Level 3 Processing: What Every Merchant Needs to Know

Use a Level 3 Merchant Account to Grow New CustomersIf you are like most business owners you already understand the basics of credit card processing and merchant services.  Your business already accepts most major credit and debit cards and for the most part the system is functioning well.  But did you know that Level 3 capabilities would allow you to expand your target market?  If bigger business-to-business or business-to-government sales are part of your growth strategy then you need to know a few key details about Level 3 processing.  Let’s get started.

Level 3 Processing Basics

Very simply stated the primary difference between levels of processing (Level 1, 2 & 3) is the type of additional data that must be captured with each transaction.  Therefore your payment processing system must be set up to capture and transmit the additional data to meet Level 3 requirements.  Some examples of the data that your system must capture would be Customer Code, Merchant Postal Code, Tax Identification, Item Quantity, Duty Amount, Destination Postal Code and Alternate Tax Amount. We created this reference guide that compares the amount of data required for each level of transaction.  This additional information not only provides greater detail to the buyer for tracking and management purposes but also provides significant cost savings because Level 3 rates are lower than Levels 1 & 2.

From Basics to Benefits

The benefits of Level 3 processing are many for you and your business. We’ve listed just a few benefits for you to consider.

  1. Cost savings is the primary benefit because both the buyer and the merchant enjoy a lower processing rates.  And a Level 3 merchant account will improve your profitability and reduce payment time from 1-2 months to 1-2 days. Check out our article on reduced fees for more details.
  2. Offering Level 3 processing is also a great selling tool for your business giving you a competitive advantage.  A large corporation or government entity looks to suppliers that are set up to support this type of transaction and often make it a requirement before agreeing to do business with a supplier.
  3. The expanded features associated with this technology include the ability to do a variety of time saving tasks. Features such as accepting payment by electronic check; automated online invoicing; shopping cart integration; and integration with a merchant’s accounting system make this a technology worth exploring.

Go Big as a Growth Strategy

Expanding your target market to include large corporations and government entities is a solid business strategy that could really jump start your company’s growth.  But be sure to take time to plan and to put the necessary resources in place first.   Becoming a Level 3 processing merchant is one way to support your ‘go big’ strategy for the long term.  You take care of the strategy and we’ll take care of the details.  Give us a call and we’ll be happy to answer any of your Level 3 processing questions.

 

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SEO is Dead? OK, Now What?

Those of us in the web design and digital marketing industry have recently been inundated with information and articles touting the death of SEO.  As Google makes changes to its platform and functionality the entire industry responds and tries to make sense of the ‘new normal’.  If you are not in this industry or an internet geek this all may seem like gibberish to you.  You’re probably wondering why you should care.  Well, we’ve taken a stab at sorting out the recent developments to help you understand how they will impact your business and your website.

Don’t miss the great infographic at the end of this post

A Little SEO Background

Very simply put SEO (search engine optimization) refers to putting the right words or keywords in place at the best frequencies and densities to ensure that the search engines find your website.  And for the record, SEO is not actually dead it’s just changing.  As with everything about the internet change happens constantly at a fast and furious pace.  Website traffic is now generated from Google search as well as a broadened range of sources including social media, blogs, video, forums, etc.

Content, Content, Content

In real estate we often hear that it’s all about location, location, location.  In this evolving internet landscape it’s now all about content, content, content.  The single most important thing you need to know is that the content that appears on your website, blog and social media platforms plays an integral part in driving traffic to your website.  Yes, all of it.  Images too.  One of the best articles we found so far on this topic is at Copyblogger.com that discusses Optimizing Content for Discovery and Conversion.  They do a thorough job of introducing you to the concept of content marketing.

Two Areas of Focus for Optimization

This new approach of content marketing focuses in two distinct areas: external or off-page and onsite, sometimes referred to as, on-page.  The external focus looks at numerous traffic sources such as search engines, social media sites, as well as aggregation and syndication sites like Slideshare.net and various news sites. The onsite focus looks at your website for functional efficiencies like load times, usefulness of content, responsive design and navigation.  The two, then work together to drive and convert website traffic.

Content Marketing Strategy

The Copyblogger article lists six tactics you can implement to improve content optimization.  And the content that appears on your website, blog and social media platforms should be consistent with your overall online marketing strategy. Does this all still sound a bit overwhelming to you? Does the idea of creating yet another strategy leave you shaking in your shoes? It’s really not that bad. It simply means a change for you and your business, but a change you simply cannot afford to ignore. And you do have a choice: go it alone or give us a call.
SEO is Dead - Infographic
Like this infographic? Get more content marketing tips from Copyblogger.

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Your Website Is Shouting: Is That Good News or Bad News?

Updating your website

There’s a good chance your website is shouting from the mountain tops. And that can be a good thing.  But if it’s shouting all the wrong things about your business then that would be a bad thing.  So how do you know the difference?  Let’s take a closer look at some examples of websites behaving badly.

One Page…or Less

It may seem rare that a business would not have a presence on the internet these days but it’s more common than you might think.  If you’re one of those entrepreneurs who doesn’t think they need to do much with a website you are not alone.  Take a look at these disturbing survey results posted in this 2013 article from Yodle:

“Many small business owners are still not adopting modern technology and marketing approaches.  Although just over one in two SMB owners (51%) use technology to help with accounting operations, this dwarfs technology utilization for appointment booking and scheduling (39%), customer relationship management (34%), point-of-sale systems (25%), and acquisition marketing (14%).  Additionally, more than half of SMB owners do not have a website (52%) or even measure the results of their marketing programs (56%).”

Fact: most people go to the internet first to learn more about a business before they ever set foot at your doorstep.  And mobile devices make that search quicker and easier than ever.  Right or wrong your potential customers are most likely judging your business by what they find or don’t find online.   A solid online presence shouts legitimacy, professionalism and ‘welcome’ to anyone who sees it.  Little or no online presence shouts “I can’t be bothered” or “I’m not considering your business needs, ideal customer”.  Ouch.

Dusty and Musty

Seven years ago when your 14 year old nephew built your website the information was current.  Great.  If no one has refreshed that information, now that your nephew is away at college, then your site is probably looking old and dusty. Even if your site was designed professionally and is 2-3 years old.  A lot has changed on the internet in all those years.  To be brutally candid a lot changes on the internet every day.  If your website has gone untouched for more than six months you run the risk of looking outdated. A website that shows current news, events or blog articles shouts that your business is alive and well.  A website and your internet presence requires search engine optimization, social media and content to attract a continuing stream of new prospects and customer service options to your current customers. A website with outdated information shouts ‘buyer beware’.  Ouch.

Why All the Shouting?

We’ve used the term shouting in this article to emphasize the fact that your website and online presence have a significant impact on your business.  To quote the writer Ralph Waldo Emerson  “Your actions speak so loudly, I cannot hear what you are saying.”   The actions you take or don’t take online do the same thing for your business.  Like it or not your website is shouting on your behalf.  Make the effort to direct and manage your message, your image and your online presence.  Your business depends on it.

Do you know the 2014 trends to leverage for your web presence?

What frustrates you most about outdated websites?  Leave a comment below to get the conversation started.

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Merchant Services: Three keys to choosing a provider

As a provider of credit card processing and merchant services we get a lot of questions from business owners about how to choose a provider.  The list of points to consider is lengthy so we decided to focus on the top three points that we believe you should consider during your selection process.  We recommend you focus on: reputation of the provider, integration with ERP/accounting systems and price.  Let’s dive in.

 Tips for choosing a merchant services provider

An Excellent Reputation

It seems that data breaches have become far too regular an occurrence in the business world.  So it’s important that any provider you are considering have an excellent industry reputation and long standing proven track record of handling transaction, security and fraud issues effectively.  They should practice strict adherence to the PCI (Payment Card Industry) compliance standards and support your efforts to uphold your compliance requirements as well.   Did you catch our blog on PCI Compliance: Tracking Access to Merchant Card Data?

Accounting and Credit Cards

If you are like most small businesses, you and your staff are already juggling a large number of daily tasks.  So it’s important that any provider you are considering have the capability of integrating with your ERP or accounting systems.  Again, a track record of integration with your existing system is key as you don’t want them practicing on your business.  Seamless integration will minimize the amount of manual input you and your staff will need to manage.  Your integration will most likely involve website, shopping card, a gateway and your ERP system.  There are several moving parts that should be easily explained by your website developer and integrator.

Realistic Rates

The bottom line for every business is to minimize costs.  But as with any purchase you make you should devote time to educating yourself about your options.  Credit card processing services are priced similarly across the industry but extra fees are the primary differentiator. Some packages might offer rates that are only valid for 6 to 12 months. And some packages might not clearly delineate all the costs such as bank interchange or discount fees.  Small and startup providers may offer low rates but often haven’t reached the level of financial stability required for the long haul.  We recommend you take time to thoroughly review and compare the offers and agreements you receive. Apples to apples comparisons are important as too many times comparisons are slanted by the presenter. Reference our website for more merchant services tips.

It’s Your Choice

Your options for credit card processing and merchant services are numerous.  Trying to sort through the complexities of all those options can seem overwhelming.  And making the wrong choice can not only be disruptive to your business it can be costly too. The points we’ve highlighted here will make this choice a bit easier for you.  Still have questions and a sense of overwhelm?  Contact us or leave a comment below.  Share your story and we may even write an article about your situation.

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Planning to succeed – learning from the past

Our CEO, Marnie Ochs Raleigh was asked to speak within a panel discussion at the “Destined to WIN” Women In Networking business conference last week. Her closing thoughts are worth sharing.

Pulling to

Evolve Systems is 12 years old, being a business owner, married to your business partner and mother of 4 teenagers there is never a dull moment.  At times the feelings can be over whelming.  This panel presentation was the perfect opportunity to reflect on the what, the how and the why I got where I am today and bring things into perspective.

Presenting with other two speakers, Nicole Middendorf and Mary Schmid,  on the topic of ‘WIN 6 Figure Success’ we identified and shared several key qualities or information we wished we’d  known from the start of business.

Our closing question for the panel event was simply, ‘What key thing do you wish to share with the audience?’  (As promised during the event, here is a list of items that I shared and believe honestly reflect the change that has helped Evolve Systems grow, and be such a great company.)

    • Create a strategic plan for both your business and your personal life and review quarterly
    • Set goals, create a goal board – have fun with it
    • Raise more money than you think you will need, estimate 25% more
    • Surround yourself with great people, your employees are your highest asset
    • Hire people that are smarter than you are – not because you like them, or are friends
    • Share the glory – praise your team and clients, celebrate success
    • Be transparent with your team, treat them with respect
    • Protect your culture, rotten apples do infest nastiness
    • Create an Advisory Board with key people you need to contribute to your success
      • Business Attorney
      • Banker
      • CPA
      • Marketing
      • IT Consultant
      • Insurance
    • Embrace change
    • When change happens expect chaos to follow, and it typically comes in series of 3
    • Be friends with your competitors
    • Schedule time (meetings) on your calendar for your kids
    • Force yourself to go on vacations
    • Hire a business coach as soon as you can afford it
    • Consider your business a hobby, it helps to reframe your thoughts on a nice Saturday when your friends are out playing at the lake
    • Never give up – failure is not ever an option
    • Create a brag book that collects thank you emails from clients, success stories and achievements to review when you’re having a bad day
    • It’s OK to cry from time to time

I believe if you do the very best you can, deliver on what you promise and take advantage of each new day there is now where to go, but up.  Find a way to ‘tug together’ not against your time, team and family.

Marnie lives and breathes these principles, as Evolve Systems continues to grow they become a stronger part of the foundation that has been built.

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