve identified a way for a specific marketing campaign to add value to your business, but lack the funds to get that campaign off your ground, consider these four forms of financing that you can pay back with the proceeds from your increased bottom line.
Business credit card
A good business credit is a must-have for most small business owners. There are a multitude of options—cards that are good for building credit (or for people with no credit), or cards that are good for covering travel expenses or for getting cash back rewards.
Whichever way you go, note that most business credit cards have a 0% introductory APR, which turns your card into a kind of no-cost loan over the life of the offer.
It’s important to keep in mind that eventually, a variable interest rate will kick in—usually after 12-18 months.
But another major benefit is the rewards: Most cards come with a variety of rewards you can then apply back to your business. This is a sorely underused tactic—according to Capital One, only 10 percent of business owners use rewards to help boost their bottom line.
In fact, a couple of business credit cards specifically allow you to receive cash back or points when you use them to make purchases as part of an advertising/marketing campaign.
The Ink Business Preferred Credit Card from Chase, for example, gives you three points per dollar on the first $150,000 in combined purchases per account anniversary year in advertising on search engines and social media sites.
And the SimplyCash Plus Business Credit Card from American Express lets you earn 3% back on purchases in one of eight categories, one of which is advertising in select media.
Let’s say you have both of these cards and want to purchase Facebook ads to promote your new products.
You spend $10,000 to place a bevy of targeted ads across the platform over the next few months. If you use the Ink Business Preferred card, you’ll get 30,000 rewards points to spend however you’d like; if you use the SimplyCash Plus Business card, you’ll get $300 back—which you can use to pay down the total cost of the ad spend, or apply elsewhere.
Taken in conjunction with other rewards and perks from these credit cards, you’ll actually end up making back a percentage of whatever you spend on marketing through your card of choice.
Business line of credit
A business line of credit is similar to a credit card, in that it’s a revolving form of credit: Once you’re approved, you can draw on it again and again as needed. You only pay interest on the funds you take out as well.
LOCs are a different product in a few key ways: One is that you won’t get rewards as you do from a credit card. On the other hand, your borrowing limit will likely be much higher—some lines have caps as high as $1 million and you can draw cash.
Lines of credit are the ultimate form of flexible financing. You can use them for almost any business need (including bankrolling a new marketing campaign) and keep them in your back pocket in case of emergency.
Additionally, if you see an opportunity for a campaign that requires you to move quickly—maybe you’ve just been written up by a major news organization and want to take advantage of the momentum with a new batch of ads—getting approved for a line of credit can take as little as one business day. Applying for a term loan (as we’ll discuss below), on the other hand, means waiting weeks or even months.
Interest rates on LOCs are higher than on term loans—they range from 7% to 25%, depending on your creditworthiness—but as a quick form of financing, they’re hard to beat.
If your marketing plans require you to lay out a large sum of money, and you’ve got the time and resources to wait to be approved for a term loan, you probably won’t find a better financing option than that of a Small Business Administration loan.
SBA loans are actually loans disbursed by traditional lenders like banks, but they are partially guaranteed by the SBA—up to 85%. This assumption of risk gives lenders an incentive to extend you a generous terms, far better than what you’d get from a regular term loan.
The SBA has a number of different loan programs, but two that would be a good choice for financing a marketing budget are the 7(a) loan program and the microloan program.
The biggest and most popular loan program, 7(a) loans are used for any general financing needs, from renovations to refinancing older debt to marketing. They go up to $5 million and can be repaid over terms that last seven years (terms can be longer if the loan is for purchasing commercial real estate, though that doesn’t apply in this case).
If you want to hire an outside marketing firm to help you develop a campaign that will take your business to the next level—covering everything from SEO to elevated marketing copy to getting coverage of your business in major outlets—then a 7(a) loan can be a huge, low-cost source of funding for that purpose. Inbound marketing programs vary by agency and by level of service, but can range between $1,000-$8,000 per month for small businesses.
If you’re a smaller or newer business looking for a loan from the SBA, your best bet is a microloan: SBA microloans range from $500 to $50,000, though the average loan amount is for about $13,000.
As a startup, you might be looking for help with a marketing campaign that can get your new ideas out to the masses. Maybe you want to experiment with Facebook ads (the daily minimum for a Facebook ad spend is just $1), or hire a freelancer to help beef up your content marketing with a slew of blog posts related to your industry. You can spend just a few hundred to a few thousand dollars on these ideas.
A microloan might be the perfect jumpstart for you, but be aware that like all SBA loan products, SBA microloans are highly competitive and thus require a strong credit history in order to be considered.
You can also take out a personal loan to finance your small business needs. This isn’t an uncommon practice, though it’s primarily done by new small business owners without an established business credit history for business lenders to draw on.
Keep in mind that personal loans may require you to put up personal assets as collateral, which means you can lose those assets in the event you default.
Getting Paid faster from Your Customers
If you are a B2B business that allows your customers to buy on net terms, you may be having some cash flow issues due to collections that hold you back from a marketing spend.
By using a program, like Apruve, you are able to extend terms to your customers without waiting to receive payment. Thus allowing you to quickly reinvest your sales revenue to help marketing expenses.
A good marketing campaign is a perfectly valid reason to spend money as a small business. Just be sure that taking on debt, in the form of financing, is your best choice to fund that campaign.
Your marketing budget should address how you plan to use this funding, what value it will bring your business, and how you plan to pay your lender back. If you can’t do that, it’s time to go back to the drawing board.
What are the best small business financing options?
- Business credit card
- Business line of credit
- SBA loans
- 7(a) loans
- Personal loan
- Receivable Financing
Eric Goldschein is a staff writer at Fundera, a marketplace for small business financial solutions, covering entrepreneurship, small business trends, finance, and marketing.