Credit Card Pricing – What You Pay To Take Peoples Money

Let’s face it. Credit card statements are confusing at best and misleading at their worst. In our experience, both inside and outside the firearms industry in Canada and the US, clients look at them passingly as they are handed to a bookkeeper or accountant and never looked at again.

That is a mistake. Not just from the point of view of having a deep and intimate level of understanding of the goings on of your business, but from an ownership point of view. If you don’t care what you are paying for services that are critical to the operation and survival of your business, who will?

Understanding how card processing works is not that hard. Don’t mix up the industries attempt to confuse you with overly detailed or blinding vague statements fool you.

The statements are complex. The process isn’t. And understanding it is critical to ensuring you are getting the most ROI from money you pay for card services.

WHO TAKES WHAT

A transaction is your customer paying you a sum of money for a product or service. There are a few specific ways that a cut (percentage usually) can be taken out of that sum to pay for the process of moving money from the customers credit balance (their card) to your bank account. These specific ways to take those cuts are called “Pricing Structures”.

Key Fee Information

The Three Cuts

There are three places where you pay for the services:

The Interchange Fee

The interchange fee is what the merchant bank the hold the debt on the credit card charges to move the cash. Its not negotiable with your merchant services provider (Chase, Moneris, Elavon, Global Payments etc). They change once in a while in sync with economical change, and are widely published on the internet.

The Card Brand Fee

The card brand fee is the the cost that covers all the bells and whistles that a card offers to its user. What you need to know up front so that anything else beyond this point makes sense is this. The fees are calculated on hundreds of factors, but one of the biggest factors is what kind of card your customer is using to pay you.

Points and rewards cards are so popular today, that you would be hard pressed to come across a plain old credit card with no program attached to it. Aeroplan, Avion, Diner Club, Airmiles are just few programs that give a cardholder a points reward for using the card they can redeem for travel or convert to cash to buy things.

Who do you think pays for those programs? The card companies? They are in the game to profit, so no. The customer? Not very rewarding to pay for your rewards points is it.(though many allow customers to buy points LOL)

YOU, the merchant, pay for those points. And that means the more rewarding or “high end” a card is, the higher the fees associated with using it are. So the rate you pay when your customer is a college student paying with the pre-paid Visa their parents fill up for them every month is VERY different from the effective rate you pay when I walk into the store with my Visa Infinite Avion Platinum card. Often the difference is whole percentage points apart.

The Margin Fee

This where the processor take their profit. This is also how we get paid. We partner with multiple firearms friendly merchant processors like Global Payments and Elavon and when we resell we get a cut of this part of the fees.

Understanding the Different Payment Processing Pricing Structures

There are four main ways that fees are taken from the sun your customer is paying you. These are:

FLAT RATE – You get one rate based on the Interchange, the Card Brand Fee and the Margin. While this gives you fixed costs, if someone is paying with a card that has lower Interchange or Card Brand fees, you are losing money. On the other hand, if someone is paying with a High End card that has really high Interchange Card Brand fees you win. Its a crap shoot, and this kind of cost certainty is not always a great trade off. It depends on knowing your customers and what cards they like to pay with.

INTERCHANGE PLUS – The best option for saving money and keep costs as low as possible. Each individual transaction is prices by adding up the Interchange Fee, the Card Brand Fee and the Margin Fee. This is the best approach if you have a wide variety of card types used by your customers, and you are less worried about price certainty and are more focussed on saving as much money as possible

TIERED – more common in the US than Canada, this pricing model has almost no advantages for the business. Its basically a way of grouping cards, and assigning a rate to those cards. The group names might be familiar to you. They are “Qualified, Mid-Qualified and Non-Qualified”. Most times the business is show the “”Qualified”rate that is low, but only applies to the most basic cards (remember who pays for those fancy rewards programs) and if a customer pays with a Mid or Non Qualified card, the higher rates are STACKED. Not used instead of, but all added together. SO where a customer using a Qualified (read: no rewards program credit card) might have you paying 1.69% for that transaction, me paying with my trusty Visa Avion Infinity Elite Platinum Super Duper Card (Non Qualified) would have you paying 1.69% PLUS 1.7% for a total of 3.39%

DIFFERENTIAL – Like TEIRED in the US, this is more prevalent in Canada, but in addition to the stacking rates, adds different “Qualified” and “Non-Qualified” fees to Interchange rates as well as the Margin rates to double charge you on each transaction.

Conclusions

It’s pretty obvious here why we endorse Interchange Plus as the go to pricing model for our customers. It’s the best set of rates, allowing you to keep costs as low as possible, and it also make understanding these rates clear enough so you can actually READ your statements with a bit of coaching, and figure out what you are really paying.

When we ask you for three months of your existing statements, we are using the info above to reverse engineer and calculate what your REAL effective rates are so we can determine if we can save you money by moving you to a new provider.

Oh and guess what? These are the fees you pay on the transactions ONLY. There are line item fees you pay for things like security, monthly network access, PCI, “Administration” (one of my favourite made up ones) that add on to what comes out of your pocket for the privilege of taking peoples money.

We will get to those in the next blog post. Stay tuned.

 

 

What Social Media Monitoring Can Teach You About Your Business

Intro to Social Media Monitoring

Have you ever been at a party and caught a person or a group glancing at you while whispering covertly?

What’s up with that? Is your fly open? Does someone have a crush on you? Does someone want to throw a drink in your face?

You’d want to know, wouldn’t you?

The online universe is a lot like that party; It’s a system of digital communities in which people are gathering and discussing a wide variety of topics, including YOU. In your personal life, you may or may not care to find out what they’re saying, but in business, it’s essential to your survival that you know.

At the party, you may never get the answers you seek without shaking someone down. However, online, you can use social media monitoring to track mentions of your brand, competitors, product and any other keywords that are applicable to your business.

Monitoring your social media channels is about more than just listening.

The information you accumulate can help you make major decisions about your marketing strategy, the products and services you offer and how people regard your brand. Plus, it can help you identify leads, build relationships, stay on top of trends, learn about your competitors, protect your brand and more!

Note: This post is outlining organic social media monitoring tips, as opposed to paid social campaigns. Organic social media is more geared toward building brand awareness and connecting with your target audience. Paid social is typically centered around driving targeted actions like content downloads, webinar or appointment signups, and other specific goals.

Here’s more on why it’s so important that you monitor what people are saying about your business online.


Why Should You Use Social Media Monitoring?

1. To gauge social sentiment

What do you know about your brand’s reputation? You can get a feel by reading your reviews and speaking with customers, but you’d be missing a wealth of more informal brand or product mentions.

Plus, you need to be there to respond! In a recent survey, Sprout Social found that 89% of social messages go ignored. That’s a problem—and an even bigger missed opportunity.

People use social media to discuss the topics they care about within the communities they choose. That’s where you need to listen to truly discover how people regard your business, the issues they’re having, and the things they love.

2. To find leads & build relationships

Are people searching for your products and services? You’ve seen those calls on Facebook for recommendations, or the plaintive cries for help on Twitter: “I want pizza!” When you monitor your brand’s keywords or phrases, you can jump in and answer these requests (Just mention your current Monday 2 for 1 pizza deal!). NOT selling anything can be really effective too. Be a part of the conversations that are happening online about your industry.

3. To stay on top of trends

When you’re closely monitoring discussions in your niche, you may be able to catch new and evolving trends as they emerge. For example, when Instagram launched its “Stories” product, Snapchat growth took a major hit (growth slowed by 82%). In response to news like this, you may decide to alter your marketing strategy to be one of the first to dive into a new social channel or try a new tactic.

snapchat statistics

Image source: Techcrunch

Why is this important? In an over-saturated market, doing the same thing as everyone else can get you lost in the crowd. Finding ways to stand out will help you get noticed and stay relevant in your industry.

4. To perform competitor research

Has your competition launched a product similar to what you offer, but at a lower price or with a few more bells and whistles? Did they just launch a marketing strategy that your customers are loving? Did they just screw up royally using a tactic you’ve been considering? Keeping your finger on the social pulse will alert you about these types of scenarios and unforeseen issues that may have huge repercussions for your business.

5. To protect your brand

Building your brand’s reputation takes a lot of time and effort, but it can all be lost in seconds.Monitoring your social channels allows you to identify any issues customers have and jump on solutions before they blow up.

Stuff happens. It’s inevitable.

It’s how you respond and how quickly you respond that matters. In fact, we’ve found that if a business resolves its issue quickly and efficiently, 95% of unhappy customers return to you.

Listening, identifying the issue and showing your customers you care and are taking steps to resolve the issue is what can turn them from a brand killer into a champion for your business.


What to Do With Your Social Media Monitoring Insights

So once you’re set up with the tools you need for monitoring, tracking, measuring and analysis, what do you do with the information? This is the key moment where you determine how to act on the knowledge you’ve received.

Shift Social Strategy

Is your strategy working? Are you truly getting traction on your primary social channels? You may discover that it’s time to re-evaluate the resources and effort you put into certain channels.

For example, maybe you discover that your people are super engaged in Quora. Devoting more time and resources there would be worth pursuing, even if it’s at the expense of another social channel.

Results from monitoring your competitors on social media could also yield some interesting insights as well. You may find that a new video tactic has people in your area or industry buzzing about a close competitor. Why let them go unchallenged?

Work on Developing Relationships With Leads & Influencers

If you can jump into conversations and authentically solve problems for people, do it! This tactic can be especially relevant when it comes to people’s frustrations with your competitor’s products or services. When you do this, it’s essential that you come from a really genuine place and offer tips or advice geared around helping people. People don’t want to be spammed, and sensitive topics like plastic surgery should be off-limits.

However, in many industries you should feel free to have real conversations with people around the topics they care about (which also happen to be topics YOU care about as a business owner!).

Spotting and reaching out to influencers in your industry as outlined in this post (Salesforce) can have an amazing amplification effect for your brand as well. People look to influencers to help them make purchasing decisions all the time, and if you can develop strong relationships with key influencers you can expect better results for much less work.

salesforce built relationships

Image Source: Salesforce

Develop New Products/Services

Listening to the needs of your target audience is a smart way to refine your solutions and develop new ones. If enough people are saying they hate a product, or wish they could tweak it, it’s probably worth looking into what the issue is and try to determine what could make that product better.

For example, Natalia Chrzanowska of (Brand24) notes that GoPro did exactly that when they introduced their new camera – GoPro Hero4.

“We analyzed the social media discussions regarding both releases – Hero3+ and Hero4. The insights gathered during the Hero3+ premiere included lots of suggestions for features that could improve customer experience, which then appeared later on in the succeeding model – GoPro Hero4.”

On the flip side, if your customers LOVE one of your products, there may be an opportunity to develop similar or complimentary products or services.

You can then turn around and apply all this awesome feedback as testimonials for new campaigns. Think ad campaigns, email campaigns, social campaigns and beyond!

Update Customer Service Policy/Process

Social media has led to a major shift in how customer service is carried out by many companies. People want instant answers, and are less likely to put up with call centers. Many won’t even pick up the phone when they have a problem; They’ll just tweet about it! According to a new report from Conversocial, 54% of customers prefer customer service via social media and SMS. The upcoming generation of millennials will only amplify this trend.

People are sticking to their favorite social media platforms to air out their complaints, and you need to know if this is happening in your industry (and be ready for it).

In Jay Baer’s book Hug Your Haters, author and consultant Dave Kerpen notes that:

“If a customer calls you on the phone to complain, surely you wouldn’t hang up on them. And not responding in social media is akin to hanging up on them, only worse, because there are actually other people watching and listening.”

Letting complains hang out there unanswered is not acceptable to current and potential customers, and it shouldn’t be to you!


4 Easy Wins

I’ve thrown a lot of information you’re way. It’s easy to get overwhelmed and put off testing these strategies for yourself. To help you get started, here are a few easy action items for you to try out.

  1. Jot down 3 of your top goals that you’re hoping monitoring your social channels will help you with. (example: Find out if people are liking the new kombucha flavor we just released).
  2. Contact us to get set up with the social media monitoring tools you need. Poke around and see what value you can get out of the tools.
  3. Enter a few of your brand’s keywords and see what data the tools come up with.
  4. Look through the initial results. Make a list of 3 things you learned and whether you should discuss with your team.

Final Thoughts

Most businesses are aware that they should monitor social media for mentions related to their brand, products, services, competitors and industry. You might actually be doing so already. But do you have a plan in place to analyze, respond and integrate results into your business’s ongoing strategy?

If you don’t, you might be missing some golden opportunities…or you could get a martini in your face!

Copyright Online and Fair Use in Social Media

With the online world being dominated by images, what do you need to know as a business owner when it comes to copyright laws?

Sharing Images on Social

Visuals are huge in the social media world, particularly for businesses. Here’s a quick run-down.

  1. On average, content with relevant images has 94% more total views than content without (Jeff Bullas)
  2. Compared to other types of content, visual content is 40x more likely to be shared on social media (Ethos3)
  3. Facebook posts with images can receive 2.3x more engagement than text posts (BuzzSumo)

A couple things can be seen here. First, using images in your social media communications is critical to its success, and second, social media is the driving force behind the unfathomable amount of photos being shared online every second. In fact, the world is on track to share over 2.5 trillion photos online by the end of this year!

Social Media Copyright Risks

Because online culture evolves so quickly, the laws of the land are constantly readjusting to the most recent trends in online activity. This is especially true regarding copyright online and fair use on social media, both of which have yet to become clearly defined for the digital age. Fortunately, even online, by sticking to the basic foundations of copyright law you will be protected in most cases

💡 This post focuses on copyright laws as they pertain to Canada and the United States.

What is Copyright?

Simply put, copyright is: “the exclusive legal right to reproduce, publish, sell, or distribute the matter and form of something (as a literary, musical, or artistic work).” Its purpose is to strike a balance between protecting the author of a work, and serving the public interest.

Copyright offers the owner exclusive rights over their work. Copyright owners can:

  • Reproduce the copyrighted work
  • Create derivative works based on the copyrighted work
  • Distribute copies of the copyrighted work to the public by sale, transfer of ownership, rental, lease, or lending
  • Perform and/or display the copyrighted work publicly (copyright.gov)

Copyright is determined on a case-by-case basis, which makes it difficult to identify any clear-cut examples of infringement that could be applied to other cases seen in social media.

Creative Commons and Free Use

On the other end of the spectrum, “creative commons” work is always free to use. This dedication means that an author has dedicated their original work to the public domain, waiving all rights to their work worldwide under copyright law.

This work is free to “copy, modify, distribute and perform, even for commercial purposes, all without asking permission” (Creative Commons). Sites like Pixabay or Flickr find photos that are released under Creative Commons! These photos require no attribution (credit to the author/source) and they are free to use.

Internet Memes and Copyright Online

There are so many kinds of memes that may or may not infringe copyright online that lumping them all into one category and stamping them with “approved” or “rejected” ink just doesn’t work. If you are curious about how the memes you might be sharing fall under copyright law, here is a quick guide.

Types of Memes

Memes can range from the popular “image macros,” to silly sentences repeated across the web. Obviously, catch phrases, hashtags and other word-based memes have no real copyright risk. It’s the visual and image macro memes that may pose a problem. Specifically, image macros that depict copyrighted characters and productions.

Pop Culture Memes

Let’s say, for simplicity’s sake, that most memes are fair use. I mean, no one is going to come after you for throwing a “damn, Daniel!” into one of your Facebook posts. The memes that may pose an issue are those that pull images from pop culture, like Futurama Fry or Boromir’s “one does not simply” meme. These character stills are pulled from pop culture media and turned into memes, yet the characters depicted are owned by a specific brand or company.

Could using a pop culture meme that depicts a copyrighted work or character result in a lawsuit? Yes.

Is it likely to? No.

But when it comes to commercial use of memes, it’s good to err on the side of caution, and avoid posting pop culture memes that clearly depict copyrighted works.

Memes in Social Advertising

Using memes for social advertising is the surest way to cause problems with copyright when it comes to sharing memes. Posting a meme is relatively harmless, but using it in advertising is a whole different story.

Advertising is not protected by fair use, and so any direct promotion of your company/brand with the use of memes, or using memes for profit, can get you legal heat.

If you’re thinking “that’s silly, who would punish me for selling a t-shirt with a picture of a particularly grumpy cat?” I understand where you’re coming from, but Grumpy Cat has a company that’s ready to protect its property (which is, weirdly enough, a mean looking cat).

General Rule for Copyright Online

Even though the rules of fair use and copyright online are often left up to interpretation, a good rule to follow is assuming that all images and videos found online are protected by copyright, unless explicitly expressed as being free to use by the owner. Ultimately, it’s up to the author of the work to enforce copyright law if they find that their work is being used without permission.

The next time you decide to use any content that isn’t yours, ask yourself:

  1. Do I have permission to use this image (or is it free to use)?
  2. If not, does my usage fall under “fair use”?
  3. Is using this content worth the potential legal consequences?

It will be interesting to see how copyright laws and content sharing practices will change with the evolution of social media trends. For now, just remember—a picture may be worth a thousand words, but it may cost you a lot more if used without permission.

55 Stellar Statistics for Websites

Welcome to the most comprehensive collection of design, functionality and content stats for websites.

Imagine a world where a single, gigantic shopping mall hosted a store for every business across the globe. It’s easy to imagine that any business that doesn’t have a store in this mall may as well not exist, as every consumer looking to shop would come to the mall to find what they need. If a business was nowhere to be found in this mall, the consumer would shop at one of the other infinite stores. Simple solution: all businesses need a store. However, simply having a store in the mall is not enough. Each store needs visible signage spread all throughout the mall to entice consumers, and businesses need to be accurately listed in the mall directories so shoppers know they exist. The more often a business and products/services are displayed and mentioned around the shopping mall, the easier it is for the shoppers to locate the store. Another simple solution: businesses need visible signage, and accurate listings in the mall directories. But, again, there’s more to attracting customers than just having pretty signs, and the store itself has to provide value, too. Once the consumer walks through the door, the look, feel and contents of a store have to be good enough to keep customers from turning around and walking out again.

Sounds complicated, doesn’t it? Good thing this shopping mall doesn’t exist, right? Wrong. The thing is, this shopping mall exists. It’s called the Internet. The store is your website. Everything that holds true for stores in our fantasy shopping mall is true for businesses on the internet.
Accurate signs and listings in the appropriate directories will get a business found, but it’s the business’s website that’s going to keep consumers interested. With over half of businesses having websites, businesses who want to experience success need to know how to stand out.

These stats for websites illustrate why it’s essential to build the best store in the mall, and how to keep traffic and conversion rates on the rise.


General

1. The average revenue for a small business is $3.6 million, but the average revenue for a small business with a website is $5.03 million
2. 53% of small businesses had websites in 2014
3. 67% of businesses with annual sales of $1,000,000 – $2,490,000 have websites

Functionality

4. 64% of shoppers who had a poor experience with their site visit will shop somewhere else next time
5. 39% of consumers will stop engaging with content if the images won’t load
6. 39% of consumers give up on content when it takes too long to load
7. 47% of consumers expect a page to load in 2 seconds or less
8. 23% of online shoppers will stop shopping if page loads are too slow, while 14% of online shoppers will take their business to another site
9. More than half (52%) of online shoppers say that quick page loading times are important for their loyalty to a site
10. Delays at peak traffic times made more than 75% of online consumers abandon a site for a competitor’s
11. A one second delay in website loading time can lead to a 7% loss in conversion
12. Increasing your site’s loading speed from 8 seconds to 2 seconds can boost conversion rate by 74%
13. A site that takes 6 seconds to load will have a 50% loss in conversion
14. 40% of consumers will abandon a website that takes longer than 3 seconds to load
15. 75% of online consumers will use the “back” button before a slow page fully loads
16. 51% of American online shoppers say that a slow loading time is the top reason they abandon a purchase
17. Slow websites cost retailers $2.6 billion in lost sales each year

Design

18. 38% of consumers will stop engaging with content that is unattractive in imagery or layout
19. A consumer’s first-impression of a website is 94% design-related
20. Website credibility is judged 75% on the site’s overall design
21. 85% of consumers will abandon a site due to poor design
22. Given 15 minutes, 66% of consumers would prefer consuming content that is beautifully designed than something simple
23. It takes consumers 0.05 seconds to form an opinion about your website, so use that time wisely!
24. The right colors increase brand recognition by 80%
25. 52% of consumers states “aesthetics” as the main reason why they would not return to a site

Devices

26. 90% of consumers use multiple devices sequentially
27. Not only are 97% of millennials mobile users, but 20% don’t use desktop at all
28. 61% of digital media time is spent on mobile, with only 39% on desktop
29. 85% of adult consumers believe that a company’s mobile site should be good or better than the desktop version
30. 65% of customers develop a better opinion of brands, services and products when they have a great mobile experience
31. 88% of consumers prefer to shop with retailers that deliver connected cross-channel experiences
32. If consumers have a good experience on your mobile site, they are 59% more likely to make a purchase
33. 67% of online shoppers are more likely to buy from a site that is compatible with mobile devices
34. Mobile-commerce (m-commerce) saw an annual growth of 56% in 2015, while desktop e-commerce only saw an increase of 8%
35. 50% of online shopping is done on a mobile device
36. Almost 70% of tablet users make a purchase on their device every month
37. Over 20% of tablet owners admit to shopping less in real life since they purchased their device
38. While 50% of consumers will switch devices if they are having trouble interacting with the content on a site, 33% will stop engaging entirely
39. 62% of companies that designed a site specifically for mobile experienced an increase in sales

Content

40. 47% of consumers check the products/services pages of a website first
41. 65% of consumers want to see contact information on the site’s home page
42. 44% of consumers left the website because there was no contact information
43. Over half of consumers want to see an “about us” section on a company’s home page
44. 54% of consumers find that a lack of contact information available on a vendor’s site reduces the vendor’s credibility
45. In a study of 200 small business websites, 70% did not display clear calls-to-action
46. TL;DR! 38% of consumers will stop engaging if the content is too long
47. 50% of sales are lost because consumers can’t find the content they’re looking for
48. 46% of consumers say that the most annoying thing about a website is the lack of message (unable to tell what the company does)
49. Keep it down! 33% of consumers said that video/audio that plays automatically on a website annoyed them or caused them to leave
50. 69% of consumers reported that having too many form fields deterred them from filling out a contact form
51. 70% of viewers look at lists with bullets, while only 55% look at lists without
52. Websites that have 51-100 pages generate 48% more traffic than website with 50 pages or less
53. 69% of North American marketers say that personalized and dynamic content is important for their business’s website
54. 20% of consumers think that a blog helps establish a company’s credibility
55. B2B companies that blog once/twice a month generate 70% more leads than companies that don’t blog at all

Sources: business2community, Adobe, Econsultancy, Statistic Brain, Hosting Facts, Online Marketing Institute, KoMarketing, Fifty and Fifty, NN Group, InvasionApp, TechRadar, comScore, IronPaper, Business Insider, Kinesis Inc, Entrepreneur

The world has gone digital, and business has followed. It’s easier to go where your audience is than to bring them to your door, and the biggest audience lives online. Carving out your own corner of digital space with a killer website is the first step to dominating the online world, and these stats for websites can be your guide.

5 Steps To Becoming an Instagram Sensation

300 million—the number of people on Instagram every single day. Businesses are taking advantage of Instagram by using it as a resource to gain popularity and increase their customer base. In fact, top brands like Nike and National Geographic have over 60 million Instagram followers!

So why would any business pass up this opportunity? If you’re not a regular ‘grammer, starting your own page (and growing it) can be overwhelming. The success of your Instagram will be determined by how you run your account. These Instagram tips will help you gain a booming fan following, and lead the way to sensation status.


Instagram Tips #1: #Hashtags

Hashtags could be one of the most important components of gaining popularity on Instagram. Posts that include at least one hashtag have seen up to 12.6% increased engagement. To put it simply, hashtags are a tag that helps categorize photos with the same theme or content.

In your mastery of hashtags, make sure to keep them short, simple and most importantly, relevant. For example, when posting a photo of my fancy new watch, I may use the hashtags #watch, #michaelkors and #rosegold. Short, sweet and descriptive.

If you want to connect to local ‘grammers, hashtags with your location are a good idea. Additionally, many businesses create their own unique hashtag and ask their followers to use it.

For example, Coca-Cola encourages their fans to post Instagram Coke photos with the hashtag #ShareaCoke. This can be a great marketing tool, and help define your brand online.

Another important note to remember is to not over-hashtag, as this can make your posts look spammy, and will actually attract other spam accounts.

Instagram Tips #2: Tag a brand

When you tag another Instagram account in your photos, your photo will show up in the brand’s ‘“photos of you” section of their profile. They will receive a notification, and with any luck, may even engage with your post! Better yet, they could also start following you back, or even re-gram your photo!

Make sure the photo actually features the brand, otherwise you can get flagged for spam. Most big brands will have an Instagram account, and chances are, they probably have an expansive list of followers themselves.

For example, a jeweler could take a photo of a piece from their newest collection, and tag the designer in the photo. Getting some exposure from a big brand could help you significantly increase followers, and in turn, get more likes!

Instagram Tips #3: Use Visually Appealing Photos

Although it seems obvious, this point is oh-so important. You don’t have to be an expert photographer to have a stellar collection of Instagram photos, but you may need some practice. One of the most important bits of advice is to keep it simple. If you are featuring products in a photo, make sure the background is simple so that your product stands out. A cluttered photo will take away from what you are trying to promote. Sometimes, a crisp white background is the best option.

Instagram has many filters to choose from, so take some time to play around with them to see which one suits your photo best! Does your photo look best without a filter? Simply leave it alone! Alternatively, Instagram gives you the option to use their editing tools, where you can make some simple adjustments like brightening or removing shadows, rather than choosing a filter.

Take a few different photos and decide which is the most visually appealing. Taking good photos may take a bit of time, but like anything, practice makes perfect. Don’t give up, and you’ll be taking photos like a pro in no time!

Instagram Tips #4: Know Your Audience

It’s important to remember your audience and who you are targeting with your posts. What is the purpose of your Instagram page? Whether the purpose is to educate, promote or entertain followers, you should keep that in mind with each and every photo and caption. If your account is purely professional, keep it informative and concise. If you are marketing towards a younger audience and want to keep things fun and upbeat, ensure the dialog matches accordingly. Try using some emojis, be goofy and have fun! Show people what you are passionate about, and just remember to target the people with your same interests!

Instagram Tips #5: Ask For It

Your Instagram account is a conversation point with your customers. Most followers scroll through their feed passively, and won’t take any action unless it’s asked of them. Give them a call to action, and ask for it! For example, Double tap if you like coffee, tag a friend who likes coffee, share this photo if you love coffee, click the link in our bio for free coffee, etc. (Can you tell what’s on my mind right now?) If your customers oblige, this will increase your page’s activity, likes, and followers.


Most importantly, don’t forget to have a little bit of fun! Happy ‘grammin!

3 SEO Tips to Improve Your Keyword Research

Have you heard that improving your SEO will help you get found online more easily? You’ve probably heard that implementing keywords into the content on your website, blog, and URL are key strategies for improving your SEO ranking. However, including the wrong keywords or too many keywords can be just as detrimental.

Although you may not always notice them, keywords play an integral role when it comes to helping a small business get found online. So let’s get to it by breaking down the long and short (tail) of it.

Do Your Own Keyword Research

Keyword research should never be a one-time commitment, but rather an ever-changing process that involves a strategy and a comprehensive understanding of your business and your industry. Including keywords that are specific to your business and industry will help to ensure that the right customers are being driven to your door rather than just any customer. Although we want to increase our customer base, we don’t want to target consumers that may not find the value in our business.

Using the Right Keywords

Short-tail keywords, or keywords composed of very generic keywords, might seem appealing because they’re searched more often than long-tail keywords, however, they’re also a lot more competitive. So, unless you’re writing content for a large organization, like Apple or Macy’s, and consumers are likely searching specifically for your product, you don’t want to enter into a sea of competitors with big brands that have even bigger pockets.

Long-tail keywords, on the other hand, may not be as frequently typed into a search engine—think, “Egg” vs. “Poached Egg with Avocado and Bechemel”. By including more long-tail keywords into the content on your page, you’ll attract a larger number of customers who are likely to search for any combination of those long-tail keywords.

Location-based keywords are keywords that directly relate to your business’s physical location. For example, if your business is a bakery in a popular neighborhood in Charlotte, NC, you’ll want to include not only Charlotte, but also the name of that specific neighborhood. By doing so, you’re more likely to target visitors in your area rather than across town who may or may not ever make it to your location.

Avoid Keyword Stuffing

Speaking of misleading customers that may not find value in your business, adding practically any keyword under the sun is referred to as keyword stuffing and is largely considered a taboo in the digital marketing world. Like with any other digital marketing rule of thumb, less is more and quality will always conquer quantity. Ideally, a website’s content should include keywords in a natural way. However, by inputting keywords into a few sentences and repeating them over and over, you’re stuffing your content with keywords. Even if they’re good keywords, it’s still too much.

Now that you’ve read through these tips, you’re ready to become an SEO expert too!

What are Listings and Why Do They Matter?

Listings are an online summary of essential information for your business that serve as a powerful tool to help customers find you online and in real life. Here’s what you need to know:

NAP+W

No, we didn’t fall asleep on the keyboard. NAP+W is the acronym that explains all the information that should be included in business listings.

Name
Address
Phone number
+
Website

These four pieces of information are the business listings starter-pack. They provide the basic information potential customers need to have in order to research, contact and locate your business.

Want to score some major bonus points? Include information like hours of operation in business listings—it’s what consumers are most interested in!


Will my listings work?

The effectiveness of a business listing depends on the information’s presence and accuracy. Listings are available through a variety of sources, including search engines, online directories and maps, or social sites. When it comes to listings presence, more is definitely better. Availability on as many sources as possible will create multiple avenues for consumers to find your business. But (and this is a big but), presence only pays off if the listings are accurate. Listings are accurate if the information is correct and consistent across all potential sources. Seems easy enough, right?


Why are listings important?

Listings with good presence and accuracy will undoubtedly pay off for your business. Here’s how:

No more hide and seek

Just as the brightly lit bat signal guides everyone’s favorite caped crusader (that’s right Superman, we said it!), accurate and readily available listings will help guide consumers right to your business’s door steps.

They even have similar shapes. Coincidence? We think not…

If a business’s listing is incorrect or missing, the majority of consumers will feel less confident about the brand, likely leading them to choose a competitor’s product or service. The availability of accurate listings ensures customers are actually able to find brick and mortar locations while they’re open for business. This means money in the business owner’s pocket and, just as importantly, it means the business can be reviewed.

“In my humble opinion…”

An ample review pipeline is an essential tool for developing a business’ online reputation and fostering brand loyalty. Reviews allow customers to communicate their experience with a business to potential buyers, but if consumers can’t find a business listed online, their opinion of it won’t be well-informed. Accurate listings create the opportunity for transparency between businesses and consumers in the form of reviews, and the availability of this information will help increase a business’s visibility.

All aboard the search engine

Consistent, accurate listings and the generation of reviews will directly benefit a business’s visibility by boosting its ranking in local search engine results. Search engine optimization is a complex tool, so why not take advantage of it by simply ensuring your business is listed accurately! Increased visibility means more customers, and what business owner doesn’t want that?


Now what?

This listings low-down provides a basic definition and describes the benefits of business listings. Create listings on sites worth lots of points to improve your listings score. We’ve ranked them by importance using a lot of key factors—how many sites reference them, traffic, demographics and more.

6 Reasons Your Local Business Listings Need to Be Accurate

As a business, how likely is it that potential customers will come through your door?
The whole point of an online presence is to entice customers into your store, your leasing office or your showroom so you can convert them to paying customers rather than just browsers online.

Further, nothing is more frustrating as a customer than finding out that you have been given the wrong information about where a business is located. As a customer, how likely are you to give this company your business? Not very. In fact, according to Placeable, 73% of consumers stated that they lose trust in a brand when the online listing shows incorrect information.


1. Missing hours of operation information can be a dealbreaker

There are many things that people look for in listings, whether they are looking at that search engine on a PC or on a mobile device. The top piece of information that most people look for is the hours of operation, since their search is likely for a business that they frequent quite often.

In fact, in a study conducted by local data aggregator Localeze, hours of operation were noted as the most helpful feature in selecting a business during local search. 76% of respondent reporting that they expect this information when searching and 61% believe that it is a feature that helps them to select a business.

Even if people are new to a business, it doesn’t give people a good impression if the business hours are not listed and they don’t know that it’s only open from 11 a.m-6p.m. Tuesday-Saturday .Imagine that potential customer who is ready to spend their money in store, but shows up on Monday at 7 p.m. only to find it closed. That customer is likely going to do another search on a mobile phone to find a different store and spend their money there.


2.You can’t spell NAP data (and score a citation) without an A(ddress)

While most people would assume that the number one reason people do a search online is for the address or location of a business, the address is actually behind hours of operation as the second most desired information. But, of course, the whole point of being in business is to make money doing what you love or selling what you love. And that happens by attracting foot traffic and increasing customer base.

It bears repeating that if a business address is incorrect on listing sites such as Google or Bing, then customers will not be crossing the threshold. A simple thing such as the wrong number on a street address, or even the wrong town, can mean that a customer cannot find you. The US Postal Service relies on a complex system of checks to verify and standardize addresses, and many of the search engines will default to the USPS for correct mailing addresses.

What this means for the average new business owner is that unless a business is in an established location, getting the correct address on their listing means that both the address from City Hall and the information on USPS must be consistent. If USPS doesn’t recognize that address, then a business owner must contact them to verify their new address and get that information updated on USPS’s online database.


3. Local searchers are mobile creatures

According to Localeze, mobile-phone-based searches drive in-store purchases with more than 75% of searches ending in a purchase—if a business has their listing details correct. Now if half of the people searching for a business listing on a local search engine, such as Google Local/Maps, can’t find the store’s business listing details, then the business is going to lose 100% of their business.

For ease of use for potential customers, some of those details need to be as readily available as possible in a mobile-friendly manner. This can be accomplished with a responsive website that supports cellphone and tablet-specific versions.


4. Updated, accurate websites still serve as a first impression

At the same time, more than 60% of searches on PC platforms such as website portals, Internet Yellow Page directories and local sites have a similar chance of ending in a purchase. While mobile searches are becoming more of a standard in where a customer searches, a business owner should not discount the power of a fulsome, consistent and accurate listing that is reflective of the business website.

Any listing should be linked to the business’s website and feature the exact same information, but more of it. While a website should be enough to entice a customer to visit or buy, if those inconsistencies exist, then trust issues may arise in a business’s practices before a customer ever crosses their threshold.


5. Local searchers mix it up across multiple devices, situations and times

People who search for listings are doing it in many more ways than when the Internet first coalesced into existence about two decades ago. In that time, we went from working on desktops to laptops to PDAs to Blackberries to Apples to tablets—and in each iteration, the methods of search have changed.

However, that has slowed over the last five years or so as web developers realize that they need to be smarter. Rather than designing three different sites for three different platforms, they have created websites that are scalable to the search device. And that has been helped along by the proliferation of types of devices in use everyday.

According to Pew Research Center, In 2015, smartphone ownership in America was at 68%, with tablet and computer ownership at 45%. Statista says that almost half of American adults use their smartphones the most to search for local information online, the other half being split between computers (40%) and tablets (11%). According to Localeze, like the types of devices used, what we are searching for varies by the time of day and device. Entertainment is searched for during work hours on computers, restaurants during evening using phones and health/fitness evening using tablets.

The most important part of those mobile searches is accuracy. If someone cannot find your business in a local search or find inaccurate results whilst out and about, then your business has lost the chance for that browser to become a customer. So having those listings correct in all of the device formats is a must as we, and our technology, continue to evolve in the way we interact with local businesses.


6. Local search results are trusted sources of information

Last but certainly not least is the fact that local search results are considered the most trustworthy. In a study by Neustar, it was determined that these searches, such as “used games Raleigh”, are what people do the most since they put that trust in local business more than big box, big website stores.

Think about it, would you rather find a local store where you can get that latest purse in town right now? Or you can wait a week for delivery, which is four days past the event that you want it for! Local searches lend themselves to instant gratification and that interaction between browser and salesperson will convert that browser from someone who might get just the minimum to a loyal customer who feels like a million having spent a little more, but getting what they consider to be gold!

Those interactions are what lead people to local searches and the absolute necessity of getting your listings correct. Trust leads to loyalty, which leads to more business, which leads to happy customers and business owners.

And it all starts with that correct listing in that customer’s local search.

How to Respond to Negative Reviews

Believe it or not, the same premise applies to negative review response as it does to positive reviews. How you respond to a negative review impacts not only the reviewer, but all the sets of eyes that come afterward. Seeing a business handle a particularly challenging review online suggests that management is proud of their business, and willing to go the extra mile to maintain their reputation!

Make potential clients see the light with these four steps: apologize, promote, get offline, keep it simple.


How to respond to negative reviews

  1. Apologize and sympathize

    The first step towards fixing a problem is acknowledging that one occurred. Regardless of what happened, a simple apology and sympathy for your customer’s experience goes a long way.

  2. Promote

    So the famous crab cakes weren’t up to par the day this particular customer visited. If they’re what you are known for, why not reiterate that? “Our crab cakes are usually a hit, we’re sorry to hear that they weren’t up to par when you visited!”

  3. Move the conversation offline

    Don’t open a can of worms. Keep the lid on tight by offering the reviewer the chance to reach out via phone, email or both.

  4. Keep it simple

    Avoid specifics and don’t ask questions. Those conversations are much better served in a space away from the prying public.

One last pro tip: leave your business name, location and category out of this. You don’t want your negative reviews showing up in search!


Now that wasn’t so bad, was it? You can use software to pull in your reviews from all over the web so you can respond quickly. And if you don’t have time, seek out our Digital Agency services to do it for you. Not only do we guarantee expertise, we guarantee it in a hurry: we respond to reviews as soon as our software pulls them in!

Get Online Fast

Get Online Fast

Selling your products and services online rather than in-store means that you need a website with the capability to handle an online store. But while setting up an online store might seem complicated and time-consuming, it’s actually not as difficult as it seems!

Where possible, many businesses are moving some–or all–of their products and services online. Have you been investigating transitioning some of your business’ sales and operations to ecommerce?

To get started, all you need is a website that’s powered by WordPress—we’ll show you how to do the rest using WooCommerce, a free and open source plugin that allows you to easily set up a functioning web store, complete with payment and shipping options, in minutes.

What you’ll need to get started

  • A website powered by WordPress
  • Products or services to sell
  • 30-60 minutes to set up and add products to your online store

Set up and install WooCommerce

Step 1: Find and install the WooCommerce plugin

First, you’ll need to install WooCommerce on your WordPress website. You can download it for free from the WordPress repository, or you can install it directly from your WordPress dashboard.

Log in to your WordPress dashboard and navigate to Plugins > Add New. Search for “woocommerce”, and click Install Now on the WooCommerce plugin (Note that the correct plugin’s author will be listed as Automattic). Wait a moment for the plugin to install, and then click Activate.

The plugin will now be active on your WordPress site.

Step 2: Follow the Setup Wizard

After installing WooCommerce, you’ll have access to the WooCommerce Setup Wizard to configure your store’s key settings like location information, payment and shipping methods, and types of products that you’ll be selling. Note that everything you choose in the setup wizard can be changed later on in your WooCommerce settings.

You’ll first enter information about your store’s address, the currency you accept, and whether you’ll be selling digital or physical products (or both).

Step 3: Choose your payment processing methods

Next, you’ll choose which payments you’ll accept using your online store. By default, you can use Stripe and/or PayPal, but you can also choose to accept offline payments like checks and cash.

Select the options you’d like to use, and WooCommerce will set them up for you. Extensions that allow you to use more payment processing methods are available, if necessary.

Step 4: Choose a shipping method

You can also configure how customers will be charged for shipping. You can set one rate for your specific business area, as well as other rates for customers outside of your business’ area.

Step 5: Choose optional add-ons

Once you’ve configured the basic settings for your online WooCommerce store, you can review optional add-ons. None of these add-ons are necessary to run your store, but some, such as Storefront, can simplify certain aspects of setting up your store.

Step 6: Finish setup

Before completing the setup process, you can choose to enable Jetpack, which is another WordPress plugin with additional features that can help in setting up and running your store. This plugin is not required, however WooCommerce recommends that if you’re in the U.S., you’ll want to enable Jetpack given recent legal changes.

Once you’ve completed the steps above, your store will now be ready for use, and you can begin adding your products to it.

Managing your WooCommerce store

After installing WooCommerce, two new tabs will be available on your dashboard’s side menu: WooCommerce–which contains your store settings, and Products, containing your product settings.

Follow the link at the end of the Setup Wizard or go to Products > Add New to begin adding products to your store.

WooCommerce has extensive documentation and tutorials on how to set up, manage, and operate your store. Here are some handy links for how to add products, sell and ship them, manage orders, and more:

Add and manage products

Adding and Managing Products

Adding Product Images and Galleries

Managing Product Categories, Tags and Attributes

Product CSV Importer and Exporter

Payment options

Managing payment options (Stripe, Paypal, payment on delivery, etc.)

Setting up Taxes in WooCommerce

Which Payment Option is Right for Me?

Shipping options

Managing shipping options (Flat rate, local pickup, free shipping, etc.)

Setting up Shipping Zones

Product Shipping Classes

Order management

Managing Orders

Email FAQ

Ask Us How We Can Help