Thursday, June 30, 2011

Placing a "dot com" behind your business

In a Network Solutions study of Small Business Success, 56% of small businesses have websites. Are you apart of that 44% of small businesses without a website? It is imperative that business owners utilize technology to its full potential to advance in their industries. Establishing and maintaining a business website is a great way to keep your customers informed on updates and promotions as well as interact with your target market. A website can pose as another sales channel outside of the physical location to sell products/services.

According to Internet World Stats, in North America as of March 31, 2011 there were 272,066,000 internet users. Within that number of users is potential customers for your business. Consumers are no longer rushing to the physical yellow pages book to find a mechanic, good restaurant or hair salon. They are looking for the “dot coms” to not only find their desired product or service, but to get them the best fit for their needs based on local search results, reviews and current promotions.

Having a web site is beneficial to your business for many reasons such as cost reduction, efficient advertising, market expansion, and keeping your business competitive. Although their maybe some drawbacks for business owners who are not tech savvy, training and/or outsourcing for website maintenance are options for your business and its long term goals.

With more than 27% of small businesses on Facebook, some business owners have taken advantage of it as an official website for the company. This cuts costs of setting up an actual website and is easier for them to maintain.

Guy Kawasaki made great points to why business owners settle for a Facebook fan page versus a website to have an online presence for the business. Facebook allow businesses to instantly interact with them without having to build up a buzz about a live website. However, Kawasaki also mentioned that there are drawbacks by only utilizing Facebook Fan Page.

When looking to setup a business website, it is helpful to research other company sites to get an idea of where to begin. Knowing what your competitors sites look like and market is important to know. In addition, knowing your target market will come in handy when choosing the right templates, content, and graphics that will capture their attention as well as represent your company’s brand. Give visitors an experience that will persuade them to visit your physical location to patronize. Give your “brick and mortar” customers reasons to go online. Create a testimonial section and be sure to include all positive feed back with an area for satisfied customers to add their good experiences as well.

Let’s say you are running a spa business and a potential consumer who is not in your geographic market would like to purchase a spa day. Allowing this patron to purchase their package and make an appointment online will be seen as a convenience so when the spa day arrives, the customer can walk in and begin a day of relaxation with no hassle. You are not only reaching consumers who may not be within your geographic area but you are offering a convenient online experience for them. E-commerce can work for products and service, so adding this feature to your website will be beneficial.

Business websites are a great enhancement and if used properly can take your business to the next level.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Upgrading POS systems with a Merchant Cash Advance

For most retailers, restaurant owners and even service providers, like hairdressers, installing or upgrading a point of sale (POS) system is a mandatory part of doing business. At their most basic, POS systems are used to balance the cash drawer, process credit cards, run reports, count inventory, print checks, act as a time clock for employees, and control theft. Advanced systems can be used for even more sophisticated processes, including developing target marketing strategies, tracking supplier purchases, and analyzing sales of each inventory item. Indeed, a POS system customized for your business’ needs is more management tool than cash register.

Here’s a quick overview of the three basic kinds of POS systems and a checklist of individual elements of all POS systems to use when considering a Merchant Cash Advance (or any other funding) to upgrade your business’ system. Remember that each comes with a seemingly endless combination of features and add-ons, so it is important to know what your business can handle and what it needs to bring in more revenue.

Standalone ECRs – Because data collection is limited to each electronic register, this system is best used by small independent retailers with a limited number of register sites. ECRs are the least expensive of the POS systems, yet they provide many helpful features, including automatic sales and tax calculation; calculation of change owed to the customer; sales report generation; capacity to sort food stamps and trading stamps (through programming of function keys); and scanning. This may be enough for your business. Using a Merchant Cash Advance to upgrade an ECR system is great idea if your business is generating additional sales or if it needs to, say, monitor the buying patterns of existing customers.

Network Systems – For larger businesses, network or ECR-based point-of-sale systems feature multiple terminals arranged into a primary/secondary configuration. One ECR in the store, equipped with extra memory capacity, serves as the primary terminal and receives data from the secondary terminals. These systems give businesses the capacity to manage storewide data and transmit it to main frame systems.

Controller-Based POS Systems – The top POS systems are controller-based systems in which each terminal is connected to a computer-the "controller" of the system-which receives and stores all sales, merchandise and credit data. It then checks all data from the terminals for transmission errors and reformats the data for use by the headquarters computer.

Picking a System for Your Business

It may be best to keep the existing software-based POS system or even move to a web-based package, especially if your business is mobile. When looking to use a Merchant Cash Advance to build sales and save time and money, look at the following:

Hardware – This includes a PC or module, display, keyboard and mouse, high-quality cash drawer, barcode scanner, credit card reader, receipt printer and label printer.

Inventory and other features – How quickly can your employees locate items in the system? Quickness here speeds and enhances the checkout process for the business and the customer. Check out additional built-in options for layaways, multi-payment plans and gift certificates.

Customer tracking and labels – Why not track customer's lines of credit so that they can buy now and pay later? Stored customer information can also speed up shipping by having labels with a customer's address all ready to go. Most POS systems will print shipping labels, but only select systems will also do price tags, shelf tags and customized labels.

Employees and security – Choose a system that has multiple levels of security access and password protection. Most POS systems can be used for clocking in and out, tracking commissions and employee hours.

Help and support – This is probably the most important element to consider for your business. The best manufacturers provide training through videos and manuals, but providers should also offer technical help through FAQs and online tutorials, as well as 24/7 phone and email support. Aside from learning how to use them, POS systems can have issues just like any piece of equipment, so find a company that offers excellent tech support and a warranty.

Get What You Need Quickly

One of the benefits of a Merchant Cash Advance is that it is a very quick method of obtaining working capital – sometimes in as few as 72 hours. This speed-to-funding can be leveraged by the business, which is especially helpful when upgrading and improving essential parts of your business.

The way a Merchant Cash Advance works, your business gets the lump sum of capital needed right away. You can spend that on whatever purchase you need for the business. Then over time, the remittance is handled through your credit card processor and normal sales activity. (Learn more about how a Merchant Cash Advance works.)