While it may be true that you need to spend money to make money, small businesses often have limited funds to spare. To keep your small business profitable, you need to make every marketing dollar bring the highest possible return. Here are six great tips that can help you get the most out of your marketing budget.
Share Your Knowledge
Content marketing is one of the most effective forms of online marketing — and it costs nothing if you create the content yourself. Does your website have a blog section? Write informational content that you believe would appeal to your potential customer base. Within your field, you have unique knowledge that your customers may lack. By sharing knowledge, you'll attract search engine traffic from people who are seeking information in your industry. Every time the information that you provide helps someone, you'll strengthen your brand and establish yourself as an expert within your field.
Connect With Your Customers
Word-of-mouth advertising is free — and people love to tell others about the great experiences they've had with local businesses. You already do everything you can to delight customers when they visit your shop or online store. Do you capture their online contact information to connect with them in the future? Harness the full potential of social media by connecting with your customers on social media and making yourself available to respond to their questions and concerns.
Hire Online Freelancers
Freelance aggregators offer access to both local and national talents who can provide a wide range of services to enhance your business. From search engine optimization, to writing and photography services these professionals are well-suited to meet the needs of small businesses and in an affordable and time-efficient manner. Use your imagination for how you can leverage this talent pool—need a logo, promotional art or a blog post—it's easy thanks to these sites.
Use Templates for Everything
Does your company regularly incur large expenses creating product brochures, newspaper advertisements or online promotional pages? If you start from scratch every time you create marketing material, you're increasing your costs and extending the amount of time needed to produce the material. When you create a promotional item that works well, save it as a template. When you want to run another promotion, simply change the details in the template to save time.
Partner With Other Local Businesses
Is there another local business that doesn't compete with you but has a similar customer base? Team up with them for cross-promotional benefits. If you have a graphic design company, for example, you could partner with a printing company. If you have a restaurant that serves juices and smoothies, you could partner with a local gym. Set up a partnership in which both businesses display advertisements for the other. You could also offer exclusive discounts to customers who patronize both businesses.
Repurpose Your Content
Even with templates and freelance workers, creating new content always costs
something. If you want to reduce your marketing budget even further, you need to do more with the content you already have. Does your website have a large archive of blog posts that have always brought you consistent Web traffic? Gather the best of those posts and release them as a free e-book that you can give away to new mailing list subscribers or social media followers. Each time you post a new article, record an audio version of the same article, and release it as a podcast. Alternatively, film a video and upload it to YouTube. Repackage your most successful online advertisement as a product brochure for direct mailing. By doing more with the content that you already have, you can make the content more effective and reduce the cost of creating it.
Marketing is an important part of any business. The challenge is finding cost-effective ways to market your products/services and brand without going over budget. The good news for small business owners is when it comes to marketing you don’t have to be a marketing professional to get the word out about your business. The right planning can help you ensure that every dollar is being spent most efficiently. Give these tips a try and see how they work for your business.
Have a great small business tip or want your business to be featured with your small business advice? Submit your story.
As you may be aware, new PCI DSS requirements state that all payment systems must disable early-version TLS by 2018. Transport Layer Security (TLS) is a technology used to encrypt sensitive information sent via the Internet. TLS is the replacement for Secure Sockets Layer (SSL). In preparation for this requirement, Authorize.Net plans to disable TLS 1.0 and TLS 1.1 on the following dates:
Production: September 18, 2017
We have disabled the sandbox in advance of production to allow you and your developer time to test your website or payment solution and ensure you are no longer using TLS 1.0 or 1.1 prior to September 18th. Please contact your Web developer or payment solution provider, as well as your Web hosting company, to confirm that they can support TLS 1.2 for your API connections.
In addition, we plan to retire the 3DES cipher (a data encryption standard) in production soon. However, the date has not yet been finalized. We will notify you once it has.
Please refer your developer or solution provider to our API Best Practices for cipher recommendations, details about TLS 1.2 platform support, and other integration suggestions.
Note: If you are not using the current version of your Web browser, please take a few moments to upgrade it now. Browsers released prior to 2014 may not support TLS 1.2. You can check your browser's TLS support by visiting https://www.howsmyssl.com/.
Thank you for your attention to this matter and for being an Authorize.Net merchant.
We spoke to Mitchell Callahan at SAU/CAL – certified WooCommerce website developers.
Lantern & Scroll is a designer and manufacturer of exterior and interior lanterns. This family-owned company was established in 2009 in South Carolina and manufactures its products in America. With a deeply rich history in the southern textile and manufacturing industry, Lantern & Scroll began when the parents of the current owner acquired a small lighting manufacturer that catered to the local community. In the company’s early years, Lantern & Scroll sold their products through a brick and mortar store, but later they realized the audience they were after could only be reached through an online sales channel. They were referred to SAU/CAL, by word of mouth, as an expert in eCommerce development.
Lantern & Scroll’s previous website was a simple brochure-type site and did not support online sales. As a growing business, the company needed an online store to showcase their products, allow online orders and reach a larger audience. Because the company specializes in custom-made lighting, the online store needed to be designed to demonstrate the variation of their products.
Using WooCommerce, SAU/CAL built a storefront that featured a product builder, which allows customers to select their preferences for various product features and preview the product as options are selected. Understanding that the key to an eCommerce platform is getting the right product to the right customer as efficiently as possible, SAU/CAL developed a tool that enables customers to search and sort the products by style, collection, and other categories.
Reviews and customer-submitted photos are also displayed to help customers choose and visualize their order. Pricing and upgrades are clearly outlined in order to ensure the flexibility of these configurable products. Now that the company’s audience grew to cover a larger area, shipping charges have become automatically calculated based on the location and number of products in the user’s cart.
SAU/CAL integrated the Authorize.Net Payment Gateway to ensure Lantern & Scroll’s customers would experience easy and secure payment processing. This integration gave them an easy-to-use fraud prevention suite as well as simple order investigation and reporting tools. For support and other inquiries, SAU/CAL built in an intuitive contact form and included a live chat option for more expedited issue resolution. With its growing list of new customers, they integrated Mailchimp to streamline newsletter creation, improve marketing through list segmentation tools, and provide a cohesive platform to spread brand awareness. All of the above additions were approached not only from a functionality standpoint, but from a brand image perspective as well. Their story is extremely conducive to positive SEO, which was harnessed to complete this project.
Lantern & Scroll doubled their revenue in the first year of the site’s launch and doubled their online sales the following year. The Web store now earns over 70% of their annual revenue. Now that the revenue burden is removed from the physical location, Lantern & Scroll’s brick and mortar store can be tailored to fit the local needs more directly improving their image within the local community.
“SAU/CAL completely exceeded our expectations,” says Lantern & Scroll owner, Karen Good. “I've been more than happy with the level of service and openness during the process. The Authorize.Net Payment Gateway has been dependable and easy to use. A truly enjoyable experience all around.”
To learn more about SAU/CAL visit, https://saucal.com/
To learn more about Lantern & Scroll visit, https://lanternandscroll.com/
Have a great small business tip or want your business to be featured with your small business advice? Submit your story.
Bette Lambert of Silloway Maple in Vermont, an Authorize.Net merchant, shares her family’s business story and advice.
Tell us about Silloway Maple.
Silloway Maple is a family run business that makes 100% pure Vermont maple syrup. Our maple sugaring business started in the 1940s by my parents as a side business to our family’s dairy farm. Additional income was always welcome and getting out in the sugarwoods after a long, cold winter was a spring tonic! Back then, a team of workhorses would pull the sap-gathering tank on a sled through the woods to the sugarhouse. In the 1970s we changed from hanging buckets from trees to a sap tubing system.
Tell us about the process of making maple syrup and how has it changed over the years.
The trees are tapped in early spring, and the sap runs from late February into April. Sap is gathered and brought to the sugarhouse where the sap is boiled into syrup. In 2014, we built a new sugarhouse with 70 solar panels. This solar energy subsidizes the energy cost for the sugarhouse which greatly improves the syrup making process while being environmentally friendly.
Silloway Maple seems to really care about the environment. What are some ways Silloway Maple has gone green and been environmentally conscious?
In additional to the solar panels, we also now use a reverse osmosis machine that removes some of the water from the raw sap before it is boiled. This saves about 80% in fuel and labor required for boiling. This means a change from about 60 gallons of sap boiled to produce a gallon of syrup, to about eight.
Then wood from our logging and firewood industry is cut into three-foot lengths, and used to fire the arch every 10 minutes during boiling. The syrup is checked for density, drawn off, filtered, graded, and stored in 40-gallon drums. Throughout the year, we pack the syrup while it’s hot into the containers we sell in. We also make maple cream, granulated sugar, candy and maple sugar almonds.
How do you use Authorize.Net?
We use Authorize.Net for the processing of payments on our website. I am not as young and tech savvy as some, and the people at Authorize.Net have been most helpful and patient with my questions. In addition to being able to accept payments online, I have learned to take credit cards over the phone, track down orders, and give refunds when our website charges more for shipping than needed. It is great being able to take orders outside of our Vermont community so we can share our 100% maple syrup across the country.
What is your business advice?
My advice for business owners is to get advice! Whether it is industry specific such as the temperature needed for maple cream, or a broader topic such as Facebook post boosting, there are many people who have done it all before, and there is no need to reinvent the wheel!
To learn more about Silloway Maple, visit https://www.sillowaymaple.com/
Or see the recent CBS feature on Silloway Maple: https://sillowaymaple.com/silloway-maple-press
Have a great small business tip or want your business to be featured with your small business advice? Submit your story.
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.
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.
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!
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.
Authorize.Net Merchant Amy’s Candy Kitchen named “BEST CARAMEL APPLE” by the Wall Street Journal and featured on the Food Network, tells us how their small chocolate shop in Cedarburg, Wisconsin achieved their success.
We spoke with Paula Heupel, VP of Sales, about their journey that began 20 years ago with a goal to perfect the art of the caramel apple.
What makes Amy’s award winning?
It comes down to our passion for quality, that's the Amy's difference. We use extra fancy jumbo granny smith apples in every luxurious caramel batch we make. Our caramel is always freshly made by hand in small batches. Our toppings are hand packed and garnished on every single apple we produce by our chocolatiers. We use only velvety, world-class Belgian Chocolate from Brussels as our base chocolate in everything we make. This uncommon attention to detail gives you a gourmet apple beyond compare.
How did Amy’s go from being a small chocolate shop to such a big success?
We started by making Amy’s Candy Kitchen a destination for locals and tourists. People walking through downtown Cedarburg couldn’t resist the heavenly aroma of our caramel that fills our store. Our award winning caramel is hand made from premium quality natural ingredients in old world copper kettles which cooks our caramel at a slow consistency to provide a gourmet, buttery flavor that no one can match.
In 2002, our owner expanded the business and launched www.AmysGourmetApples.com making our best-selling apples available everywhere in the US and Canada. It's a favorite treat for so many people, so we're excited that Authorize.Net enables us to quickly and easily take orders online so we can offer our award winning caramel apples to customers even outside our Cedarburg community.
How has the word about your amazing apples spread?
Our gourmet apples have been featured in many different media outlets including winning the "BEST OVERALL" by the Wall Street Journal. We have also been featured on the Food Network as well as Roker on the Road, Martha Stewart, Epicurious magazine and local news media.
What would be your business advice to other small businesses out there?
Focus on one thing and do it well. Once you’ve achieved success give back to the community that supported you and helped made you successful. Amy’s Candy Kitchen / Amy's Gourmet Apples takes pride in being a stronghold in the local Cedarburg community. We donate to the local Festivals, Chamber of Commerce, Santa’s Workshop, the local food pantry and rescue farms. By donating products and providing discounts to the local schools, churches, the Humane Society, among other county programs, we help to make Cedarburg a great place to live, work, and visit.
Amy's Candy Kitchen/Amy's Gourmet Apples would like to thank our customers, as well as the local community of Cedarburg for supporting our business for the past 20 years! Try Amy’s Gourmet Apples for yourself. www.AmysGourmetApples.com
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.
We spoke with Amy Lebo, operations manager at Crazy Skates USA to learn the Crazy Skates story and the secret to their success.
Tell us about Crazy Skates.
Primarily focusing on roller skates and inline skates, Crazy Skates specializes in multiple markets within the industry. From roller rink rental skates and recreational children's skates to adult "retro" skates and roller derby equipment, we take pride in helping people enjoy what we believe is one of the most wonderful pastimes! We are based in Indianapolis, Ind., with headquarters in Australia.
How did Crazy Skates get its start?
Our founder, John Moore, owned and operated a roller skating rink in Australia. Not happy with the quality of skates available to his customers, John decided to create his own skates. Word spread and fellow rink owners asked John if they could purchase his skates for use at their rinks. What began in 2007 as a “crazy” idea has now developed into an internationally recognized roller skate brand of choice.
What is special/unique about Crazy Skates?
Skate production is a competitive market with the focus being on price, which can lead to a decrease in quality. This is where Crazy Skates is different. We take all of our passion for people enjoying the pastime of roller skating and put that in the development and manufacturing of every product. We then figure out how we can produce a high quality product at the very best price. Traditionally, skate manufacturers work with wholesalers who in turn sell the skates to the end user. Crazy Skates acts as both the manufacturer and distributor, which helps us control costs.
What do you love about the roller skating business?
Roller skating is a pastime that has a way of bringing people together. Putting on a pair of skates allows us to enjoy the moment and the sensation that only being on eight wheels brings. Roller skating just tends to make people happy. It is more than just a sport. At Crazy Skates, our goal is to improve the experience people have when they ride skates. We truly believe that this is the quintessential difference between our brand and any other.
How do you use Authorize.Net?
As the world moves faster, Crazy Skates has had to review the ways we serve our customers. The reliability and ease of Authorize.Net was a logical fit. Authorize.Net is fully integrated with our accounting system, which is critical for our supply chain management. We are happy to be associated with a payment provider that gives us flexibility, and most importantly, after-hours service to ensure that our payment system is operational at all times. Authorize.Net is our choice in both the USA and Australian operations. Just like us, Authorize.Net understands the needs of local financial transacting! Choosing Authorize.Net was and will remain part of our success story for years to come. A great partnership that truly keeps the wheels turning!
Every business needs to give their customers a reason to buy from them and not elsewhere. That’s why we believe that building relationships with our customers is just as important as making sales. We believe that clearly understanding what it is your customers really want is at the center of every successful business. Once you have this understanding you can encourage potential and existing customers that buying from you is the best option.
Merchant Automotive provides industry leading customer service and support. The staff of professionals has intimate knowledge in all the Duramax/Allison platforms and is dedicated to achieving 100% customer satisfaction. Merchant Automotive provides highly specific technical information not found anywhere else. Many products are custom-designed and manufactured in-house to provide the customer maximized performance and reliability. The emphasis on product design and specialized manufacturing means that Merchant Automotive can offer low pricing on products not found at other companies.
Merchant Automotive was founded in 2004 by Eric Merchant. Eric got his start in high school where he discovered his passion for anything with a motor. He took his passion and turned it into a career in 1993 working in a small shop doing brakes and alignment work. He accumulated knowledge daily and soon took a position at a GM dealership in 1995, and advanced up the ranks over the next 10 years. Along the way, Eric dedicated himself to studying the business, taking over 3,000 hours of GM training and maintaining ASE Master Certification since 1998.
In April 2008, Merchant Automotive moved into its current location in Zeeland, MI. The move was a huge undertaking that involved a complete remodeling of the building. That building, having over 10,000 square feet of space, has allowed for greater expansion and a large retail front.
How We Use Authorize.Net
“We switched to Authorize.Net for their Advanced Fraud Detection Suite that comes as an additional service included with the monthly payment gateway,” says Jereco Price, marketing manager of Merchant Automotive. “Advanced Fraud Detection Suite helps us to identify, manage and prevent suspicious fraudulent transactions that with our previous service was becoming costly.” We now use Authorize.Net to accept payments on our website www.merchant-automotive.com. The website is the largest portion of our business but we also use Authorize.Net to accept payments in our retail shop and to check out customers in our service shop.
To learn more about Merchant Automotive, visit: www.merchant-automotive.com.