A wider range of small businesses and digital creators will now be able to sell on Instagram thanks to some new and looser commerce eligibility requirements that went into effect today.
These new eligibility rules for Instagram Shopping applicants were first announced via a blog post on June 23, but they were held from going live until July 9.
Chief among the new requirements: Businesses will need to provide a website where they own and sell “at least one eligible product” in order to use shopping tags on Instagram.
While this excludes sellers who solely use third-party marketplaces like Etsy, or run sales through an affiliate network like Amazon Associates, businesses that don’t normally sell physical products but do have an online following will now be able to take advantage of Instagram for eCommerce revenue.
Per Instagram, the rules include a few more requirements:
Accounts must have demonstrated trustworthiness through avenues such as “an authentic, established presence” or by “maintaining a sufficient follower base.”
Accounts must operate out of a supported market.
Product information must avoid misleading pricing or availability information. In addition, refund and return policies must be stated.
Beyond the eligibility requirements, Instagram is also updating its onboarding process for new business accounts as well as alerting old accounts to the revised rules.
New Rules Aim To Benefit Small Creators
In its announcement post, Instagram specifically mentioned small-time creators as benefiting the most from the new commerce requirements:
Whether you are a candle business making a foray into e-commerce, a musician selling merchandise, or a food blogger expanding into your own cookware line, any eligible business or creator account with at least one eligible product can use shopping tags to drive people to their website to make a purchase.
All told, smaller businesses that don’t specifically sell physical goods will be able to better tap into their Instagram followers for additional revenue. Previously, businesses that wanted to sell products via Instagram Shopping had to “primarily” peddle physical products, according to the marketplace’s old seller requirements.
In addition, these new rules come at a time when creators and social media influencers are being taken more seriously not only as professionals but as small business owners too.
“2020 will be a watershed year for investment in businesses around the creator economy,” the CEO of the creator networking platform Influence.co, Neil Robertson, told TechCrunch in November 2019. “Influencers and creators are small businesses and if you think about all the things that small businesses need these days to succeed, they will be repurposed for the influencer marketing space.”
More recently, San Francisco startup Karat announced last month the launch the Karat Black Card, which is aimed specifically at those with large swaths of social media followers.
“This is a new type of business, a $15 to $20 billion industry, and there are millions of creators and they make lots of money,” Karat co-founder Will Kim told Forbes. Kim’s fellow co-founder, Eric Wei, added in an interview with Crunchbase News that influencers have “the same business pain points as everybody else.”
Of course, Instagram is part of Facebook, which has come under fire recently for a lack of action towards civil rights injustice. Dozens of companies have signed on to boycott the social media behemoth’s ad platform in response to these claims.
However, for many small businesses and creators, Facebook and its services serve as a lifeblood to reach customers — per Bloomberg, research by Deutsche Bank shows that 76% of Facebook’s advertising revenue comes from small- and medium-sized businesses. Meanwhile, Instagram can be quite lucrative for eCommerce shops — a 2019 survey by VidMob found that 34% of Instagram users had made a purchase through the social media platform.
Integrate Your Business With Instagram Shopping
Is your small business set up to sell on Instagram yet? If not, check out how you can reach a wider audience by following Merchant Maverick’s guide to using shoppable Instagram posts.
For those just beginning to tackle the wide world of eCommerce, give our guide to building an online store a peruse.
Do you have a story idea, tip, or press release for the Merchant Maverick news team? Shoot us an email: [email protected].
The post Instagramâs New Commerce Rules For Businesses Are Now Live appeared first on Merchant Maverick.
Dreaming about a new website? Whether it’s time to refresh an out-of-date site or create something brand new, you owe it to yourself to take a look at Wix. An all-in-one website builder that promises everything novices and pros alike will need, Wix offers a free and easy route to building your website.
Ultimately, Wix won’t be the ideal solution for everyone. However, more than 160 million users worldwide have relied on Wix for website creation. So the question is, will Wix prove to be right for you?
What Is Wix?
Wix is a cloud-based software company offering web development services. Its key appeal lies in both the base cost (free) and in an ease of use that lets even rookie web designers create a professional-looking site. You won’t need special knowledge or training to use the site’s drag-and-drop building options and free templates. More experienced users can add complexity, and users with deeper pockets can add options that include eCommerce, scheduling, and their own domain name.
Wix makes it easy to start with the basics and then add on later, if you choose to add complexity or increase functionality. If this is your first time designing a website, you won’t need to worry about becoming overwhelmed with options. Simply choose a template you like the look of, and then start adding your own text and images.
Read our full Wix review for more information.
What Is Wix ADI?
Wix has added a component that takes building a basic website from easy to, well, effortless. Use the Wix ADI (Artificial Design Intelligence) option and you can be up and running in minutes.
Simply answer a few basic questions about the site you want, allow access to your social media information, and then sit back and let the ADI build your site for you. Within minutes, and without any effort on your part, you’ll have a complete website built around your own images, video, and text content. It’s a completely automatic process that’s also very easy for you to edit and customize to make it look and function just as you want it to.
What if you do not already have a big online presence? The ADI also can search Wix’s huge database to come up with images and text that match the information you provide about your proposed website, placing them appropriately on your new webpage. In that case, you may need to spend some extra time customizing the content and images to more perfectly reflect your own unique situation.
The Wix ADI option is free to use, and if you don’t like what the ADI suggests for you, you’ll find it easy enough to backtrack, start again, and take another route to your ideal website.
How Does Wix Work?
With Wix, speed and simplicity work hand in hand to help users quickly create personalized websites, with no programming or technical skills necessary for success. Wix offers “off the shelf” templates that can be adapted for many different types of use (including blogs, self-promotion of products or services, online sales platforms, and more) and personalized to reflect your own individual needs and style.
In Wix’s case, “off the shelf” definitely does not mean that most of the end products look the same. You will find virtually endless opportunities to customize your content, including text, video, and images, within the large number of free standard templates available on the site.
Wix supports users before and as they build their sites through an in-depth Help Center that offers advice to assist as you:
Identify your website’s purpose (selling products, for instance, vs. bringing in new customers) and design it accordingly
Consider SEO (Search Engine Optimization) as you build your site, to drive traffic there once the site is live
Choose the tools you need to build the site that’s right for you
How Much Does Wix Cost?
You won’t pay anything to sign up for a Wix account, and you don’t need to enter any credit card information to create your website or to take it live. However, you may find it hard to say no to some of the add-ons that come with price tags.
For example, a basic no-cost Wix website shows Wix in its domain name. So, for example, instead of YourBusinessName.com, your URL will contain your Wix username followed by wixsite.com/YourBusinessName. Wix ads will appear on every page of your website, too. You’ll be limited to 500 MB of storage, which may not be enough if you intend to include lots of photos and videos. And a free Wix site won’t allow you to accept payments online.
Add a premium plan, and those issues go away. Now you can use your own custom domain name, get rid of the ads, increase your storage, and access better Wix support options. On top of those items, Wix premium plans offer these additional tiered benefits:
Combo:Â The least expensive plan will cost you $13 per month and bumps your storage capacity to 3 GB.
Unlimited:Â At $17 per month, this plan offers 10 GB storage and gives you access to a visitor analytics app. You’ll also receive $300 in vouchers for online advertising on Google Ads, Bing, and Local Listings and have access to an app that helps drive traffic to your website.
Pro:Â For $22 per month, this plan bumps your storage to 20 GB, adds an event calendar, and lets you use Wix’s logo tool to create a professional logo you can use on your site and elsewhere.
VIP:Â Your $39 monthly payment gives you priority access to a special customer service hotline and in the online help forum.
If you want to accept online payments and see sales analytics, choose one of Wix’s tiered business plans.
Business Basics:Â For $23 per month, this plan includes 20 GB storage, no ads, sales analytics, online payments, advertising vouchers, and visitor analytics.
Business Unlimited:Â Bump storage to 35 GB for $27 per month, gain access to the professional logo maker, and access handy tools like a subscription function, automated sales tax, and more.
Business VIP:Â At $49 per month, this plan adds priority support online and by phone.
Enterprise:Â Your $500 monthly payment gets you all of the above, plus additional security as well as professional development support and consultation. Request a call from Wix to discuss the details before choosing this plan.
If you decide one of the premium plans is worth its price, be sure to look online for Wix coupon codes that can knock a few bucks off your final cost. You can also save significantly by paying annually or for two or three years at a time. Note: At time of writing, Wix was offering a three-day sale that cut all prices in half.
The Benefits Of Wix
Wix templates may be free to use, but they don’t look cheap. On the contrary, even a basic free Wix plan will give you a fresh and functional website that you can be proud of. And it’s so easy to use that you can start building your site and launch it on the same day.
No cost for a basic website
No expertise or experience needed to build an attractive, functional, customized website
An array of features and functions available for those who want to pay for them
Can be used on Mac or Windows platforms
Sites automatically adapt for optimum viewing on computer screens and mobile devices
The Drawbacks Of Wix
While Wix offers a satisfying array of customizable templates, if you’re looking for something absolutely unique, you won’t find it here. Any other business, even a competitor, could design a site that resembles your own.Â And if your main concern is cost, you may find that the free and lowest-cost options don’t satisfy you.
Phone support is prioritized only for the top-tier plans
Creating and editing currently not possible on mobile devices
Free plans incorporate Wix advertising and include only limited storage
Functions such as analytics, online sales, and calendars are available only with subscription plans
Who Should Use Wix?
It’s hard not to like Wix. It’s easy to use, affordable, and fast. Anyone looking to establish or burnish their online presence will find what they need at Wix.com. Freelancers and independent contractors, bloggers, nonprofits, activists, vendors, and everyone in between can build a basic website and go live today — even if they know nothing about website design.
Bottom line: Wix is a great starting point for anyone who needs a decent website fast, but doesn’t have the expertise or the budget to build a truly customized site. Wix can deliver quickly, with very little effort on your part and at no or relatively low cost.
How To Get Started With Wix
Wix makes it easy to dive into website creation. Simply visit Wix.com and sign up for a free account. All you need is an email address, though you will need to respond to a confirmation email to establish your account. You won’t even be asked to enter any payment information unless you decide to sign up for a premium plan.
Once you’re on the site, check out the help center for some useful tips and information. You can view others’ Wix sites to gain inspiration, read tutorials, or even watch some videos that will help you get started.
All you need is your own vision of your ideal online presence and purpose. Wix will take care of the rest.
Our Wix review tells a fuller story if you’re interested in learning more.
The post What Is Wix & How Does It Work? appeared first on Merchant Maverick.
You have a great idea, and you’re ready to take action and turn that idea into a thriving business. Maybe you have a new product that’s unlike anything on the market, or you’ve hashed out the details of a much-needed business in your area. No matter what type of business you have in mind, all startups have one thing in common: the need for capital.
Unfortunately, new businesses find it challenging to find funding. You can’t just walk into your local bank, produce a few financial statements, and get a business loan. A lack of revenue and business credit history works against you, as traditional lenders see you as a big risk.
However, this doesn’t mean you have to put your dreams on hold. It simply means that you need to get a little creative with your funding. Not sure where to start? You’re in the right place. This post is going to focus on startup funding.
This goes beyond just small business loans. We’ll look at a few unique types of funding for your business, as well as provide you with tips to get started. Use these ideas to get the money you need to get your business off the ground. Ready to get started? Let’s dive right in.
Use Startup Funding To Take Your New Business To The Next Level
Before we delve into the different types of funding, let’s first evaluate why you need startup funding for your business.
Every business needs capital. The amount of capital you need varies based on a number of factors. Your type of business, specifically, influences your costs. If you’re creating a new product, your initial startup costs will differ from those of someone opening a store or restaurant. An online business will have different costs than a brick-and-mortar business. One of the first steps to launching your startup is to identify potential costs and then estimate how much capital you need to cover the costs to get your business off the ground.
When launching your business, some of the startup costs to keep in mind include:
Rent or mortgage
Supplies & inventory
Research & development
Securing capital is the first step to launching a successful business. Just take a look at some of the businesses and products you may already be familiar with. The wildly successful card game Exploding Kittens had one of the biggest Kickstarter campaigns in history, raising over $8.7 million in 2015. Since its launch, its become a top-selling game across retailers such as Amazon and Target with over 9 million games sold. Expansion packs and other card games are also available, making this business even more successful.
Or perhaps you’ve heard of the food delivery service Grubhub. By 2011, the company had received five rounds of investment funding, transforming the company from one that simply offered online restaurant menus to a food delivery service in cities across the nation. Grubhub was just sold to Dutch company Just Eat Takeaway.com for a cool $7.3 billion.
Maybe you want to grow your business this large … or maybe you just want to kick your 9-to-5 to the curb, make your own money, and be your own boss. Whatever your ultimate goal is, securing funds can help you get there.
How Does Startup Funding Work?
There are two main types of startup funding to consider: debt financing and equity financing. There are a number of funding sources that fall under each umbrella, but for now, let’s focus on the general meaning of each.
Debt financing means that you receive a lump sum of money that is paid back over a period of time. In addition to paying the principal (in other words, what you borrowed), you’ll also pay interest to the lender. You may also be required to pay fees, such as an application fee or origination fee.
Lenders look at several things when determining whether you qualify for funding, the amount you qualify for, and the rates and terms. This may include your personal and/or business credit history, revenue or personal income, and personal or professional references.
There are several types of debt financing to fund your startup, including:
Loans: You receive a lump sum of cash that is paid back over a period of time (anywhere from a few months to 20+ years).
Business Credit Cards: A business credit card works like a personal card. You’re assigned a credit limit by the lender. You can use your card as often as needed provided you haven’t hit your credit limit. Interest is charged only on borrowed funds. As you pay down your balance, funds are once again available to borrow.
Lines Of Credit: Lines of credit are similar to credit cards. A lender approves you for a set amount, which can be used as needed. Interest is charged only on borrowed funds. As you repay your line of credit, funds may become available to use again.
Debt financing has its benefits. Paying back your lender helps build your credit so you can qualify for higher limits and lower rates in the future. Your lender also doesn’t have a stake in your business, so you retain ownership.
On the other side of the coin, there are a few drawbacks to consider. Interest rates and terms — particularly for startups — may be less-than-favorable. If your business doesn’t succeed or you’re otherwise unable to repay your loan as agreed, your credit score will plummet. Your business and/or personal assets may also be at risk if you put up collateral, signed a personal guarantee, or have a blanket lien attached to your loan.
You can also get startup capital through equity financing. Like debt financing, you receive capital to use for startup costs. However, equity financing is different in that you don’t have to repay the funds. Instead, your investor receives a stake in your business in exchange for this capital. In the reality TV series, “Shark Tank,” the sharks invest money in products in exchange for ownership in the company — this is classic equity financing.
The good news is that you won’t have to repay funds, even if your business isn’t a success. The bad news is that you do have to give up partial ownership of your business. Not only does this mean that you have to share the profits, but you may also have to consult with stakeholders before making big decisions, such as making a large purchase or expanding your business.
5 Ways To Get Funding For Your Startup
There are a few ways to get funding for your startup. You may even opt to try several different methods to get the capital you need. Read on to learn more about getting funds for your startup.
Think about a seed. It starts off small. But over time, that seed grows into a plant or tree. Now, think of this seed as your business. The seed money — money given by investors — helps start your business. Over time, your goal is to grow this seed (the investment) into a thriving business.
Because this is a type of equity financing, your investors have a stake in your business in exchange for their seed money. Once your business has grown, the investors may opt to sell their stakes and move on to another opportunity. They may sell it back to you or to other investors that are interested in being a part of your business.
Access To More Capital:Â The sky is the limit when it comes to seed funding. Unlike loans and other more traditional forms of funding, you don’t have to worry about limitations being put on the amount of funding you receive — provided, of course, that you find the right investor.
Requirements:Â No business credit history? Low personal credit score? No revenue from your business? No problem. While some investors may have their own requirements before investing their funds, many are simply looking for the next big idea that has a potential for profit.
No Regular Payments: You won’t have to worry about making regularly scheduled payments and high interest rates and fees when scoring seed funding from investors.
Additional Skills & Knowledge:Â It’s highly likely that your investor will at least have some experience with your industry and can provide valuable skills and knowledge to help you grow your business to its full potential.
Giving Up Part Of Your Business:Â In exchange for funding, your investor will take a percentage of your business. This means that they have a right to some of your profits and, depending on their level of involvement, may be involved in making major business decisions.
Finding An Investor: Finding an investor that is willing to invest in your product/business (and, ultimately, you) can be a challenge. Other sources of funding may be acquired in just a few days…finding an investor can take weeks, months, or even longer.
The internet has changed business funding for the better in many ways. One way is through crowdfunding. You most likely have heard of (or maybe even donated to) campaigns on sites like Kickstarter or GoFundMe. These crowdfunding platforms have opened up financial opportunities for many startup businesses, and yours could be next.
There are two main types of crowdfunding to consider: equity-based and rewards-based. Equity-based crowdfunding means that investors get a stake in your business in exchange for their financial contributions. Rewards-based crowdfunding provides each investor with a reward or perk — think, first dibs on a new product or a deeply discounted price at launch.
Few Limitations:Â You won’t encounter maximum funding limits like you would with loans or traditional financing. Although some crowdfunding platforms do have limitations in place, ultimately you can find a platform that lets you raise as much capital as you need — no matter how much that is.
Keep Your Equity:Â If you opt to run a rewards-based campaign, you don’t have to give up ownership in your business.
Tests & Builds Your Market:Â In addition to drawing in interested investors, you’re also putting your name out there to others — even those that don’t contribute — to begin building interest in your business before you even launch.
Requires A Lot Of Work:Â Crowdfunding isn’t as simple as starting a campaign and waiting for the money to roll in. Instead, you will need to promote your campaign through social media, email, your website, or through other means in order to successfully raise funds for your business.
May Not Be Successful:Â Sure, you didn’t raise all the money you needed, but you raised some, so that’s okay, right? It depends on what platform you used. Some platforms require you to meet your goal in a set period of time in order to receive your funds. If you fall short, you’re back at square one.
Negotiate With Suppliers
Another way to get your startup off the ground is to negotiate with suppliers. If you need supplies to create a product or open your business, negotiating is a smart tactic you need to master.
First, start by estimating supply costs. Get quotes from suppliers, do your research, and understand what costs are associated with your supplies. Next, find reputable suppliers and begin negotiations. If their pricing is too high, for example, use the data from your research to get a better deal. You can also inquire about discounts — i.e., for bulk or recurring orders.
Next, consider the payment terms. If payment is due immediately, try to negotiate net-30 terms; in other words, your payment will be due in 30 days. If the supplier isn’t willing to extend terms this much, even net-10 or net-5 terms can be helpful as you try to secure financing, sell products, or find an investor. Some suppliers may even offer in-house credit programs that are easier to qualify for than bank loans or credit cards.
Lenient Requirements: As a startup with no business credit or revenue, proving your creditworthiness is pretty much impossible. But when you work directly with a supplier to get a reduced cost or improved repayment terms, these requirements may not even be a consideration.
Building Business Relationships: As you build relationships with your suppliers, it’s possible that you may get additional discounts, better terms, and other perks in the future.
Doesn’t Always Work: Getting a supplier to come down on the price of products or offer longer repayment terms isn’t guaranteed. Any savings or credit options and the requirements that come with vary by supplier.
Other Funding May Still Be Needed: Even if you get the cost of your supplies negotiated to a more reasonable rate or score longer terms, you’ll still need capital to pay the supplier. If you launch your business and start making cash, great! If not, you may be required to find some form of financing in order to pay for your supplies.
We can’t talk about funding your business without at least mentioning loans. Of course, obtaining a loan through traditional lenders may be difficult, but it isn’t impossible. The Small Business Administration (SBA) offers funding programs for small businesses, including startups and underserved communities. There are also a number of alternative lenders that may be able to help you now or just a few months after you begin bringing in revenue.
Another option to consider outside of small business loans is a personal loan. If you have steady income and a solid personal credit profile, you may be eligible for a personal loan to use toward startup expenses — a loan with longer terms and lower rates than you’ll find with many alternative lenders.
No Hard Work Required: Getting a small business or personal loan is as simple as submitting an application with requested documentation. Lending marketplaces make it easier than ever to compare rates and terms by filling out just one application.
Keep Your Equity: When you receive a loan, you don’t have to give up ownership in your company.
Can Be Expensive: Depending on the lender you select and criteria such as your credit score and income, the interest rates and fees of loans can get pretty expensive.
May Require Collateral: Many lenders require risky borrowers (including startups) to put up collateral for a loan. This could be a specific business asset or personal asset. Some lenders use blanket liens, which covers everything owned by your business. Failure to pay your loan as agreed could result in losing these assets — and putting your business underwater.
Requirements Not Met: Your application may be rejected if you don’t meet the requirements of the lender, which may include business credit score and history, personal credit profile, time in business, revenue, personal income, or type of industry.
Small Business Grants
If you have an innovative business idea, you may qualify for a startup grant. Not only can you score the capital you need with a grant, but funds don’t have to be repaid. However, don’t just think that grants are an easy way to get free money. Most small business grants have pretty strict requirements, so finding ones you qualify to receive is difficult. Once you find grants that are a good fit, competition is pretty stiff — so be prepared.
Startup grants are available for tech companies, innovative new products, and even underserved communities like minority-owned businesses. In addition to submitting information about yourself and your business or product, you may also be required to create a video, write an essay, submit a business plan, or complete other steps before being considered for a grant.
Grants Don’t Have To Be Repaid: You don’t have to worry about repaying a lender if you receive a small business grant. If you qualify and are awarded a grant, funds do not have to repaid.
Not Just Monetary Awards: Depending on the grant that you’re awarded, money isn’t the only thing you’ll receive. Many grants also include access to resources, such as industry-specific workshops, training, and mentorships.
Finding Grants Can Be Difficult: Most grants have requirements that your business may not meet. You also have to keep an eye out for application deadlines to ensure your application is received on time.
Competition Is Tough: You aren’t the only aspiring business owner to seek out grants. Competition is tough, and most people that apply won’t receive a grant, so make sure you have a backup plan in place.
On a farm, an incubator is used to create the perfect environment for the successful hatching of eggs. In business, a startup incubator works in a similar way — metaphorically, of course.
A startup incubator is a program designed to foster the growth of new businesses. An incubator provides a number of resources to help startups grow into a successful business. A single company or organization may act as a startup incubator, but more commonly a number of businesses and organizations come together to provide the resources startups need to succeed.
These programs don’t just open up new opportunities for capital but also may provide your startup with resources including mentorships, office space, and training to ensure your business starts on the right path.
Looking for a startup incubator? Start your search online or contact your local SBA office.
More Than Just Funding: Your business needs funding, and a startup incubator can give you opportunities you couldn’t find on your own. In addition to just capital, though, you can also take advantage of the numerous resources and expertise offered through these programs.
Find Your Focus: The benefits you’ll receive from a startup incubator can help you become more structured and focused on launching and growing your business.
Finding & Being Accepted To A Program: Unfortunately, startup incubators won’t just flock to you. It’s your job to do the research and find incubator programs, learn more about joining, and ensuring you meet all requirements. Once you do find suitable programs, actually being accepted over competing startups is another challenge.
Requires Commitment: Your program may require you to attend training, workshops, or meetings with investors or mentors. This time commitment may prove to be too much if you have other obligations, such as a full-time job.
Tips To Get The Startup Funding You Need
Once you’ve determined the method (or methods) you’ll use to acquire your startup funding, there are a few things you can do now to improve your odds for success. Before reaching out to that lender, investor, or supplier, keep these tips in mind.
Understand The 5 Cs Of Credit
Whether you plan to apply for a business loan now or in the future, it’s important to understand what lenders look for — specifically, the five Cs of credit. Those are:
Character: Lenders want to work with borrowers with good character traits. This may include personal work experience, industry experience, and personal credit history.
Conditions: Are the conditions favorable for lending? Lenders will consider this, looking at things such as industry trends, the state of the economy, and even pending legislation to determine if lending to your business is a smart move.
Collateral: Do you have collateral to secure your loan in the event that you default on your loan agreement? Equipment, real estate, and even accounts receiveable can be used as collateral.
Capital: Have you invested in your business? If so, you have skin in the game and will have something to lose if your business goes under. Lenders will consider how much capital has been invested in your business when determining if you qualify for funding.
Capacity: Does your business have the capacity to take on a loan payment? Lenders will consider factors such as your debt-to-income ratio (DTI), debt service coverage ratio (DSCR), and cash flow to determine if your business is financially prepared to take on additional debt.
Is your business falling short in one of these areas? Learn more about the 5 Cs of credit and how you can make sure your startup is prepared before approaching a lender.
Create A Business Plan
You have your business ideas in your head and maybe even jotted down in a notebook somewhere, but it’s important to have an actual business plan. Not only is this essential for drawing in investors or securing funding, but it also serves as a blueprint for your business. Think of your business plan as a road map, outlining the details of where you’re going (your goal) and how you will get there.
Since every business (and the goals of each business owner) is different, no two business plans are the same. However, there are a few common sections that each business plan shares. These include:
Products & Services
For some businesses, a one-page business plan may be sufficient. For others, however, a more comprehensive plan may be needed, particularly if you’re looking for investors or to obtain a small business loan.
Evaluate The Cost Of Borrowing
It may be tempting to jump on the first funding offer that comes your way, but it’s important to stop and weigh out the cost of funding.
For instance, if you get approved for a startup loan, look at factors such as fees and interest. Calculate how much you’ll pay to borrow funds, and determine if this is feasible or if it could potentially sink your business.
If you have an interested investor that wants equity in exchange for capital, consider how much of your business you have to give up. Are the funds you’ll receive today worth giving up a large portion of your profits in the future? Look at the cost of borrowing over the long-term to determine if you need to find another source of funding.
Don’t Be Afraid To Get Creative
When it comes to starting (and growing) a business, acquiring funding takes some creativity. Maybe you’ll use one (or more) of the methods suggested in this post to fund your startup. Or maybe you’ll do something else entirely. The key is to find what works best for you.
Don’t be afraid to get creative. Tap your friends and family that could be potential investors. Attend industry events and network with like-minded entrepreneurs. Keep an open mind, be flexible, and have a backup plan in place in the event that your
Hold Up Your End Of The Bargain
Once you do get funding, your work doesn’t stop there. Whether you agree to repay a lender each month or you’re using a supplier for recurring purchases, make sure that you always keep your promises (whether they’re on paper or not). Word travels fast among the small business community, and the last thing you want to do is burn your bridges. Repay your debts as agreed, hold up your end of every deal you make, and build a reputation as a business owner with integrity and strong character.
An added bonus? Paying your debts on time helps raise your credit score, making it easier to qualify for additional funding with better terms in the future.
Go Out & Get Funded
Now that you have a better idea of the funding opportunities open to you, it’s time to get out there and find that capital. Remember, it pays to be patient, do your research, and explore all funding options before making the giant leap into owning and operating your own business. Good luck!
The post How To Get Startup Funding: 5 Types Of Funding For Startups & 5 Tips To You Get Started appeared first on Merchant Maverick.
When it comes to managing your business, payroll is an integral and time-consuming task. Small businesses that use QuickBooks for their accounting needs may have noticed that the company is always in a state of flux, changing in direct response to client feedback. QuickBook’s recent revamping of its payroll platform is a testament to that commitment to stay responsive and on-trend. There are two different versions of QuickBooks payroll products. The QuickBooks Desktop Payroll system works with QuickBooks Desktop Pro, Premier, or Enterprise. However, the QuickBooks Intuit Online Payroll platform is available for QuickBooks Online clients. And, bonus! Adding payroll to your QuickBooks suite is as simple as clicking a button.
Designed for new or current users, QuickBooks Online Payroll (also referred to as Intuit Online Payroll) offers three online payroll pricing structures — all with full-service, automatic payroll options.
QuickBooks Online Payroll Price Plans
All of QuickBooks Online Payroll pricing plans include full-service payroll. That means even at the lowest pricing tier, QuickBooks payroll includes automatic tax and form filing. QuickBooks Online Payroll comes at three pricing tiers: Core, Premium, and Elite. The program also has month-to-month contracts and no early termination fees. (QuickBooks also runs deep promotions frequently for its products, so be sure to check for any available discounts before purchasing.)
Here are the cost breakdowns:
The most basic payroll program, Core’s Payroll plan, costs $45/month + $4/per employee and includes:
Next day direct deposit
Unlimited payroll runs
Calculates and files federal and state taxes
Calculates and files year-end forms
Manages garnishments and deductions
Offers reporting features
Health benefits management
This program has everything needed to pay employees and file taxes. Advanced HR and payroll support is not available at the Core level, so this is best for small businesses with
QuickBooks Online Payroll Premium Payroll plan costs $75/month + $8/per employee and includes everything in the Core Payroll plan, plus:
24-hour same day direct deposit
Worker’s compensation administration
Assisted payroll setup
Help from US-based expert support staff
QuickBooks Online Payroll’s Elite Payroll plan costs $125/month + $10/per employee and includes everything in the Premium Payroll plan, plus:Â
HR support with a personal HR advisor
White glove customized setup
Track time and projects on the go
Tax penalty protection
24/7 product support
Extra Payroll Costs & Fees
Intuit QuickBooks Online Payroll does have some additional costs per month depending on your small business needs:
Workers’ Compensation Insurance: Most businesses with one or more employees across the 50 states will need workers’ compensation as a legal business requirement. Workers’ comp pays for medical expenses and lost wages if an employee is injured on the job. Intuit partners with AP Intego’s pay-as-you-go workers’ compensation insurance. There is a $5 monthly fee to use this service. Premiums for workers’ comp will depend on how many employees you have and what type of business you operate.
QuickBooks Simple Start/Essential/Plus: Tracks income, expenses, sales, and sales tax; organizes receipts and maximizes tax deductions. The program also creates invoices and accepts payments. This is an additional $25 a month +, depending on features.
Labor Law Poster Subscription Service: All businesses that have an employee or contractor working for them must display or have available all appropriate labor law posters. Posting this information is a legal requirement, but staying on top of new regulations and changes can be tedious for business owners. Through an add-on subscription, payroll customers can have access to the labor law posters for their state, and QuickBooks will send new posters as needed.
E-File 1099s: In January of each year, your business will need to file the 1099 forms sent out to contractors. This service helps prepare your 1099s via an auto-fill from your Intuit QuickBooks Online Payroll information. You can send PDFs to contractors, and QuickBooks will e-file for you. This additional service is available for $14. You can also order tax forms and other business forms, such as checks, directly through QuickBooks.
Multi-State Processing Fees: If you are processing payroll for people in different states, expect to pay a $12 processing fee per state.
Medical/Dental/Vision: QuickBooks partners with Simply Insured to offer health benefit options to your team.
Which Intuit Payroll Plan Is Right For Me?
Next day direct deposit
Unlimited payroll runs
Files federal and state taxes
Files year-end forms
Garnishments & deductions
Health benefits management
Same day direct deposit
Assisted payroll setup
White glove set-up
Tax penalty protection
When it comes to deciding which payroll plan is right for your business, you will need to decide how much you can afford and how much work you want to put into payroll. At the Core pricing level, the automated tax filings, basic reporting features, and basic benefits management programs are enough to help a small business with a handful of employees. As a business grows and the HR requirements increase, the offerings at the Premium and Elite levels may align better.
The tax penalty at the Elite level is a great added layer of security, and it comes partnered with a white glove/curated experience for business owners short on time. If your company does not have a bookkeeper, accountant, or HR team in charge of payroll and benefits management, QuickBooks can keep your payroll seamless while also offering tools to meet those other needs.
QuickBooks Online Payroll Support & Customer Service
Each and every payroll plan comes with assistance at no additional cost. The level and detail of that service depend on which service you purchase; the white glove support is only available at the Elite level. However, every level has the following support and customer service options:
Phone:Â Call the QuickBooks phone line to talk to an expert Monday through Friday, 6am-6pm PST, and on Saturdays from 6am-3pm PST.
Online Chat:Â The online chat feature is available 24-7.
Email:Â Customer service is available via email from either outside or inside the QuickBooks program.
In-Software Support:Â QuickBooks offers forums, chat rooms, and guides within the software. Check the online resources for checklists for onboarding or access to other payroll tips from experts. The online help center also directs users to articles, forms, and FAQs to help keep you knowledgeable and organized.
QuickBooks Community:Â In addition to maintaining social media accounts, QuickBooks also has a thriving online Q&A section where users can ask questions to experts in a public forum. Chances are if you are having an issue, someone else has had the issue before, and you can find assistance from the vast QuickBooks community.
Reviews & Complaints
People who like and use QuickBooks are more likely to have a positive experience transitioning to the Intuit QuickBooks Online Payroll system. The platform works seamlessly with other QuickBooks products and earns high praise, especially among accountants/bookkeepers/HR representatives. The software has a 4.5/5 on Capterra (based on 531 ratings) which includes a generous increase in positive reviews since their last update.
QuickBooks receives high praise for its ease of use, its dedication to updates, and its assistance with onboarding. For small business owners using other QuickBooks products, this is a seamless integration guaranteed to work well with your other business software.
When it comes to complaints about the system, reviewers note that while the customer service is kind, it can be difficult to talk to someone with payroll expertise, and wait times for customer service tickets can leave something to be desired.
Getting Started With QuickBooks Online Payroll
Is it time to add Intuit QuickBooks Online Payroll to your business? With its recent changes to its payroll platform, QuickBooks proves that it wants to remain a small business’s best option when it comes to business software. While you might have to pay extra for that Elite service, the features and ease-of-use at all levels mean that QuickBooks should be in contention if you need to add a payroll system. If you are already a fan of QuickBooks, then Intuit QuickBooks Online Payroll will easily win your heart with its efficient and competitive product.
The post QuickBooks Online Payroll Pricing & Features appeared first on Merchant Maverick.
This post originally appeared at Etsy Shop Ideas: 10+ Ways To Generate Hundreds of Profitable Options via ShivarWeb
Etsy is an established global marketplace. And it’s a great place for anyone to try out a small online business with zero risk and zero commitment.
But unfortunately, Etsy is also a place where many people fail, get discouraged, or never start in the first place.
Many of those problems come from not having the right, profitable Etsy shop idea. It’s not enough to have a good idea. You have to have a good idea that other people are interested in.
Sure, many people on Etsy are looking for that certain, unique something.
But you are never going to sell them that certain, unique something unless you have a general idea of what people are looking for.
Problems with a List of Etsy Ideas
There are plenty of ideas for what to sell on Etsy. Even Etsy has a guide.
But they all have problems that make them unhelpful. They are all usually –
Vague – vague ideas are impossible to execute on.
Out-dated – Etsy thrives on trends taht change day to day.
Anecdotal – Anecdotes don’t prove anything except the success of a single person.
Untrue – Rumor is a great way to get attention, even if it’s untrue.
Not complete – The appearance of success is never quite right.
Copied to death – No one ever got ahead by copying competitors.
This guide to Etsy shop ideas will show you how to research your own list of Etsy shop ideas.
You’ll pair your experience, skills, and abilities with real data that pops up around the Internet to find an Etsy shop idea that works for you.
Your goal is to find an idea that is pre-qualified by interest so that you know that success is possible if you get the execution right.
Generating Etsy Shop Ideas
Think of these data sources as gold mines. There will be a lot of dirt. There will be a lot of digging. It’s pretty boring. You’ll need to gather a lot of ore to get at the gold.
But if you comb every mine systematically, you will likely find a “seam” of gold that you can focus on. All you need is a single nugget.
Ideas from Etsy Search
This data source is simple. Actual, real-time customer searches power Etsy’s autosuggest feature.
Use the suggestions to gather interesting ideas. Use these tips to systematically harvest ideas –
Go through the entire Alphabet. Type “a” and hit space.
Take the “root” of an interesting idea. Type that in and hit space. If you see COVID masks – try taking just “masks” and seeing what else shows up.
Try the space before and after your root.
Try a space in between a modifier and a root.
Take a common modifier, hit space, and look for interesting roots.
Keep exploring until you get a basket of good ideas.
Ideas from Etsy Categories
The goal here is to find interesting, underserved, or surprisingly popular Etsy categories. Then browse the categories looking for new ideas.
This data source requires a few tools to do right, but you can also do it manually and/or free to quickly check some ideas.
The first way is to browse Etsy’s categories in Google’s index.
Do a search for site:etsy.com/c/ – you’ll get all the category pages that Google has indexed. They are generally listed in order of importance (though not really by popularity). You can also drill down to search subcategories.
The second way is to look through Etsy’s taxonomy sitemaps. Yes, it sounds daunting, but it’s really just a much more efficient way of browsing their categories.
Head over to their taxonomy index. Open up, download, and copy all the listed “node” sitemaps. You’ll find many buried categories that have interesting product ideas.
The third way is to use a tool like SEMRush or Ahrefs to view their top categories. They will show all of the relevant pages plus all the keywords that those pages rank for.
You will absolutely find an interesting idea in this dataset. Ahrefs is $7 for a 7 day free trial. SEMRush has a free 14 day trial, so they’d be best for checking a quick idea. I’ll use both for many examples.
Just drop etsy.com/c/ into the Site Explorer and look at the subfolder.
Then look at all the categories and what keywords they drive.
This data shows two things. First, it shows that people are generally interested in these product ideas. Second, it shows that Etsy itself attracts interested buyers directly to that category – so you will be well-placed to get customers if you can show up in that category.
Ideas from Etsy Shops
This source is very similar to Etsy categories…but with individual shops. You are trying to reverse engineer successful shops to see if you can get in on the action – maybe they are attracting customers, but aren’t selling the right items.
Since there are so many shops, you will be forced to use SEMRush / Ahrefs for this tactic. You can absolutely browse their shop sitemap, or check out popular shops – but there’s too many of them.
Instead, just drop etsy.com/shop/ into the subfolder search.
You’ll see the top performing shops in Google Search (not Etsy search) plus what keywords they are getting traffic with.
Click over on the Shop’s “Sold” page and see what they are doing right.
Take those ideas and add them to your collection.
Ideas from Google Autosuggest
Google Autosuggest is a go-to source for website keywords. But it can also work for your Etsy shop.
Remember, your goal is to find interest in a product or product line that you can create and work on. Google will have general interest, so you have to coach it with specific roots and modifiers.
Start the same way that you did with Etsy Search. But instead of doing the Alphabet first, start with broad modifiers so that you can find interesting roots.
The best place to start is with “etsy”.
Start typing “etsy” and hit space. Redo it again, but hit space before “etsy”.
Then process with the Alphabet to find more.
You can then repeat this process with common Etsy modifiers like –
You’ll likely find a whole range of ideas to store.
Ideas from Pinterest Search
Pinterest is one of the largest (if not the largest) source of traffic for Etsy shops. Many prospective customers will find you via Pinterest.
Think of Pinterest Search as a blend between Etsy Search and Google Search. It’s more focused than Google, but has less “intent” than Etsy (ie, searchers aren’t in buying mode).
You’ll have to toy around with the roots and modifiers, but the process is the same. Use a series of “Etsy-likely” modifiers to find roots, and then drill down.
If you see “salt shakers etsy”, then you know that the root is interesting. Then take the “salt shakers” root and look for different modifiers. You’ll see options like “wood salt shakers”, etc.
You can then assume that people would find “wood salt shakers” to be an interesting find on Etsy. Take those ideas and run with them.
Ideas from Pinterest Boards
Pinterest has thousands of public collaboration boards around topics. They are a great place to find unique ideas within a certain topic.
For example, suppose you know you want to make some lunch bags, but have no idea what pieces to make. Find a bunch of Pinterest boards dedicated to lunch bags. Browse for unique ideas that people have pinned, which shows direct interest.
Ideas from Social Shares
Take the general approach from Pinterest boards and apply it to social media. Explore Twitter and Facebook for ideas.
But also look at visual networks like Imgur and Reddit for interesting DIY items.
Ideas from Etsy Competitors
You can also simply go browsing Etsy shops for top selling items within a niche that you are interested in. Every shop has a link to shop top selling items.
Remember the rule of thumb that competition equals demand. If there is little competition, there is likely low demand. Lots of competition means there is a lot of demand. Browse top selling items, check reviews, and see if there is a unique angle that you can put on a top selling item.
Additionally, you can use a marketing tool like SEMRush (mentioned earlier) to see what Etsy shops get traffic from Google in addition to Etsy. Take their Etsy shop URL and drop it into this tool –
You’ll be able to see what keywords are driving sales for them. It’s safe to say that if they get traffic from Google, there is plenty of demand to support another Etsy shop with similar products.
What’s Worth It To Sell on Etsy?
So you have a ton of Etsy shop ideas, but what’s actually worth it to sell on Etsy?
Well – that’s a very personal question that all depends on your goals, resources, expertise, time, and budget.
The short version is that it depends on what will make enough money to be worth your time & effort. But here are a few rules of thumb that I’ve gathered from my clients.
Etsy is not a volume retail marketplace. If you are trying to make money selling lots of units, then you are in a losing game.
Each product needs to “pay for itself.” In other words, each unit needs to have enough margin to pay for its labor, materials, and profit. Use back-of-the-napkin math to estimate your own numbers.
The only way to “scale” Etsy is with product templates and bulk purchasing. Products that you can prep pre-orders and purchase materials in bulk will give you profit wiggle room.
Never try to beat direct competitors on price. Try to beat them on marketing and value.
Like most businesses, Etsy shops usually fail from a lack of attention. Be sure to build in enough profit margin to allow yourself to get more attention than your competitors. You will never lose on price if you have a customer’s attention, and your cheap competition does not.
Products that you are familiar with and use regularly will give you an advantage that can make it worthwhile. In other words, don’t sell dog collars if you don’t own a bunch of dogs.
What’s Easy To Sell on Etsy?
Any product that has paying, discerning customers with mediocre competition can be easy to sell on Etsy. There are plenty of predictable categories with high customer demand – masks, pillowcases, custom name tags, etc. But those also can be commodity items where there’s no real difference between you and competition.
Your goal with an Etsy shop is to find a product line with enough competition to show interest. But where the competition is so poor that you can easily beat them with a better product and better marketing.
Starting an Etsy store can be daunting. Even setting Etsy up correctly can be confusing.
But it’s also a growing marketplace running multi-million dollar TV ads bringing customers directly to your store. You just need to be positioned to capture those buyers. A lot of effective research before setting up can set you up for success.
This post originally appeared at SEMRush Review: Pros, Cons & Use Cases via ShivarWeb
SEMRush is a suite of digital marketing software covering organic search (SEO), paid search (PPC), social media, and more. The company has been around for more than 11 years, and is a mainstay among many marketing agencies & consultants.
See SEMRush’s Current Plans & Pricing
I’ve been and off & on user of SEMRush for more than 7 years. While I’m a current subscriber of Ahrefs, one of their semi-direct competitors, I’ve recently reactivated my subscription due to volatility and massive changes among marketing data vendors.
What is SEMRush?
SEMRush is a suite of tools for digital marketers, so it’s hard to say precisely what it is. It’s almost like a Swiss Army Knife – a general purpose data & analysis tool for digital marketing.
Background on SEMRush
Their tools revolve around their backlink index, their keyword index, and their domain database. Their tools mix, match & cross-reference all these datasets to help marketers make better decisions about building content, building links, running ads, and running social media campaigns.
For example, their Keyword Explorer takes keywords that people are searching for in Google and cross-references their backlink index & ads index to determine how difficult any given keyword will be to rank for.
Here’s their official overview of their products.
SEMRush has been around for a long time. They have seen their share of controversy and can generate some extreme opinions among the digital marketing community.
Their one thread of consistency (and the reason they are still around) is that they have a very good sense of their target market. They have always sought to be the best all-around, single toolset. This will be the general theme and tl;dr of the pros & cons below.
They are not the “best” for any single one of their tools, but their strength is that they are really strong across a bunch of different tools…and they bundle it all into one.
How SEMRush Works
SEMRush has three subscription tiers. The higher tiers are meant to almost exclusively appeal to agencies with more reporting options and sharing limits…which they helpfully explain right on their pricing page.
Once you sign up, SEMRush revolves around Projects. Your website would be a single project. All the tools revolve around auditing your current domain, finding domain competitors, understanding your current link profile, your current keyword targeting, and all your opportunities.
SEMRush works by pulling data and attempting to help you convert that data into actions that you can take to improve your marketing.
Their Dashboard is busy & cluttered – but does show all the tools that you have available. They show all the use cases & example tasks that you can do to prevent decision overload.
Like a Swiss Army Knife, their tools work best if you know exactly what you want to do. It helps to start small to solve a single marketing problem.
For example, I needed a way to audit and share local citation opportunities with a client. SEMRush not only has that dataset, but it also provides recommendations on what to do – and it will create an automated, white-label PDF report to send my client.
I’ll get into these examples in my pros / cons, but in general, SEMRush works by taking your problem request, pulling data, converting that data into potential actions, and letting you take those actions to improve your digital marketing.
Pros of Using SEMRush
The broad upside of SEMRush is that it’s a full toolset from dataset, to recommendation engine, to automation tool, to reporting tool.
They are consistently focused on being the *one* tool that any agency, freelancer, or in-house marketer can buy and dramatically speed up their marketing operations. Here’s how that general upside plays out.
SEMRush has an incredible breadth of features – much more than I can write out and summarize.
They really lean into the “but wait, there’s more!” vibe.
Usually, a customer (like myself) joins for a specific tool, but quickly finds out that they have much more to offer.
For in-house marketers, it’s useful to have SEO, PPC, Social, PR, and Content tools all in a single software suite.
You are likely running multi-channel campaigns, so to have PPC & SEO keyword metrics are useful…but also to have link building & prospecting tools.
For solo freelancers on a budget, it’s useful to have a variety of tools to solve whatever marketing issue that you’re dealing with at the moment.
It has all the tools from a social media scheduler to toxic backlink checker to site auditor so that you can solve & diagnose any marketing issue that a new client is having.
For growing agencies, it can be shared by your PPC and SEO team to cut costs. Additionally, the reporting tools are invaluable for saving time and money while increasing client value & transparency.
They even have a lead generation tool to help agencies recruit new clients.
Here’s what the SEMRush Dashboard looks like –
Here’s what their backlink tool looks like.
It’s interesting how they not only pull basic backlink metrics, but also categorize them for you. It provides a quick snapshot of whatever domain you’re looking at.
Their link building tool takes your existing backlink index and generates ideas for new link building campaigns.
Here’s what their CPC Map tool looks like to help you generate new CPC ideas.
Here’s their local SEO tool – which is truly a “but wait there’s more” tool for any agency or freelancer.
Local clients are very hard to work with & scale due to the limited (and usually expensive) tools on the market. The fact that this tool is bundled is huge. It competes with Moz Local, but I found it to be solid.
Here’s their Market Explorer tool to help gather a better picture of any given industry so that you know who to copy, who to avoid, and who to learn from.
Again, I could go on. SEMRush’s biggest strength is their breadth of tools. No single tool can compete with a direct competitor, but on whole, they are a solid fit for the people most likely to use / need their product.
Feature Depth & Accuracy
Now – SEMRush has a wide breadth of tools. But even on their own, their tools are solid and have industry-leading depth & accuracy to them.
With their SEO tools, their backlink and keyword indices are not necessarily the best, but they are industry-leading. Comparing backlink indices is notoriously difficult. I will leave the academic research to others.
But from a day to day keyword research and link building perspective, SEMRush is good enough to do almost any job.
They are at that point where the person using the tool matters more than the tool itself.
I use Ahrefs on a day to day basis. They consistently have a more useful, and more complete keyword and link database than SEMRush.
But I also know how to effectively use Ahrefs’ data. In fact, one reason that I pay for both Ahrefs’ and SEMRush is that I like to collate their data with my Search Console data. Having 3 indices is better than 1.
But either way – SEMRush is a solid #2 or #3 in keywords & link database world…and they have depth in their PPC, Social, and Content tools.
Their PPC tools have a universe of data that other SEO-focused tools like Moz and Ahrefs (or Majestic) simply do not have. It has data that only Google’s Keyword Planner has.
But again – it’s a top tier dataset & PPC tool that also comes with SEO and everything else.
Having a range of robust tools might not be the best fit for everyone, but it’s a good fit for many others. With a growing agency that cannot afford multiple subscriptions, SEMRush has everything all in an overall value bundle. And that’s a huge pro.
Consistency Over Time
SEMRush has been around since 2008. For a marketing SaaS company, that is positively ancient. And that’s a good thing. There are lots of marketing software companies with a good product, and a good culture…but don’t really make it.
They get distracted and overextended. They try to become more than they should. They take venture capital and try to go beyond what their core market wants.
SEMRush has always been focused on the same core market with the same core suite of products. I was using them as a freelancer in 2011. The agency where I worked at in 2013 used them for their PPC and SEO teams. A friend who runs an in-house marketing team uses them today.
Their software suite has gotten bigger and better through incremental improvement and customer feedback.
They have been a bit tone deaf in their product launch communications and their own marketing tactics, but it’s never been a distraction from their main product suite.
When I commit to a tool, I want it to be around for a while. The fact that SEMRush has been around is a solid advantage.
Reporting & Recommendations
Marketing data can be just undecipherable noise unless you’ve worked at an agency or spent some time learning from someone who does digital marketing for a living.
That’s a huge problem with a lot of tools. There are two responses to this. One is to provide all the education and training yourself. That’s what Ahrefs does. They have the best SEO & content blog on the Internet.
The other response is to build in recommendations and reporting. That’s the route that SEMRush takes. I’ll get to the downsides of this approach, but overall, it’s really helpful.
If you are an in-house marketer or freelancer who juggles lots of marketing responsibilities, it’s incredibly useful to have reminders, recommendations, and reporting built into your software.
It provides actions in addition to education so that you can make fast decisions and understand the value of the data.
Cons / Disadvantages of Using SEMRush
There are a *lot* of highly charged opinions about SEMRush online. They have certainly courted plenty of controversy in the SEO community with their own “gray-ish hat” marketing tactics.
But they do have some downside and negatives as a tool set. Most of these are simple tradeoffs that they’ve made to get the pros that they have. But it’s important to be aware of the downsides & tradeoffs to understand what you’re getting and whether they align with your own goals and needs.
Plenty of SEOs and PPCers have done analysis on who has the “best” backlink or keyword index. You can get really deep in the weeds here. If you want to go read about crawler analysis and behavior, go check out this post or this post.
But, in general, and in my experience, SEMRush’s tools are solidly great – but they are not the best in any single category.
Their backlink & keyword index is good enough to do all the SEO & link building you’ll need to do to be competitive. But I still don’t think it’s as high quality or as deep as Ahrefs’ links or keywords.
Their PPC tools are great, but they are nowhere as user-friendly as AdEspresso or WordStream. And with their PPC keyword research tool, well, they are competing directly with Google’s Keyword Planner.
Their social media tools are great, but again, they are not as useful or usable as HootSuite, Buffer, or Buzzsumo.
Their link building & outreach tools are great, but again, they are not as usable or as useful as Buzzstream or other outreach tools.
And their local SEO tools are also solid, but not as good as Places Scout or Whitespark.
Now – this is all just the flipside of Feature Breadth.
SEMRush is the jack of all trades and master of none.*
*but don’t forget the rest of the rhyme which is “A jack of all trades is a master of none, but oftentimes better than a master of one.”
Jargon & Feature Overwhelm
SEMRush has a lot going on. They have so many different features that they have them bucketed into different toolkits…even though the tools in those toolkits usually overlap.
The tools themselves are busy and present a ton of information.
And all that information is usually presented with industry jargon instead of plain language.
It’s confusing and overwhelming for me – and I’ve been in the industry for more than 10 years.
I’m not sure they could solve the user experience issue, but it’s a pretty big disadvantage compared to their competitors.
Automated Recommendations & Alerts
As mentioned in the pros section, one of SEMRush’s solutions to data overwhelm is to provide automated recommendations and alerts about what you should actually do.
Mostly, it’s a good thing. But any recommendation engine, no matter how smart, will only provide recommendations based on its inputs and parameters rather than actual knowledge.
And when you are working with human language and human knowledge, it gets tricky. SEMRush’s recommendations are great as an onboarding tool…but they can provide a false sense of security and accuracy.
This false sense of security could lead misinformed customers to make poor marketing choices.
For example, take their SEO content template tool.
In some ways, it’s great. In other ways, it just perpetuates some of the same old spammy tropes that have brought SEO down for years.
It is good to know semantically related words to your topic and it’s good to know about your competitors’ backlinks. And it’s good to consider text length.
But nothing about SEO is “paint by the numbers.”
It’s a bad idea to take a word salad, make a page full of those words, and throw a bunch of links at it.
That’s not what any professional SEO would recommend…but it’s the kind of thing that SEMRush’s automated recommendations would lead you to believe if you didn’t have any background or education.
It would be ideal to integrate some training directly with their recommendations. Until then, it’s a bit of disadvantage.
Workflow & Organization
SEMRush is not set up for a fast, efficient workflow…unless you really commit to the platform.
This downside can vary person to person, but it’s worth understanding. Some tools, like Ahrefs, just give you the data. The real analysis & work is done in a spreadsheet.
That’s how I like it and how most marketing professionals work.
SEMRush’s tool organization is setup to do analysis & actions within SEMRush. That’s great and can be super-handy…but only if you commit to using their workflow.
If you are the type of person who likes to work within SEMRush, it can have lots of advantages. But if you are like me and like to get the data into a spreadsheet, it can be frustrating.
SEMRush Use Cases
SEMRush has excelled by not trying to chase different markets. Here are the types of people that they are built for.
Solo Marketing Freelancer
If you have a wide range of clients & frequent projects, SEMRush’s tool variety will allow you to just have a single subscription to handle all types of clients.
If you are an in-house marketer that wants to run or knowledgeably assist your agency with multichannel campaigns, a subscription to SEMRush will give you the tool variety to effectively do that. Their pricing & reports will also be easy to sell to your boss.
SEMRush’s white label reports and team sharing options can help you provide value to clients while also controlling your overhead. It will also help you standardize agency processes with a single tool so that you don’t have a jumble of tools as your teams grow.
Next Steps & Conclusion
SEMRush is a solid all-in-one marketing tool suite. They aren’t the best in any one area, but they excel at providing a bunch of tools for a single subscription.
If you do PPC, SEO, Social, and/or Local – they are the tool to buy. You can see how they diagnose your own site with this tool –
If you are solely into SEO / Content, you should also look at Ahrefs. With a head to head comparison, they are better. And if you have the budget and clients…you should just pay for both. More data gives you a competitive advantage.
SEMRush is a suite of digital marketing software covering organic search (SEO), paid search (PPC), social media, and more. The company has been around for more than 11 years, and is a mainstay among many marketing agencies & consultants.
These days, we see delivery options everywhere. You can request on-demand delivery for your groceries, prescriptions, and take-out orders. With so many consumers turning to these options for convenience — and safety in light of the coronavirus crisis — you may be wondering: Is there space in the market for you?
Owning a delivery business is a great opportunity for many entrepreneurs. Depending on the niche you plan to serve, you can start your own business with just one vehicle and no employees. What’s more, you can quickly scale your delivery business as demand increases.
Are you considering starting your own delivery business, but you aren’t sure how to start? Keep reading for a step-by-step guide to starting a delivery business.
Why Start A Delivery Business?
One of the main reasons you should consider starting a delivery business is the steady increase in demand and market share.
According to the State of Logistics Report 2019, the market size of same-day delivery services in the US is expected to reach $7.4 billion in 2020 (up from an estimated $6.1 billion last year). What’s more, this report projects market size will increase to $8.5 billion in 2021.
The same report reveals how same-day delivery services are divided by delivery types. Fourteen percent of the market share of same-day deliveries are C2C deliveries (for example, transactions from Craigslist, eBay, and Facebook Marketplace), while 23% are B2B deliveries, and 63% are B2C deliveries.
By starting your own delivery business, you can take advantage of this demand for same-day delivery.
How Much Does A Delivery Business Cost?
Startup expenses for beginning a delivery business vary, depending on many factors. That said, you should plan for the following expenses:
Purchasing or leasing vehicle(s)
Time (your time and your employees’ or contractors’ time)
Cost of operating a physical location (if you have one)
As you plan for your business, make sure you create a budget that accounts for all the expenses listed above as well as any other relevant expenses.
How Much Does It Cost To Become An Amazon Delivery Service Partner?
Perhaps you’ve seen advertisements online for Amazon’s Delivery Service Partner (DSP) program for entrepreneurs. These advertisements state that with Amazon, you can start your own delivery business for as little as $10,000 capital. These advertisements make running a delivery business look easy. All your business comes through Amazon, so there’s no need to find customers, and with very little startup cost, you can begin managing a team of 100 employees who drive a fleet of 10-40 vans.
Amazon makes this program look very desirable, stating that its DSP program is highly competitive and that you’ll profit $75K-$300K per year. However, I advise you to do your research before applying to become a DSP. I’ve seen numerous reviews that break down the costs of operating this type of business, revealing that according to Amazon’s numbers, you’re only likely to profit $7,500 per van each year. This is a very slim profit margin, and to earn this profit, you have to take on a lot of liability.
For more information on the potential downsides of becoming an Amazon DSP, check out this video from Franchise City.
Types Of Delivery Services
There are many possible niches your business can fill. We recommend that you consider partnering with local businesses that frequently need to deliver their products to consumers or other businesses. Here are a few niches you should consider:
Yard supplies delivery
Dry cleaning delivery
Starting A Delivery Service: The Step-By-Step Guide
Once you have an idea of the type of delivery business you want to start, it’s time to take action! Here are the first nine steps you should take to start a delivery service.
Step 1: Make A Business Plan For Your Delivery Business
The first step in starting any business is to make a business plan. We recommend starting with a one-page business plan, in which you list the following information about your business:
The problem your business solves
For more information on writing a business plan, try our article: The ‘How-To’ For One Page Business Plans. You’ll even find a downloadable form on this page that you can use to create your business plan.
Step 2: Look For Funding
Every startup requires capital, and with a delivery business, you have to invest in a lot of equipment up front. If you don’t currently have the funds you need to start your business, we suggest looking into financing options. Here are a few options you might consider:
Business lines of credit
Business credit cards
Merchant cash advances
For more information on each of these financing options, read our article, 8 Ways To Finance Your Small Business.
Step 3: Find Business Software
Finding the right software for your business can streamline your day-to-day operations, and it can even reduce the number of people you have to hire to get your business started. Here are a few types of software that you should consider adding to your business, along with a few software recommendations:
GPS Software: Use this software to locate delivery pickup and drop-off locations. You can use a device such as Garmin for your GPS navigation, or you can use a free app on your mobile device (such as Google Maps).
Mileage Tracking Software: Mileage tracking software helps you bill clients accurately, and it can help you claim business expenses during tax season. One of our preferred accounting software, QuickBooks Self-Employed, has an app that you can use for tracking mileage. Or you can use an app such as MileIQ.
Accounting Software: Every business needs good accounting software. We likeÂ QuickBooks Online and Xero.
CRM Software: CRM (customer relationship management) software helps you track customers’ contact info and interactions. A couple of good options are Salesforce and Zoho CRM.
Website Builder Software: Build a website for your delivery business using an affordable and easy-to-use website builder. We recommendÂ Squarespace and Wix to most business owners.
Time Tracking Software: If you hire employees or independent contractors to drive your vehicles, you’ll need a tool to track their time. Some time tracking software packages even include GPS tracking features. Check out our article, Must-Have Time Tracking Software Businesses Should Know About, for a few recommendations.
Step 4: Source Equipment For Your Delivery Business
One of the big startup costs you should anticipate is the cost of equipment. Depending on the types of products you decide to deliver, you’ll need to choose equipment that can help deliver shipments safely and efficiently. Here are a few examples of equipment you may need:
Vehicles (sprinter vans, pickup trucks, freight trucks, trailers, or refrigerated trucks, depending on your shipments)
Cell phones or radios for all team members
Tablets and card readers for processing payments and signing off on orders
As you create a list of the types of equipment you need, you should also consider how you’ll pay for that equipment. Will you purchase it outright or use equipment financing? Make sure you calculate the interest rates you pay for equipment financing into your business’s budget.
Step 5: Register Your Business & Get Insurance
To legally register your business, you first have to decide on a business structure. The business structure you choose depends on the amount of liability you are comfortable with and if you plan on hiring employees. Business structures include:
Limited Liability Partnership
Limited Liability Limited Partnership
Limited Liability Company (LLC)
If you are just starting up, and you plan on working independently for a while, a sole proprietorship is a good option. However, if you plan on hiring employees, you should look into setting up an LLC. For more information on the pros and cons of each business structure, try our complete guide to business structures.
The next step is to register your business name. As you choose a name for your business, consider using keywords, such as “delivery,” “same-day delivery,” or even “floral delivery.” That will help your business appear in Google searches. During this step, you should also look into available domain names. Choosing your business name and domain name at the same time can help you create consistent branding and make your site easier to find online.
Your final steps are to register your business with the IRS, register for business licenses and permits, and register with your state’s revenue office. For more information on these steps, see our article, How To Register Your Business: The Complete Guide.
As you set up the legal part of your business, make sure you sign up for any necessary insurance. These insurance plans protect you and your business, and they also protect your employees. Here are some types of insurance you should purchase:
General Liability Insurance: This insurance package covers delivery services and delivered products. This insurance protects companies against lawsuits related to delivery services. Learn more about small business liability insurance.
Commercial Auto Insurance: Commercial auto insurance covers damage or theft done to a fleet of vehicles, an owner’s vehicle used commercially, or an independent contractor’s vehicle. Also, commercial auto insurance covers bodily injury and medical expenses. If your business operates trucks, you may also need commercial truck insurance. Read What Is Commercial Auto Insurance & Do You Need It? for more information.
Garage Liability Insurance: If you plan on storing vehicles on-site, you’ll also need garage liability insurance.
Commercial Property Insurance: To protect your employees’ property (things they store in their vehicle while they are at work), you can also sign up for commercial property insurance.
Workers’ Compensation Insurance: Workers’ compensation insurance is required in most states. This insurance covers medical costs and lost wages for work-related injuries.
Step 6: Create Your Online Presence & Marketing Plan
The next step you should take in starting your business is to create a solid online presence and marketing plan.
Your business’s online presence is the overall impact of your brand’s website, review pages, and social media interactions. Essentially, your online presence is made up of everything your brand has done online. Work to create a strong online presence from the very beginning by building a beautiful and easy-to-navigate website and registering your business with business directories, such as Google My Business and Yelp. For more information on developing an online presence, read How To Build An Online Presence For Your Business In 9 Simple Steps.
Finding & Keeping Customers
As you build up your business’s online presence, you should also consider the ways you will draw customers to your business. Make a plan for acquiring and retaining clients. Will you purchase online advertisements or claim an ad spot on the radio? Will you place ads on billboards or in the local newspaper? Will you partner with local businesses and rely on them for new customers?
No matter what you decide, make sure you have a plan for your marketing approach. And if your attempt doesn’t pan out, adjust your marketing strategy, and try again.
Once you have found customers, do your best to draw them back to your service by giving them a great experience and having quality marketing strategies. We recommend using CRM software to keep track of your former customers and reach out to them again in the future. Learn more about how to retain repeat customers with our article, 11 Ways Businesses Should Be Using CRM Software.
Step 7: Determine Your Rates For Delivery
Your next step is to decide on how much you’ll charge for deliveries. There are a few different ways you can price your services.
Many delivery companies charge on a per-mile basis. Each mile driven costs a set amount. In another model, you can charge a base rate and then add per-mile costs on top of that base rate.
As you set your prices, you should also determine the boundaries in which you will deliver orders. You can choose to not make any deliveries outside of these boundaries or charge a distance surcharge.
Make sure that your prices account for your company’s total overhead (including fuel, vehicle maintenance, time, and other costs) to protect your profit margin.
Step 8: Set Up Payment Processing
As more businesses transition to accepting digital payments, you should also consider what your payment solutions will be. If you choose to accept digital payments (which we recommend), you need to set up a payment processor.
The payment methods that are best for your business depend on who your delivery business serves. If you deliver directly to consumers (and consumers pay upon delivery), you’ll need a good method for accepting credit card payments. A mobile device with a card reader would work well in this instance. A couple of good payment processors that allow you to accept payments this way are Square and Payment Depot Mobile.
If you serve other businesses, however, you should consider alternative payment methods. Businesses that sell B2B can often qualify for lower credit card processing rates, so it might be worth pursuing a processor that caters specifically to B2B companies. On the other hand, ACH (automated clearing house) payments are cheaper overall, and they are a good alternative to credit card payments. For additional guidelines on accepting payments as a B2B business, check out The Complete Guide To B2B Payment Processing: Credit Cards, ACH, Software & More.
Step 9: Manage Expenses For Your Delivery Service
As you operate your business, you should have a plan for how you’ll track and manage expenses.
Use good accounting software to track tax-deductible expenses, such as fuel, repairs, and new equipment. Take a look at our article about tax write-offs for more information.
In addition, you should make a plan for how employees will purchase fuel on the road. Will you give drivers access to the company credit card, or will you reimburse your employees for their gas purchases? Make plans for these expenses before you begin your first delivery.
Is Starting A Delivery Business Right For You?
Does starting your own delivery business still seem right for you? Are you prepared to handle the challenges of planning delivery routes, and are you ready to face the competition of the ever-popular delivery apps?
If you’ve answered yes, we’re here to support you as you begin! Sign up for our newsletter to get up-to-date information on owning and operating a small business. To read more about starting your own business, take a look at these articles:
The ‘How-To’ For One Page Business Plans
8 Ways To Finance Your Small Business
How To Register Your Business: The Complete Guide
Types Of Business Structures: The Complete Guide
How To Build An Online Presence For Your Business In 9 Simple Steps
The Complete Guide To B2B Payment Processing: Credit Cards, ACH, Software & More
The post How To Start A Delivery Business In 9 Easy, Hassle-Free Steps appeared first on Merchant Maverick.
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has created the worst economic disruption for small business owners in the last 90 years. Even in parts of the country where restrictions are being lifted and businesses are slowly starting to re-open, the need to invest in additional sanitation measures and protective equipment to comply with local and state public health requirements has raised costs at a time when incoming revenue is still drastically reduced. Critically important small business supply chains have been disrupted, further increasing the cost of doing business.
As a small business owner, you may feel that you have no choice but to pass as much of your increased expenditures onto your customers as possible if you want to avoid going out of business. In fact, some owners have already done so, implementing what has come to be called a âCOVID surcharge.â This surcharge is a small amount â either a percentage or a fixed dollar amount â thatâs tacked onto a customerâs bill and specifically designated to cover increased pandemic-related expenses.
In this article, weâll discuss COVID surcharges and why some business owners around the country have implemented them. Weâll go over the likely response youâll get from your customers if you choose this course of action (hint: itâs not positive). Weâll also give you several alternative strategies you can implement that will increase your incoming revenue without the need for a surcharge. Finally, weâll show you how you can use business data (often automatically generated by your POS system) to manage your costs and improve your ability to keep up with the additional pandemic-related expenditures.
Why Some Businesses Are Adding Surcharges During The Coronavirus Pandemic
As weâve alluded to above, COVID surcharges are a direct response to the additional costs required to operate a business safely in the middle of a worldwide pandemic. Protecting your customers and your employees from a highly contagious, potentially deadly disease requires a lot of extra equipment and safety measures that werenât necessary just a few months ago. Disposable gloves, masks, hand sanitizer, extra signage to encourage proper social distancing, regular fumigation of your business â it all adds up to a significant cost at a time when youâre likely to be severely limited in how many customers you can even allow into your shop or restaurant at a time. For businesses that operate on a very thin (e.g., 2-3%) margin in normal times, the cost can be too much to bear while still turning a profit.
So, how have COVID surcharges worked out for the business owners whoâve implemented them? To put it mildly, not very well. While some customers are willing to pay a little extra temporarily to support a favorite local business during hard times, many others have responded with anger and disgust.
Consider the unfortunate case of Kiko Japanese Steakhouse & Sushi Lounge in West Plains, Missouri, which has attracted a lot of attention nationally. Faced with rising COVID-related costs and not wanting to raise prices across the board, the owners decided to implement a 5% surcharge. They went out of their way to explain to customers why they were doing so through social media and signs posted at their restaurant. Despite their best efforts to be transparent about the surcharge, they received a tremendous amount of criticism for it, often from people out of the area who werenât even patrons of their restaurant. They eventually were forced to discontinue the surcharge, and instead raised their prices to cover the extra expenses.
If reading horror stories like this one has you thinking that COVID surcharges are a bad idea, youâre probably right. However, there are some circumstances where they might work. A lot will depend on how your usual clientele has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. If youâre located in a well-off area, and most of your customers are still gainfully employed (either at home or working in an âessentialâ industry), they probably wonât mind paying a little extra to support a favorite business.
On the other hand, if youâre in an area that has experienced a lot of job losses and your customers are struggling, hitting them up with a surcharge is probably not a good idea. You should also take a close look at what your primary competitors are doing. You probably donât want to be the first business in your area to start implementing a surcharge. However, if other businesses are already imposing them and havenât faced a significant backlash, it might be safe to add your own surcharge as well. Overall, we consider COVID surcharges as a last resort that should only be implemented if you have no other way of maintaining profitability and staying in business. Here are some other options you should consider first before implementing a surcharge:
Four Alternative Strategies For Boosting Profit Margins
Businesses that operate on tight margins have always had ways of reducing their costs as much as possible, and many of those tricks might have been effective in ânormalâ times. However, in the face of a worldwide pandemic, youâll need to try some new strategies to keep your costs low and your profits high (or at least, high enough to stay in business). Here are a few things that you might not have considered before that can help you stay afloat until the economy recovers:
Modify Your Menu Items Or Goods That You Sell
If youâre running a restaurant, you already know that some menu items are more popular than others, and some cost more to make than others. By shifting your menu selection to emphasize popular items that have a high per-item profit margin, you can increase your incoming revenue and lower your overall ingredient costs at the same time. If youâre not quite sure how to do this, our restaurant food cost calculator can help you get started.
Of course, this technique isnât limited to restaurants alone. Other types of businesses, especially retail stores, can apply the same principles to help improve their cash flow. We probably donât need to tell you that certain items (e.g., toilet paper, soap, hand sanitizer, face masks, etc.) have become much more popular during the COVID-19 pandemic. Besides these obvious items, weâve seen dramatically increased demand for just about anything related to working from home, including items like office chairs, desks, and even webcams for video conferencing.
Offer A Cash Discount
One strategy for improving profitability that was already gaining in popularity before the pandemic is to shift the costs associated with credit card processing onto your customers. Often advertised as free credit card processing, this technique can be implemented by either adding a surcharge for customers who pay with a credit card or providing a cash discount to those who pay in cash. With surcharging, a small fee to cover the cost of credit card processing is added to the bill if a customer pays with a credit card. With a cash discounting program, your advertised prices will include the cost of credit card processing, and these prices will be discounted at checkout for customers who donât use a credit card.
While the distinction between these two programs may seem very subtle, there are important legal differences between them. Cash discounting is legal everywhere in the United States, but surcharging is currently still prohibited in four states and several US territories. Your merchant account provider can help you set up either of these programs (assuming there are no legal restrictions in your jurisdiction), including providing you with the required signage to notify your customers and reprogramming your terminal or POS system to apply a surcharge or cash discount automatically.
For more details on how these programs work and how to implement them in your business, check out our article, Your Complete Guide To Credit Card Surcharges.
Raise Your Prices
If the previous two strategies donât produce the desired results, it might be time to simply raise your prices. You may have to do this anyway if the prices you have to pay for inventory or raw ingredients go up due to supply chain problems.
We recommend that you implement targeted price increases, focusing on high-demand menu items or products. However, raising your prices across the board by an equal amount can also be effective. Which option is better will depend on a variety of factors, so youâll have to evaluate the unique circumstances of your business to determine the best course of action.
While most of your customers will be (grudgingly) understanding about the need to raise prices in the face of a national emergency, be careful that you donât overdo it. Check your stateâs anti-price gouging laws, if any, to ensure that you donât get yourself in legal trouble. California, for example, makes it illegal to raise prices for basic goods and services by more than 10% above pre-pandemic levels.
Lastly, price increases should be temporary. Make an effort to communicate to your customers that you intend to bring your prices back down once you can resume normal operations without the need for additional protective measures.
Implement Surcharging As A Last Resort
If none of the above strategies â either individually or in combination â prove sufficient to turn things around and your ability to continue to operate is imperiled, you may find that you have no choice but to impose a COVID surcharge. Obviously, youâll want to communicate this to your customers before making the change, and you should also set the surcharge as low as possible. Ideally, it should be just enough to recoup your additional COVID-related expenses. As weâve seen from the real-world examples above, you will probably receive at least some blowback for the surcharge. However, it can still be effective if your actual customers are willing to support it.
We recommend an across-the-board percentage-based surcharge rather than a flat âconvenience fee.â The latter option will disproportionately affect low ticket sizes and could discourage some customers from making a purchase at all. Your merchant account provider can help you reprogram your processing equipment to apply the surcharge automatically. Again, itâs critically important that you communicate with your customers before you start adding a surcharge to their bills, and be sure to discontinue this extra fee as soon as itâs possible to do so.
How To Use Your Business Data To Track The Impact Of Pricing Decisions
Youâll need to be able to gauge how effectively any pricing changes or surcharges are helping (or hurting) your bottom line. Make sure that all additional fees are entered properly into your POS system, and keep accurate notes of when prices were changed or when surcharges were implemented or discontinued. Modern POS systems and online data analytics tools offered by your merchant account provider can prove invaluable in quickly analyzing the effect of any changes you make, and they can gather and analyze the data automatically for you.
You should also determine the effective rate youâre paying for credit card processing. If your effective rate is too high, it might be time to switch to a more affordable merchant account provider. While you might be reluctant to make this kind of significant change in the middle of a pandemic, doing so can potentially save you hundreds of dollars per month in credit card processing expenses. Take a look at our Merchant Account Comparison Chart for an overview of some of the providers who can save you the most money.
Related: Why Point Of Sale Data Is The Secret To Understanding Your Business And Making More Sales
The Bottom Line: The Pandemic Will Affect Your Bottom Line For The Foreseeable Future
If youâve been reading this far, you probably understand that we donât think COVID surcharges are a good idea. They have a very high potential for hurting your online reputation and driving away customers. As weâve shown, there are many other ways to generate the necessary income youâll need to cover your COVID-related expenditures. Modifying your product or menu item lineup, imposing credit card surcharging (or a cash discount), and targeted price increases can all be used to cover these expenses without the need for a COVID surcharge.
For many businesses, switching to a more affordable merchant account provider can be the most effective strategy of all to improve your profitability and cover any additional expenses you incur during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Hopefully, the techniques weâve discussed above can help you get through the current pandemic, especially if the much-anticipated second wave of infection becomes a reality in the near future. Thanks for reading, and good luck!
The post Should You Implement A COVID Surcharge? 4 Ways To Manage Your Profitability During The Pandemic appeared first on Merchant Maverick.
This post originally appeared at Essential Guide To Choosing A Website Designer via ShivarWeb
So you need to know how to choose a website designer.
But here’s the problem.
“It depends” is both the most correct and the most unhelpful answer.
There have never been more choices in the website design industry than now. But paradoxically, all those choices make actually choosing more difficult than ever.
The secret to choosing wisely is to understand exactly what you need rather than attempting to sort & filter all the choices on offer.
Like any other large purchase… a house, car, appliance, etc – ditch the idea of a “best” – and instead, write out your exact needs, requirements, and goals. The best option for you will usually self-select itself.
In other words, choose a website designer through elimination based your goals rather than searching out the one right fit.
With that concept in mind, here’s how to walk through the process of elimination to choose the right website designer for your project.
1. Define Your Technology Needs
How do you need your website to function?
Are you looking to build a “brochure site” – a place with your basic information and contact information?
Or are you looking to build something with certain functionality?
This step is critical because it decides what type of web designer or developer or agency you’ll need to hire.
Back-end technology involves databases, scripts, and APIs – and generally making sure the computers are all talking to each other correctly.
Now – you’ll likely hire someone who is an expert in one, is knowledgeable in another, and is familiar with the third. If you hire an agency, then they’ll have all three.
Additionally, many designers / developers / agencies will work with certain platforms that already have core functionality built-in. When they work with these platforms, it will speed up the process and lower the costs…but also means that the client (you) needs to have some familiarity with what tools they are using.
But the main thing you need to think about is how much functionality does your site need? This will determine what type of website designer you’ll need, and how to discuss their process.
What To Consider
What functionality do you want now?
How do you want your website to grow?
Do you need to edit & manage your site content?
Do your visitors need to work with the site at all?
What To Avoid
Avoid using vague concepts or ideas.
Avoid accidental technology lock-in.
Think about a new fashion brand. Are you more focused on developing content or retailing clothes? Do you need to manage inventory? Do you want to build a community? How do you want to integrate your social presence?
A web designer could build a self-hosted WordPress website to handle the content and then add-in ecommerce with an ecommerce plugin, but it might be harder to manage inventory & social integration. They could also build an online store with Shopify to focus on ecommerce & social, but might hamstring your big content plans.
Think about a new non-profit website. Do you have expertise to manage & maintain the website? Do you need donation abilities or portal logins? Do you need to integrate with certain profiles?
A web designer could build a self-hosted WordPress website that could easily integrate donations and would be cheap upfront, but it would be harder to maintain long-term without someone who can train on the platform. They could also use a hosted website builder like Wix or WordPress.com that might have fewer upfront capabilities, but would be much easier to maintain in-house over the long-term.
Now – the designer that you choose should be flexible but also knowledgeable. It’s better to trust someone that you trust…but also verify that they deeply understand your needs.
2. Define Your Design Needs
How do you want your website to look and feel?
Unless you’ve had to design something for a client, it’s hard to understand how difficult it is to translate a vague idea in someone else’s brain into a tangible creation.
Sure, there are bad designers out there, but usually, the more specific you are about your design needs, the better product you’ll get.
Draw out something – anything – to show even the most basic direction you’d like to go.
Collect websites that you like – and note what you like about them. Here’s a bunch of example round-ups that I’ve written.
Wix Website Examples
WordPress Website Examples
Professional Personal Website Examples
Online Portfolio Examples
Weebly Website Examples
GoDaddy Website Examples
Restaurant Website Examples
Church Website Examples
Shopify Website Examples
Write out your frustrations with existing designs.
Additionally, keep in mind that it’s possible to develop some design assets yourself and let a web designer translate those existing assets into a website design.
For example, I’ve had clients use a photographer and bring in a web designer to build a site layout around their amazing professional images. I’ve built sites around a 99designs logo that clients have already made. Some clients even use automated design generators like Tailor Brands to create a look that a web developer can plug & play into a theme or template.
Once you have all your specifics down – you can use it to choose the right web designer.
What To Consider
The right web designer will be able to tell you how achievable certain features, looks, etc are.
Think about what process you’d like to work with. Do you want choices at every stage? How do you like to give and receive feedback? What are the most important parts of the design? When budget inevitably comes up, what are you willing to cut or prioritize?
What To Avoid
Avoid designers who can’t tell you how they’ll approach a design problem. Look for designers who do not have a stated process.
A written design process is best for you and them. Feedback stages can go on forever and make everyone frustrated.
Avoid vague wishes – even with emotions, be as specific and as concrete as possible.
Think about a restaurant website. An established restaurant will likely already have quite a bit of design assets in its physical location. Between logos, fonts, colors, ambience, etc – a web designer should already have a good bit to work off. Hiring a designer will be less about getting the design right and more about the layout, navigation, and design asset conversion right.
Think about a brand-new yoga studio. A startup might need a website design that can translate offline and throughout social media. Here, the owner will need to make a choice about developing a logo & brand feel separately (via a specialist graphic designer or logo contractor or AI brand software) or letting the website designer drive the look of the business.
3. Define Your Business Needs
What role does your website serve in your business?
Some of this will go back to your design and technology needs, but it’s especially pressing to consider before you define your budget & scope.
Think about how your business gets customers and how you do your marketing.
How will/does your website drive leads/sales? Is it something that your referrals & salespeople will offer as a brochure…or will your website need to drive new leads from online visitors?
Will it need to integrate with any business processes such as inventory or bookkeeping or order-taking? Do you want to move your business processes to the website via marketing/sales automation?
Are there any existing software providers that you want to integrate with your website now or in the future?
What To Consider
Think about both the near and medium term needs of your business.
Think about your domain names – and how you want to setup your email and online services.
Think about the incremental value of your website – what number of leads could it drive? What is a new lead worth?
What To Avoid
Avoid too much complexity – integrations and versatility make your website last.
Avoid thinking of your website as a cost – it’s an investment.
Avoid designers who do not work with integrations or cannot build out features that you need.
Avoid designers who cannot make a business case for changing your existing business processes.
Avoid designers who cannot explain how & why their approach will work through the medium term.
Avoid quick, “duct-tape” solutions.
Think about a local property management. An accounting firm could do well with a “brochure website” that simply funnels people to the phone and in-person consults. A nice brochure website (i.e., a website that simple provides information) might do fine. But what if the firm wants to add in client tools, secure portals, content marketing, direct listings, etc? Those features would require a website that can expand and develop over time. It might be worth developing a self-hosted website with a designer on retainer.
Think about a new jewelry business. A jewelry business might do business exclusively on Etsy, and want a blog to connect with customers. It might be easy to get a custom theme on a hosted platform like WordPress.com. However, it also might be a better choice to go a different direction at the beginning to integrate Etsy or lay the foundation for a non-Etsy online store.
4. Define Your Budget & Scope
How much money and time do you have to spend right now?
And “as cheap as possible” is not an answer – if this is your thinking, you should not be looking for a custom website designer. You should look for alternative options.
Your website is an investment, not a cost. If you approach it the same way you’d approach bulk-buying office pens…then you’re not going to get the result you want.
Now – I understand the desire to get the biggest return for your investment. But remember that it’s usually better to maximize your return rather than minimize your investment.
What To Consider
Think about your existing cashflow situation. Write out what a single new lead is worth.
Write out existing costs of having a poor or non-existent website.
Write out features, functionality, and design choices that you’d prioritize.
Think about payoff period and amortize your budget. In other words, if you budget $10,000 – and you expect the site to last 50 months, then that is $200/mo. Does that match your expected value?
What To Avoid
Avoid thinking about your budget in a silo – always tie it to scope or value.
Avoid thinking that you can have everything. Think about keeping your options open.
Avoid thinking about having a one and done project. Think about ongoing costs to either you, your staff or your designer.
5. Define Your Sources & Alternative Options
What type of designer do you want? And how do you find them?
The bad news is that most good website designers are not super-easy to find.
The good news is that your competitors don’t know that. If you put in a bit of work to find the right website designers – you’ll have a much better range of choices.
What To Consider
Good website designers have plenty of work. If someone is spending a lot of money on advertising & acquisition, then they are probably a giant agency with a churn and burn process.
Good website designers want to work with good clients. I used to work with web design clients, and I would take a great client for half-pay over a bad client. In fact, at a certain point, there’s not enough money in the world to take on a bad client.
Conversations and back and forths are not billable. That is not good for you or the designer. The more specific you are, the better.
What To Avoid
Googling what everyone else is googling.
Expecting more from a person or platform than is reasonable given how much effort you’ve put in.
Where To Look
Now – you could always do a Google Search. But I promise that you will likely be disappointed. Here are some better places to look.
For local designer / developer
Local web designers are usually horrendous at marketing their services. But many clients want a local designer that they can talk to in person.
Your approach will depend on your metro area, of course, but here’s where I’d look.
Look for meetups to stalk. Web designers are always looking to upgrade skills and you can usually find some at a local workshop, class or meetup.
Do a really specific Google search – one with search operators. Like this.
Ask your favorite local businesses for referrals.
Use city specific directories – this works especially well in smaller metros.
For a WordPress designer / developer
WordPress is an incredibly versatile content management system. It’s not ideal for every site, but it’s like 4 door SUV / Sedan of the Internet. It’ll probably do the job for you.
Now – the issue is that basically anybody can call themselves a “WordPress developer” – even if they really don’t know how the software works at its core.
It’s important to do #1 and #2 – because you’ll need to know if you are hiring a designer / developer who works with WordPress as their software of choice vs. someone who actually develops websites with WordPress.
Here’s where I’d look –
Stalk local WordPress meetups.
Stalk the attendees of WordCamps – big gatherings of designers who use WordPress.
Stalk the community support forums of WordPress.org
Do an incredibly specific Google search with something like intext:”Work with me”
One side note about WordPress designers – since they’ll likely use certain themes/theme frameworks – you’ll be able to negotiate a bit more on scope and do more with DIY.
For [other platform] designer / developer
Now there are plenty of other software options out there – especially “hosted options” like Squarespace, Weebly, Shopify, Wix, Bigcommerce, etc.
The key here is to understand the technology and what exactly you are buying (ie, you are paying more for a custom design over functionality since the hosted option bundles lots of functionality in with your hosting).
Lean heavily on the services’ support forums and Experts Exchange to find prospective designers.
For a general designer / developer
The great thing about web design is that you can work with a global talent pool if you want. There are challenges to working remotely but a lot of upside if you can do it well.
Again, for this search, I’d recommend relying more on internal platforms over random searches. Here’s a few examples.
99designs is a good option for contest-run design only competitions. I’ve implemented designs that my clients have bought through them. Here’s my general review.
Dribbble is the big hangout for designers doing cutting edge work.
Most developers will have a profile on Github or StackExchange or HackerNews. Look for ones who have good answers.
Fiverr is a surprisingly good platform if you are willing to try a few gigs before committing to a single designer. I’ve used them for several side projects.
Upwork is also good if you are willing to do a test project with several designers before choosing.
Tailor Brands is an AI-powered self-service platform that will develop a logo and entire branding setup for less than $100.
You’ll also find that vendors on ThemeForest will do custom work in addition to other marketplaces like CreativeMarket.
The point here is that a bit more effort into searching for good designers will give you much better options than general googling.
Alternatives to a Custom Website Designer
Now if you’re thinking “ok – I just need a simple, straightforward website, not a roundabout search” – then you’ll want to look into some Alternative Options.
Skip down to some alternate ways to get a website without having to choose a website designer.
6. Ask for Proposals
Now that you have a few website designers to choose from, the next step is to send out a proposal.
The better your proposal, the better your options will be.
Think about how you would like to be approached if you were a web designer.
Would you prefer a vague email asking how much a website costs? Or would you prefer a detailed description of a the project along with a ballpark budget range?
What To Consider
Providing a ballpark budget is the fastest, simplest & most accurate way to get on the same page as a website designer. Your budget does not determine your end cost – but it does determine who you even talk to. As an analogy – it’s how website designers know whether you are shopping for a used Toyota Corolla or a brand-new Ferrari.
Make your project easy to say yes to. Keep the next step & primary ask simple and straightforward (ie, “are you interested in the project?”, “if interested, what additional details do you need?”)
What To Avoid
Avoid sending lots of feeler emails with no intention of hiring.
Avoid sending an email with too much information or too many asks.
7. Follow up with Questions & Request for References & Portfolio
However the designer communicates upfront is how the project will progress. Communication never improves over a project – it only degrades. Look for a high benchmark to start.
What To Consider
You are using your requirements, questions, and details to get prospective web designers to rule themselves out.
Think about your priorities – sending too many questions is just as bad as too few.
What To Avoid
Avoid dictating the entire process. Remember that the designer’s questions for you can tell you as much as your questions for them.
Avoid making the designer do too much back and forth. If you think a call will be necessary during the design process, do this entire step via a phone call.
8. Request Contract & Project Plan (and declines)
Tangible expectations in writing help everyone in every engagement.
At this point, you should be able to choose a website designer.
The next step is to request a contract and a project plan from the designer that you want to work with.
A written contract helps *everyone* in the project. The contract should spell out “deliverables”, costs, responsibilities, intellectual property rights, and an adjudicating body.
A project plan helps *everyone* understand expectations, responsibilities, and timelines. This does not have to be complicated. It should communicate clearly though who is responsible for what and when.
Lastly, for the designers that you did not choose, be sure to send a polite decline. Even if it’s as simple as “Thank you for providing this information. We have decided to work with another company. We will keep your company in mind for future project & referrals.” You’ll save the everyone needless follow-ups.
9. Follow up & Communicate Clearly
A good website designer cannot help a bad client.
What To Consider
The website is going to be *yours* so you need to make sure you have all the information you need to make decisions.
Make sure you have all the technical documentation in your control.
Remember that a lot of design work depends on fast, accurate feedback.
Budget for not only time but also money for incidentals (ie, photography) and technical issues.
What To Avoid
Interrupting the project plan and micromanaging.
Providing the wrong feedback at the wrong stage.
Avoid verbal conversations without follow-up written documentation. Phone call notes are essential.
Conclusion & Next Steps
Choosing a website designer does not have to be a daunting process full of frustration and unknowns.
It does require that you clearly understand what you want, when you want it, and to clearly communicate your expectations.
If you are trying to find a good website designer – follow the process and you’ll be set!
Alternate Conclusion & Next Steps
Now – if you have read this post and found it useful…but…
You’re thinking “I just need a website! It’s 2020 – I just need a simple, affordable, quick standard website – not a complicated purchase with contracts and whatnot”
I hear you. I have friends who have been there. And there are options out there – but it’s not a quality custom website designer.
Here’s some options –
#0 – DIY w/ Automated Branding & Design
Many design options (including the ones below) require you to coordinate your branding, even if you are able to purchase assets like a logo or social media photos. But that leaves a lot up to you.
There is one company that focuses on completely automated branding – Tailor Brands. I’ve begun using them for my side projects. They AI and machine learning to create a whole range of design assets & guidelines.
They also have a bundled website builder or you can use them to complement #1 through #3. Check out Tailor Brands here. Read my review here.
Other website builders also bundle a logo designer with their software. Wix has a template driven logo designer as does Shopify.
#1 – DIY with a Website Builder
There are companies that specialize in businesses with a budget and no design or technical expertise. They provide hosting and pre-made templates all for a single monthly subscription. You might not get all the functionality that you want…but you will get a secure, fast, good looking website.
To find the right website one, take my website builder quiz or see my recommendations here.
I also have an online store builder quiz with recommendations here if you need ecommerce.
#2 – DIY with self-hosted WordPress
WordPress is a the most popular, most supported, and most versatile “content management system” on the Internet. It’s free community supported software that you install on a hosting account (ie, you rent part of a server from a hosting company). The software has a learning curve, but you’ll have 100% control and 100% of your options open. You’ll also be able to call in specific experts on specific problems. Or install do-it-all themes / templates.
I wrote a WordPress Website Setup Guide here.
#3 – Purchase Website Design from a Hosting Company
This option is a blend of #1 and #2 – if you want full control over your site with unlimited options for the future…but don’t want the learning curve of setting up a design yourself, then you can sometimes purchase website design services from a hosting company. They are usually able to provide these services much cheaper than an independent website designer since you’re also using their hosting services.
For these projects, I recommend InMotion Hosting – they have great support and are the hosting company for this website. See their design services here.
Other resources include –
How To Try WordPress Before Purchasing
Choosing Your Website Color Palette
Features Customer Want in a Local Website
Building Different Types of Websites with Templates
In much of the US, small businesses have been given the green light to reopen after several weeks of closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But with new cases and deaths still rising and no vaccine on the immediate horizon, experts warn that the coronavirus will likely be with us for some time. Though some types of businesses may be able to implement adequate provisions for social distancing, it is feared that the loosening of social distancing restrictions throughout the country could result in another wave of cases.
There’s still so much we don’t know about the novel coronavirus, but we know a lot more than we did a few months ago. Every day, we are learning more about how businesses can safely reopen, and how they can pivot to stay profitable in these new times. As the weeks go on, we’ll also learn more about what’s not safe and what does not work. In this post, we’ll take a look at some precautions you can take to prepare your business for a possible second wave of COVID-19.
Why The Second Wave Of The Coronavirus Could Be Harder Than The First
You’ve probably heard a lot about the coronavirus possibly being in our lives for 18-24 months. The reason is that this is the amount of time it could take for us to either a) develop a vaccine or b) develop herd immunity against the virus. But what exact course the virus will take in those 18 months to two years is unknown.
A new report from the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP) presents three possible scenarios for the coronavirus, which are based on what scientists know about COVID-19 as well as historical pandemics. Scenario 1 is that after the spring 2020 wave subsides, we get that big dreaded “second wave” we hear so much about this fall or winter, with some smaller waves occurring periodically thereafter. In that scenario, which emulates the 1918-1919 Spanish flu pandemic, the second wave is even bigger and deadlier than the first. This model also reflects the warning from CDC director Robert Redfield, who cautioned that a second wave of the coronavirus in fall or winter could potentially be even more devastating than the first, partly because it will coincide with flu season.
Another scenario presented in the report is that after spring 2020, we’ll see a series of peaks and valleys of the virus over a one- to two-year period, varying by geographic region. CIDRAP says that, depending on the height of the wave peaks, this scenario could require “periodic reinstitution and subsequent relaxation of mitigation measures over the next 1 to 2 years.”
The third scenario posited by CIDRAP is that we’ll see more of a “slow burn” with ongoing low levels of transmission but no major spikes. While this hasn’t happened in past pandemics, the scientists say it remains a possibility for SARS-CoV-2 and one which likely would not require reinstitution of stay-at-home orders or strict social distancing measures.
So it’s pretty clear to see how second waves, third waves, and so forth, will impact businesses and potentially require new lockdowns restricting business activity. While we can be cautiously optimistic that the worst-case scenarios won’t come true, we also need to be prepared for the possibility of a second wave of the virus that could result in more business restrictions and lockdowns.
It’s also a sad reality that even if the second wave is less severe from a health perspective, the economic toll of another prolonged closure (partial or otherwise) could be the final nail in the coffin for many small businesses still trying to recover from the economic effects of the first closure.
Is It Safe To Reopen Yet?
With no national quarantine or coronavirus-related business restrictions in place, states are each making their own decisions about reopening businesses. Individual counties and cities have their own business restrictions as well, with some cities and counties requiring masks at places of business and others having no such requirement. As both the pandemic and the recession continue to deepen, there’s a lot of discussion about how to balance economic health and public health, and also whether local governments are being too hasty about reopening businesses.
When you look at what businesses are doing now, there is a lot of variance from one region to the next, with some states, such as California, maintaining stricter social distancing protocols. For instance, California restaurants can offer takeout and delivery but not dine-in service. California is also doing some phased reopening — such as allowing curbside pickup for retail — in response to effective curve-flattening measures that have slowed the growth of new cases and deaths. Higher-risk businesses that require close contact with other people, including salons, barbers, gyms, and theaters, remain closed.
Meanwhile, in states such as Tennessee, dine-in restaurants are already open, as are salons and gyms. Tennessee is also lifting the 50% capacity restrictions on retail and restaurants, effective May 22. The state is even allowing large attractions, such as theaters, amusement parks, water parks, museums, and auditoriums, to reopen, also on May 22.
So, sticking with those two examples, are Tennessee businesses jumping the gun on reopening, even inviting a second wave? While California does have more than four times as many cases as Tennessee, the share of the population that’s infected is actually higher in Tennessee — one in 391 in Tennessee and one in 489 in California, according to New York Times data.
While time will tell the true impact of business reopenings during the pandemic, based on what immunologists tell us about where you are most likely to be infected by COVID-19 — indoor spaces with lots of people — it’s easy to see how even a single transmission event in a crowded gym or restaurant could cause a local outbreak and resulting business closures.
Again, some types of businesses may be able to reopen a lot more safely than others. It’s possible that, given the right circumstances, even higher-risk businesses such as salons may be able to safely reopen with stepped-up health and safety measures. It will be largely up to business owners (and their local governments) to decide if and how they can safely reopen, but generally, the better safety measures you can put in place, the better protected your business will be against a second wave of the coronavirus.
8 Things You Need To Do To Prepare Your Business
What do business owners need to do to get ready for future outbreaks? What should you have learned, and what should you be prepared to do the second time around? Let’s look at some specific things business owners can do to prepare for another wave of COVID-19.
Invest In Safety
Both to reassure customers and prevent your business from being a source of infection, it’s essential that you step up the health and safety policies of your store or restaurant. Whether that means investing in better personal protective equipment for your staff, putting up signs to encourage social distancing, or improving your building’s ventilation system, you can’t go wrong with a cleaner, healthier business. While most businesses have already implemented some enhanced safety measures, it’s likely you still have some room for improvement, especially if you initially implemented safety measures made for short-term/temporary use.
If you’ve received an EIDL or PPP loan from the SBA, you might consider spending some of it on safety-related supplies, such as PPE, or enhanced sick leave for your staff to discourage them from coming into work sick. (Note that you can only spend 25% of a PPP on non-payroll expenses.)
Revisit Staffing Plans
As businesses reopen, they are having to reevaluate their staffing needs going forward. In some cases, businesses have received PPP funds, but their employees don’t want to come back; other businesses are shutting their doors for good because their loan still hasn’t come through. As the crisis drags on, it’s necessary to view staffing with a long-term view and consideration of what you will do if a second wave forces you to close again. For example, if you’re currently seeing an uptick in demand after reopening, do you need more staff urgently, or can you wait to hire till later to avoid laying people off in the event of another closure?
A POS with employee management can help you make smart scheduling decisions. It’s also a good idea to communicate openly with your employees about your staffing plans because they are probably just as anxious as you about what will happen.
Work On Your Online Presence
If it wasn’t clear already, the pandemic has shown us that having an online presence is an essential tool for communicating with customers about changes to your hours, policies, and other crucial information customers need. Before visiting a business these days, we are more likely than ever to check the business’s website or Yelp profile — we want to make sure they’re still open, and in what capacity. Ahead of a possible second wave, it’s absolutely necessary to get in the habit of routinely updating your website and social media profiles with your current information. You can also use your website and social media for marketing, including offering special online sales during a closure.
If you don’t have a website for your business, you may be able to set one up through your POS — for example, Square POS lets you set up a basic website in minutes. You can also use a website builder to set up a professional website; read Best Website Builders For Small Businesses to learn about options.
Set Up eCommerce Sales
Small business websites have also become an increasingly vital sales channel during the coronavirus pandemic, as eCommerce = socially distanced commerce. If your business doesn’t have eCommerce options, it’s time to set them up. Depending on your business model and industry, you may want to implement the following eCommerce options:
Online Ordering/Local Delivery: Customers can order items or food from your website and have the items shipped or delivered to their homes.
Curbside Pickup/Order Ahead: Customers order from your website and then visit your store to pick them up without having to go inside.
QR Code Shopping: Customers can scan an item’s QR code in your store or store window and then buy the item online.
Online Gift Cards: Customers can buy digital or physical gift cards from your website and spend them on your website or in your store at a later date.
Contactless Payments: This is more of a POS option that can allow for socially distanced payments, but adding a digital payment option, such as Apple Pay,Â can also add another convenient option for customers to pay on your website with one click.
Social Media Selling: Even if you don’t have a full-on eCommerce website, you can sell products and services on social media. Multichannel POS systems, such as Shopify, make it easy to sell on social media, and Square also has a new Square Online Checkout payment option that makes it easy for customers to buy straight from your social media page.
Gather Important Paperwork In One Place
Being organized is key when applying for financing or any kind of aid. If you need a second round of emergency loans, speed will be essential. Make sure you keep all your important paperwork in one place, so you can access it when you need it. If you have received a PPP loan, you’ll also need to keep good documentation practices for when it comes time to apply for PPP forgiveness or if you are unlucky enough to face a PPP audit.
Look At Sales Data
When you need to pare-down operations (reduced business hours, limited customer capacity, online-only, etc.), you need to be super-strategic about what you sell. To this end, your point of sale system should have a wealth of POS data about when you were busiest, what sold well, slow-selling items, etc. You can leverage that data to do things, such as raise prices on hot sellers, lower food costs on a higher-cost dish (for restaurants), adjust your hours and staffing based on your busiest times, and much more.
Small businesses that can use data wisely to adapt quickly are in the best position to survive a second wave of the coronavirus and even a prolonged economic downturn. If you do not have a modern cloud POS with good reporting and analytics, now might be the time to upgrade. Check out our top POS software comparison to look at some of your best options.
Prepare For Shortages & Price Fluctuations
The pandemic has drastically affected the global supply chain, and it is very likely that your business could see shortages of products, supplies, ingredients, or raw materials. Even if you can get the items you need for your business, you may have to deal with price increases. These shortages and resulting price increases could be exacerbated by future waves of the virus, even if your immediate region is not affected. For example, restaurants are now seeing meat shortages and higher meat prices due to outbreaks at meat-processing plants.
In some cases, however, you might get lucky and see price decreases for some supplies, due to decreased demand and possible deflation. For example, gas prices tumbled during the early days of the pandemic. Overall, US producer prices posted their largest annual drop in five years in April 2020. The downside to falling prices is that customers will expect lower prices as well.
For more insight into the supply chain and COVID-19, read Why Small Business Owners Need To Understand Supply Chain & Risk Mitigation: COVID-19 Edition.
During times of uncertainty, it’s important to keep a close eye on your business finances and your cash flow in particular. Crunch your numbers and project your future earnings under different scenarios. If you’re facing another closure, how could your cash flow be affected? What about debts? If you’re not used to making these sorts of calculations, it might be a good idea to employ the services of a financial advisor who can offer a cash flow analysis and give you sound advice about how to handle your business’s finances in the current climate. Accounting software can also help.
15 Resources To Help You Weather Another Wave Of COVID-19
Here is a list of resources you can use to adapt your business to the new times we’re living through. Use these resources to learn more about socially distanced selling, emergency financing, and software that can help you sell smarter during COVID-19.
Take Advantage Of These Small Business Grants For Coronavirus Relief: Find out if your coronavirus-affected small business is eligible for a COVID-19 relief grant from an organization, such as Facebook, Amazon, Spanx, or others.
5 Clever Marketing Tactics For Small Businesses During The Coronavirus Pandemic: Keeping in touch with customers is even more important as businesses temporarily close or switch to online and delivery. Here are five marketing tactics to help.
Social Distancing For Small Business: How You Can Adapt & Survive The Coronavirus:Â Social distancing can help contain the COVID-19 pandemic, but it has hit small businesses hard. Your business can weather the storm by getting creative.
Coronavirus Payments Guide: Everything You Need To Know About Switching To Online & Phone Payments: This article has everything you need to know about accepting payments online and over the phone instead of in-person.
Quick Business Loans: The 6 Best Lenders & 10 Tips For Fast Approval:Â Looking for fast cash for your business? Read this one for a look at six reputable lenders that provide quick business loans and fast approval.
What The Coronavirus Means For eCommerce & What Your Business Can Do About It:Â What does the coronavirus mean for eCommerce business? Learn the top eCommerce trends and how your small business can leverage them.
Everything You Need To Know About NFC Technology & Why NFC Payments Are The Future:Â Are you ready for the future of payments? Business owners should learn how NFC works and adopt contactless to protect customers — and yourself.
The Business Owner’s Retail Guide To Surviving The Coronavirus:Â Are you a small business retailer worried about the state of your business? Check the top tips and resources to keep your business strong during COVID-19.
Coronavirus Survival Guide For Restaurants:Â Learn how your restaurant business can adapt to new business conditions in the age of coronavirus, including resources on how you can save your business from closing and continue serving customers during this crisis.
5 POS Systems With Exceptional eCommerce Integrations For Online Sellers:Â eCommerce sales are growing, but retail stores arenât going away any time soon. Get the best of both worlds with these great eCommerce-friendly POS systems.
Restaurant Delivery Guide: Everything You Need To Know About Implementing In-House Delivery: Considering expanding your restaurantâs services to include delivery? Hereâs what you need to know to implement restaurant delivery successfully.
What Is Square Online Checkout? Your Guide To Using This New Square Payment Option:Â Square just launched a brand new payment service called Square Online Checkout. Learn about this online payment option and how it can help businesses in the age of coronavirus.
Why Point Of Sale Data Is The Secret To Understanding Your Business And Making More Sales:Â Your small business is sitting on a gold mine of information locked away in your POS system. Learn how to use that point of sale data to your benefit.
Easy Accounting Software For Small Businesses: Find easy accounting software for your business no matter what your level of accounting experience is. These top seven choices are easy to learn, set up, and use.
Employee Management With A POS System: The Secret To Simplified Timekeeping, Scheduling, & Reporting:Â Your POS system probably has employee management features that can make timekeeping and scheduling much easier. Hereâs how to make the most of these tools.
The Bottom Line: Your Business Isnât In The Clear Yet
We are starting to see some signs of small business recovery, and that’s a great thing. But business owners must stay vigilant and be prepared for the very real possibility of more pandemic-related business disruptions in the near future.
It can be difficult to plan for the future when you’re still working through the first wave, and there is still so much uncertainty. You might also have the thought that you don’t want to over-prepare for something that might not happen (at least, not in your local area). But the fact of the matter is that even before the pandemic, businesses were moving in the direction of eCommerce, contactless payments, online ordering, cloud POS, etc. The pandemic only accelerated the changes that were already in motion. Also, even after COVID-19 is over, customers will likely remain more mindful of health and safety and will continue some socially distanced shopping practices that they relied on during the pandemic (e.g., curbside pickup). So even if you get lucky and don’t have to deal with a resurgence of this particular virus, your business will benefit from adapting to modern sales technologies, safer health practices, and data-driven ways of making business decisions.
For more information on COVID-19 and small businesses, be sure to check out our Coronavirus (COVID-19) Guides & Resources.
The post Is Your Business Ready For A Second Wave Of COVID-19? appeared first on Merchant Maverick.