Tired of refusing credit card orders?
If you’re a small business owner looking to accept credit card payments, get ready for a revolutionary device that lets you swipe credit cards with your phone.
Pay with Square is an iPhone (as well as iPad and iPod) and Android app that revolutionizes the payment process, making it mobile, paperless and painless.
For 15 cents per transaction plus a 2.75% fee, Square modernizes transactions, even allowing for tips or sales tax.
I learned of Square and applied for the free credit card reader in April. The device arrived almost immediately and I approached setup with trepidation, expecting a technical hassle to get it running.
Instead, setup was a non-event. I followed the simple instructions, downloaded the application, established my bank account, and waited for verification. Two days later, Square made two small transactions in my account and I was approved. Thus reassured, I launched into the first transaction.
Again, Square made it easy to process a charge. I had the option to take a picture of the product/service and receive an email or a text receipt, both of which I did.
My customer received an immediate email with my picture (the default if a product picture is not included) and the charge, along with a Google map that showed where the transaction took place. The receipt was complete and included an online viewing option. My confirmation from Square read like this:
Hello, Merrigan Group LLC.
You accepted $5.00 from a card ending in 7083.
You can see more about this payment at https://squareup.com/payments/_______
As of this payment, your Square balance is $4.86.
I used both a Visa and an American Express to make my two test charges on the same day. Both went through quickly and easily. The monies were transferred to my account within two days.
Hello Merrigan Group LLC,
Thank you for using Square! We have initiated a $9.72 credit to your ________ Credit Union account. The funds will be available in 1-3 business days.
Along with my free Square reader I received a nifty sticker for display. I merely attached it to a stand to advertise I accept all forms of credit cards.
I already had a PayPal account set up. One of my ‘tests’ included checking to see if it was more difficult to initiate the Square process without the advantage of PayPal. The answer was a resounding no. Once again, Square made it relatively easy, even for someone with little online experience.
Since the initial use, I’ve accepted several payments and told dozens of friends about Square. What an awesome tool for the mobile professional. Think authors, photographers, crafts-women, attorneys, consultants, food cart operators, etc., etc. Anyone could use Square – anytime, anywhere.
Other forms of mobile payment exist. A recent blog post from iLounge covers Intuit’s option, for example, and offers a detailed review of Square.
Three words set dramatically different action parameters:
Abdicate: to give up formally
Delegate: to entrust to another
Collaborate: to work jointly with others
Consider these words as they relate to social media.
Every business owner I know is talking about some failed foray into social. In most cases, abdication played a part in the failure. For example:
Like many employers, Sheryl (not her real name) prefers to abdicate when social media comes up. She rolls her eyes and tables the discussion. “Let’s get on the street,” she snaps. And with that phrase she shuts the door on progress.
Leroy is more understanding. He listens as his second-in-command makes the case for social. Then, decisively, he says, “Assign it to the new intern.”
In reality, both Sheryl and Leroy are abdicating a position on social media. Leroy has just prettied it up.
Small business owners wear entirely too many hats to be 100% in charge of their business social media plan.
So, one option is delegate the duties to someone trustworthy in-house. There are several advantages to delegation:
Cost-effectiveness. Social media duties can be absorbed by someone in the organization. No additional monies need be paid for this responsibility.
Accessibility. Because the CEO or top company officials are available, decisions can be made quickly, over a water cooler conversation if necessary.
Flexibility. If necessary, tactics can be changed quickly.
Although this option works for any number of organizations, I maintain it’s a bandage.
In my opinion, the most effective solution is collaboration with a professional who brings an outside perspective to the question. Consider these advantages:
Eliminate overwhelm. Solidify your strategy and assess your options with someone who knows the medium.
Add a partner. Few subordinates can completely grasp the CEO perspective. Hire someone who “gets it” and can quickly translate your ideas into actionable tactics.
Develop a plan. Time put into planning your social media foray will result in a systemized, stronger presence.
Set goals. Your professional should be able to help you set measurable goals and develop tactics to achieve them.
Move forward. Check references. Look at track records and determine the person you hire can truly collaborate with you and your business. (Finding the right person is a whole other post.)
The crux of social media offers your business the opportunity to authentically connect with an audience. Don’t abdicate your chance to make a terrific impression. Don’t delegate it either, unless you’re confident that your employee has the time and expertise to make it happen.
First, collaborate. What’s worked for you?
Today’s post focuses on an oft-overlooked traditional visibility opportunity, the op ed. What is it?
According to Wikipedia:
An op-ed, abbreviated from opposite the editorial page (though often believed to be abbreviated from opinion-editorial), is a newspaper article that expresses the opinions of a named writer who is usually unaffiliated with the newspaper’s editorial board.
Timing is essential. The op-ed gives a CEO the opportunity to make a point around a news event or situation, a topic of interest or some trend affecting the population.
Op-ed pieces offer tremendous advantages. Your opinion prominently displayed in a print publication is credibility. It is good publicity for you and your company.
There are a couple of disadvantages, however. Lead time is important. Even though your submission may be tied to news of the day, most publications have a longer deadline imposed on op-ed pieces.
The preparation could prove daunting if you are not a good writer. The New York Times receives thousands of op-ed submissions weekly, so getting to the top of the list involves more than mere chance.
You’ll need to present or pitch your idea to the editor ahead of time. Such a presentation ensures the work involved is not in vain. If the editor likes the idea he/she will likely give you a green light and outline requirements for the piece. Local editors often prefer op-eds submitted from their region.
If you believe you have the perfect topic, draft an article of 750 words or less.
- Make a single point. The op-ed gives voice to your opinion on how to improve matters.
- Use a personal voice and define why readers should care.
- Write with active sentences.
- Tie the opening and the conclusion together.
- Make your most important point first and use the balance of the discussion to support it.
- Call for action. Offer solutions or ask for support.
Good writing is important to your effort. If your writing needs work, find a freelancer who can help. The end result could be well worth the investment.
Once published, here are six ways to use your op-ed for further visibility:
- Get reprints from the publication and send them/offer them to your present/prospective clients.
- Link to the article from your website.
- Tweet your success and link to the article; post an update on Facebook about it as well.
- Write an introductory paragraph about your op-ed and link to it from other sources.
- Revise and expand the op-ed for a white paper for your company.
- Publish information about the op-ed in your company newsletter.
These suggestions leverage content to reach multiple audiences. It works. Try it for yourself.
When did you last approach a newspaper editor with an idea for a column?
It seems half the planet now has a Profile on Facebook. Fifty percent of those with a Profile check in daily.
Of course business wants to be in line with those eyeballs. Facebook eggs them on, luring the unsuspecting into a trap of yet another marketing channel without a strategy.
Business Pages (formerly Fan Pages)
Since August 2010, local businesses have added Facebook Pages at a faster rate. Local businesses now make up 17.6% of the social media giant.
Funeral homes, storage places, restaurants, real estate agents – every kind of local business is investigating Facebook.
Yesterday I received an invite from someone I did business with five years ago. It’s the first time they’ve communicated with me since that time.
Like many, I get daily requests to “Like” business pages. Of course, it’s good karma. I’m happy to show support. One problem: most of these businesses never tell me why I should care when I look at their site.
So, why should I care? How do you communicate your unique business personality through Facebook?
NOTE: At least once a day I get “friended” from a local business. This is actually NOT a good strategy. Profiles are personal and Facebook can shut you down if you don’t observe that rule.
E-commerce stores now integrate with Facebook to make it easier for me to never leave Facebook. This explains why my inbox is flooded with hypey esssages about “why you should buy my widget now.”
For success, a Facebook Page must be integrated with a marketing plan. Thought and strategy must precede launch.
Answer these qualifying questions prior to launching your Page to increase your chances of success:
- What is your #1 goal for the year for your business and how does Facebook fit in?
- Can you, in nine words or less, give me your core marketing message?
- What three ways will you consistently use Facebook to get the word out?
What were your answers?
Good luck. Enjoy the new responsibility of your Facebook Page.
Do you pump out message after message inviting people to buy?
Seriously. Describe your last five social messages.
Many businesses who previously engaged in traditional media now shout out in social channels. You’ll spot this in their posts/status updates:
“Buy my book…”
“Don’t have time to tweet? _____ will do it for you.”
“New listings at my ___ shop.”
We do (fill in the blank). Learn more at our website”
What do you do?
Have you stopped to assess your social strategy?
No worries if you choose not to answer that question. A report by Harvard Business Review Analytic Services says only 12% of the companies they surveyed felt they were currently effective users of social media. We’re all learning as we go.
In a post for Victor Lopez at NMSmallBiz.com I highlighted ten simple ways to increase your social quotient:
- Set goals
- Involve your employees
- Integrate advertising and social media channels
- Provide timely information
- Make some rules
- Avoid overwhelm
- Not just on Facebook
- Develop a core message
- Measure results
Expect sales? Good. Most of us do. Action differentiates the winners from the others. Sales-oriented actions start with a customer focus.
First quarter looks terrible for Debbie, a coach, facilitator, speaker and trainer. She’s scheduled few prospecting appointments. Most of her regular coaching clients are taking a break. Don’t even ask her about cash flow. Debbie’s bummed because she needs to make the certifications she acquired last year pay off. As she says, “It’s not looking good.”
Just across the street, Allan, an IT service provider, is training a new employee. Business is booming, he says. He had to bring in help earlier than projected. He explains his goal is to work himself out of a job. His smiling attitude is backed with enthusiasm. You sense rather than hear that Allan solves problems.
To find the differences in these businesses, consider:
• Problem focused
• Negative self-talk
• Little proactive scheduling
• Positive self-talk
• Action steps to move forward
Each story offers an insight to the heart of business, the reason that clients care.
What insight do you project? Do you worry about problems or get busy solving them for others?
“Client first” sets the tone for service. Priorities are in order. Daily activities begin with client contact and end with the same.
Take time everyday to put clients first. Contact them. Take care of their problems. Collect their stories.
Think clearly about one incident of a person using your product or service. Limit yourself to a few key words or sentences and practice telling the story of what happened.
What one action will you take today to put your client first?
Karen keeps a list of the books she plans to read. She regularly visits the library, checks out her choices and read the books. Months later she can access the notes she made. Obviously, Karen has a system.
In his December-released book, “The Pledge: Your Master Plan for an Abundant Life” author Michael Masterson a serial entrepreneur, advises: “Read less, learn more.”
He tackles many self-improvement subjects including time management, goals, and general happiness. Of all the takeaways, I focused on the UBI, or the Useful Big Idea as a change I could make.
Masterson encourages us to read for only one UBI at a time. He encourages speed reading the book or article to highlight sections pertaining to the UBI. Then, as he explains, you must use the UBI.
Bring it up in a conversation or an email communication within 24 hours. Reference the UBI twice more in the next 48 hours. The system requires a total of three references within 72 hours.
According to Masterson, UBI improves the ability to link and remember useful information. As a result, you read less, read better and read faster.
How many books did you read last year? What UBI did you implement as a result of your reading?
How will you use the information you read today?
Gail, a contractor to her previous employer, confronts a big issue: everyone is after the same dollar. Consider:
The corporation hires numerous consultants. How will Gail stand out?
Dozens promote themselves using similar social media channels. What will Gail say to be different?
In the midst of numerous networking groups, how will Gail showcase her expertise in a way that provides return on the time invested?
If you’re struggling to stand out from the competition, surrender. Quit trying to compete and turn your attention to collaboration.
Three givens about competition in 2011:
- Transparency. Thanks to the proliferation of social media and easy web access, a surprising amount of information is available through the Internet. Your responses and statements reveal detail about your work, your clients, your professional and personal life. What does your online reputation say about you?
- Cooperation. In the spirit of providing stronger programs and better resources, many service providers now team up. Specialists band together to offer a complete menu of services. Cooperation actually requires less energy than competition. Whew. How can you cooperate for profit?
- Community. Give up the idea of perfection. Bring best practice ideas to your efforts. In the process, you’ll gain recognition as a source of information.
Joan Stewart, The Publicity Hound, regularly gives credit to others. Her Best-of-the-Publicity Hound’s Tips of the Week 2010 lists more than 25 different resources, many, other publicity experts. Download the ebook and see for yourself.
Will you change your view of competition in 2011?
The most difficult piece of collateral you produce could be your bio. As my creative coach says, “The secret is to make yourself sound interesting and at the same time put your readers’ interests first.”
Storyteller and publicity expert Nancy Juetten puts it a different way: “Now more than ever, a client-attracting bio is an essential success tool.”
The updated, revised and expanded second edition of “Bye-Bye Boring Bio,” makes it simple for anyone to tell their story. (After all, as Nancy says, telling a compelling story is a must to get compensated for your expertise!)
Juetten makes quite a case (143 content-packed pages) for when one must stand out: in a 160-character Twitter description, on Facebook, from the speaker podium, in a local business directory and in dozens of other situations.
She trains readers to identify four S’s: stunning results, succinct stories sassy sound bites and social information.
In an easy-to-read format, Nancy discusses more aspects of bios than I suspected existed. She offers examples of bios that attract clients, produce speaking gigs and garner media interviews. Her tips and templates make it easy to insert your information and jump-start the process.
The fun exercises led me to practice presenting my information in two-sentence radio introductions, bio-boxes, speaker introductions, media profiles and more. I invited friends to critique my made-from-template bios. I ended up with dozens of new ideas, many of which I plan to use.
Would I recommend this book? Absolutely.
“Bye-Bye Boring Bio” offers resources, suggestions, questions, tips and more than 45 different bio examples. If writing is not your thing, this book is a find. If you’ve already got ideas, you’ll end up with even more as a result of your read. Best of all, if you buy the e-book from Nancy, you’ll get a variety of bonus items along with it. $47.00. In my book, it would be money well spent.
Disclosure: I met Nancy via phone after my blog post about bios generated a google alert for her. She later blogged about the chance meeting and invited me to review and become an affiliate for her book. I’ve not yet picked up the affiliate banner, but I have recommended the book to a number of people.
In a short time we developed a list of options and a simple process to set a plan in motion.
She began by defining the project several ways: a two sentence statement, a one paragraph description and a one page summary that could work as a part of an executive plan.
Her initial goal involved selling her department. For that reason, she decided to treat the project as a product and develop a marketing plan for it.
“I don’t have to get this perfect,” she reasoned. “The department loves to brainstorm. I can ask for input in areas where I need additional proof. For example, I need more research and evidence for why the website upgrade is needed.”
“Some of the department heads will resist an interactive site since they don’t understand social media,” she added. “I want to present information persuasively enough so that those obstacles become moot.”
Ann quickly outlined the overview and drafted a mindmap. The mindmap presented a visual to which viewers could easily relate. In addition, the mindmap could easily expand and change.
She set definitive deadlines for the presentation to her department as well as completion of the mindmap. In a memo announcing the meeting she offered an agenda and stated a committee would be put together as lead for the project.
Prior to the meeting Ann gave consideration to her ongoing committee for the project. She described the personnel she hoped to include: a naysayer, a big picture thinker and a detail-oriented person. Such diversity of personalities, she reasoned, would more closely mirror the company at large.
Because preparation makes the best defense, Ann tried to think through the meeting from every angle.
Each time a new task for the committee occurred to her she placed it on the committee list. After only a few minutes, her list included:
- Make appointments with all stakeholders or department chairs.
- Plan the list of questions to present to stakeholders.
- Begin a survey by listing the questions for which we need input.
- Prioritize the list as a committee.
- Encourage each stakeholder to prioritize the list as well, thus gaining buy-in as well as a sense of priority from their vantage point.
How could preparation help define your next content project?
Other content options are discussed throughout week five of the Six Week Marketing Plan. What’s worked for you?