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.
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?
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?
You do everything touted to bring success: you network, you read in your field, you do social media, you work early and late and grab opportunities as they come your way. So why is it that you still feel behind?
How do you explain the sense of overwhelm and helplessness when you confront your Monday “To Do” list?
Why do you know in your gut you could take it to a new level?
When is it your turn to have “it” come easily?
These are the questions I regularly field from solopreneurs during workshops.
While some report unprecedented successor general vagaries about how well their business is now doing, my experience is it’s been a tough year.
The economic challenges combine with a learning curve spelled c-h-a-n-g-e.
I missed the Mark Zuckerberg 60-Minutes interview, but you can check out the highlights from Mashable. What an example of real-time media. Zuckerberg discusses changes to the Facebook platform to “better serve” the greater good. Do I hear “continuing learning curve?”
Facebook isn’t the only challenge. I know some who opt out of all planning, using the speed of change as a reason to quit. “What’s the use?” they say. “It’ll only change anyway.”
Have you looked at your upcoming year and determined priorities? Do you have a game plan? Because some plan increases the likelihood of goal achievement. Whoops. I forgot a question: do you have goals?
A small group of business owners agreed to meet to review and revise and activate their business marketing. The benefits include:
Commitment – each of the group signed a contract stating their intent and promising to do the work outlined
Alliance – working with like-minded individuals facilitates networking, offers opportunities and encourages support.
Synergy – thanks to small group interaction, ideas get a sounding board, suggestions create discussion, focus increases effectiveness and plans move from thought to action.
Staying “on top of your game” implies you have a plan, you’ve thought it through, and most importantly, you’ve begun a series of actions calculated to move your business forward. Magical.
Where are you in the process?
NOTE: Contact me if you’re looking for the accountability of a small group.
Choose your tools from a long list of possibilities to supplement your content-driven website. (NOTE: The website itself is a given.) Other tools include and aren’t limited to:
Tips of the week
Teleseminars / webinars
Prioritize these as primary or essential marketing tools, secondary or important ones and those nice to have.
As you know, I’m participating in the Ultimate Blog Challenge and posting daily about building your marketing master plan.
UBC participant Melanie Kissell, a solo mompreneur who writes about blogging and online strategies for women entrepreneurs, addressed the process of picking your marketing tools this way:
“You won’t experience a lick of success in your marketing efforts unless you choose platforms you sincerely enjoy working and ones that fit into your schedule and lifestyle.”
Right on, Melanie! Read the entire post.
Too many times we entrepreneurs look for the answers “out there,” when our first step might be to check the authenticity of our commitment.
How can you make your content strategy fit you and your business?
Too bored with the detail? How’s that shotgun approach to marketing working for you? Today’s topic is day thirteen of a 45-day step-by-step marketing master plan. Focus. Choose to take your business to a new level topic by topic, with specific actions, based on clear worksheets. Act now!
Next, look only at disconnects, the places where strategy does NOT reside. A few I noticed this week:
- An art gallery tweeting exclusively about shoes
- An independent businessman rants about neighbors in his strip center, rather than tending to customers
- Email from businesses with no subject lines
- Dirty windows in a quiet store
- A loss leader that doesn’t appeal to best customers
- Weird giveaways, unrelated to client needs or to other products
Carefully analyze the purpose of your content communications. Then ask, “What do I expect my audience/customer to do?
Content strategy answers the question of “How?”
Quality and clarity of thought determine your degree of success.
How can you best capture your customer?
Too bored with the detail? How’s that shotgun approach to marketing working for you? Today’s topic is day twelve of a 45-day step-by-step marketing master plan. Focus. Choose to take your business to a new level topic by topic, with specific actions, based on clear worksheets. Act now!
When you’re developing your own collateral materials it’s somehow more difficult to get clarity on your differentiation. How do you assess your value, your differences? What is your unique selling proposition, your USP?
Try these ideas to stimulate your thinking:
- Let your customers define your value. Ask them. Prompt them. Survey them. Understand why they buy from you again and again. Use their words to solidify your offerings.
- Engage your employees, family and friends in a 360-degree review. Note how their perceptions of your business differ from your own.
- List your differentiators in plain language. No adverbs. No descriptive adjectives. Just the facts.
- Stimulate your thinking and energize your business with a focus group in which a panel of outsiders led by a facilitator talks about your business.
Look at examples
Look at exceptional businesses. Corbett Barr, an Internet entrepreneur and ThinkTraffic blogger, touched this subject with “10 Examples of Killer Unique Selling Propositions on the Web.”
Define with a ‘How-to’
Bob Bly, veteran copywriter/consultant, offers three tips on creating a unique selling proposition:
Each advertisement must make a proposition to the consumer. Each must say, “Buy this product, and you will get this specific benefit.” Your headline must contain a benefit – a promise to the reader.
The proposition must be one that the competition either cannot, or does not, offer. Here’s where the “unique” in Unique Selling Proposition comes in. It is not enough merely to offer a benefit. You must also differentiate your product.
The proposition must be so strong that it can move the mass millions, i.e., pull over new customers to your product.
Read Bly’s full post, The 3-part Formula for a Winning USP.
Incorporate your USP to overall marketing strategy
Marketing and leadership speaker, David Meerman Scott, puts it another way. In his free Marketing Strategy Planning Template he asks “How are you remarkable?” “What value do you bring?”
The template walks you through proof: credibility indicators, guarantees, testimonials, etc.
Each of these three experts bring different approaches to the question of differentiation. Now that you’ve identified your differentiators, how will you showcase them for the world?
Today’s post marks day four in a 45-day master marketing plan. Take your business to a new level in just one hour a day. Focus on one topic. Learn more.
Think in terms of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, the acronym, SWOT.
Begin with opportunities. Explore new alliances, different processes, pricing structures, product offerings, and more. Brainstorm as if you were discussing your business from the perspective of a stranger.
Then, list your strengths. Review each strength to see if a hidden opportunity exists.
Why begin in this manner? Twenty minutes is a reasonable amount of time. Try setting a timer and going for it. Or, dive into this kind of analysis in 10 minute segments while you wait for an appointment. And, as for beginning with the strengths and opportunities, consider this:
Most entrepreneurs can go on and on about the weaknesses and threats. After all, those things keep you up at night.
Seldom does a business owner proactively reflect on the other side. For the purpose of this exercise, spend 10 minutes on the strengths of your business (or, your own) and an additional 10 minutes on the opportunities.
“Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” ~Thomas Edison
See an earlier ProfitMeister post: How small business owners overlook the obvious by failing to do a SWOT analysis.
Quickly: What opportunities might you have overlooked?
Today’s post marks day three in a 45-day master marketing plan. Take your business to a new level in just one hour a day. Focus on one topic. Learn more.
“Something’s not working in my business and I can’t identify what it is.”
“I need additional personnel and I’m afraid to hire.”
“I want someone to explain to me how and why social media works. Specifically. Once and for all.”
“Is Facebook an appropriate way for my business to get the word out?”
“Is this opportunity for me?”
As I considered the questions, I realized I’d confronted (and still confront) some of these same queries. I discovered the answers are seldom “out there.” Until I decide which direction I will go for my business, until I release fear enough to move confidently forward, nothing happens. However, the questions can escalate.
“How do I make marketing work harder for my business?”
“What part of marketing can I tweak to improve performance?”
“How can I increase sales?”
I heard these and more. All of my conversations this week reflected a prevalent fear from the business owners with whom I spoke.
Everything is up for grabs. In an effort to capture attention, people are screaming about their solution, promising to solve your problems, offering bonus after bonus for you to like their page, join their cause, buy their product.
Now, more than ever, entrepreneurs need a plan and a partner to help them implement it. Their partner must be someone willing to ask the tough questions, experienced in business sales and profits, trained in traditional and new marketing techniques, and smart enough to put it all together without a hidden agenda.
In preparation for a six week training program happening this fall through the University of New Mexico Continuing Education Department, (a Smart Marketing Series Certificate program, #55611-#55616) I’m stepping forward to enroll in the 30-day Ultimate Blog Challenge.
My daily October posts will focus on the steps entrepreneurs can take to move forward on a marketing master plan. This is my story with excerpts from workshop participants, clients, and friends. These are the resources I select, along with ones others recommend to me.
So, instead of worrying with the possibilities, I’m taking action. Creating forward movement. Making a commitment. Taking step one to completion of my big goal.
How about you? What are you doing?
Today’s post marks day one in a 45-day master marketing plan. Take your business to a new level in just one hour a day. Focus on one topic. Learn more.
Not so long ago in a my town, a savvy business owner chose to insert her business name into her Facebook account. So, even though she had a personal account, her business “friended” people. Because she worked it, her friends expanded and expanded. She sailed past the 800 mark and found herself exhausted by the stream of information and notifications and unsure of the effectiveness of her work.
“I hate Facebook!” the entrepreneur moaned.
The moral of the story: Facebook personal pages aren’t meant for business.
“Why?” you ask?
Personal pages, as defined by Facebook terms and policies, are for individuals. Businesses cannot use a personal page. Fan pages serve business.
Advantages of Facebook business page vs. personal page for business:
SEO Indexing. If you’re looking to increase your web presence and visibility, you want to be found. Search engine optimization, SEO, increases the likelihood people not already your customers will discover your business. If, however, your business is listed on a personal page, it becomes more difficult for new people to find you.
Unlimited friends. A personal page limits friends to 5,000. New friends depend upon your personal authorization. Fan pages have the advantage of being more viral. Fans can suggest them to others. When a person likes a page, you show up in their stream or newsfeed.
Multiple administrators. Facebook makes it easy to add administrators. In the case of our savvy business owner, she can easily make her two employees administrators and create a sense of teamwork for both store and page. In addition, with the help of her employees, Facebook work gets easier.
Loyalty building tools. You can build separate landing pages for different products, so it’s easy to like the business page for usability. In addition, you can message fans, driving business with discounts and/or product offers.
Disadvantages of a Facebook business page:
No alerts. As administrator, you do not automatically get alerts when someone comments on your fan page. No alerts, no notifications, no newsfeeds. You, like fans, must visit the page to see what’s happening.
Strategy needed. In order to grow your fan base, you’ll find it necessary to plan. Developing a welcome page takes thought. Gathering testimonials encourages you to talk with customers. Presenting a coupon page means discussing pricing. How will it complement your website? What parts of your website will you highlight or duplicate on Facebook? In short, your page(s) won’t just happen.
(Which leads to the next point…)
Ongoing work a must. Facebook fan pages take work. A fan page is extremely easy to set up and maintain, but attracting and engaging customers takes ongoing commitment. Before beginning, be sure you’re up for the challenge.