Very soon, more than 80 percent of the 50 million Americans who filed federal taxes will receive their average tax refund of just over $3,000. Many view this as an opportunity to splurge. If you run a startup, you might want to think about making your business the recipient of your tax time largesse.
Consider using the money to invest in a technology or capability that’s important, but that you many have found yourself avoiding or deprioritizing in the day-to-day grind of running your business. What’s more, you’ll want to invest in something you can purchase in full with a relatively small tax return budget, and that can set you up to either make more money or take care of an essential function for your business.
Here are some ideas for how a little investment of your tax return can go a long way:
Shore up your online presence
An attractive and credible website that is optimized for mobile browsing can aid discoverability and bolster your business’s reputation. This is true even if you don’t sell online: according to Adweek, more than four in five shoppers research their purchases online before ultimately making them.
If you actually sell your products online, investing in a website that gives you an even higher return on investment (ROI) for e-commerce would be a smart choice. An e-commerce capability might enable you to cut overhead costs if a portion of your local customers opt to purchase online instead of in-store. In the same way that adding a lane to a highway tends to increase overall traffic, adding online selling capabilities can also increase your overall sales volume, in part by lowering the geographical barriers of selling only through your brick and mortar store.
E-commerce sellers should consider a solution that can automatically import inventory from their point of sale (POS) system, then reconcile sales made both online and in-store. Solutions that let businesses sync their e-commerce and brick and mortar stores in just a few clicks will save time, and will also take the headache out of inventory management.
Invest in the future of payments
Mobile payments are a payment method worth thinking about.
Mobile payment transactions will more than double to $62.49 billion from 2016 to 2017, according to an eMarketer report.
By 2020, that number is expected to increase to more than eleven times the 2016 figure—to more than $314 billion.
That means that while being able to accept mobile payments is a matter of convenience for your customers now, it may become a matter of survival for your business as this payment method continues its inexorable march to dominance. Consider investing in expanded payment capabilities that include mobile payments so that you’re already in position once mobile becomes the way people pay.
Secure your business and transactions
Investing in security might not make you a ton of money, but it sure can save you money, not to mention lots of time and your reputation.
Living in a connected world means small businesses have a lot more flexibility to operate at their customers’ speed and to their customers’ liking. But connectedness also leaves businesses exposed to bad actors who attempt to exploit security vulnerabilities in order to make off with consumer information.
This can leave your business in a bit of a bind: securing your customers’ information is ultimately your responsibility, but you probably don’t have time to become an IT expert. It is critical for small businesses to invest in a security solution that provides protection at several points of vulnerability throughout the transaction process. The solution should be PCI compliant and keep pace with digital thieves’ evolving efforts to steal customer information that ultimately disrupts your business. Not doing so can be highly costly and difficult to recover from.
If you’re feeling a little nervous about how ironclad your customer transactions are, consider elevating an investment in point of sale security to the top of your list.
Set up a marketing program
At the end of the day, marketing is about customer acquisition and retention, and those are some of the most critical factors for any business that wants to not only stay in business, but also grow.
Still, starting a thoughtful marketing program can feel like a luxury if it falls outside of the many day-to-day jobs you need to get done in order to keep the lights on. Marketing automation is one way to address this: it delivers the customer acquisition and loyalty benefits of marketing, but requires minimal everyday intervention from you as the business owner.
Previously, the types of software that could achieve these results for businesses were very expensive, leaving the benefits of marketing automation attainable only by large and well-heeled enterprises. But with right-sized marketing apps that handle tasks like building customer lists, sending marketing messages and delivering offers to customers that bring them through the door (or to your website) to make actual purchases, small businesses can now avail themselves of this important tool on a small budget.
Tax refund overview
Depending on the size of your refund, you might be able to invest in one of the solutions above and still invest elsewhere in your business, from improving décor to growing inventory or treating your employees. No matter the size of your refund, a small investment in your business can drive big results over time.