Credit Cards And Small Business: A Dangerous Mindset

merchant servicesThere’s a quaint little coffee shop nearby that is usually bustling with customers early in the morning. As you walk through the front door you are immediately wrapped in a warm blanket of aromas from the fresh pastries and goodies baking in their ovens.  In addition to coffee and baked goods, they offer catering services for any special event.  But we wonder how much longer they can survive on accepting only cash. We also wonder how much more business they could be doing if they accepted credit cards as a payment option.

A dangerous mindset

When you talk to the middle-aged woman who owns the coffee shop, she insists that her customers are ‘just fine’ paying with cash.  And she gladly accepts paper checks for the large catering orders she fills.  Somehow in her mind, the risk of getting a bad check is more tolerable than paying credit card transaction fees. Couple that with her desire to retain that quaint, old-time feel and she is firmly set against the idea of adding this very common convenience to her business. And we think that’s a dangerous mindset for any business owner.

Here’s why:  this 2014 article in Business News Daily stated:

Businesses can no longer get by without accepting some form of plastic: By 2017, just 23 percent of all point-of-sale purchases are expected to be made with cash, according to a study by market research firm Javelin Strategy & Research. That means more than three-quarters of transactions will be conducted with credit and debit cards.

Did you catch the date in the first sentence of this quote? 2017.  That prediction is only two years away, not twenty.

What she is missing

Our coffee shop owner is missing some significant benefits for both her customers and her business.  Let’s take a closer look at just a few:

  • Even her most loyal customers don’t always carry cash and may opt to drive to a shop that does accept credit cards simply for the convenience.
  • Customers will only spend the cash that’s in their pocket. She is missing out on the impulse buy many times a day. And that wonderful aroma of fresh-baked goods is a built-in sales tool that’s pretty hard to resist.
  • Employees in a cash business can be tempted and go undetected. It’s too easy to take a buck and put it in your pocket instead of the register.  And that cup of coffee doesn’t show up on any inventory reports.
  • A bad check is rarely recovered, and since she’s using them for her largest sales transactions she stands to lose a lot of money along with the time to chase it down.  A credit card that’s declined on the spot will save her a lot of headaches.

No business owner would intentionally send good customers away.  So is it any better to send them away unintentionally?  If you happen to be one of those hold-out business owners who has resisted this change, it’s time to reconsider.  And don’t worry, we make it easy and affordable for any business to accept credit cards.

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Mishaps, Negativity and Other Social Media Challenges

social media troubleSocial media and business do mix well.  Most of the time.  We believe a solid marketing and content plan that utilizes social media is a ‘must have’ for businesses of any size.  But we all know that accidents happen.  Mistakes are made and sometimes, customers get angry.  The challenge is to handle the situation as effectively as possible to minimize damage and keep things from escalating.  Check out our suggestions for how to rise to the challenge of managing your social media mishaps.

Where’s the undo button?!!

Does any of this sound familiar: “I hit publish before I really meant to!”  “I was really fired up when I wrote that.”  “I was rushing and didn’t check my facts before I got that out.”  Yes, it happens to the best of us.  First rule to follow as strictly as possible: slow down. It can be tough when you have an overflowing plate of tasks, work and meetings.  Recover by posting an honest follow-up that tackles your error head on.  Try “I learned a valuable lesson” or “Mad doesn’t always equal smart/right/etc.” Apologize when necessary and never place blame elsewhere. It’s best to show that you are human and professional enough to handle your error gracefully.

Time is not on your side

Whatever error or mistake you make on social media remember that response time is critical.  It’s a natural tendency for us to run and hide, or ignore it hoping that the issue will just go away.  Nothing could be worse for your business and reputation.  Recover by making your follow-up as quickly, thoughtfully and carefully as possible.  The same is true when it comes to negative reviews or comments.  Responding quickly shows that you are paying attention, that you are concerned, and that you have nothing to hide.

You can’t make everybody happy

And sometimes, when it comes to social media it seems like you can’t make anybody happy.  Keep an eye out for negative reviews and comments in places like your blog comments or public sites like Yelp.  Again, recover by responding quickly, but be sure that you are thoughtful and careful.  You don’t need to add fuel to the fire of an already angry or aggressive commenter.  It’s important to remember that not all negative comments are worthy of a response.  If a comment is vague, vulgar, or personal, it’s best not to engage them with a response. You may have heard of internet trolls who have nothing better to do than cruise the internet looking for a new place to make a nasty comment or start an argument.  They are a sad lot, so it’s best to avoid them if possible.

Have you recovered from social media mishaps? How did you handle it?  Share your recommendations in the comments below.

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Big Budget Content Marketing On A Small Budget

Content marketing budgetNo doubt the subject of content marketing is a hot topic.  Every marketing expert in the land is weighing in on how to utilize content to the fullest for maximum results.  We noticed that many of the articles are intended for big companies that have big budgets for this stuff. Since many of our clients haven’t quite reached that level we decided to see what suggestions we could find that fit a smaller budget.

Repurpose your content

The trend among marketers suggests that reusing content is something they would like to do but haven’t included that tactic in their plan. Last month we talked about spring cleaning your content to ensure that it’s current and relevant. Take that a step further by auditing your older blog posts to see what can be updated and reused.  Perhaps you made a prediction about your industry that could be revisited.  Or you could add quarterly updates about your industry or business to your content marketing plan.  Even internal topics like employee recognition and volunteerism can be repurposed.

Tap in to your team

One way to boost your content creation is to leverage your employees’ expertise and experience. Offer an incentive to anyone who is interested in writing an article.  They could write about their role in your company or their perspective on customer service, product quality, sales success or any relevant topic.  If they prefer not to write the article themselves arrange for a brief interview to capture their thoughts and perspective.  It’s a great way to gain insight into your business as well.

Designate a resource

A trend that is quickly becoming more common for bigger companies is to designate an executive to be directly responsible for overall content marketing strategy.  A specific resource who drives the creation of a strategy and manages your content marketing plan is a great idea…if you can afford it.  Many of our clients split this role between someone in-house and our team.  Together we establish a content marketing plan and the team here at Evolve handles the execution and ongoing management of that plan. It works well for our clients who want a big company presence on a small company budget.

Taming the content marketing beast may seem daunting if you are a smaller company with limited resources.  But content marketing is becoming a ‘must have’ for businesses of every size.  Finding the best solution that works with your budget is our specialty. Give us a call when you’re ready for some help.

 

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Building A Stronger Community: Leading By Example

Volunteer organizationIn our blog post from December 2014 we gave you an inside look at our corporate philosophy of giving back to help build a strong community. Here at Evolve we not only donate 5% of corporate profits to various organizations but our entire team works at giving back throughout the year.

Our co-founder Don Raleigh leads by example through his work on the board of directors at the local non-profit organization ECHO Minnesota .  We recently caught up with Don to find out more about why he believes this work and his involvement is so important.

ECHO Minnesota is a leader in multi-language health, safety, civic engagement and emergency readiness communication bridging the gap for immigrants and refugees in Minnesota. Through close collaborations with health and safety experts, bilingual community leaders and talented spokespersons, ECHO crafts high quality programming for television and radio broadcast and phone, print, web, DVD and partner relay distribution.

What compelled you to get involved with ECHO?

Don:  “As a linguist and a person who has lived in foreign countries I appreciate the challenges that come with living in a country where you do not speak the language. As an Emergency Services Officer in the United States Air Force Auxiliary, Civil Air Patrol, I am aware of additional challenges that come with responding to and reacting to a disaster. The mission of ECHO is to collaborate with diverse communities to deliver programs and services that help people be healthy, contribute, and succeed. This mission to help some of our most vulnerable citizens is very compelling for me.”

What are ECHO’s strengths?

Don: “The greatest strength is the depth of integration we have in the various highly diverse communities in Minnesota. Our ability to work directly with LEP (Low English Proficiency) communities is further strengthened by our ambassador program that has over 60 members working directly in each community.“

How does ECHO add value to the community?

Don:  “ECHO works to improve the lives of immigrants by focusing on reducing disparities in health care for immigrant and refugee communities.  These people often experience higher rates of poor health and overall shorter life spans.  ECHO promotes preventive care by raising awareness of serious diseases and increases access to life-saving emergency information by facilitating efficient mass-media messaging in multiple languages.  I believe strongly in ECHO’s work to facilitate the transition to life in Minnesota for immigrants and refugees helping new Americans integrate successfully into our communities.”

What makes you passionate about your involvement with ECHO?

Don: “I am passionate about serving our communities beyond just words. ECHO’s mission is one that is both relevant as well as impactful. One of the basic tenants of being part of a community that supports each other is helping the most vulnerable among us to be safe. That is the role of ECHO and I am excited to be there as an active member.”

What is your most memorable experience with the organization to date?

Don: “The Hmong Town Market here in Minnesota was shut down due to a cultural misunderstanding. ECHO was able to work with law enforcement and the courts to come to a reasonable and mutually acceptable solution by developing a multilingual education program that would help prevent future issues.  This was an amazing outcome that would have been far different if not for the intervention and help of ECHO.  It makes us incredibly proud.”

 

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Measuring Content Marketing: Don’t Wind Up Someplace Else

Content marketing

Image credit: celebquote.com

Opening season is around the corner so we decided to turn to one of baseball’s greats for a little Yogi-ism. As we mentioned in our previous article, it’s important to avoid being one of those businesses that is blogging, email blasting and using social media just to follow the crowd. You really must be looking at metrics or some means of tracking your efforts. There is much to gain by understanding how your investment is performing, or not. And as Yogi so succinctly puts it “if you don’t know where you are going…”

Measurement does require effort on your part to establish your business goals then create a content marketing plan that supports them. We’ve come up with few questions to get you started building your plan and measuring the return on your investment.

What are we trying to achieve?

Being clear about your business goals is the best place to start. Establish a goal such as to generate more leads, sell new products or services, or build your email list. However, as we mentioned in our previous post about vanity metrics, be careful not to mistake ‘increase Facebook Likes’ for a business goal. Focus instead on the next level up like increasing conversions from your Facebook traffic. And always follow the SMART method of establishing any goal.

Who is going to care?

If you can’t answer this question easily and definitively then stop right here. Lack of a thorough understanding of your audience is probably the number one mistake that businesses make in content marketing.  Research is required in order to know your audience well.  Most business skip this step. Throwing something, like content, against the wall to see if it sticks constitutes a grand experiment and even grander waste of your time.  Research the characteristics that make up their segment, look at what they are commenting on, and base your content on their interests and demographics.

How will we know when we get there?

This is the point where focusing on the details really matters.  First, determine your channels of distribution such as social media, blog, email or PPC.  And remember, not all distribution channels are right for every business or industry. Then select your tools for measuring each channel such as Google Analytics or tools that are inherent to the channel itself.  Finally, by combining the available data with your goals, define the key performance indicator for the channel such as how you define a conversion, lead, etc.

Whew.  That’s a lot to determine and measure.  But not to worry, it’s what we do.  If you want to avoid “winding up someplace else” give us a call.

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