Businesses

Choosing the Right Payment Solutions for Your Business

What forms of payment does your small business accept? Not all customers will use the same method of payment. If a customer prefers a specific payment that’s not offered by your small business, he or she may leave and visit a competitor’s business from which to purchase the product or service. So, what type of payment solutions should your small business accept?

Cash

Even with the advent of digital payments, cash remains the preferred form of payment among most consumers. According to one study, 30% of all transactions involve cash. It’s a universally known and recognized payment solution that keeps the wheels of commerce turning. Cash offers an unparalleled level of convenience when compared to other forms of payment. As long as a customer has cash, he or she can make a purchase. As a result, your small business needs to accept cash payments. Otherwise, you’ll struggle to attract and retain customers.

Check

In addition to cash, you should consider accepting check payments at your small business. Assuming you have a checking account at a bank, you should be able to deposit check payments received from your small business’s customers. You may incur checking account fees, but most banks don’t charge for check deposits. The downside to accepting check payments, of course, is the potential for a bounced check. If the customer has insufficient funds in his or her account, the check may not clear.

Credit Card

All small businesses can benefit from embracing credit card payments. According to Fundera, over three in four consumers have at least one open credit card. With credit card payments, you’ll typically have a pay a fee per each transaction. Depending on the specific type of credit card payment solution, you can expect a per-transaction fee of around 25 cents and 3%.

Mobile Payment

In recent years, more and more businesses have embraced mobile payment solutions. What is a mobile payment exactly? As the name suggests, it’s a type of digital payment that requires a smartphone, tablet or other mobile device. The customer must first install and set up an app on his or her mobile device. Once configured, the customer can use the app to purchase products or services.

Whether your small business operates locally at a brick-and-mortar location or on the internet, you should consider accepting multiple forms of payment.

Have anything else that you’d like to add? Let us know in the comments section below!

Is Your Small Business Vulnerable to Cyber Attack?

As a small business owner, you might assume that your business is safe from cyber attacks. After all, large companies typically have more money, as well as more data, than smaller businesses, so conventional wisdom may lead you to believe that only large companies are targeted. The reality, however, is that all types of businesses are targeted by hackers, including small businesses.

The Rise of Small Business Cyber Attacks

You might be surprised to learn that cyber attacks against small businesses has increased over the years. According to research cited by Forbes, over half of all intrusions, malware insertions and other forms of commercially-focused cyber attacks last year targeted small businesses. With cyber attacks against small businesses on the rise, you should use this opportunity to evaluate your small business’s cybersecurity strategy.

Create Strong Passwords

The first layer of protection against a cyber attack is strong passwords. Short passwords are undoubtedly easier to remember than long passwords. Unfortunately, though, they offer minimal protection against cyber attacks. Hackers may perform a brute-force attack against your small business that involves guessing the correct password. If it’s short or otherwise weak, a brute-force attack could lead to serious consequences for your small business.

Change Passwords Every Few Months

In addition to creating strong passwords for all your small business’s login-protected accounts, you should change your passwords at least once every two to three months. Failure to change your passwords on a regular basis could result in a hacker guessing or otherwise identifying the correct password for one of your accounts.

Install Anti-Malware Software

Anti-malware software can help protect your small business from cyber attacks. Anti-malware software, of course, is software that protects against malware. It designed to both prevent and treat malware infections. If a hacker tries to deploy malware on one of your small business’s computer, anti-malware software should block the attack.

Use a Firewall

Finally, using a firewall can strengthen your small business’s security and, therefore, lower the risk of a cyber attack. What is a firewall exactly? When used in the context of information technology (IT), a firewall is a type of software application that’s designed to filter malicious and potentially malicious traffic. It automatically scans all incoming and outgoing traffic for signs of a cyber attack. If the firewall detects a potential attack, it will block the traffic.

Have anything else that you’d like to add? Let us know in the comments section below!

5 Lead Generation Strategies for Small Businesses

Are you struggling to generate leads for your small business? Regardless of what your small business sells, you’ll need high-quality sales to whom you can pitch your products or services. Unfortunately, many small businesses have a lackluster lead generation that hinders their ability to succeed. If this sounds familiar, you should consider the five following strategies to generate more leads for your small business.

#1) Direct Mail

Direct mail offers a highly effective channel for generating leads. Statistics show that over one in two consumers believe print-based ads, including direct mail, are the most trustworthy of all marketing channels. With direct mail, you’ll be able to target households within your small business’s key market regions, allowing for high-quality leads that are easy to convert into customers.

#2) Email

Along with direct mail, you can use email to generate more leads for your small business. One report found that that email is the single most popular lead generation channel for business-to-business (B2B) businesses. Whether your business sells to other businesses or consumers, though, you can use email to attract more leads. Just set up a newsletter, at which point prospective customers can provide their email addresses to receive updates and news via email.

#3) Social Media

Of course, social media has become an increasingly popular lead generation channel among small businesses. Statistics show over three in four U.S. adults have a Facebook account. Facebook, however, is just one of many social media networks. By creating an active presence on the leading social media networks, including Facebook, you’ll attract more leads to your small business.

#4) Ask in Person

Assuming your small business operates locally, you can ask prospective customers for their information in person. Even if a shopper doesn’t make a purchase, you can still ask for his or her contact information so that you can reach out with deals and promotions in the future. If the shopper obliges, you’ll have a new lead to whom you can pitch your small business’s products or services.

#5) Blog

Does your small business have a blog? If not, you should consider creating one. A form of content marketing, blogging is a highly effective lead generation strategy. As you create high-quality posts that are relevant to your small business’s audience, you’ll create a steady flow of new, high-quality leads.

Know any other lead generation strategies that you’d like to share with our readers? Let us know in the comments section below!

Personal vs Business Credit: What’s the Difference?

As a business owner, you probably know the importance of maintaining good credit. With bad credit — or no credit for that matter — you’ll struggle to secure financing. Whether you’re applying for a loan, a credit card or a line of credit, you’ll have a better chance of getting approved if you have good credit. With that said, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the differences between personal credit and business credit.

What Is Personal Credit?

Personal credit refers to the credit-based financial metric of an individual. In the United States, it’s linked to a person’s Social Security Number. When you apply for a mortgage or any other loan, you’ll have to provide the lender with your SSN. The lender will then check your credit score, as well as your credit history, to determine whether to approve or deny your application.

You can obtain a report of your personal credit for free once a year by visiting AnnualCreditReport.com. Available by clicking the aforementioned link, it’s operated jointly by the three major credit bureaus, including Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. Even if you don’t plan on using your personal credit, you should still get into the habit of checking it on a regular basis. Using AnnualCreditReport.com, you can obtain a copy of your personal credit from all three credit bureaus for free.

What Is Business Credit?

Business credit, on the other hand, is a credit-based financial metric of a business entity. Unlike with personal credit, business credit isn’t linked to a person’s SSN. Instead, it’s linked to a person’s Employee Identification Number (EIN).

With the exception of sole proprietorships, most U.S. businesses have an EIN. Also known as a Federal Employer Identification Number or Federal Tax Identification Number, it’s assigned to businesses for tax purposes. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) gives each U.S. business a unique EIN. In addition to being used for tax filings, though, EINs are also used for business credit.

To check your business credit, you’ll need to purchase a copy from one or more credit bureaus.

The Bottom Line

Personal and business credit are pretty much the same, with the only difference being that personal credit is linked to a person’s SSN, whereas business credit is linked to a business entity’s EIN. Keep in mind that some lenders may look at both types of credit when you apply for a business loan. Therefore, you should actively monitor, as well as improve, your personal credit and business credit.

Have anything else that you’d like to add? Let us know in the comments section below!

6 Ways to Save on Small Business Taxes

One of the biggest challenges entrepreneurs face when starting a small business is paying taxes. When you run your own business — as opposed to working for an employer — you’ll be responsible for calculating and paying your own taxes. While there’s no way to avoid taxes, there are ways to lower the financial burden of Uncle Sam.

#1) Incorporate Your Small Business

There are several different ways you can structure your small business, including the use of a sole proprietorship, limited liability company (LLC) or a corporation. Of those options, a corporation typically offers the greatest tax-savings benefits.

#2) Start a 401(k) Retirement Plan

Another way to save money on small business taxes is to start a 401(k) retirement plan. When running your own business, you won’t receive the same “match” that you would with a retirement plan offered by an employer. Nonetheless, you can still start an individual 401(k) retirement plan to lower your overall tax burden.

#3) Claim the Home Office Deduction

If you regularly work from home, don’t forget to claim the home office tax deduction when filing your taxes. You can learn more about the home office deduction by visiting the IRS’s website. Basically, though, you use either the simplified or regular method, the former of which is easiest. With the simplified method, you’ll receive a deduction of $5 per square foot of business space in your home, with a maximum deduction of 300 square feet.

#4) Purchase Goods and Services With a Credit or Debit Card

What’s wrong with using cash to purchase goods and services for your small business? Well, if you pay with cash, you won’t have a digital trail of your expenses. Instead, you’ll have to keep track of paper receipts, which are bound to get lost at some point or another.

#5) Consider Tossing Old Equipment

When a piece of equipment has reached the end of its usable life, consider tossing it in the trash instead of selling it. If you sell old equipment, you’ll incur a capital loss. If you toss it, on the other hand, you’ll incur an ordinary loss, which you can deduct from your taxes.

#6) Use Quickbooks for Accounting

The right accounting software can help you save money on your taxes. By using Quickbooks, you’ll have the tools and resources needed to maximize your tax deductions. Available in both cloud-based and on-premise versions, Quickbooks is the leading accounting software used by small businesses.

Have any other tax tips that you’d like to share? Let us know in the comments section below!

How to Prepare Your Small Business for the Holidays

With the holiday shopping season right around the corner, you should use this opportunity to prepare your small business. Although there are exceptions, most small businesses — particularly those that operate in a business-to-consumer (B2C) industry like retail — generate more sales during the months of November and December as opposed to other times of the year. By planning ahead, you can maximize your small business’s sales during the holidays.

Stock Up on Inventory

As a small business owner, you probably know the importance of keeping products in stock. If you run out of a product, you may have to turn away shoppers in search of that product. During the holidays, out-of-stock products can cost your small business big bucks. Therefore, it’s a good idea to order a surplus of products in anticipation of the increased holiday sales.

Hire Additional Employees

Of course, you may need to hire additional employees during the holidays. While some small business owners are reluctant to hire employees, there’s only so much work you can do yourself. And with the holidays being the busiest time of year for most small businesses, hiring additional employees can prove to be a smart investment. Just remember to choose highly motivated employees who are willing to put forth the necessary effort to help your small business succeed.

Offer Discounts

Consider offering discounts that are only available during the holidays. Prior to visiting your small business during the holidays, prospective customers may search for coupons or promo codes online. If they don’t find any discounts when scouring the internet, they may take their money elsewhere, such as a competitor’s small business.

Change Your Hours

Finally, evaluate your small business’s hours of operation to determine whether they need changing. If your small business typically closes at 6:00 p.m., for example, you may want to extend its hours of operation to 7:00 p.m. or 8:00 p.m. during the holidays. By extending your small business’s hours of operation, you’ll attract more customers during this critically important time of year.

Decorate

The Small Business Administration (SBA) recommends that business owners decorate their establishment during the holidays. Adding just a few seasonally relevant decorations will make your small business stand out. At the same time, it will encourage more shoppers to visit your small business, resulting in higher sales revenue during the holidays.

Have any other tips that you’d like to share with our readers? Let us know in the comments section below!

6 Marketing Tips to Bolster Your Small Business

Statistics show over half of all small businesses will fail within their first five years. To prevent this from happening to your small business, you need a strong marketing strategy. By following these six marketing tips, you can bolster your small business’s presence to achieve greater success.

#1) Create Social Media Profiles

Even if you have a personal profile on all the leading social media networks, you should still create profiles under your small business’s name. Prospective customers will often search for small businesses on Facebook, Twitter and other social media networks. By maintaining active social media profiles, these users will be able to find your small business more easily.

#2) Sponsor Local Activities and Events

Don’t underestimate the value of local sponsorships. By sponsoring activities and events in your city, you’ll reach more prospective customers, some of whom may choose your small business the next time they need a product or service you sell. Sponsorships typically aren’t free, but they are well worth the investment when marketing a small business.

#3) Hand Out Business Cards

Even in today’s digitally connected landscape, business cards are still a useful marketing tool for small businesses. When you encounter a prospective customer, you can provide him or her with a business card. Considering that business cards typically cost just pennies to produce, it’s a small price to pay to spread the word about your small business.

#4) Launch a Website

Of course, you can use a website to market and promote your small business. Not all prospective customers will use social media to search for your business. Some may use a search engine like Google or Bing. Assuming your small business has a website, these prospective customers can find your small business more easily.

#5) Create an Email Newsletter

Email has become of the most commonly used communication channels in the world. As a result, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to learn that an email newsletter can improve your small business’s marketing strategy. With an email newsletter, you can collect the email addresses of prospective customers. Once collected, you can then send them emails containing advertisements for your small business’s products or services.

#6) Network

Finally, networking offers a simple yet effective way to market your small business. Regardless of where your small business operates, there are probably networking events available. During these events, you can meet other business owners, as well as prospective customers, to further grow your small business.

Have any other small business marketing tips that you’d like to share? Let us know in the comments section below!

5 Big Benefits of Equity Financing

There’s an old saying that it takes money to make money. As a business owner, you’re probably well aware of the truth within this adage. You must spend money to purchase inventory and services in order to sell your business’s own products and services. While you can always finance your business using a traditional bank loan, however, you should consider equity financing for the five following reasons.

#1) You Don’t Have to Repay It

Bank loans are a form of a debt financing, meaning you’ll have to repay them — usually with added interest. With equity financing, on the other hand, you keep the acquired money. Equity financing simply involves selling ownership stake in your business. As a result, you aren’t required to repay it. Whether you obtain $10,000 or $1 million through equity financing, it’s yours to keep.

#2) No Credit, No Problem

When initially starting your business, you may struggle to obtain debt financing because your business has little or no credit. The good news is equity financing is a viable alternative. Equity investment companies don’t look at your business’s credit. Rather, they focus on your business’s current and future prospective revenue. As long as your business is poised for a successful future, you should be able to obtain equity financing.

#3) Fast Cash

Equity financing is typically faster to obtain than debt financing. Banks can take months to approve an application for a loan. Even then, a bank may encounter problems that pushes back its approval date. Equity investors, however, are eager to finance the right businesses. As a result, you can obtain equity financing in as a little as a few days.

#4) Expert Help

You might be surprised to learn that equity financing can bring expert help to your business. Equity investors want the businesses in which they invest to succeed. If an investor purchases some of your business’s shares — defined as equity financing — he or she will benefit from your business’s future success.

#5) Simple and Easy

Finally, equity financing is simple and easy to obtain. To get the ball rolling, you’ll need to contact an equity investment firm to inquire about financing. The firm will likely review your business plan, as well as other documents, followed by providing you with a quote for partial ownership. Although it sounds like a complex process, equity financing is simple and easy.

What are your thoughts on equity financing? Let us know in the comments section below!

5 Tips on Hiring Your First Employee

A small business owner, there’s only so much work you can do yourself. As your small business grows, you may need to hire employees to sustain its growth rate. Of course, hiring your first employee is a major milestone that shouldn’t be taken lightly. If you use the wrong approach, the employee may offer little or no benefit to your small business. Therefore, you should follow these five tips when hiring your first employee.

#1) Purchase Workers’ Compensation Insurance

When hiring employees, you’ll need to have workers’ compensation insurance for your small business. Although there are a few exceptions, nearly all businesses that operate in the United States with at least one employee are required to have workers’ compensation insurance.

#2) Register With Labor Department

In addition to obtaining workers’ compensation insurance, you must also register your small business with your state’s labor department. In the United States, employers are required to pay unemployment taxes for each of their employees. You won’t make these payments to your small business’s employees, however. You’ll make the payments to your state’s labor department, which is why it’s important to register your small business with the labor department.

#3) Advertise Job Listing

After getting your ducks in order, you can now advertise your job listing in an effort to attract candidates. Some small businesses simply place a “We’re Hiring” sign in front of their establishment. Given the superior reach of the internet, though, it’s recommended that you advertise your job listing online. You can publish the listing on your small business’s social media profiles as well as job recruitment websites.

#4) Assess Candidates’ Skills and Credentials

Perhaps the most important step to hiring your small business’s first employee is assessing the sills and credentials of candidates. Assuming your job listing generates a decent amount of exposure, you should have some applications coming in. You’ll then need to review each application while choosing the best-qualified candidate for the position.

#5) Set Up Payroll

Of course, you’ll also need to set up payroll when hiring your small business’s first employee. Don’t wait until you’ve already hired the employee to set up payroll. Because this is your first employee, you may encounter problems with managing his or her paycheck. As a result, you should set up payroll before hiring your first employee.

Have any other tips that you’d like to share? Let us know in the comments section below!

5 Super Simple Ways to Scale Your Small Business

Are you struggling to scale your small business? The ability to grow and scale is a defining characteristic of all successful businesses. By scaling your small business’s operations, you’ll naturally reach more customers and generate more sales. While scaling sound may difficult, though, it doesn’t have to be. Below are five super simple ways to scale your small business.

#1) Create a Referral Program

A referral program is a highly effective tool for small businesses. Statistics show that referrals are 30% more likely to make a purchase and have a 16% higher lifetime value than traditional leads. How to do you create a referral program exactly? Basically, a referral program is any type of incentivized program in which customers are rewarded for driving new customers, also known as referrals, to your small business.

#2) Launch a Website

If you haven’t done so already, consider launching a website for your small business. Even if you don’t intend to sell products or services online, you can still use a website to promote your small business, as well as its locally sold products or services. When a prospective customer performs an online search for your small business’s name, he or she may stumble upon its website.

#3) Target New Locations

Of course, targeting new locations can help to scale your small business. Some small businesses focus strictly on their surrounding city or region, neglecting to sell their products or services in other areas. If you’re willing to target new locations, though, you’ll discover it’s a highly effective way to scale your small business.

#4) Invest in Automation

Automation is perhaps one of the most effective ways to scale a small business. Granted, you can’t automate all of your small business’s day-to-day operations, but there are certain tasks that can and should be automated. Sending invoices or receipts, for example, can be automated using accounting software. Rather than manually creating each and every invoice or receipt, accounting software can take this burden off your shoulders through automation. Along with the other tips listed here, this will help to scale your small business.

#5) Sell to Existing Customers

You shouldn’t focus your marketing efforts strictly on new customers. Selling to existing customers can actually prove more worthwhile because they are easier to convert. According to Harvard Business Review, it costs up to 25 times more money for a small business to sell to a new customer than an existing customer.

Have anything else that you’d like to add? Let us know in the comments section below!

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