Six Fun Ideas to Bring into Your Marketing

The purpose of marketing is, in part, about creating relationships with customers and prospects. While traditional advertising is a standard way of letting prospects know more about you, it’s not always the most creative way to connect. 

To spice up your marketing, let’s explore six unusual ways to connect with customers.

Celebrate an obscure or fun holiday. 

For example, August 27 was National Just Because Day.  It’s a day to do random things, which in most cases, can be pretty easily tied to whatever your service or product is.  There are many other obscure/fun holidays like this one that you can tie to your business for that “feel good” factor or even just to get people engaged on your social media pages.

Get creative with it and scale it as big or small as you are comfortable with! Do something as small as sending an email to your customer list, or as big as hosting a live event on the holiday you choose.    

Feature a customer or staff member.

A great way for customers to get to know your team and for your team to get to know your customers is to feature them in a short writeup that you post or send out. 

Make this fun by sharing things like favorite ice cream, activity they would love to do, country they want to visit most, most fun responsibility they have at work, favorite purchase from you, and more. 

Highlight community work.

Does your organization have a favorite charity?  If so, share experiences with your customers.  Many customers value and prefer to support businesses that make community contributions.

Go as far as holding a volunteer day or do as little as a writeup for donations in your newsletter. 

Take a survey.

When is the last time you’ve been asked a “deep” question?  Send a survey that asks your colleagues and customers a question like what inspires them.  Then share the results, with their permission, of course. 

This type of activity can lead to meaningful conversations and a deeper connection with your customers.  It may also provide great insight into how you can connect with what’s important to your clients. 

Provide a gift guide.

Is it close to Christmas or another holiday where gifts are exchanged?  If so, your customer might benefit from a gift guide you can put together.

You don’t have to own a retail store to benefit from this idea.  Service organizations can provide gift certificate and other ideas in their gift guides.  And you don’t always have to list only your own items. Add your customers’ and suppliers’ items and make it one big “business family” affair. 

Tell people a story.

Do you remember your first sale?  Write a story about your first sale, the first day you opened your new location, your first hire, or another fun business milestone. 

People love hearing stories about how others got started.  Don’t be so private that you miss out on this wonderful way to connect with clients. 

Storytelling can captivate customers, influence your audience and transform your business!

Try these six fresh marketing ideas to create a meaningful connection with your customers and prospects, and watch your relationships blossom. 

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CARES Act: Charitable Giving Changes Due to COVID-19

COVID-19 has presented unique opportunities for charitable giving for the 2020 tax year, which has been addressed in the new Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

Under the new guidelines, which apply to the 2020 tax year only, taxpayers can donate 100 percent of their adjusted gross income to charity and have it fully offset their taxable income.  Previously, this deduction was capped at 60 percent of adjusted gross income. 

For example, a taxpayer has $100,000 of taxable income and wants to make a $100,000 donation to a qualified charity in 2020.  The taxpayer will have reduced their taxable income to zero and won’t owe any taxes on their income.  In prior years under the 60 percent rule, using the same income and charitable contribution amount, a taxpayer would have only been able to reduce their taxable income by $60,000.

What happens if you donate more than 100 percent of your adjusted gross income?

If a taxpayer wants to donate more than 100 percent of their adjusted gross income, they can do so without the fear of losing out on the deduction.  Any charitable contribution that exceeds their adjusted gross income can be carried forward for the next five years, but will be subject to the 60 percent AGI limit in subsequent years.

Consider this:  a taxpayer has $100,000 of taxable income and wants to make a $300,000 donation to a qualified charity in 2020.  Not only will their taxable income for the current tax year have been reduced to zero, but they will have a $200,000 charitable contribution carryforward available, subject to the 60 percent AGI limit, to offset their income for the next five years. 

What happens if I don’t itemize my deductions?

To incentivize taxpayers to make contributions to qualified charitable organizations, Congress included a notable provision in the CARES Act that applies to taxpayers who claim the standard deduction, rather than itemizing their deductions, on their tax return. For the 2020 tax year, donors can take a deduction for up to $300 in charitable contributions even if they claim the standard deduction. 

Other ways to harness the CARES Act charitable giving provision

If a taxpayer is in the position to make a sizeable charitable contribution, with the goal of fully offsetting their taxable income, this could be the perfect opportunity to consider other ways of increasing their adjusted gross income.  This can be accomplished by selling an asset that has significantly increased in value and will be subject to either ordinary income taxes or capital gains taxes, or they could initiate a Roth IRA conversion.  This can be an effective tax planning strategy for someone who is actively trying to reduce their tax burden through philanthropic means.

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Five Expenses to Cut During Tough Times

Five Expenses to Cut During Tough Times

If revenue hasn’t come back as fast as you expected it to, it may be time to review your budget and determine if some planned expenses can be cut. Here are five places to look to do just that.

1. Travel 

Since most events have been moved online or cancelled altogether, you can likely redirect any money you’ve budgeted for travel this year to other more urgent expenses. And if you have prepaid these items, you may be able to get a refund. Hotels have flexible refunds up to the date of the stay unless you took a prepaid deal.  And airlines have begrudgingly provided refunds, although in some cases, it did take time to get them.  

Now that so many employees are familiar with Zoom and other videoconferencing tools, you may want to rethink any future travel requirements that could easily be accomplished virtually with a much lower budget. 

2. Training

 While it’s never a good idea to cut training, there may be ways to deliver it more affordably. You may be able to purchase subscriptions to online courses that include an “all-you-can-eat” component to them.  A good example is, now owned by LinkedIn.  

Any unnecessary training that can be delayed is another way to free up funds.  

3. Dues and Subscriptions

If money is tight, evaluating your memberships is one area where you may be able to free up money. Especially since many in-person events have been cancelled, this might be a good time cancel any renewals you are not able to fully utilize.  

Subscriptions are also something you can review.  Can any of these be cancelled to free up cash?  You can always re-subscribe when things get better. 

4. Employee Perks

If you provide your employees with benefits and times are extremely lean, cutting them is an option to keep from laying off workers.  Some of the options might be:

  • Eliminating perks like movie day, free car washes, or onsite chair massages 
  • Stopping coverage of paid volunteer hours
  • Cutting education expenses if you are paying college tuition for some employees
  • Cancelling employees’ memberships and subscriptions as described above
  • Slashing training budgets as described above
  • Converting event attendance and sales meetings to online versions
  • Disallowing overtime work
  • Holding off on employee bonuses
  • Reducing vacation or holiday pay
  • Cutting down on health care options such as vision and dental plans
  • Reducing 401(k) matches on a temporary basis (watch out for plan requirements, though)
  • Cutting regular hours

All of these are steps you can take to avoid having to reduce your workforce.

5. Layoffs

One painful place to look for more cash is your workforce. If work has slowed due to demand, you can raise cash by furloughing or laying off workers.  Unfortunately, many businesses have already had to do this. 

By looking deeply at all of your business expenses, you can find places to cut spending so that you will be in a better position for the future.  

Categories: July 2020 Newsletter

Failure to File: COVID-19 Update

Failure to File: COVID-19 Update

Due to COVID-19, the IRS extended the tax return filing and payment deadline to July 15, 2020.  If you are unable to file your return by this date, you may request an extension which will give you until October 15, 2020 to submit your tax return.  However, an extension only gives you extra time to file your tax return; your payment is still due no later than July 15, 2020.

When a taxpayer has not filed a tax return by the extension deadline of October 15th, the IRS will gather all of the tax documents that have been transmitted to them and create a substitute return.  If their data shows that you are owed a refund, nothing further will be done.   If the data shows that you owe money, the IRS will begin sending out collection letters.   

Overpayment of Taxes

If you qualify for a refund and wait more than 3 years to file your return, the IRS will take that refund away because the statute of limitations will have expired.  Don’t expect them to send you a reminder letter!

Penalties Assessed If You Owe

There is interest due on taxes you owe, but that’s not the biggest penalty. For every month that your tax return remains unfiled, a five percent failure-to=file penalty applies, up to 25 percent of the tax due.  

For example, let’s say you owe $1000. It could cost you a penalty of $250 per month for not filing, but only a $5 penalty for not paying.  Don’t forget that in addition to the penalties listed above, the IRS will continue to charge interest on any unpaid balance.

Increased Audit Risk

In addition to the penalties and interest you are charged when you don’t file a timely return, you also increase your chances of being audited. When you file on time, you have a three percent chance of an audit. If you don’t file on time, your chance of being audited increases to 50 percent. 

The general rule is to file by the extension due date since the consequences are harsher for not filing than not paying the tax due. However, be proactive to pay any tax due by the deadline, not the extension deadline.  

You Can No Longer Hide from the IRS

You might think that the IRS will never find you, but you would be mistaken. Advances in technology have made it easier than ever before for the IRS to find you. 

If you have a driver’s license, passport, bank account, social media account, address, social security number, or any other database record, the IRS has access to it and will see that you have not filed.  

Take Action Now

Don’t put yourself in a position of grief. Even if you are not ready to file, file something and you can amend the return later.

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Categories: July 2020 Newsletter

3 Essential Metrics for a Smarter Marketing Spend

June 2020 Newsletter Feature Article

The only way to get smarter about how to invest your marketing dollars is to document and measure what’s happening now in your business.  What you’ve measured, you can then improve. 

Marketing Spend

The first step to measuring what you spend on marketing is to aggregate all of the costs.  They may be in one account or several.  Some of the places to look for marketing expenses include:

  • Advertising: for online or print ads, trade shows, sponsorships, and other advertising costs
  • Dues and subscriptions: for membership fees to networking and professional associations
  • Education: for marketing training
  • Marketing: for obvious reasons
  • Office supplies: for graphics subscriptions and fees
  • Payroll, salaries, and wages: for allocation of employee time spent on marketing projects
  • Printing and postage: for flyers and direct mail
  • Professional fees: for marketing consultants, coaches, designers, and writers
  • Software/Technology: for marketing software and apps
  • Travel: for trade show or conference attendance

Once you have aggregated all of these costs, you’ll have a good idea of what you’re spending on marketing and you can calculate the first metric, marketing spend.  The formula is

Total marketing costs / total gross revenue = Marketing spend

This gives you a percentage. 

Most companies spend five to ten percent on marketing. Higher growth companies will spend close to ten percent, and stable growth or slow growth companies will spend close to five percent. Large companies will spend more, from nine to 12 percent of gross revenues, than small companies.

CAC – Cost to Acquire Customer

Probably the most important metric for marketing is how much it costs on average to acquire one customer. To compute this, count the number of new customers for any period of time, and use this number in the following formula:

Total marketing costs / number of new customers = CAC

A more granular version of CAC is CPA, cost per acquisition. Unlike CAC, CPA is measured by campaign or marketing channel, or the source of how the customer was acquired. Example marketing channels include email marketing, social media, and paid ads, to name a few.  

Revenue per Customer

Revenue per customer is a good measure in many companies.  It can tell you how much, on average, a customer will spend at your company over a period of time, adding up all of the orders, projects, visits, or engagements for that customer. The formula is simple:

Total revenue for a period / total number of customers for the same period = Revenue per customer

A similar metric that’s valuable is how much a customer will spend at your company in their lifetime. That’s called CLV or customer lifetime value.  Use the same formula above but compute it based on the longest period of time you have records for. 

When you can compare revenue per customer or CLV with CAC, you can determine how much you can afford to spend to acquire new clients. 

Let us know if we can help you calculate these metrics so you can become wiser about how to invest your marketing dollars. 

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Categories: June 2020 Newsletter

18 Small Business Opportunities in 2020

June 2020 Newsletter Feature Article

Deciding on the kind of business you want to start is a very big decision. Some require specialized skills that either the owner or employees will need. Others require a substantial initial capital outlay. In any case, it’s always a good idea to consider the health of the industry you’ll be entering in. 

While we are not giving any kind of investment advice in this article, we thought it’d be fun to list the business ideas that will be recession-proof in 2020, many of which were also fast-growing in 2019. They are not in any particular order.

Bicycle shops

Demand for bikes ramped up this year when people started staying at home due to shelter-in-place orders. They saw the need to exercise close to home, and a bike is the perfect accessory to get people out of the house safely. 

Building services

This group includes businesses that provide services like office and home cleaning, landscaping, and pest control. New demands in cleaning will continue for some time. 

Software development

Businesses with skilled developers are in demand as other businesses look to automate more and more of their processes. Workers with skills in artificial intelligence and virtual reality are in very high demand. In 2020, we added a huge demand for video conferencing tools, and other tech tools we need to work from home.  

Online publishers

While the traditional print media such as book publishers and newspapers are declining in growth, online publishers are thriving. This category includes bloggers as well as the internet stars on YouTube that are making great money through online ads and product endorsements.  The fast pace of the news in 2020 has simply accelerated this trend.

Building finishers

This category includes construction companies that provide drywall, painting, and flooring to finish out a building or house.  Th need will continue in 2020 as offices, shops, and other businesses remodel to meet social distancing and other safety rules. 

Outpatient care

An alternative to going to the hospital emergency room, these care facilities are growing fast. For patients, they are less hassle than making an appointment with a doctor and far less expensive than ER bills. Once tests and treatments for COVID-19 become universal, these places will become good alternative for people with mild symptoms.

Administrative services

There’s a growing need for businesses that need additional administrative support beyond what employees can provide. Virtual assistants are included in this category as well as staffing companies that provide temporary clerical workers onsite. 


If you’ve ever been in a doctor’s office waiting room full of people, you know that this area is in demand. This include offices of physicians of all specialties. 

Professional drivers

Professional drivers fall into two categories: truck drivers and delivery/taxi services.  The demand for truck drivers is always increasing as online orders and ecommerce steadily grows. Many of these drivers are independent and own their own rigs as well as their own businesses.

Uber, Lyft, GrubHub, and DoorDash, to name a few, have increased the demand for professional drivers who can deliver food, medicine, or people to where they need to go. 

Data processing

The demand for data hosting, server farms, and data processing continues to grow as our appetite for technology increases.

Warehousing and storage

Places like self-storage facilities will be in demand for a couple of reasons. Families have more stuff than they have room for. And as families continue to be mobile, they will need temporary storage space.  All you have to do is look on your street at all the cars that don’t fit in their garages to see the demand in this type of business.

On the commercial side, increased ecommerce demand and the need for pickup and delivery services has increased the need for warehouses for businesses in the distribution space. 


In most places, construction is booming, so there is a demand for general contractors, subcontractors, architects, engineers, and businesses that support construction.

Architects should be busy re-designing spaces, such as offices, restaurants, nursing homes, day care centers, and jails, to name a few, to keep people safer.

Medical and diagnostic laboratories

Even before COVID-19 came on the scene, this type of business was growing fast for several reasons beyond standard medical test ordered by doctors. People are getting DNA tests on their own, and nutritionists are doing more testing as people realize diet is a huge factor in health and personal energy.

Now that COVID-19 diagnosis and treatment require a variety of tests, these labs will be busy for a long time in the future. 

Ecommerce wholesalers

There is a growing number of people who sell items on ecommerce platforms such as eBay and Amazon. While a few source these items through agreements with manufacturers, many visit flea markets, donation centers, and resell shops to make their purchases and repurpose the items. 

Smart wholesalers that have their systems set up can help brick-and-mortar shops without an ecommerce presence sell their items while they are shuttered. 

Professional services

Fields that are fastest-growing include technology and marketing consultants. An interesting new type of security consultant is one that trains groups on how to deal with violence in the workplace and schools.

Attorneys are busy helping individuals update their estate plans and will likely be busy with divorce filings after COVID-19 has let up some. Accountants have new laws to communicate to their clients, and many small businesses want their books caught up now. 

Educational services

This broad group include elementary and secondary schools and junior colleges. It also includes adult career education, including businesses that teach trades skills, computer skills, and business skills. 

Companies that provide an online component to learning will be in demand for quite a while.

Real estate agents

Competitive, yes. But the average home sells twice as fast as it did eight years ago, so the number of transactions have doubled, increasing demand. 

Personal services

While a broad category, the areas seeing growth include personal trainers, personal nutritionists, and wedding planners, to name a few.  

If your business falls into one of these categories, congratulations. If you’re considering starting a business and you have the skills needed to start one of the businesses above, what are you waiting for? 

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Categories: June 2020 Newsletter

Paycheck Protection Loan Forgiveness

June 2020 Newsletter Feature Article

When the CARES Act was signed into law, it created the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), which is a new loan designed to help small businesses pay employee wages and other critical expenses.  Proceeds from this loan can be forgiven if certain criteria are met.

Once the PPP proceeds are deposited to your account, the original guidance stated that businesses must spend those funds within an eight-week period in order to be assured maximum loan forgiveness.

Loan proceeds must be used on payroll costs, mortgage interest incurred before February 15th, 2020, rent (lease agreement must be in force before February 15, 2020), and utilities (for which service began before February 15, 2020.)

Payroll costs are defined as:

  • Salary, wages, commissions, or tips (max of $100,000 per employee)
  • Employee benefits, including vacation, parental, family, medical, or sick leave
  • State and local taxes

Examples of Situations That Would Reduce Loan Forgiveness

  • Loan forgiveness will be reduced if an employer decreases their number of full-time employees
  • Salaries/wages must not be decreased by more than 25% for any employee earning less than $100,000 in 2019
  • Full-time employment and salary levels must be restored no later than June 30, 2020

Requesting Loan Forgiveness

Comprehensive record-keeping is imperative!  To request loan forgiveness, the borrower must contact the lender that is servicing the loan and submit the completed SBA Form 3508.  The lender has 60 days to make a determination on whether or not the borrower qualifies for loan forgiveness.

Changing Rules and Lots of Gray Areas

Congress, the Treasury Department, the Small Business Administration, banks, and the IRS are all involved in this program, which has led to conflicting guidance and many unanswered questions.  The penalties are stiff for impropriety or fraud. 

What Happens If My Loan Is Not Forgiven?

For any portion of the PPP loan that is not forgiven, interest is charged at a rate of 1%.  Payments are deferred for 6 months and full repayment of the loan is due in 2 years. 

If you need help with calculations or interpretations, feel free to contact us so we can provide advisory services for this process.   

UPDATE: June 5, 2020 – Please CLICK HERE to see updates to the PPP Rules.

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Categories: June 2020 Newsletter

5 Signs You Need to Upgrade Your Accounting System

To maximize profits in your business, all of your business functions need to run smoothly, including your accounting department. Your accounting system is at the core of your accounting function. If it is old or lacks the features you need, your business may suffer.  Here are five warning signs you can look for to determine if it’s time to upgrade or replace your current accounting system with something more cost-effective. 

  1. Not enough users

If your current system limits the number of users you can have in the system at any one time, this could be a major enough reason in itself to switch to a larger option. Luckily, most accounting software companies include an accountant user for free, so at least this type of user doesn’t have to count toward your total requirements. 

If you’re not sure how many users you currently have a license for, we can help you check on that. It might be as easy as buying more licenses if you’re not at the maximum capacity.  But if you are at maximum, it may be time to look for a better accounting system with room for you and your business to grow. 

  1. Outdated

 If your accounting system runs on desktop-based software that’s upgraded every year and you have not paid for or installed the upgrades, then your system is outdated.  If it’s been sunsetted, that means the software vendor no longer supports the software. You are at major risk for the software crashing, getting buggy, getting hacked, or worse, permanently breaking. 

The cost of getting the system current may be better spent looking for a new alternative, or moving to a cloud-based system where updates occur automatically. 

  1. Lack of functionality or scale

It is commonly the case that your business has grown so much that it’s outgrown your original accounting solution. That’s good news!  It’s time to find a solution that will scale better for your business. 

You might be missing important features that are costing you more time and money than if you were on a system that offered those features. Common time-wasting activities in accounting include too much time spent on data entry and/or Excel spreadsheets to make up for what the accounting system can’t do.

  1. Lack of reporting and analytics

If you’re unable to receive the reports and analytics you want to run your business better from your current accounting system, it may be time to switch. With better data comes better decision-making and if lack of data is costing you money, then it’s time to find a more robust system.

  1. Lack of integrations

Thousands of apps exist to expand accounting systems’ core functionality. If your current accounting system lacks integration capabilities or does not have apps that are built to integrate with it, you may be missing out on additional functionality.  This include mobile apps; it’s quite common now to do much of your accounting work from your mobile phone. 

Does your current accounting system have any of these red flags?  If so, please reach out. We can help you find a best fit for your accounting needs. 

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How the New Tax Law, CARES, Impacts Individuals

May 2020 Newsletter Feature

IRS and Congress have given individuals a number of ways to build up their cash reserves and/or pay less in taxes. Here are a few opportunities for taxpayers.

Stimulus checks from the IRS

Many of you received stimulus checks in the last month as a result of new laws designed to help you weather the economic downturn.  These Economic Impact Payments are not treated as income and you will not owe taxes on your payment. 

If you were eligible for a larger payment than what was received, the IRS will provide an opportunity on your 2020 return (filed in 2021) to make an adjustment to get any additional money you were due.  Conversely, if the IRS finds that someone received a larger payment than what they should have, the taxpayer will not be required to pay it back.

Dipping into retirement

Taxpayers have the ability to withdraw up to $100,000 from retirement accounts without paying the 10 percent penalty if the distribution is COVID-19 related (you need it to care for spouse and dependents or you experience adverse effects of quarantine/not allowed to work) from January 1, 2020 through December 31, 2020.  Income is included over a three-year period, unless the taxpayer elects otherwise.  If the amount is repaid, it is treated as a trustee-to-trustee rollover. 

Not dipping into retirement

Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs) for retirement accounts have been suspended.  If you are normally required to take a minimum distribution from your retirement account, you can skip it during the 2020 year. 

IRS payments for back taxes

If you are on a payment plan with the IRS for back taxes, you can suspend payments between April 1st and July 15th.  Interest on the amount due will continue to accrue.

Tax payments for 2020 taxes

Payment due dates for Q1 (normally due on 4/15) and Q2 (normally due on 6/15) estimated tax payments have been adjusted to July 15, 2020.


Since retirement contributions are tied to the tax return due date, the deadline for making a contribution to your IRA for 2019 has also been extended to July 15, 2020.

HSA and Archer MSA contributions for 2019 must be made no later than July 15, 2020.

Student loans

Federal student loan payments are suspended through September 30, 2020 and will not accrue interest during this time period.

Employers can offer to pay an employee’s student loans and other educational assistance up to $5250 without the benefit being taxable to the employee. 

Charitable contributions

Charitable contribution deductions will be reported differently on the 2020 tax return.  In the past, a taxpayer would have to itemize their deductions in order to get a tax break from making a charitable contribution.  For 2020, you can deduct up to $300 in cash donations without having to itemize your deductions.  Additionally, the maximum limit of how much a taxpayer can deduct has been eliminated.

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Categories: May 2020 Newsletter

November 2019 Newsletter

Article Topics Include:
  • Get Organized with This 32-Item Year-End Close Checklist
  • Due Diligence Requirements
  • The Ten Biggest Money Leaks in Your Accounting System – Free Report Download!

CLICK HERE to view the November 2019 newsletter!

Categories: Uncategorized