Category Archives: Business

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Merchant Processing Fees

As a new business owner, you’ve just received your first credit card processing statement. Once you recover from the initial sticker-shock, you move to the next logical question: “What does all this mean, and how do I manage it?” The bad news: these statements, which contain complicated credit card processing fees that typically represent the fourth-largest expense category for a business owner, are not going away. The good news: with some basic understanding of terminology, a small business owner will be prepared to effectively manage these costs and negotiate rates, which will directly impact his/her bottom line.

For starters, it’s important to understand the four key players behind all card processing: the merchant service provider, the processor, the issuing bank, and the card associations. The merchant services provider is the company that actually sets up the business owner with equipment and the ability to process transactions. That statement with sticker-shock will come from the merchant services provider. The processor is the ‘acquiring bank’ that passes credit card information so that transactions can be approved and completed. The issuing bank, whose name is usually on the credit card, is responsible for issuing the card to the consumer. The card associations – Visa, Mastercard, American Express, and Discover – are the big boys who set the rules.

All four of these players are getting a piece of the statement fees you’re paying as a business owner. The merchant services provider passes along these fees in each statement. (Be sure to ask for sample statements when initially meeting with providers.) It’s important for business owners to recognize and control which ‘pass-along’ fees include mark-ups by the processor. The best way to manage this is to negotiate with the merchant service provider for what’s known as ‘interchange plus’ pricing. The other pricing model is ‘tiered’ or ‘bundled’. While tiered models can be effectively managed, it’s more difficult to control excessive markup rates which often do not appear in statements.

In summary, prior to choosing a merchant provider, remember to meet with three, request sample statements, choose interchange plus pricing if possible, and negotiate!

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Jumpstarting a Social Media Presence

Social media presents unprecedented opportunities for businesses to interact with their target market. Your company’s social media presence can be jumpstarted in the following three steps:

  • Select the platform that is most appropriate for your business. Find out where your customers, prospects, and competitors are most active online. It will be a network that allows members the opportunity to connect, contribute and influence. While it’s tempting to join multiple networks, the smart money is to choose one site and maintain a clear focus and strategy in order to grow your company’s presence.
  • Develop an ongoing Plan of Action. Once your platform is selected, your POA should include allocating a set amount of time each day to monitor and manage your social media presence. Most of us get inundated by industry alerts and updates, but if all we’re doing is reacting to these email alerts and posts by other members, we’re not truly growing our own social media presence. By setting aside, say, 30 minutes each day to review activity, respond to followers and post new content, your small business is taking a very important step by moving from reactive to proactive social media marketing. Your company’s contributions will inevitably lead to meaningful interactive discussions, which will foster your overall industry influence. Keep in mind that the more connections you have with relevant communities and members, the more impact your contributions will have.
  • Create an effective online profile. A small business profile lets members know who you are and what your company does. Your profile should include a short bio, summary, and some visuals, while maintaining professionalism. And remember – too much detail is a turnoff.

By effectively implementing these three steps, your small business is well on its way to an impactful social media presence.

Tasting the Big Apple

So you want to taste the Big Apple. So much to see and do, so little time. The trick is how to pack it all in for a great experience – without overdoing it.

New York consists of five boroughs: Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, The Bronx, and Staten Island. Each one is large enough to be a substantial city on its own, with enough shopping, hotels, restaurants and sights to fill your trip.

Manhattan is home of the Empire State Building, Central Park, Times Square, Wall Street, Harlem, Greenwich Village, SoHo, NoHo, Broadway and its theatre district, with world-class dining, shopping and of course entertainment.

Brooklyn is NY’s most populous – and quite possibly coolest – borough. Walk along the Brooklyn Bridge. Stroll the stately streets of Brooklyn Heights. Coney Island features Thunderbolt, the newest and possibly scariest thriller roller coaster of them all. Take in some hip live music and vintage shopping in Williamsburg. Downtown Brooklyn features Barclays Center, home of the NBA’s Nets and big events year-round. Prospect Park is a great place for families and includes a zoo, a natural forest and free concerts.

Queens features baseball’s Mets, U.S. Open tennis and one of the world’s most ethnically diverse communities, with 170 languages spoken, cutting-edge art and food from around the world.

The Bronx is home of the Yankees, birthplace of hip-hop and the World-famous Bronx Zoo and Botanical Gardens.

Take a free ferry ride to Staten Island and immerse yourself in stunning views and historic architecture.

When researching and planning your trip, check out www.iloveny.com/trip-builder for starters. Travelocity also has a nice guide with suggested itineraries: www.travelocity.com/inspire/first-time-new-york.

With some proper planning and execution, the bite you take out of the Big Apple will be a thoroughly delectable one!

Tunnel

The driver’s universe is an exceedingly curvy white tunnel bordered by sheer blackness on both sides.  The trip begins innocently enough; it’s relatively easy to maintain control and stay in the middle, avoiding any contact with either border, which literally kills the drive. The curves increase in difficulty and frequency with each series of successfully negotiated turns. The game is Tunnel, available in the app store for every smartphone user. The driver (aka smartphone operator) controls the moving vehicle (actually a blip on the screen) by tilting device left or right; easy curves call for slight tilts; sharp curves demand more excessive tilts. The game’s objective is to go as far as one can without touching either side. Each successive game’s objective is to beat the high score; with the culmination of the first drive, every driver automatically sets his or her “high score” to beat. It’s quite possibly the most simplistically addictive game in the app universe.  Bored and all caught up on emails while in dentist office or auto shop waiting rooms?  Tunnel has the answer.  It can captivate the user for a good 10 minutes or so, after which time the odds are one’s name will be called. For baby boomers, the game calls to mind “Pong”, quite possibly the most simplistic of all video games.  Brought to the video gaming world by Atari, the strangely addictive “Pong” is where gaming started back in 1972. The beauty of “Pong” was in its simplicity.  Guess what?  40 years later, Tunnel’s beauty is in its simplicity. Does anyone see a recurring theme of success?  Directions:  “Tilt to Drive.  Don’t hit the walls!”  No one has an excuse not to try this game.  Download and play today.

One-stop shop for all the latest and coolest Halloween stuff!

Tick, tick, tick…the clock won’t stop. Like a beating heart, it keeps on through the night. Tick, tick, tick…will you be ready? Yes, it’s that time of year again, the magical countdown to THE event of all events: Halloween, aka All-Hallow’s Eve. It’s the funnest, coolest, scariest, sexiest, most creative, most spine-tingling, most-anticipated night of the year. So, the only truly meaningful question is, will you be ready?

Earthling creatures from near and far, there is only one true answer: statefairseasons.com. Quite simply, this is the largest Halloween store in the United States. More importantly, it’s your one-stop shop for all things Halloween. Costumes, ideas, themes, decorating, planning–it’s all here under one cyber-roof, and available to you 24/7 as the Halloween clock counts down to the witching hour.

State Fair Seasons is home to the year’s most innovative and creative Halloween ideas. Going to a Zombie Apocalypse party? Got you covered. Time traveling? Pick your decade. Whether it’s the 1920s, 1950s, 1980s or somewhere in between, you’ll find it all here. Heroes and villains night?  Not a problem! This year there are a multitude of current Halloween themes, many of which come from Hollywood’s hottest movies, including Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, The Hunger Games, Frozen, and much more. With over 100,000 costumes in stock, statefairseasons.com has it all.

Vampire products? Look no further, mortal terrestrials. Teeth, fangs, wigs, masks, movie-caliber makeup kits, and a dizzying array of vampire costumes for all ages, shapes and sizes will make you tingle with delight as the big night approaches! Need help finding the right one? That’s no problem at State Fair Seasons, where exceptional customer service is a trademark. They are ready, willing and able to assist.

Staying within your Halloween budget this year will be easy. At statefairseasons.com, smart shoppers are rewarded. With a selection of costumes and party supplies that can’t be beat, the huge inventory means competitive pricing–which will fit within any Halloween budget.

So come one, come all, peruse our site, visit our mammoth operation, fill your coffers, and come away totally impressed. State Fair Seasons will make your 2014 Halloween quite possibly the best (and creepiest) ever!

Fresh Content: The Key Performance Indicator

Fresh Content: The Key Performance Indicator

In the subscription billing universe, stale content is the enemy. If left unattended, this enemy becomes a poison that leads to canceled subscriptions and a dwindling subscriber base. On the flip side, fresh, relevant content that draws readers’ attention and keeps them coming back for more is the nirvana that all periodical subscription websites aspire to.

Avoid the ‘Analysis Paralysis’ Trap

Any online business that’s not consistently applying a significant portion of its resources towards generating and managing fresh content is missing the boat. Too often, small businesses get caught in the analysis paralysis trap, meaning too much time is spent analyzing metrics from content that was created weeks ago. This is content that readers have long since left behind in their rear-view mirror.

How to Drive Content with Limited Resources

Granted, most small businesses have limited resources to generate fresh content. It is easy for any business to fall into the trap of relying completely on its own staff to continuously create this content. This is akin to sending a one-armed man into a fight. Why do it all when there is army of readers who can help? Tap into the insight, emotion and intellect of a subscriber base that’s ready, willing and able to contribute.

Have an Engaging Home Page

Most successful paid subscription sites feature a free section that is incorporated into the home page. Also typically featured is an interactive blog where readers can respond to articles and contribute ideas and exchanges — all of which continuously drives traffic! The home page should also include links to premium content that only subscribers can access.

Subscription Sites May Rule

For example, many newspaper sites highlight news and information about various current events. A number of articles are free, while others tease readers with only the first paragraph visible. Want to finish the story? Click on the subscription link, sign up and unlock the rest of the article. The KPI (or Key Performance Indicator) of these sites is how often content gets updated, which is directly proportional to subscriber retention rates.

As for exactly how often content needs to be updated, this will vary and depends quite a bit on how specialized the subject matter is.  For a broad-based example that truly sets the bar, look no further than the Wall Street Journal’s online offering, WSJ.com. Content is updated every half-hour at minimum. Home pages are constantly refreshed with current picture offerings. Top stories are free, but the majority of articles require subscriptions.

When done right, the ongoing generation of fresh content is the key to a longstanding and successful relationship between a successful online business and its subscribers.

Sources:
www.wsj.com