With over 440,000 merchants, Authorize.Net has one HUGE small business community, which is just one of the reasons so many third-party solutions integrate to our payment gateway. This series of blog posts highlights our partners and their unique offerings that meet all of your business needs.

Today’s Topic? Form Solutions.  

We know that many merchants do not need a full shopping cart or online store. Additionally they may not be ready for a fully integrated custom solution. If you are one of these merchants, a form solution to accept payments might be the perfect fit. 

Benefits of form solutions include:

 • The ability to accept payments on your website easily and securely

 • A payment experience that blends seamlessly with your website’s design

 • The flexibility to make minor changes without hiring a developer or Web agency

“Collecting money should be simple,” says Authorize.Net Marketing Manager Richard Holder. “Form solutions allow businesses to get rid of paper forms and start easily collecting payments with an online form.” 

Authorize.Net currently includes three form solutions in our Certified Solutions Directory: Formstack, JotForm and Wufoo. Read on to learn more about each solution and how to contact them. 

Formstack is an easy-to-use, secure online form builder that allows you to quickly create and deploy any type of order form to collect payments online. No coding is needed with its simple drag-and-drop interface, allowing you to create order forms in seconds. Formstack's secure payment forms integrate with Authorize.Net and adhere to the strictest security standards, and give you the power to route information wherever you need it. Set up payment calculations, gather coupon and discount codes, and keep your data updated with over 35 popular Web app integrations. Multiple security features like 256-bit SSL, data encryption and password protection ensure that you can safely gather personal payment. Whether you need to create a simple online order form or to run your entire business online, Formstack makes it simple to collect the money you need to grow your business.

Learn More About Formstack

JotForm allows users to easily create powerful payment forms to collect orders, register event guests, process application fees, and accept donations – all without requiring any coding experience. Many businesses choose JotForm because of the tool’s ability to enable recurring Authorize.Net subscription payments, sell multiple items on the same form, and include product images. JotForm has 10,000 ready-made form templates, dozens of integrations with popular CRMs, e-mail marketing services and 400 widgets to make it one of the most popular form builders for companies in the world. Major JotForm features include an analytics tool to measure form performance, a form theme designer for fantastic styling options, and custom autoresponder e-mails sent to customers. Plus, with recent JotForm updates, you can even create a payment form that integrates with Authorize.Net straight from your mobile phone. If you collect fewer than 10 payments each month through JotForm, it’s completely free.

Learn More About JotForm

Wufoo's online form builder lets you create any form you need. Within its Form Gallery, you have over 90 templates and form examples to choose from — whether you're looking for contact forms, invitations, registrations, even survey templates. You can collect data, registrations and online payments you need without writing a single line of code. Its powerful payment integration features help you easily process credit cards and build your business securely. After designing your form or choosing a template, you can quickly assign prices to selections on your form, choose custom currency and select specific collection settings. Once you've shared your form, Wufoo's form analytics lets you dive into your data to track views, submissions and conversion rates. Wufoo's got the security you need so you can generate revenue with peace of mind. To learn more about how Wufoo and Authorize.Net can help you build your business today — click away!

Learn More About Wufoo

Have a great small business tip or want your business to be featured with your small business advice? Submit your story.

Authorize.Net partner, 71lbs, has made a name for itself by helping businesses optimize their shipping spend. We invited Christine Ridgely, partner manager at 71lbs, to share her thoughts as our guest blogger.

Why Understanding your Shipping is a "Merchant Must"

As a merchant, you may know how important it is to stay on top of your business transactions. Shipping spend influences your overall profit margin. However, analyzing shipping spend often goes undone.

If the details of your shipping activity are not reviewed and understood, it can be very difficult to fully capitalize on each transaction processed. Many businesses do not actively monitor their shipping because they lack the time and resources to do so. Others expect late deliveries to occur as a part of conducting business, so they don’t hold their shipping carrier accountable for service failures. Some are simply focused upon fulfilling orders and don’t look back, only forward. The fact is that businesses are doing themselves a disservice if they are not auditing their shipping activity and the associated costs.  

By actively monitoring your shipping, you can ensure that your business not only pays for the service that is promised by the carrier but also optimizes your overall shipping spend. Are you aware that if you ship with FedEx or UPS, the service includes a 100% money-back refund when a package arrives late, even by 60 seconds? 

The first step is to commit to tracking your shipments on FedEx.com and/or UPS.com and then cross reference deliveries. Once you identify a service failure, you must file a claim. Note that the process of manually filing a claim is highly intricate and difficult to successfully navigate. Claims need to be filed within 15 days of the package’s delivery and should include all necessary documentation and inspections.

Build your business smart and do not stand idle as it pertains to your shipping spend. It is more important than ever for merchants to stay informed about all facets of shipping, especially if refunds are involved. Whether you handle it internally or externally through a third party, you can and should identify and understand exactly where your shipping dollars go. 

71lbs is a leading expert in helping businesses optimize what they spend on shipping. Their human-powered software solution monitors, identifies, and files claims on your behalf, allowing you to focus on your business and not use up valuable resources. All found refunds are credited directly to your FedEx and/or UPS account. No start-up or monthly maintenance fee is necessary. 

Have a great small business tip or want your business to be featured with your small business advice? Submit your story.

If you run a business from your home, you know it comes with amazing freedoms and challenging distractions. It's important to take steps to optimize and maintain your effectiveness so you can continue to enjoy the excitement and freedoms of being your own boss. The following tips will help you be productive as you run your home business.

1. Create an Office

When running a business from home, it's easy to work from your living room or bedroom, but doing so can add unnecessary distractions. Having a dedicated work area will help you to stay focused. You can turn a basement, spare bedroom, or garage into an office. If doing so is not an option, consider turning a small section of one of your rooms into an office and make it the dedicated space. The Internet also has lots of good ideas for how to turn a vintage trailer or backyard shed into a workspace. 

2. Create a Schedule

Many business owners who work from home say they are “always at work” since there is no separation between their office and house. The work day doesn’t end when you leave the office like it does in a traditional job. Some make a habit of working all day without taking any breaks, which can cause stress. Others fall into the trap of not getting started at the same time each day. To help you stay on track, set a daily schedule and stick to it. Let work time be work time and off-time be off-time. Having a set schedule and taking planned breaks will help you be more effective when you are working.

3. Remove Distractions

Distractions can be an issue for those who work from home, so you need to prepare yourself. To stay on track, let your friends and family members know that you have dedicated a certain amount of time to your business each day. Getting distracted is easy, so setting and enforcing boundaries will allow you to keep your business moving in the right direction. Apps like RescueTime and MyMinutes can track how you are spending your time and even block distracting websites while you work to stay focused.

4. Separate Your Personal Life

Working from home makes it easy for your business responsibilities to conflict with your personal life. Avoid taking personal phone calls during your work hours and doing personal chores like cleaning the house, cooking meals, and grocery shopping. Even though you are home and doing these things is tempting, you need to limit them to your off hours. Similarly, avoid engaging in work-related activities outside of your normal schedule.

5. Keep Records

Some business owners procrastinate when it comes to keeping meticulous business records, but doing so can make things that much more difficult in the future. Keep separate bank accounts for your business and personal items and keep accurate records at all times. You can use software programs like QuickBooks that are designed to make the process simple.

6. Stay Social

Running a business from your home and potentially staying inside most of the day makes it easy to lose touch with people, but not socializing can impact your emotional health in a negative way. No matter how busy you are, always take the time to stay in touch with your friends and loved ones.

Have a great small business tip or want your business to be featured with your small business advice? Submit your story.

Holiday sales can bring cheer to the heart of any small business owner. However, you need more than Santa's magic to have a successful holiday season. Good preparation is one of the key ingredients to produce a record-breaking holiday season for your business.

Prepare Inventory Early

If you don’t prepare your inventory ahead of the holiday season, you may find your shelves empty of your biggest sellers, forcing you to miss out on big sales. Consulting previous holiday season sales records can help you determine which items you need to stock in large quantities. If you're running special promotions on certain items, be sure to stock up with extra quantities of those items. Check with the sales representatives of your most important vendors; they may be running holiday specials of their own to make it easier for you to stock up ahead of the holiday season.

Refresh Your Website

Updating your website with a seasonal look will inspire your customers to start thinking about their holiday shopping. In addition to giving your website a facelift, an investment in upgrading your server’s capacity can help you meet a rush of demand from your customers. Make sure your website also offers the latest security measures. Help minimize and prevent authorization and chargeback fees as well as possible inventory loss resulting from fraudulent transactions by adding Advanced Fraud Detection Suite included with your Authorize.Net Payment Gateway account.

Plan Promotions

Promotions are an excellent way to attract new customers and bring back former customers. If your business is online, free or reduced shipping is always an attractive choice. You can also offer coupons and discounts on orders. You'll also need to decide if you want to offer special deals on popular shopping days, such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Once you've decided on your promotions, you can use your social media profiles to advertise your special deals and keep your customers in the loop about shipping deadlines and your store's holiday hours.

Hire Seasonal Employees

Seasonal employees are a great way to handle the extra large crowds that often accompany the holiday season. Carefully consider where you need the most help; you may need extra hands on deck to staff your warehouse or run the cash registers. Hiring extra help before the holiday shopping season starts can give your temporary hires time to become fully trained before the rush of crowds overwhelms your business. 

Add Flexible Payment Options

During the holidays, your customers may feel stressed with party planning and long shopping lists to complete. Offering easy and flexible payment options is a great way to remove some of the stress from holiday shopping. With Authorize.Net you can accept payments anywhere. Accept credit cards and eCheck.Net® on your website. Accept payments in person using the Authorize.Net mPOS mobile app and secure card reader available here. Or set up Visa Checkout where your customers can easily pay online with a single sign in.

Brush Up Customer Service Skills

Good customer service is always a plus, but during the holiday season your customers will appreciate it even more. Take time to work with your employees to instill a positive customer service attitude and teach them conflict-resolution techniques. Delight your customers with candy canes in their shipments or hot apple cider in store. Employees who can handle difficult situations with a smile will be remembered by your customers and boost your company's reputation.

The holiday season can bring challenges to small businesses, but also opportunity for great successes. Planning your holiday strategy early can help you meet those challenges and make your customers happy.

For more business tips and advice, visit the Authorize.Net blog weekly. Have a great small business tip or want your business to be featured with your small business advice? Submit your story.

Business owners face new challenges constantly. These challenges can be particularly daunting for new business owners as they trade their 9-5 job for a 24/7 passion. Learning the attributes of successful entrepreneurs can help new business owners understand they are not alone, and provide motivation to keep navigating to their own success.

See the Big Picture

Many new business owners get caught up in the present. They are focused on navigating the problems that arise each day. However, successful business owners focus on the future. It is key to see the "big picture" and remain on a path that keeps a company meeting long-term goals. The market moves quickly, so it is essential to stay true to your vision and map out a road that gets the job done for tomorrow and beyond.

Experience Failure and Move On

Failure is an inevitable part of life. However, the way a person handles setbacks can have a profound effect on their business. A successful business owner works to understand the reason for the setback and understand how to avoid similar setbacks in the future so that when the next opportunity pops up the business will be well-positioned to achieve a positive outcome.

Take Risks

Taking risks may seem scary, but it extends the possibility of achieving success. A strong business owner assesses a situation and tries something that has the potential to maximize success without causing unnecessary jeopardy.

Mark Pincas, founder of the gaming company Zynga, walked away from a guaranteed source of funding for his first venture. Despite being short on cash, he decided against the deal, which did not fit with his vision. Not accepting the investment was a worthwhile and successful risk. Pincas secured money from a different source, remained in control, and eventually sold the company, which allowed him to establish Zynga. 

Hire People Who are Better Than You

Winning business owners understand the importance of surrounding themselves with smart people. Learning to work effectively with others and use their strengths will help you gain success. For instance, if you develop a message that must be presented to the public but have poor social media skills, it might be wise to hire a person who knows the ins and outs of these platforms. A solid company has a team with various abilities and employees who unite their talents to form a powerhouse.

Find Trusted Partners

Partnering with trusted companies can help business owners run their business smoothly and effectively by taking the daily minutia off their plates so they can focus on growing the business. Partnering with Authorize.Net means business owners do not have to worry about how to accept payments from customers. From marketing needs to shipping products to customers, Authorize.Net has a Partner Directory and a Merchant Toolbox to help business owners find the right partners for their business needs. 

Have a Competitive Spirit

A strong business owner usually has a competitive spirit and enjoys winning. Since starting a business is a big challenge, it is the perfect way to harness this energy. A competitive spirit is essential to win customers and increase market share.

Help Others

Leaders of successful businesses recognize the importance of networking. Although it is common to take help from others, a successful entrepreneur gives assistance without haste. He or she shares useful information, helps finish tasks and presents opportunities to colleagues.

Conclusion

Beginning a new business is not easy, so it is important to examine the traits of successful business owners. Although these qualities do not ensure success, they can help provide a better chance of growing a business and enjoying prosperity. 

For more business tips and advice, visit the Authorize.Net blog weekly. Have a great small business tip or want your business to be featured with your small business advice? Submit your story.

Setting up shop to offer your products or services online and using Authorize.Net to accept payments are great first steps towards attracting new customers for your business. Still, many businesses face a constant challenge of attracting new and existing customers to their websites. 

Here are six ways to drive more traffic to your site, potentially increasing sales and online success. 

Create a Strong Opt-In Offer

Building a strong e-mail list is one of the first steps to online sales success. In order to build a list, though, you'll need to do more than just ask visitors to sign up for e-mails. You'll need to incentivize them to do so. How? Use an opt-in offer such as a discount or coupon code. For example, you might give all new e-mail subscribers a special code for 20 percent off their first purchase on your site. Of course, you'll need to promote your offer both on your website itself and through your social media profiles. 

Using MailChimp is an easy way to stay in touch with your customers and generate repeat business. Plus Authorize.Net customers get six free Inbox Inspections ($28 value) and free Advanced Reporting ($49 value) automatically added to their account. Learn More.

Build a Sense of Urgency

A highly successful sales tactic is to make customers feel as though they have to buy your product now. Talented sales people can do this in-person, but it's possible to pull it off online too. You can create urgency among customers by offering limited-time coupons and discounts, counting down available inventory of popular items, offering freebies for visitors who buy products by a certain time and advertising flash sales that last for 24 hours or less.

Create Sharable Content

You've spent a lot of time refining the product pages of your website, but it's essential to pay attention to your blog and social media opportunities too. Instead of broadcasting information about your products exclusively, share free info or tips that customers will be drawn to naturally. Linking to a helpful article orwriting a quick post with tips related to your industry appeals to new and old customers alike. The trick is to create content that your viewers will not only want to read, but will feel compelled to share with friends and co-workers too.

Incorporate Responsive Site Design

To provide your customers with the best experience possible, consider incorporating responsive design into your website. What does that mean? Put simply, it means that site visitors will have a high-quality browsing experience whether they're using a desktop, laptop, tablet or smartphone. The goal is to make sure that potential customers can easily browse your products and complete an order no matter the device they happen to be using.

Post Your Customer Reviews

Posting customer reviews on your website itself and on your social media profiles will help to engender a sense of trust with shoppers. After all, people want to know what others think of your products before they buy. Of course, it's important that you're careful not to edit or cherry pick your reviews. Don't hide negative reviews but respond promptly, clearly and professionally so that potential customers know you're serious about fixing problems and meeting their needs.

Make Paying Easy for the Customer

Once you get them to your site, you want to do everything you can to make it easy to purchase. If you have the type of business that has repeat customers, you can reduce shopping cart abandonmentand make it easier for customers to pay by using Authorize.Net’s tokenization service, Customer Information Manager (CIM). By securely storing your customers' payment data with CIM, you eliminate the need for customers to re-enter information for every subsequent transaction, providing a quicker checkout process. 

For more business tips and advice, visit the Authorize.Net blog weekly. Have a great small business tip or want your business to be featured with your small business advice? Submit your story.

 

Marketing is often an intimidating prospect for small business owners. How do you know which marketing strategies will be the most successful for your product or service? While some marketing campaigns are complex, there are plenty of simple, easily implemented strategies that entrepreneurs can do themselves. The possibilities include:


Offer Free Samples

When it comes to convincing a potential customer that your product or service is exactly what they want, there's nothing quite like firsthand experience. Identify places where your customers are likely to be, and then find a way to put a sample of your product in their hands or wow them with a demonstration. Fairs, conventions and community events are all worth considering.

Send Regular E-mails to Stay in Touch


Whether it's once a week or once a month, a friendly, helpful e-mail from you can help keep your business's name in front of your customers and other interested parties. Sending humorous messages, clever trivia or handy tips on a regular basis can be an awesome way to nurture your rapport with your customers who have signed up to get messages.

Sponsor a Community Event or Organization

Participating in your community is a fantastic way to forge relationships and spread the word about your business. Sponsoring a sports team or a special event builds goodwill and allows you to network with both your fellow business owners and potential customers.


Use Promotional Giveaways to Keep Your Brand in Front of Your Target Audience's Eyes  



Why do so many businesses give away ball caps, tee shirts, key rings, ink pens and other promotional items with their name or logo on them? It's because these gifts are instant advertising. They put your business's name in front of both the person who receives the item and anyone who encounters them while they are using it. As a reliable method for building and maintaining name recognition, these promotional items can be smart marketing. They can be even more effective if you can come up with an item that ties into the product or service you offer. For example, a branded fly swatter can be a clever way for pest control companies to put their name in front of people who might need their services.

Run a Summer Sale or Offer a Coupon Deal for New or Existing Customers

Summer sales and promotions are a great way to generate more traffic. People will be on the lookout for hot sales as the summer heats up and as holidays like the Fourth of July and Labor Day roll around. It’s a good idea to discount items that make sense for the summer season. When there’s a scorcher in the forecast, celebrate the summer heat with a promotion. Just keep it simple. You don’t need tons of preparation… flyers, e-mail blasts or even text messages to customers are a great and inexpensive way to increase awareness and revenue.

Show Support for a Cause



Supporting a cause you care about can be both charitable and savvy. Donating to a charity event, raffling off your product or service, or serving as a drop-off location for a community drive allows you to assist with something you care about, encourage goodwill, and get your business's name out there among both your community's movers and shakers and the general population.

Maintain an Active Social Media Presence



In today's world, social media is a must. Using Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus, Instagram and other social media networks can be an inexpensive and highly effective way to generate more visibility for your brand. However, it only works if you use it wisely. Make sure that you are providing fresh, reliable content that generates both interest and trust. Think of social media like a conversation with your customers. If you want to keep your audience listening, you need to stay engaged yourself.

When it comes to marketing, the bottom line is that you don't have to be a marketing professional to get the word out about your business. Utilizing a combination of these do-it-yourself tips is a great way to increase visibility and build your customer base.

Have a great small business tip or want your business to be featured with your small business advice? Submit your story.

Cashflow is important to any business, but it's especially crucial for small businesses that typically have less working capital to run their business with.

All too often, small business owners focus so much on sales that they let things slide in regards to getting paid on time. Increase the odds of being paid promptly with these simple tips.

1. Invoice Promptly and Effectively

Generate and send invoices immediately after goods or services are rendered. Use courteous language in your invoices, and make sure that they are formatted to your clients' liking. For example, do they require purchase order numbers, EINs or other information to remit payment promptly?

2. Follow Up 

If possible, set it up so that late payment reminders are sent automatically. Otherwise, set up a system to ensure that late invoices are followed up on consistently. At the absolute minimum, monthly or bi-monthly statements should be mailed to all accounts that owe money to your business.

3. Consider Contracts

Depending on the nature of your business, you might consider having clients sign contracts before providing any goods or services. Use the contract to specify your expectations regarding payments, including when they are expected and how much should be remitted.

4. Accept Electronic Payments

It may cost money to set up, but having the ability to accept electronic payments is a terrific way to encourage prompt remittance. Also, if your business requires recurring payments from customers, setting up Automated Recurring Billing using Authorize.Net is a great way to ensure prompt bi-weekly or monthly payments. Plus it’s free with your Authorize.Net account.

5. Offer Early Payment Incentives 

Incentivize clients to pay invoices early by offering discounts. For example, you can permit a client to reduce their payment by an agreed-upon percentage as long as it is received within 20 days instead of 30.

6. Small business funding

At Authorize.Net we know how important it is for you to have the capital that you need to grow your business. That's why we have partnered with Kabbage, a leader in funding for businesses. If you’re an Authorize.Net merchant, you may qualify for up to $100,000 in funds*. To learn more, simply visit Kabbage and complete the one-page online application. Your funds can be available in minutes.

Using these tips, you can receive payments quicker and increase your working cash flow to help run your business more successfully.

Portland, Maine business owner Leigh Kellis of The Holy Donut shares her small business advice and how in only three years she went from selling one dozen donuts a day to one million donuts a year!

How did you come up with the idea for your amazing tasting, yet healthier donut?

The idea for The Holy Donut grew organically out of a craving I had for some deeply satisfying yet healthy comfort food – specifically, a donut. I wanted a donut made with fresh ingredients that I could feel good about eating. Since I couldn’t find what I was looking for, I decided to create it myself. The (not-so) secret ingredient: fresh Maine potatoes gives the donuts a delicious moist texture that makes them just melt in your mouth.

How did you break into the market and start selling your new product?

Once I realized I had a product I felt confident that other people would enjoy as well, I contacted Coffee by Design and they immediately agreed to buy a dozen each day to resell.

How did you grow the business from there?

It was all about perseverance. I continued to pound the pavement with my samples and within a year I had a wholesale donut business on my hands! I was soon producing 40 dozen donuts a week. I was so busy making donuts that my father jumped in to help. For five months he would arrive every day at 6 a.m. to pick up that day’s deliveries. I made every donut by hand, cooking them four at a time in a small fryolator. My wholesale business grew to 100 dozen donuts a week working out of a small shared commercial kitchen space.

Did you always see your business as a wholesale business or did you have the goal
of opening up your own donut shop?

I definitely wanted to move beyond wholesale and open a real donut shop– that was my dream.

We were lucky to find a great space in Portland, Maine, and The Holy Donut officially opened for business in March 2012. In the beginning it was just me, my father and one employee. Our customers loved us and our donuts and we grew so quickly that we had to learn how to upscale in a massive way while keeping the same homemade product. We opened a second location in October 2013. In just over three years we have grown to 35 employees, and now make one million donuts a year.

What would your business advice be based on what you have learned along the way?

It’s all about treating customers well, using the best quality ingredients and most importantly making a product that I love and feel good about eating and offering to our customers! Donuts and life are meant to be enjoyed!


Would you like your business featured? We'd love to hear your small business advice. Submit your story here. Happy Selling!