20 Tips To Improve Your Business Loan Application

Improve Business Loan Application

The loan application process can seem overwhelming at times. But keep in mind that all lenders want to know is that you can pay back the loan. Your application is the perfect place to prove that you can and will repay your loans successfully. Filling out a loan application is about being prepared and putting your best foot forward. It’s important to “sell” lenders by convincing them that your business is reliable, profitable, and going places. According to Entrepreneur, potential borrowers should:

Think of your loan application as a sales tool, just like your brochures or ads. When you put together the right combination of facts and figure, your application will sell your lender on the short- and long-term profit potential of lending money to your business.

Easier said than done, right?

We’ve put together a comprehensive list of the best tips, tricks, and practices for improving your business loan application. By knowing how to optimize your loan application, you can improve your chances of getting the loan you want. Here are 20 practical tips for nailing the loan application process and increasing your chances of securing a small business loan.

1. Have A Plan

Lenders want you to demonstrate that you have a clear purpose and an actionable plan for your business loan. If you simply say you need $50,000 without giving a reason, most lenders will shoot you down right then and there. Instead, be as specific as possible about your plans for the loan. Explain that you need $50,000 to purchase a new piece of equipment that will double your production efficiency, for example.

Here are some common reasons that small businesses give when they apply for additional funding:

  • Business expansion
  • Purchasing inventory
  • Updating equipment
  • Hiring or training new employees
  • Increasing cash flow

In short, when filling out your loan application, be sure to give a reason why you need the loan and discuss how the loan will benefit your business in detail.

2. Choose A Realistic Borrowing Amount

For your application to be successful, it’s vital to be realistic about how much cash your business needs. Don’t ask for too much, and don’t underestimate expenses or costs and ask for too little.

Don’t guess, in other words. Sit down and crunch the numbers. If you need a loan to purchase new equipment for your business, research exactly how much that equipment costs, including tax, shipping and handling, implementation, and/or any training required to use it.

Lenders want to work with realistic, responsible borrowers who know, to the cent, how much money they need to achieve their goals and grow their business.

3. Calculate Your Monthly Payments

A lender’s biggest question is always “can you pay back the loan?” If you can’t satisfactorily prove that you can repay the loan, you’re out of luck.

Lenders evaluate whether you can afford monthly loan repayments by using the debt service coverage ratio and the debt-to-income ratio. Both ratios are used to determine how risky your business is and if you can afford to pay back the loan or not.

  • Debt Service Coverage Ratio (DSCR): Measures the relationship between your business’s income and debt. Since the DSCR measures how much excess cash your business has after meeting its financial obligations, the higher your DSCR, the better. A DSCR of 1.25 or higher indicates that you have enough cash flow to run your business, while still having money left over to take on new debt.
  • Debt-To-Income Ratio (DTI): Measures the relationship between your personal income and debt as the business owner. Since the DTI indicates how much of your income is designated to debt, the lower the DTI, the better. A DTI ratio of 36% or lower is ideal as it shows that you can afford to comfortably take on loan repayments.

Note: Most lenders rely predominantly on the debt service coverage ratio to judge small business loan eligibility. However, sole proprietors and freelancers are not separate legal entities, so lenders will use your DTI to determine your creditworthiness.

These ratios provide a good indication that you can (or can’t) take on more debt. Before turning in your loan application, calculate your own DSCR and DTI scores. Making sure your DSCR and DTI ratios are ideal will increase your chances of impressing a lender. You can also use these ratios to find out exactly how much you can afford to repay each month, which can help you be realistic about your borrowing amount.

Read our posts Debt Service Coverage Ratio: How To Calculate And Improve Your Business’s DSCR and Debt-To-Income Ratio: How To Calculate And Lower Your DTI to learn more.

4. Find The Right Type Of Loan

All loans are not created equal. To improve your chances of securing a loan, make sure you’re applying for the right kind of funding for your business.

Here are the most common types of business loans:

  • Installment Loan: An installment loan, or term loan, is issued in one lump sum and paid back in regular intervals or installments, plus interest.
  • Short-Term Loan: A short-term loan is issued in a lump sum and paid back in regular intervals over a short period of time. Instead of earning interest, short-term loans have a fixed fee that is added to the repayment amount.
  • Line of Credit: With a line of credit, a lender grants you a certain amount of money that you can draw from as needed.
  • Merchant Cash Advance: While not technically a loan, a merchant cash advance is a type of financing in which businesses sell their future receivables for immediate cash.
  • Invoice Factoring: While not technically a loan, invoice financing is the practice of selling unpaid invoices at a discount in return for immediate cash.

Carefully choose which small business lending method is right for you. Don’t waste your time filling out applications for loans that aren’t suited for your business. Improve your chances of getting approved by applying for the right type of loan.

To learn more about the pros and cons of each loan and to decide which is right for you, download our free Beginner’s Guide To Small Business Loans.

5. Find The Right Lender

Finding the right lender can make or break your chances of being approved for a business loan. Each lender offers different types of loans and has different borrower requirements. Some only lend to established businesses, while others lend to startups. Some only work with businesses that have good credit, while others care more about your annual income. You get the picture.

Carefully researching each lender and their requirements can help you know if you qualify for a loan before putting in all the effort of completing an application.

If you aren’t sure which lender is right for you, check out our small business loan comparison chart or read through our selection of small business loan reviews.

6. Understand The Loan Process

Lenders want to work with responsible, experienced borrowers. Increase their trust in you by having a good understanding of how loans work. Not only does this show that you know what you’re doing, it makes the application process go more smoothly. According to Forbes:

The more educated you are about small business lending options and procedures, the more likely you will be successful in obtaining a loan.

If you’re asking a lender what an interest rate is or to explain the difference between a term loan and a line of credit, it’s time to go back to the basics. But don’t worry, we’ve got you covered with our Beginner’s Guide To Small Business Loans.

7. Have A Strong Business Credit Score

Another key to a strong loan application is having a healthy credit score. Lenders use credit scores to determine that your business is trustworthy and able to pay its loans on time. Having strong credit will not only increase your chances of being approved for a loan, it can also qualify you for better loans with more favorable terms and rates.

Read our Ultimate Guide To Improving Your Business Credit Score to make your credit score — and loan application — even stronger.

8. Don’t Forget Your Personal Credit Score

Lenders don’t just look at your business credit score; they also look at your personal credit score when applying for a loan. Lenders want to establish your character as a borrower to see if you are trustworthy and pay your debts on time. This is especially true if you are required to sign a personal guarantee.

Improve your loan application by having great business and personal credit scores. Improving your personal credit may take some time, but will be more than worth it when applying for a loan. Read our post 5 Ways To Improve Your Personal Credit Score to master your credit score and wow potential lenders.

9. Know What’s On Your Credit Report

When applying for a loan, be sure to know your credit report forward and backward. Lenders will look at your credit report to evaluate your credit history before approving you for a loan. If you know there’s negative activity on your report, explain it to your lender in your application. This may not always make up for the poor credit report, but it might make lenders understand your situation better.

10. Pay Off Existing Debt First

We know you’re probably foaming at the bit to get business funding, but paying off existing debt before applying for a loan could be the key to securing a loan in some situations.

If you already have substantial debt, a lender is far less likely to approve your loan application for fear that you won’t be able to keep up with the repayments. Not only will paying off existing debt show lenders that you mean business and have a good credit history, it will also increase your debt service coverage ratio and lower your debt-in-income ratio, leaving you with more cash to use on a new loan.

11. Increase Your DSCR

Paying off your existing debt isn’t the only way to increase your debt service coverage ratio. If you want to increase your DSCR and show lenders that you have plenty of cash to afford a loan, here are some additional tips:

  • Increase your net operating income
  • Decrease your net operating expenses
  • Decrease your borrowing amount

Finding ways to cut back on operating expenses and increase your sales income will boost your DSCR. In some cases, your DSCR may not need a boost. If your operating income and expenses are already optimized, or if you don’t have time to implement changes before applying for a loan, consider decreasing your desired borrowing amount. Maybe you can’t afford payments on the $100,000 loan you need to replace the entire company’s computer systems, but you can afford payments on a $50,000 loan to replace the equipment for your executives and sales team. Lenders will only approve loan applications for loans when they know that you can afford the payments.

12. Offer Up Collateral

Many lenders have specific collateral requirements. If you don’t have the assets to meet those requirements, you’re much less likely to have your loan application approved. Be sure to carefully research your lender’s borrower requirements to see exactly what collateral they require. Some may require specific assets, while others may simply require a blanket lien or personal guarantee. Be sure that your business can meet these requirements and feels comfortable in doing so.

Once you’ve decided on what collateral your business can offer up, prepare a document outlining each asset offered. Include this in your business loan application to show lenders that you take your business seriously and have something to lose if you default on the loan. Lenders aren’t evil monsters, lying in wait for you to default so they can steal your assets — they just need an assurance that they won’t lose all of their money if you can’t repay your loan. The hope is that you will be more likely to pay your loan back with your collateral at stake.

To learn more about collateral, check out these resources:

  • Secured Vs. Unsecured Business Loans
  • Should I Sign A Personal Guarantee?
  • What Is A UCC Blanket Lien?

13. Prepare The Proper Documents

To complete your loan application, lenders require certain documents to verify your business’s financial history and validity. The documents required vary by lender, but here’s an idea of types of things they might ask for:

  • Cash flow statements
  • Bank statements
  • Income sheet
  • Profit & loss report
  • Statement of owner’s equity
  • Tax returns
  • Collateral documentation
  • Business licenses and registrations
  • Articles of incorporation
  • Commercial licenses
  • Franchise agreements
  • Business history and business owners’ history
  • Owners’ resumes or background

Your lender may not require all of these, but having the above documents prepared before applying for your loan can help the application process proceed more quickly. Gathering these documents ahead of time can also help you have a better understanding of your business’s financial state — always good information to have before seeking business funding!

14. Create A Cash Flow Projection

Lenders don’t just analyze your business’s financial past; they also want to see that you have a promising future. One of the best ways to promote faith in your business’s future is to add a cash flow projection to your loan application.

A cash flow projection, or cash flow forecast, is an estimation of your business’s future operating income and expenses. The best way to create a cash flow projection is to realistically predict your future expenses and sales. Use your past cash flow statements as a jumping-off point so you aren’t just winging it.

To learn more about how creating a cash flow projection can benefit your business, read our article How To Calculate And Analyze Business Cash Flow.

15. Use Accounting Software

Before applying for a loan, you need to have a solid understanding of your business’s financial state and a firm grasp on managing cash flow. One of the best ways to achieve this is by using accounting software. Accounting software will track your income and expenses so you can know exactly how much you’re spending and how much is left to use on a loan.

In addition, accounting software can help you run the reports required by lenders, such as the income statement, profit and loss, and cash flow statements. If you need help finding the perfect accounting software for your business, check out our comprehensive accounting software reviews and compare our top favorite accounting software programs.

16. Create A Business Plan

While not always required by lenders, a business plan can earn you a gold star and shows a lender that you are organized, prepared, and responsible. A strong business plan also allows you to further demonstrate why you need a business loan and exactly how it will benefit your business.

Additionally, a business plan lets you present realistic repayment plans, which assures lenders that you have thought of a strategy for repaying your loan. Many business loan specialists recommend making a repayment plan as well as multiple backup plans, just in case.

17. Be Professional

This should go without saying, but here’s a friendly PSA: Being professional in all of your communications with a potential lender is incredibly important. Whether you’re interacting in person, over the phone, online, or through your loan application itself, be sure to put your best foot forward. This is the difference between being a C student and an A student, which in the business world equates to getting a loan or not getting a loan.

As we mentioned earlier, lenders care about character. Show a potential lender that you are professional, kind, and put together. Always spellcheck your work and ensure that every section of your application is filled out properly. Have all of the required documents ready for when your lender needs them.

And, don’t forget that honesty is one of the most important aspects of a strong character. It’s easy to fib to try and make your business’s situation sound better, but this will only hurt you in the end. Lenders aren’t stupid. They can tell if you’re lying and can easily see when the financial statements don’t add up. Don’t ruin your chance of getting approved for a loan. Instead, be honest and trust that your character and business expertise are enough.

18. Wait Until The Market Is Good

This may seem backward, but don’t wait until you are in dire need of money to try to get a line of credit. Apply for a line of credit when the economy is booming and your business is successful. This way, when you do need to draw on a line of credit, you’ll already have the funds available.

You are much more likely to be approved for a loan if your business is healthy and has excess cash flow — and you’re more likely to get favorable rates and better terms to boot.

19. Don’t Ignore Social Media

For many lenders, it isn’t all about the money. They also want to know that you and your business have a good reputation. For this reason, many lenders review your business’s social media platforms and sites like Yelp before approving your loan. If they like what they see — good customer service, positive reviews, an effort to respond to and correct poor reviews — they can trust that your business has good character. If they see any red flags, they may decline your application altogether.

Treat others like you want to be treated using your social media, and lenders may be that much more likely to “treat you” to a business loan.

20. Seek Extra Help

What Information to Bring Accountant for Small Business Taxes

If you are still worried about your loan application or want a second opinion, you can always seek professional assistance. Organizations like SBDC and SCORE are designed specifically to offer small business advice; your local chapter may be able to assist you in bettering your loan application. You can also have an accountant view your loan application and financial documents. They can help make sure everything is in order and raise any potential red flags that lenders would be concerned about.

Note: Some lenders actually require you to have your loan application reviewed or audited by an accountant. Make sure you know your lender’s policy before submitting your loan application.

Final Thoughts

We’ve covered twenty practical steps you can take to improve your business’s loan application. Now, when you finally send in your application, you can rely on more than crossing your fingers. Don’t guess or trust to luck. By optimizing your loan application and knowing exactly what lenders are looking for, you significantly increase your chances of getting approved.

If you are still looking for the right lender, check out our top-rated lenders. Best of luck!

The post 20 Tips To Improve Your Business Loan Application appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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Business Credit Cards With No Annual Fees: Your Best Options

no annual fee credit card

Most small business owners don’t have a trust fund to draw from, and are therefore concerned with keeping costs to a minimum. Avoiding unnecessary credit card charges is a no-brainer for frugal business owners, which is why you may be looking to get a business credit card that carries no annual fee. After all, given the plethora of business card options out there that deliver great perks and benefits without charging an annual fee, why pay an annual fee simply for the privilege of using a business credit card?

As it turns out, you can find business credit cards offering all manners of rewards (points, cash back, travel benefits, sign-on bonuses, etc.) that do not charge an annual fee. There are certain categories of cards — top-tier travel cards, for instance — that will be out of reach for you if you stick to your no-annual-fee guns, but these cards aren’t likely to be practical for most new business owners anyway.

Let’s take a look at the business credit cards that give you the most value in each rewards category without charging you a yearly fee just for the privilege of using their plastic.

(For a fuller picture of the business credit card scene as it stands, check out our summary of the best business credit cards of 2018.)

Chase Ink Business Cash

Best Free Business Credit Card for Cash Back

Chase’s business credit cards are well-regarded — by us and by others — for the value they provide to small business. The Chase Ink Business Cash card is no exception. With no annual fee and the ability to earn 5% and 2% cash back on select categories of spending, combined with a healthy $500 cash back signup bonus for those who spend the required amount within the first three months of opening your account, you have one formidable business credit card.

Ink Business Cash At A Glance:

  • Annual fee: $0 (duh)
  • Bonus offer: $500 cash back if you spend at least $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months
  • Introductory rate: 0% APR for the first 12 months
  • Rewards: 
    • 5% cash back on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at office supply stores and on internet, cable, and phone purchases each account anniversary year
    • 2% cash back on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at gas stations and restaurants each account anniversary year
    • 1% cash back on all other purchases with no earning limit

Many business cards with no annual fee don’t offer a sign-up bonus, but the $500 in cash back you can earn after 3 months is one of the more generous welcome offers you’ll find. While you do have to spend $3,000 on purchases within this time to get the bonus, that shouldn’t be a problem for the majority of businesses.

If a goodly portion of your business expenditures goes toward office supply stores and internet, phone, and cable purchases, you’re in luck, because Chase offers 5% cash back on such purchases with the Ink Business Cash. Additionally, you get 2% cash back on purchases at gas stations and restaurants. Both of these cash back options cap off at $25,000 each anniversary year, however. Any purchases in these categories beyond these limits, along with all other purchases, will earn you 1% cash back with no limits on how much cash back you can earn. Nonetheless, the cash back limits on the high-earning categories mean that if your business spends very heavily on these purchase categories, a card that places no limits on high cash back-earning categories may make financial sense for your business (even with an annual fee).

Additional benefits of Ink Business Cash include a 0% introductory APR for the first 12 months and the ability to redeem your points for travel, gift cards, or Amazon purchases. To learn more, read our full Ink Business Cash review.

Apply Now

Capital One Spark Cash Select for Businesscapital one spark cash select

Another Great Free Business Credit Card for Cash Back

Here’s another business credit card with no annual fee that handsomely rewards you with cash back: The Capital One Spark Cash Select for Business. This rewards credit card lets you earn 1.5% cash back on all purchases with no limits whatsoever on how much cash back you can earn. It’s a good card for business owners who make a large number of diffuse purchases and who can’t be bothered with spending categories.

Spark Cash Select At A Glance:

  • Annual fee: $0
  • Bonus offer: Earn $200 in cash rewards after you spend at least $3,000 in the first 3 months
  • Introductory rate: 0% APR for the first 9 months
  • Rewards: 1.5% cash back on all eligible purchases

The Spark Cash Select is a simple card with a simple reward structure. You can earn $200 if you spend more than $3K in the first three months, and you’ll earn 1.5% cash back on all your purchases with no limit to the amount of cash back you can earn. There isn’t much more to say about this card — either it will benefit you, or it won’t. If you don’t want to be constrained by the amount you can spend on purchases that will be eligible for more than 1% cash back, and if the idea of spending categories gives you a migraine, consider the Spark Cash Select.

Read our full Spark Cash Select review to delve deeper into the card.

Now to spotlight another business rewards card from this credit card issuer…

Capital One Spark Miles Select for Business

Best Free Business Credit Card for Travel

If you’re looking for a business credit card with great travel benefits that doesn’t carry an annual fee, consider the Capital One Spark Miles Select for Business card. The card’s beauty is in its simplicity. You’ll earn 1.5 miles for every dollar spent on every purchase with no limits or category restrictions, so you won’t have to track your spending or concentrate it in certain categories to earn extra miles. You’ll also get a very nice travel signup offer. Let’s take a closer look!

Spark Miles Select At A Glance:

  • Annual fee: $0 (you may notice a theme here)
  • Bonus offer: 20,000 miles (worth $200 for travel) once you spend at least $3,000 in the first 3 months
  • Introductory rate: 0% APR for the first 9 months
  • Rewards: Earn 1.5 miles per $1 spent on all eligible purchases

As I said, you’ll earn 1.5 miles for every dollar spent with the Spark Miles Select card. It’s a higher rate of miles-earning than you’ll get with most cards, making Spark Miles Select an excellent choice for business owners who make frequent business trips and want their purchases to help defray the costs of their travel.

Another sweet travel perk is the 20,000 miles you stand to earn if you spend at least $3,000 within the first three months of opening your account. These 20,000 points are worth $200 for travel. So long as you make business purchases on the card at a reasonable rate, you’ll be able to access this perk and get more travel bang for your buck. Miles can be redeemed for travel expenses such as airfare, hotels, and vacation packages, among other purchases. You’ll also have access to all the standard business benefits Capital One and Visa get you.

Interested? Check out our Spark Miles Select review for a deeper look.

American Express Blue Business Plus

Best Free Business Credit Card for Rewards Earning

Best Free Business Credit Card with a Long 0% Intro APR Period

Looking to earn points at a solid rate without having to be concerned with spending categories and the like? Have a look at the American Express Blue Business Plus card. For a low, low annual fee of $0, you’ll be earning double points on your purchases. You probably have better things to do than tracking spending categories.

Blue Business Plus At A Glance:

  • Annual fee: $0
  • Bonus offer: 10,000 points after you spend at least $3,000 within the first three months
  • Introductory rate: 0% APR for the first 15 months
  • Rewards:
    • Earn 2 points per $1 spent on all purchases (up to $50,000 per year)
    • Earn 1 point per $1 spent on all purchases after $50,000

Until recently, the Blue Business Plus didn’t offer a signup bonus. Currently, however, Amex offers a welcome bonus of 10,000 Membership Rewards points if you spend at least $3,000 in the first three months of having your card. It’s not the biggest welcome offer but it’s a nice one for a business credit card with no annual fee. The main draw of the card, however, is the double points you’ll be earning on the first $50,000 worth of purchases you make per year. All purchases past $50,000 in a year will still earn one point per dollar spent until the new year rolls around. This makes the Blue Business Plus an excellent card for businesses with spending that doesn’t generally fall neatly into certain categories. Businesses spending significantly more than $50K a year, however, may be better served by a card that doesn’t limit the amount of spending that can earn max points — even if that card carries an annual fee. Alternatively, cardholders could supplement their Blue Business Plus card with another points-oriented business card.

Other perks of Blue Business Plus include the ability to spend above your credit limit — good for the sort of business that suffers from uneven cash flow. Another great benefit of the card? Your APR will be 0% for your first 15 billing cycles — longer than the typical intro APR period!

Go check out our full Blue Business Plus review if this card sounds like it might suit you and your business.

Bank Of America Platinum Visa Business Cardplatinum visa business review

Best Free Business Credit Card with a Low Interest Rate

Overall, the Bank Of America Platinum Visa Business card isn’t the greatest business credit card I’ve ever reviewed. It offers a near-total lack of earnable rewards, so if earning points with your business spending is a priority of yours, don’t get this card. However, the Platinum Visa Business card carries one very significant benefit for the business that carries a significant balance on its card from month to month: a lower interest rate than just about any other business credit card.

Platinum Visa Business At A Glance:

  • Annual fee: $0
  • Bonus offer: $200 statement credit bonus after making at least $500 in net purchases in the first 60 days
  • Introductory rate: 0% APR for the first 7 months
  • Rewards: Unlimited employee cards at no additional cost (just like every other card in this article)

The $200 statement credit you’ll get if you spend $500 within the first 60 days is a decent bonus offer, but the lack of any other earnable rewards means that this isn’t the most impressive business credit around — a fact that is reflected in my review score. So why am I including this mundane card in this article at all? Because the card carries a 10.99% to 21.99% variable APR. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a business credit card offering a possible APR of 10.99%.

Now, it’s obviously not ideal for businesses to carry a large credit card balance month-to-month over a significant period of time. That’s why this card isn’t for most businesses. However, your circumstances may be less than ideal, and you may not have any other choice at the moment. If this is you, getting the BofA Platinum Visa Business card will save you money on monthly payments due to the card’s relatively low APR. It’s not a good card for earning rewards, but the benefit of a low APR might override all other considerations for certain business owners.

Read our Platinum Visa Business review for more information.

Final Thoughts

As it turns out, if you want a business credit card but don’t want to pay an annual fee, you don’t have to settle — you’ve got many solid options to consider. After checking out the cards above, read our article on the best business credit cards of 2018 to get the big picture when it comes to today’s best business credit cards. Now get out there and keep making purchases like your business depends on it!

The post Business Credit Cards With No Annual Fees: Your Best Options appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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How to Analyze Your Credit Card Processing Statement

Here at Merchant Maverick, we’ve received countless questions over the years from concerned business owners regarding their merchant account statements. In fact, our website owes a large part of its very existence to the complex pricing, convoluted statements, and hidden markups that are hallmarks of the card processing industry. This is the unfortunate state of affairs that keeps us researching, writing, and advocating for small business owners.

Questions we frequently field from our readers about their processing bills include:

  • Am I paying too much for card processing? (That’s the big one everyone wants to know!)
  • Why did my processing costs suddenly go up this month?
  • What is this unexpected/oddly-named/junky-looking fee? Is it legit?
  • Is there anything I can do to lower my costs without changing providers?
  • Should I change account providers?

Only a thorough understanding of your own statements will yield the answers to these important questions. The inherent difficulty of the task is that you can’t completely rely on your provider’s statement guide, nor its sales or customer service reps, to explain all the fees. If your account provider is being sneaky about extra markups and unnecessary fees, the responsibility falls directly on you to decipher what’s really going on.

There’s no one-size-fits-all method for analyzing a statement, because every business and situation is a bit different. Still, there are definitely some foundational concepts that should help demystify the process. For example, here’s one quick tip to kick things off: Examine more than one statement side-by-side to avoid missing anything. Often times you need two months of statements just to completely view one month’s worth of charges. So, grab at least two or three consecutive statements and let’s get started!

Detail Vs. Big Picture

Analyzing a processing statement is always a balancing act between the details and the big picture. If you’re worried about a questionable charge, or suspect you’re paying too much overall, you may need to check every fee on your statement to identify its source and confirm the amount is what it should be. I’d encourage all merchants to at least give this a try on a few statements. If anything, you’ll verify that the fee schedule from your merchant agreement was implemented as you expected.

On the flip side, you actually needn’t worry too much about all the individual fees and rates on your statement if you track the big picture numbers (your overall costs) month-over-month. As long as the big picture amounts remain reasonable and consistent, you’re pretty much good to go. If they do change significantly, though, you’re back to looking at the details of your statement to figure out why. Fortunately, if you’ve already mastered the baseline details of your statements, you’ll easily identify the culprits that are most impacting your costs.

In short, understanding the interplay of your big picture numbers (what you’re paying overall) and detailed costs (why you’re paying it) is the best way to protect yourself from paying too much.

With that bit of philosophy out of the way, let’s look at the main big picture percentage that all merchants can calculate.

Effective Rate

Your effective rate is the “all-in” percentage rate you’re paying for the privilege of accepting card payments. All business owners should take a first crack at calculating this rate before conducting any detailed analysis. It’s a simple formula:

(Total monthly fees / Total monthly sales) x 100 = Effective Rate

By total monthly fees, we mean processing charges, gateway fees, statement fees, monthly fees, equipment leases, weird fees you can’t figure out — everything. Sometimes you can grab these numbers from a summary section, as below:

calculating-effective-rate-statement

$5,907.03 / $98,511.45 = 0.0599, or an Effective Rate of 5.99%

I still always recommend calculating your effective rate again once you’ve analyzed your statement in full. That way, you can ensure your summary section didn’t sneakily omit any charges. You’d be surprised how often this happens. (Or, maybe you wouldn’t be!)

Your effective rate provides a basic answer to “How much am I being charged for card processing?” and “Am I paying too much?” The precise answer to that second question is, of course, more nuanced for each business. For a large retail corporation, a 2.5% effective rate might be too high. For a high-risk ecommerce operation with lots of small transactions, 4.5% might be a screaming deal. Even with this variation, however, the effective rate gives you an important birds-eye view of where you stand.

Types Of Fees

You’re probably already aware that there are multiple layers to the card processing industry. Not surprisingly, each entity involved takes a cut of your card sales in one form or another. We’ve covered a lot of this territory in our complete guide to rates and fees, but I’ll quickly recap the main players in the industry, and whether they each charge wholesale costs (fixed throughout the industry) or markups (variable and negotiable depending on your business situation and account provider).

Wholesale

  • Card Networks: We’ve all heard of these folks — Visa, MasterCard, and the like. These associations take their cut of processing costs in the form of card association fees and assessments. If you don’t think you’d be able to recognize these charges on your statement, head over to our card brand fee article for an explanation and full reference list.
  • Card-Issuing Banks: The banks that have issued credit and debit cards to your customers charge interchange fees — the cost of running each individual type of card and transaction. The card associations actually set these fees for the issuing banks, and also publish and frequently update lists for merchant reference.

Not everyone will be able to see pure wholesale costs on their statements. This is because sometimes wholesale costs are passed through directly to merchants, while in other cases they’re blended in with markups. This mostly depends on your pricing model (we’ll have a section on that topic coming up). Still, regardless of what “should” be happening with wholesale charges according to your pricing model, it’s worth checking to see if any have been passed through to you, and if the amounts are correct. Interchange fees are usually pretty easy to spot — they’re typically in a giant itemized list if you can see them at all. Card brand fees can be more difficult to identify, so definitely consult a reliable reference list.

Markup

Everything besides those two types of wholesale fees we’ve just discussed counts as a markup. Here are the main players that add costs above wholesale:

  • Processor/Acquirer: You may know some of the big ones — First Data, TSYS, Vantiv/Worldpay, Chase, Elavon, etc. These entities are also usually involved with an acquiring bank (e.g., Wells Fargo or B of A) if they aren’t already one themselves. The processor behind your merchant account can add its own extra fees and markups.
  • Merchant Service Provider (MSP): This is the entity that actually sets up and manages your merchant account — the company you interface with most directly. You also access your monthly statements through your MSP, even though the statement might have the big processor’s name across the top. You may have signed up for your account with the MSP department of one of the large processors we’ve already mentioned, or you may have used a separate MSP/ISO that has teamed up with one or more processors to provide accounts. Regardless of the setup, your merchant services provider adds its own markups as well.
  • Additional Service Providers: Charges from other third parties (such as gateway or equipment providers) may also show up on your merchant account statement.

A word of caution about “pass-through” fees: Just because your MSP claims to be merely “passing through” a fee to you “at cost,” doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a wholesale charge (from the card associations or card-issuing banks). As you can see above, the big processor/acquirer behind the scenes may also charge its own fees and markups, and often other third-party equipment and software providers do as well. These “pass-through” fees should be counted as variable markups, even though your MSP may not see any money from the charges.

Effective Markup

If you can see all interchange fees and card brand fees (wholesale costs) itemized on your statement, you can calculate your effective markup. Let’s take a look at what this is, and why it’s an advantageous number to crunch if you can swing it.

Remember, the markup is the piece that varies between MSPs. Not only can the overall amount vary widely, but the way markups are charged is also variable between providers. For example, one MSPs might charge a low markup percentage on your individual transactions, but several different monthly fees as well. Meanwhile, another MSP might charge a high markup percentage on transactions, but hardly any monthly fees. Which one’s a better deal? This is why it’s good to know your markup as an overall percentage.

You’re effective markup not only lets you know how much you’re really paying in controllable costs each month, but it’s also a handy figure to have if you’d like to compare your statement with other merchant account offers.

Here’s the basic formula (always multiply by 100 to convert to a percentage):

Markup Fees  / Total Sales = Effective Markup

Depending on how your statement is laid out, here’s another way to think of the calculation that might be more helpful:

[Total Fees – (Interchange Fees + Card Brand Fees)] / Total Sales = Effective Markup

I like this second way because it’s a clear process of elimination. Once you’ve got all the wholesale fees accounted for and subtracted away from your total fees, you automatically know everything else you’re charged is a markup.

You might have a summary section on your statement that divides up your fees in such a way to make this calculation simple. It’s more likely, however, that you’ll have to pick through your statement to make sure you understand your pricing structure and the true classification of each fee before you can add up the numbers and perform the effective markup calculation with confidence. Call me paranoid, but I have a mistrust of so-called “summary” sections on statements. Been burned way too many times!

What if you can’t calculate your effective markup at all, because your statement doesn’t make it possible to see all wholesale fees separately? That’s fine — just focus on tracking your effective rate for now. It’s not as telling a number as your effective markup, but it’s an excellent starting point for staying on top of your costs.

Pricing Model

Knowing your pricing model is absolutely critical to understanding your statement, so if you don’t already know it, now is the time to figure it out! We have an article that walks you through the process of identifying your pricing model by looking for specific, telltale signs on your statement, as well as in-depth articles on each of the four main models most MSPs offer.

We’ve already alluded to the fact that your pricing model determines whether or not you can distinguish wholesale costs from markups. You’ll never know exactly where you could be saving money (or where you’re getting ripped off) if you can’t make this distinction.

This is a complicated topic, so it may take you a while to wrap your mind around which model you have and how it impacts your statement. That’s okay — take your time. We do also occasionally come across some interesting hybrid models, so if you still need assistance figuring out your model, feel free to reach out to us.

So, how do the pricing models work? Well, the models were developed based specifically on interchange fees and whether or not they are blended in with MSP rate markups. (Card brand fees are not tied as tightly to your pricing model, so I’d just recommend checking your own statement to see if any are passed through.) Below are links to articles on each of the models, as well as a super-brief overview of each.

Interchange separate from markup:

  • Interchange-Plus (Cost-Plus) Pricing: Interchange rates are itemized and passed through separately from the MSP markups. Rate markups typically include a percentage markup and a per-transaction fee markup.
  • Membership (Subscription) Pricing: A version of interchange-plus pricing in which a monthly membership fee is charged as a markup in lieu of a percentage markup over rates.

Interchange blended with markup:

  • Tiered Pricing: Interchange rates are blended in with markups to create multiple rate tiers.
  • Flat-Rate Pricing: Interchange rates are blended in with markups to create a flat processing rate (most often used by merchant aggregators like Square, Stripe, and PayPal — not traditional MPSs).

In theory, you should be able to calculate your effective markup if you have one of the first two models, because wholesale fees are kept separate. This is one reason we favor MSPs that offer transparent interchange-plus or subscription models to all merchants. For the other two blended plans, you’ll need to stick to monitoring your effective rate only.

Billing Cycle

Beyond understanding your pricing model, you should be aware of exactly when you’re charged the various fees and rates due on your account. A closer look at your billing cycle could potentially reveal that you’re not calculating your effective rate properly, or that you’re paying higher processing rates than you originally thought. Here are a couple of tricky billing methods to watch out for:

Daily Discount (Vs. Monthly Discount)

“Discount” here refers to your card processing fees (as opposed to scheduled monthly fees). Your discount method is totally irrespective of your pricing model. Most merchants are on a monthly discount plan, meaning their discount fees are all charged in one lump sum at the same time as the rest of their scheduled monthly fees. In other words, you receive gross deposits from your batch settlements throughout the month, and then pay all your discount fees along with all other scheduled fees all at once.

On a daily discount cycle, your discount fees (or a portion of them) are deducted from each batch settlement as the month progresses. This leaves you with net deposits from your batches, and all your other scheduled fees are charged in a separate chunk. You can often tell if you are on a daily discount cycle if your statement contains terms like “less discount paid,” or shows net versus gross amounts in sales columns. With daily discount, you must be careful to add the discount fees you’ve already paid throughout the month to the other monthly fees you still need to pay. Don’t be mislead by the “total charges” figure, which may not include the discount fees you’re already paid.

Add together the “less discount paid” of $168.03 and “total card fees” of $50.95 to find the actual amount that is paid for the month: $218.98!

Billback

This is a rolling billing method that is technically different from (but often combined with) both a daily discount setup and a tiered pricing model. On a normal tiered plan, you’re charged the different rate tiers (qualified, mid-qualified, non-qualified) for your transactions all in the same month. With billback, however, you are charged the qualified (lowest possible) rate for all your transactions first, but then charged a fee the next month to recoup all the extra cost for any higher-tiered transactions you ran.

With this rolling system, you actually need two months of statements to even calculate your effective rate for a given month, since your charges for one month are split over two months — possibly more. Even worse, the Enhanced Billback method (a.k.a. Enhanced Recovery Reduced) adds an additional markup to the next month’s recouping fee. You may see BB, EBB or ERR abbreviations (along with a past month’s abbreviation) listed on your statements if you’re in a billback situation, but you may just need to spot the extra fees on your own.

enhanced billing merchant services

Billback statement: Extra fees for April transactions charged in May.

Nitty-Gritty Numbers

As we discussed at the beginning of the guide, you needn’t identify every fee every month into eternity, but I’d strongly recommend going for it on a few statements. Maybe you’re just curious and would like to become a more cost-savvy merchant, or maybe you suspect a hidden fee, or maybe your processing bill has spiked lately and you want to know why. Not to mention, sometimes statements contain run-of-the-mill mistakes that need catching! After all, not all MSPs are pure evil. Just most of them.

Of course, I can’t tell you every fee you’ll ever see on a statement and whether it’s legit. What I can do is offer you a few general tips I’ve found helpful as I’ve analyzed statements:

  • Identify Percentages vs. Dollar Amounts: Costs may come through as percentages of sales volume, per-transaction fees, or flat fees. At times, half the battle is just confirming which fees are percentages and which are dollar amounts, because they may all be shown in decimal form (and all mixed into the same columns!). The good news is that a quick calculation of your own can usually confirm which are which.
  • Use Fee Guides: Absolutely make use of any statement guide from your provider, but also check out an outside resource or two. Our fee guide lists the common fees you’ll encounter on a statement, and our fee infographic shows the typical cost range of many standard charges. I know I’ve said this a bunch of times already, but you’ll also need a good card brand fee reference list to confirm these fixed-yet-esoteric charges.
  • Ask Yourself Fee ID Questions: As you work through each charge, see if you can answer the following queries:
    • Who charges this fee/rate? (see “Types Of Fees” section above for possible culprits)
    • Is this charge a markup, wholesale cost, or a blend of the two?
    • Is this wholesale charge correct according to interchange tables or the card brand fee list?
    • Is this markup (or blended cost) correct according to my merchant fee schedule from my MSP?
  • Don’t Trust The Layout: We’ve dissected some horrifically disorganized statements over the years, which has only confirmed in my mind that you simply cannot rely on the sub-headings on a processing statement to properly categorize your fees. Wholesale fees are very often interspersed with markups and vice versa, so be on your guard. I’m particularly vigilant about “authorization” sections —  the perfect hiding spot for extra per-transaction fees.
  • Don’t Trust Fee Names: This last tip sounds strange at first, but hear me out. Names and abbreviations for fees have little standardization across the industry — even wholesale fees that are supposed to be the same for everyone! This makes it all the more difficult to identify extra or padded fees on a statement. If you’re trying to pin down a particular charge, it’s often best to consider the amount first while taking the fee’s name with a grain of salt. Here’s one good rule of thumb: Just because a charge has a card brand abbreviation in front of it doesn’t guarantee it’s all from the card brand!

Poor layout example: An MSP markup fee buried in the middle of a giant alphabetical list of wholesale card brand fees. And, the section name is just “Other Fees.” Not cool! (Note: this is an old statement with non-current card brand fee amounts)

Fine-Tuning Fees

We’re about take this detailed numbers analysis thing to the next level. Ready?

So, remember how we said that wholesale fees are fixed, non-negotiable and completely out of your control, and that markups from your MSP are the variable, negotiable costs of processing? Well, in reality, this is a slight oversimplification of the system. There are some nuances and gray areas that once recognized on your statement can help you catch problems, and potentially even adjust your processing habits to save money.

  • Avoidable Penalty Fees: Most card brand fees are simple, blanket assessments on your transactions, but others are in place specifically to punish you for not following the proper protocols for authorization and settlement. They’re small fees, but can add up fast if they’re applied to a large portion of your transactions. If you’re seeing a lot of transaction “integrity” type fees, you should take the initiative to find out why this is happening. (While we’re on the topic, don’t forget that MSPs can also charge avoidable penalty fees — a PCI-non compliance fee is one common example.)
  • Optimizing Interchange Rates: While interchange rates themselves are fixed and pre-established across the processing industry, you may have more control over which categories of interchange your transactions fall into than you think. The process of ensuring you get the best interchange rates possible is called interchange optimization. B2B transactions using commercial cards can be processed with additional Level 2 and Level 3 data to get the optimal interchange rate, for example. Transactions can also end up “downgraded” to higher-cost interchange categories if you do not authorize and settle them properly (in this way, downgrades are basically another type of penalty fee). Interchange downgrades happen more commonly to card-not-present businesses because there is more margin for data-entry error and omission than when cards are read directly by processing equipment. Common statement codes for downgraded interchange rates include EIRF (electronic interchange reimbursement fee) and STD (standard). It’s normal for a few transactions to be downgraded, but if you’re seeing interchange downgrades on the majority of your transactions, this is a definite red flag.

This merchant’s largest Visa Card Brand fee for the month was $25.30 for 253 transactions that didn’t follow proper authorization/settlement procedures. It’s likely these transactions are getting downgraded to higher-cost interchange categories as well. The merchant should look into adjusting its processing procedures to avoid these unnecessary costs.

Pulling It All Together

After you’ve worked through the details of your 2-3 consecutive statements, it’s worth repeating your effective rate calculation on each one, just to ensure you didn’t miss any charges. You may have also spotted an extra or padded fee here and there that you’re ready to confidently take up with your MSP. You should also be able to locate any anomalies that occurred during a given month (e.g., excessive penalty fees, chargebacks, one-time incidental fees, etc.) that may have impacted your effective rate.

If your statements itemize interchange rates and card brand fees separately from markups (interchange-plus or subscription models only), you’re finally ready to do that magical effective markup calculation accurately. Remember to only count interchange fees and card brand fees as true wholesale. Everything else is technically a markup!

Final Thoughts

We’ve covered a lot of ground in this guide, but hopefully you’re ready to tackle some big picture calculations (like your effective rate), as well as better identify any specific “what the heck is that?” charges from your statement. If you’re ready to become the consummate master of your processing statements from here on out, the first step will be to get on a cost-plus pricing model (interchange-plus or subscription/membership). This is the only way you’ll see what you’re paying each month above wholesale processing costs that are largely out of your control. All but very small merchants will benefit from one of these pricing models from a trustworthy MSP. If you’re not on a cost-plus plan already, make it a priority if you change providers.

Meanwhile, keep on tracking that effective rate (and effective markup if your statement allows) month-over-month for the lifetime of your merchant account. Once you’ve got a handle on your statement, it will be totally worth the 12 seconds the calculation will take you each month. I’m a super detailed-oriented person as a matter of principle, and even I give you my blessing to pretty much ignore all the stupid little fees and markups your processor or MSP may charge, as long as you’re satisfied your big picture numbers are remaining sensible and consistent. Just know I’ll send you right back into the details if those effective numbers go up!

Still need help with pricing or statements? Check out the transparent pricing of our highest-rated merchant account providers, or try these additional resources:

  • Never Overpay for Credit Card Processing Again
  • How Much Should You Pay for Credit Card Processing?
  • How to Negotiate the Perfect Credit Card Processing Deal

The post How to Analyze Your Credit Card Processing Statement appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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How To Advertise on Yelp Effectively

How to Advertise on Yelp Effectively

Word of mouth has always been one of the most powerful tools businesses have at their disposal to increase business. But, since word of mouth is as much a phenomena as it is an actual method for driving sales to your business, it’s always been difficult or impossible to achieve at scale.

As a business that strives to provide exemplary service to your customers, it’s not uncommon for you to develop a loyal following that’s eager to share your business with their friends and family. Unfortunately, this advocacy can only take you as far as that person’s network.

This is where Yelp comes in. In a nutshell, Yelp is like a megaphone for word of mouth. Your business’ page on Yelp provides essential information about your business, including real reviews from your customers.

Now, what people are saying about your business can extend far beyond their network, and everyone viewing your page on Yelp will be able to say what your customers are saying about you.

This can be an exceptionally powerful tool for you to leverage. But, succeeding as an advertiser on Yelp isn’t quite as simple as claiming your business page and paying for ads. Before jumping in, there are several things you’ll need to consider.

Today, we’ll dive into everything you need to know about Yelp, how it relates to your business and the different ways you may be able to use Yelp as a tool to drive new business through your doors.

Over 74 million people use Yelp on their computer each month, with another 70 million accessing Yelp from their mobile site. Yelp also has over 30 million monthly users of their app.

Virtually every business, from restaurants and eateries to mechanics, salons, doctors, dentists, boutiques and more have a page on Yelp.

A businesses Yelp page features basic contact information such as the business’ phone, address, and website as well as user-generated content that includes reviews, photos, and more.

Through organic growth and acquisitions of businesses like Qype and CityVox, Yelp has bolstered their worldwide presence, and it’s become a popular service throughout Europe and Asia, in addition to North America.

According to Yelp, two things make their platform particularly appealing to businesses of all sizes. First, Yelp users are actively engaged in the buying cycle when they visit Yelp. They have already decided on what they need, and are now trying to find the business who can best provide it to them.

People rarely use Yelp to conduct research or learn more about a product or business. Instead, they use Yelp when they’re prepared to make a purchase. So, the people viewing a business’ Yelp page are generally more likely to make a purchase. In fact, 82% of Yelp users use the site or app when they’re intent on making a purchase, and over 89% of them make that purchase within one week.

The other aspect of Yelp that’s so attractive to businesses are the demographics of Yelp users. About 50% of Yelp users have an income greater than $100k per year, and over 75% have at least some college background. Over 70% of users are age 18-54. For most businesses, this represents an ideal customer: they’re young, wealthy, and looking to spend money.

The thing that drives Yelp’s growth, and continues to keep people coming back to the site are the quality reviews of all kinds of businesses. Yelp currently has over 155 million reviews, and that number grows each day.

Whether a Yelp user is looking for a new restaurant to try in their neighborhood, an honest mechanic, or cool things to do on vacation, they turn to Yelp because they trust the reviews to steer them in the right direction.

New York City locksmith, who was able to grow his small locksmithing business from very humble beginnings into a thriving business thanks in part to customers who saw his ads on Yelp.

In general, high ROI businesses like home service professionals, doctors, and dentists offices tend to have the highest potential for success when advertising on Yelp. A single service from one of these businesses could net hundreds or thousands of dollars for the business. So, if Yelp advertising brings even a single new customer each month, they’re already in the black.

While any business may be able to benefit from using Yelp ads, there are some businesses that may be better off avoiding the platform altogether.

customize their ads as part of both the self-service and full-service advertising programs. This new feature allows business owners to select the photo and review snippet that will accompany their ads, instead of leaving it up to Yelp’s algorithms.

recent study suggests that 30% of consumers consider a businesses response to reviews as a key factor in their decision making process. One way to engage is to offer a response to each Yelp review you receive. If it’s a positive review, a simple thank you is more than enough.

For negative reviews, it’s important to offer a thoughtful response without being argumentative. Even if the review comes from a disgruntled customer with an ax to grind, there’s no way you’ll come out on top if you respond angrily or blow off the customer’s issue.

potential to bring you new customers organically as well as through advertising.

Familiarizing yourself with the ins and outs of Yelp and their dedicated community of users is the best way to ensure that Yelp is working for your business, instead of against it.

The post How To Advertise on Yelp Effectively appeared first on ShivarWeb.

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The 5 Cs Of Credit: What Lenders Look For

You’ve heard the old adage “walk a mile in someone else’s shoes.” This phrase is more than just a To Kill A Mockingbird lesson on understanding where others are coming from — it’s also the key to securing the business loan you need.

By considering the loan process from the lender’s perspective and understanding what they’re looking for, you’ll know exactly what you need to do to increase your chances of being approved for a business loan.

That’s where the 5 Cs of Credit come in.

The 5 Cs of Credit is a system that lenders use to evaluate your business’s creditworthiness and ability to repay a loan. Lenders look specifically at your business’s character, capacity, capital, collateral, and conditions before making their lending decision.

In this post, we’ll explain everything you need to know about these 5 Cs, including how lenders evaluate each trait and how to boost your business’s 5 Cs so you can secure a business loan. Read on to learn more.

Character

Character refers to a business’s reputation and trustworthiness. Also sometimes called “credit history,” character often translates to how faithful you’ve been in paying off past debts on time.

Why Character Matters

For lenders, it all comes down to how the question: “Will I get my money back?” Lenders want to work with responsible, organized businesses that are likely to make their repayments on time.

How Lenders Evaluate Character

When evaluating character, lenders look at:

  • Credit report
  • Credit scores
  • Personal qualities
  • References

To analyze your credit history, lenders will often view your credit report and credit score. Lenders take both your business credit score and your personal credit score into consideration.

They tend to look at how long you’ve been in business as well. The longer you’ve been in business, the more stable you appear. For lenders, this again means less risk and increased likelihood that your business will be successful enough to cover loan repayments.

Sometimes, lenders also take a literal approach to the word “character” and analyze your attributes as a business owner.

They may conduct a personal interview or require references (some even go so far as looking at Yelp reviews of your business). Many online lenders make phone consultations a part of their application processes so that they can help you with any questions about the application while also getting a feel for you and your company.

How To Improve Character

If you’re looking to impress lenders with your personality or improve the character of your business, there are a few ways to do so. Here are fours tips for boosting character:

1. Raise Your Credit Score

Poor credit can be a deal breaker when it comes to loan approval. Taking the extra time to raise your credit score before applying for loans can help increase your chances of qualifying for the loan you want.

If you don’t know what your credit score is, then that’s the first place to start. Check out these top free credit score sites to learn where your credit stands.

2. Understand Your Credit Report

It’s also important to understand your credit report and be prepared to explain anything negative on your report. Some lenders may view your application more favorably if you are able to help them understand your business’s situation. Make sure to take action to correct any errors that may be affecting your credit report.

Learn more about how to check your credit report and dispute errors by reading 5 Tips To Improve Your Personal Credit Score.

3. Be Professional

Whether interacting with a banker in person or applying through an online lender, put your best foot forward. Always be professional and kind. Also show the lender that you are knowledgeable about the loan application process and familiar with how loans work. This shows that you are responsible and experienced in business as well as being personable.

4. Establish A Relationship With Your Bank

If you are seeking a traditional business loan from a bank, establish a relationship with your banker. If the banker likes you and is familiar with your business, they may be more willing to vouch for you when it comes to loan approval time.

Capacity

Capacity is your business’s ability to pay back the loan. Also sometimes called “cash flow,” capacity is directly related to how much cash your business has available for loan use.

Why Capacity Matters

Not only do lenders want to see that you have a history of paying your loans on time, they also need to see that you actually have the cash to do so. They must look at your financial health to ensure that you can afford a loan in the first place, and then use this information to see how large of a loan amount they can offer you.

How Lenders Evaluate Capacity

Lenders may use the following tools to determine your business’s capacity to afford a loan:

  • Cash flow statements
  • Cash flow projections
  • Bank statements
  • Debt service coverage ratio (DSCR)
  • Debt-to-income ratio (DTI)

Most lenders require you to provide cash flow statements and bank statements when you apply for a loan. They also may require a cash flow projection to get an idea of what your cash flow will most likely look like in the future.

Some lenders may depend on more concrete measures of financial health, like debt service coverage ratios (DSCR) and debt-to-income ratios (DTI). The debt service coverage ratio measures the relationship between your business’s debt and income, while the debt-to-income ratio measures the relationship between your personal debt and income as the business owner.

Both of these ratios are used to determine the health of your business’s cash flow and demonstrate how much extra cash you have available for a loan. Ideally, lenders look for a DSCR of 1.25 or higher and a DTI ratio of 36% or lower.

How To Improve Capacity

The following are four tips for maximizing your business’s capacity; following these steps will demonstrate that your business can handle a loan and may also increase the size of the loan that you can realistically afford to make payments on.

1. Pay Down Past Debt

If you have a significant amount of outstanding debt, a serious chunk of change is going to paying those loans off each month — money that could be used to invest in a new loan instead. Try to pay old debt down or off completely. This will increase the amount of cash flow available for a new loan. This will also show a lender that you have the means to repay a new loan and that you have a history of successfully paying off debts.

2. Improve Your DSCR

The higher the debt service coverage ratio, the more cash you have to invest in your business and the more likely you are to be approved for the loan you want. To improve your DSCR, try:

  • Increasing your net operating income
  • Decreasing your net operating expenses
  • Paying off existing debt

Read Debt Service Coverage Ratio: How To Calculate And Improve Your Business’s DSCR to learn more.

3. Lower Your DTI

While lenders usually place more emphasis on the debt service coverage ratio, your debt-to-income ratio is still important. And, if you’re self-employed, lenders look solely to your DTI ratio to determine if you can afford a loan.

Since the DTI percentage shows how much of your money is already committed to existing debt, the lower your debt-to-income ratio, the better. Here are the main ways to lower DTI:

  • Increase your monthly income
  • Pay off existing debt

Read Debt-To-Income Ratio: How To Calculate And Lower Your DTI to learn more.

4. Use Accounting Software

Not only can using accounting software help you balance the books, it can also help you prepare a strong business loan application. With the right accounting software you can:

  • Generate the cash flow statements and financial statements required by lenders
  • Use financial history to create cash flow projections
  • Keep track of operating expenses and income so that you can calculate DSCR and DTI correctly

Using accounting software can also show lenders that you are organized and financially responsible. Some lenders even require that businesses use accounting software for a certain period of time before being approved. If you want to make preparing your loan application simpler, understand exactly how much you can afford to borrow, and stay in control of your business overall finances, accounting software is a must.

Take a look at our top-rated accounting programs and our comprehensive accounting reviews for help finding the perfect software for your business.

Capital

Capital refers to how much money you (or you and your business partners) have invested in your company.

Why Capital Matters

In lenders’ eyes, the more money you personally have invested in your business, the less likely you are to default on your loans. Lenders see capital investments as a sign that you take your business seriously, and have something to lose if the business goes under.

It makes sense — if you have money personally invested in your business, you are much more likely to do everything you can to make that business succeed — which for lenders, translates into doing everything you can to pay your loans off.

How Lenders Evaluate Capital

When considering capital, lenders want to see:

  • How much of the owner’s capital is invested in the business
  • How the owner’s capital is invested

Lenders primarily look at the amount of owner’s capital invested in the business. Not only do they evaluate how much money you have invested in the business, they also check to see where you’ve invested that money. If they see that you’ve made smart investment decisions in the past, they can take comfort in knowing that you will most likely invest a new loan wisely.

How To Improve Capital

If you’re looking to present strong capital to a lender, here’s what you should do.

1. Increase Owner’s Capital

First off, make sure that you actually have money invested in your business. If you haven’t invested any money into your business, now may be the time to talk to a financial advisor about the best way to increase your owner’s capital and invest in business growth.

2. Highlight Investment Successes

Lenders like to know exactly how you plan on using the money they may potentially lend to you. If you’ve made successful investments in the past, like purchasing additional equipment that increased your sales revenue by 25%, and are planning on purchasing more equipment with the loan your applying for, be sure to tell your lender! It will demonstrate that you’re experienced in business and that you’re likely to increase your cash flow (which a lender hears as “we’re getting our money back”).

What If You Don’t Have Any Capital Invested In Your Business?

If you don’t have any capital invested in your business and aren’t in a financial place where you can do so, you’ll need to rely heavily on the other 4 Cs. If your character, capacity, collateral, and conditions are particularly strong, you may be able to offset the lack of capital.

Since lenders use capital to see that you’re committed to your business, show them your commitment in other ways, maybe by offering strong collateral or articulating a clear business plan and repayment plan.

Collateral

Collateral is an asset (or assets) that are offered up as insurance against you paying back your loan fully and on time. If you default on your loan, lenders will seize the collateral in order to make up for their losses.

Why Collateral Matters

Much like owner’s capital, collateral means you have something to lose if you default on your loans. The hope for many lenders is that the collateral will encourage business owners to work hard to repay their loan.

However, if your business does go under, collateral assures lenders that they won’t lose all of their money if you default on a loan.

How Lenders Evaluate Collateral

Every lender has different requirements when it comes to collateral.

Some require specific assets to be offered up as collateral. Others require a blanket lien, meaning they have the right to go after your assets in case of a default. Others still require a personal guarantee, meaning you the business owner will be held responsible in the event of a default.

Some examples of collateral include:

  • Property
  • Vehicles
  • Equipment
  • Savings accounts

It’s important to carefully evaluate each lender’s policy and requirements regarding collateral. This way, you can know exactly what is expected of you. And, more importantly, you can decide if you’re comfortable with the required collateral or if you’d rather look for a different lender.

To learn more about collateral, read Secured Vs. Unsecured Business Loans.

How To Improve Small Business Collateral

Each lender has their own way of evaluating collateral, so there’s no one right way to improve your business’s collateral. However, by carefully researching potential lenders, you can work to present strong collateral that meets their standards. Here are a few tips to consider:

1. Know What Collateral You Have To Offer

Carefully evaluate your assets and their value so that you know exactly what your business can offer up as collateral. Many accounting software programs help you track your assets and their depreciation so you can know how much they are worth.

2. Decide What You’re Comfortable With

As we mentioned earlier, some lenders require a blanket lien or a personal guarantee to secure a loan. Neither of these agreements should be taken lightly and these arrangements are not right for every business.

Read our posts What Is A UCC Blanket Lien? and Should I Sign A Personal Guarantee? to decide if these forms of collateral are right for you.

3. Find The Right Lender

Required collateral varies from lender to lender. If you aren’t comfortable with something like a personal guarantee or don’t have much collateral to offer up, do some shopping around until you find a lender that is suited for your business.

If you need assistance in your search for the perfect lender, let us help you find a business loan.

Conditions

Conditions are considered in two parts: the conditions of the loan and the conditions of the economy.

Why Conditions Matter

Conditions such as interest rate and principal play an important factor in whether or not you can afford a loan and how big that loan can be. Factors such as the economy and your business’s market can also play a role in how likely your business is to succeed and be able to repay a loan.

How Lenders Evaluate Conditions

When considering if the conditions are right to approve your loan, lenders consider:

  • Interest rate
  • Principal
  • Economy
  • Your business’s industry
  • Your business’s competitors

The actual loan amount you are requesting is very important, but lenders will consider the principle, interest rate, and monthly payments to determine if you can feasibly take on that loan.

Lenders also carefully consider how you are planning on using the loan as the purpose of the loan can greatly affect whether your business will grow and profit from the investment.

The economy is also a huge consideration. If the economy is booming, businesses are more likely to flourish, meaning less risk for lenders. If the economy is taking a downturn, lenders may be more reluctant to lend money. When the economy is poor, lenders typically increase their minimum DSCR which means businesses have to have an incredibly strong cash flow in order to be approved.

Some lenders may look at your specific market and competitors to get an idea of how financially promising your business is. Certain lenders also have prohibited industry lists, meaning that they will not lend to business in specific high-risk industries. So before you apply, be sure that your business does not fall into that category.

How To Improve Conditions

You may not be able to control the economy, but you can control how strong your business and its loan application appears. Here are a few tips on how to put your best foot forward where conditions are concerned.

1. Have A Plan

Don’t just say you need $30,000 for your business. Lenders want to hear exactly what you’re planning on doing with the loan and how you plan on doing it.

Common reasons for requesting a business loan include:

  • Purchasing inventory
  • Purchasing property
  • Updating equipment
  • Hiring new employees
  • Expanding your business
  • Increasing cash flow

Let your lender know exactly how you’re planning on using the money with a detailed business plan. Increase their faith in your business by showing how the loan will benefit your business, whether by increasing production, doubling sales, expanding your business’s services, etc. The more specific you can be the better.

2. Time It Right

Often, small businesses seek a loan when they are in need of money. Makes sense, right? Wrong. Consider applying for a line of credit when the economy is good and your business is booming. You will be much more likely to qualify for a line of credit with favorable terms when things are going well. This way, you’ll have cash when you do need it.

If you wait until the economy is poor and your cash flow is stagnant you will be much less likely to be approved for a loan. And if you are approved, the loan rates may be steep and unfavorable.

3. Show Your Expertise

Be knowledgeable about your business and its market. You can’t control the economy, but you can control how you present your situation to a lender. If the economy is poor or your business’s market is stalling, show lenders how the loan you’re requesting will allow you to launch a promising new marketing campaign or expand into a new, profitable business vertical.

Demonstrating your expertise will build their faith and trust in you and your business.

4. Improve Your DSCR

If the economy is poor, another way to increase the likelihood of being approved for a loan is to increase your debt service coverage ratio. As we mentioned earlier, there are several ways to improve your DSCR, including:

  • Increasing your net operating income
  • Decreasing your net operating expenses
  • Paying off existing debt

Read our post the Debt Service Coverage Ratio: How To Calculate And Improve Your Business’s DSCR to learn more.

Sealing The Deal

When it comes to loan applications, you don’t want to go in blind. Knowing what lenders are looking for and how they’re evaluating your application can be the key to securing the loan you need.

When it all boils down, lenders simply want to be certain that you will pay back your loan. The 5 Cs of Credit are how lenders can realistically evaluate how big of a risk you are.

It’s important to note that not all lenders evaluate each C the same way. Some place more emphasis on character, while others care more about your capital. Carefully researching each lender’s requirements and following our tips to master each of the 5 Cs of Credit can greatly increase your chances of sealing the deal on a loan.

In the end, it all comes down to establishing yourself as a trustworthy, credible borrower who can set lenders’ minds at ease. Start mastering character, capacity, capital, collateral, and conditions to impress lenders and secure the loan you want.

Ready to take out a business loan? Read through our comprehensive reviews of business lenders, put lenders side by side with our small business loans comparison chart, or check out three of our favorite lenders below:

StreetShares OnDeck LoanBuilder
Products Offered • Term loans
• Lines of credit
• Contract financing
• Term loans
• Lines of credit
• Short-term loans
Best For Small- to medium-sized businesses looking for a working capital loan or line of credit. Small- to medium-sized business looking for fast funding. Small businesses looking for a short-term loan with weekly repayments.
Required Time in Business 12 months 12 months 9 months
Required Revenue $25,000 /year $100,000 /year $42,000 /year
Required Credit Score 620 500 550
Read Review Read Review Read Review
Visit Site  Visit Site  Visit Site

The post The 5 Cs Of Credit: What Lenders Look For appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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How To Advertise On Zillow Effectively

How to Advertise on Zillow Effectively

Zillow is one of the leading real estate websites. It allows owners or agents to list homes for sale or rent. On the other side of things, users can search listings and view approximate property values. These services are free.

You might wonder how Zillow offers so much valuable information at no cost. The company, which is owned by Zillow Group, an organization that also owns Trulia, RealEstate.com, Naked Apartments, hotpads, Out East and StreetEasy, charges for ad sales. Agents, brokers, lenders, property managers, builders or brand advertisers can advertise on Zillow. Here’s how to do it.

What Is Zillow?

Zillow is the chief rental and real estate marketplace. It’s essentially a database that works like a search engine for properties. It provides data on more than 110 million homes in the U.S., including homes that are for sale, for rent and not on the market. The company offers estimated home and rental values as well as other home-related data.

The company runs more than two dozen apps, which let users view properties based on their location. The company has experienced exponential growth in the past several years. Wikipedia reports that in 2011, Zillow had more than 24 million unique visitors per month. As of January 2014, Zillow reports having more than 70 million unique users per month.

Zillow has had a 52 percent year-over-year growth. Its audience has a median household income of more than $76,000, who have an average credit score of 722. In other words, it’s a desirable market for advertisers, especially if their companies are home or real-estate-related.

In fact, an independent study conducted by the WAV group found that Zillow’s click conversion is more than three times better than Google’s. Not only that, two-thirds of the total market share for online real estate is included in Zillow Group websites. In 2017, Investor’s Business Daily said that Zillow was in a position to dominate the internet real estate advertising market.

Some other statistics about Zillow Group’s audience include:

  • Zillow Group’s brands see 160 million visitors per month.
  • Half of all Trulia and Zillow visitors want to buy or sell.
  • Eighty percent of U.S. homes have been viewed on Zillow.
  • Thirty-two million rental visitors use the sites and apps every month.

Property Management, Rental And Brand Advertising With Zillow Group

You don’t have to work in real estate to advertise with Zillow. One of Zillow’s primary strengths is collecting data. Zillow Group identifies people who are actively looking to purchase or rent a home through its mortgage lead form and Home Buyers Guide. The company also tracks renters and identifies what stage in the moving process they’re in.

Why is this important? It can tell you a lot about what else these individuals are ready to purchase. For example, people who are moving into a rental property are 71 percent more likely to purchase an appliance than those who are already living in a home. They’re 22 percent more likely to buy technology.

What’s more, 84 percent of renters use the internet to search for a property. They spend about $2,400 on average for moving expenses.

Home buyers and renters aren’t the only people who use Zillow to make big decisions. Home improvement enthusiasts use Zillow Group’s websites to research options. Plus, 96 percent of people who move make some type of improvement to the property.

If you have a product or service that’s related to moving, home improvement or property maintenance, you can take advantage of this captive audience by advertising on Zillow.

Ad Products For Brands

You can reach these audiences across Zillow Group websites and apps. The ads are formatted to work seamlessly regardless of the platform. Here’s an example of what an ad might look like on a Trulia listing:

There are four places in which your ad product can appear:

  • Native search ads
  • Native property ads
  • Home expenses ads
  • Rich media ads

Search Ads

A search ad will appear as a box next to the property listings in the Zillow search results, like this Rooms to Go promotion.

The word “Sponsored” will appear at the top left, and a call to action to visit the website appears on the top right. You can include a photo, logo, header and subheader in your ad.

Property Ads

As prospective buyers narrow down their searches, they check out the property details, where they can view photos as well as specs for the home. Property ads appear here and look like this Liberty Mutual Insurance ad:

Home Expenses Ads

Advertisers can place themselves in another low-funnel location under the Home Expenses drop-down menu. This is where companies that sell necessary products and services, like internet and homeowner’s insurance, can advertise or offer coupons.

Rich Media Ads

The native search ads offer a rich media feature. Users can click on the ads to watch a video or expand the image. Within the expanded image, you can offer more details, like adding text when you hover over certain products. You can also include your logo and a link to your website or landing page.

Programmatic Ads

Programmatic ads let you promote your business throughout all of Zillow Group’s platforms. This type of advertising allows you to capitalize on Zillow’s audience data while letting the automated media buying technology put you in front of the right people at the best time.

As the advertiser, you create a deal through Triplelift and request a deal ID through the same platform. Then, your ad will automatically be shown to the people who you want to target across Zillow’s sites.

How does Zillow know who to place you in front of? The websites ask visitors to identify themselves. As these individuals browse the Zillow group websites, Zillow knows whether they’re home buyers, homeowners, home renters, home sellers, home improvement enthusiasts or real estate professionals.

Some of the benefits of using a private marketplace, or PMP, include:

  • Freedom to set your own budget
  • Flexibility to adjust bids depending on an ad’s worth to you
  • Control over where your money is going
  • Harnessing the power of Zillow’s data capture
  • Results from native ads, which tend to perform better than banner ads

Lender Advertising

Certain types of lenders can also advertise with Zillow. Zillow offers a Group Mortgages advertising program, in which you can create a lender profile, list yourself in the Lender Directory and receive email alerts when potential clients contact you via your personal profile. Like an agent, you can include customer reviews on your profile.

Creating a lender profile on Zillow is free. To start, click “Join” at the top right of the Zillow.com website.

In the next window, add your email address, and create a password. Select the box to check off “I am a landlord or industry professional.” Under Professional Information, select Mortgage Lender from the drop-down list. Then, click Submit.

On the next page, you’ll be asked to enter your NMLS ID. When you do, your name will automatically populate in the box below. After you submit that, you’ll be able to edit your profile.

The information that is stored here includes:

  • Profile page – Headshot, an About section requiring a minimum of 100 characters, screen name, company name, additional languages spoken, locations in which you’re licensed and sponsored
  • Contact info – Phone number, fax, website
  • Office info – Automatically populated from the NMLS Consumer Access pages

When you advertise, you’ll put yourself in front of thousands of potential customers. Zillow and Trulia give buyers the chance to request that a lender call them at a specific time.

Those contacts are sent to lenders who market through Zillow. You’ll get contacts instantly through the mobile platform, and you can connect with consumers as soon as they reach out to you.

Pricing is based on the number of contacts that you receive or the subscription package that you purchase, depending on the platform. Factors such as loan amount, loan type and credit score will affect the price too. You must deposit a minimum to start out.

To get started with advertising for loan officers, go to the Lender Resource Center advertising page, where you’ll find a phone number to call Zillow directly. The opportunities for lender advertising are limited. You’ll have to speak to a representative to find out if your market is still available.

Co-Marketing On Zillow

Co-marketing lets lenders join Premier Agent partners to get dedicated impressions when the agents advertise on Zillow Group channels. This is a budget saver because lenders and agents can share marketing costs.

To get started, a Premier Agent must invite a lender to share the advertising costs. The agent chooses the dollar amount that they want each lender to contribute. Up to half of a Premier Agent’s marketing costs can be shared by up to five lenders. Most Premier Agents choose to co-market with one or two lenders, though.

Lenders that co-market with Premier Agents may appear on:

  • an agent’s featured listings
  • the agent’s profile
  • the agent’s Premier Agent Website
  • email campaigns sent from Zillow

This program is only available for Premier Agents. If a lender is already working with an agent, he or she can ask that agent to become a Premier Agent and invite the lender to participate in this advertising program. When they participate in this program, lenders cannot refer business to agents or vice-versa if they receive a lead through a Zillow platform.

Premier Agent Advertising

If you do work in real estate, you might consider registering as a Premier Agent. Although there might not be anything as controversial as whether being a Premier Agent can really help increase your income, Zillow’s Premier Agent program accounts for 70 percent of Zillow’s revenue. People who are buying, selling and investing in homes continue to flock to Zillow.

Therefore, many real estate agents pay to become a Premier Agent on Zillow and Trulia.

Zillow allows anyone to list a home for free on the website, but it costs money to be a Premier Agent. Therefore, you might wonder why you would pay to become a Premier Agent.

My Agent

Premier Agents have their names and other information placed next to their listings. If you’re a Premier Agent and you submit a property as a seller’s agent, you’ll be the only agent endorsed on that page. That boosts your chances of getting the full commission for the listing. If you aren’t a Premier Agent, other real estate agents may show up on your listing.

The listing agent always shows up first whether that person is a Premier Agent or not. For example, Tim Carter is the listing agent for the property below. Because he is not a Premier Agent, other agents appear below his name on the webpage.

Those agents have several recent sales and great reviews. Someone searching for a property might be more likely to click on their names than the listing agent’s.

That gives the Premier Agents the chance to secure a million-dollar client, and the original listing agent will have to share the commission if another agent snags the listing.

In this next scenario, Ellen Phipps is a Premier Agent. Therefore, hers is the only name that appears on the listing detail page. There is a clear call-to-action button below her name and contact information, making it easy for someone to contact this agent.

Another reason to become a Premier Agent is to advertise on local listings. This way, even if you don’t have any of your own listings to promote, you can generate leads.

A Premier Agent purchases a particular share of visibility in a particular zip code. If you buy a 50 percent share of voice in zip code 90210, you’ll show up as a buyer’s agent 50 percent of the time for shoppers looking for listings in that zip code.

Shoppers can choose whatever buyer they want. They’ll be more likely to contact you over the others if you have a strong profile, rave reviews and more past sales.

Premier Agents are given the most desirable placement in Zillow and Trulia’s directory of agents. They’ll show up as Featured Agents in the Agent Finder. This does not cost an extra fee.

Premier Agent Concierge

Concierge allows busy real estate teams to maximize their ROI by managing high lead volumes for them. The Concierge team can respond to leads so that you don’t have to. They can transfer the leads to you immediately or set an appointment for you to speak with them.

Concierge works seamlessly with My Agent. As an agent, if you respond to a live Concierge transfer, you’ll show up as the only buyer’s agent for that lead for the next 30 days. If you confirm the connection via the Premier Agent app, you’ll lengthen that time frame.

This means that a buyer who connects with you via Concierge will see you as the buyer’s agent for every listing in your zip code(s) that they view. This is only relevant for buyers who submit the leads through Zillow or Trulia and are transferred live via Concierge.

Your client can decline or terminate the connection at any time.

You can get started with Premier Agent Concierge by working with a Zillow business consultant.

Premier Agent Direct

One of the benefits of being a Premier Agent is having the capability to advertise on Zillow Group websites.

Premier Agent Direct combines the data and targeting abilities of Facebook and Zillow Group. When you sign up for this feature, you’ll be able to create ads on Zillow search results pages, such as the sponsored ad that we showed you when discussing the brand advertisers. These may be video, profile or branded listing advertisements.

You’ll also get to create customized Facebook ads that target the same audience as the Zillow ads. This captures active home shoppers as they scroll through Facebook. Your Facebook ads can show featured listings, completed sales or photos from your Zillow profile.

It doesn’t take any extra work to set up a Facebook ad from your Zillow information using Premier Agent Direct. Buyers who click on your ad will end up at a branded landing page.

Creating ads using Premier Agent Direct is different than simply advertising on Facebook on your own. First of all, when you sign up for Premier Agent Direct, you get a professionally shot video to include in your profile, ads or emails. Perhaps more importantly, Premier Agent Direct chooses your target audience based on Zillow’s buyer data, which can keep you in front of the most relevant leads.

Seller Boost

Seller Boost connects Premier Agents with seller leads. When someone goes to sell a home, they often start by checking the estimated value of the property on Zillow or Trulia. When they do, they have the option of claiming their home to receive a more accurate Zestimate.

At this time, Zillow captures their information and ensures that they’re an interested seller. The platform then presents the individual with lead capture forms that urge them to consult with a Premier Agent.

Seller Boost is an add-on to Premier Agent advertisers. Any Agents that have opted for this will receive leads from the program.

Free Websites

Premier Agents can get free websites created through Zillow. These websites can be completely customized through a user-friendly editor and have a custom URL.

Some of the advantages of setting up a Premier Agent Website through Zillow include:

  • Integrated MLS
  • Free designs
  • Customizable and easy-to-use editor
  • Mobile-friendly
  • Fast setup

*Editors note – I (Nate) have personally never used the platform. Like any website builder, there will be upside and downsides.

How Much Does Premier Agent Cost?

The cost of Premier Agent depends on the number and quality of zip codes in which you appear as well as the number of impressions that your advertisement gets.

Zip Codes

When you become a Premier Agent, you purchase a predetermined number of online impressions up front. When you do this, you choose the zip codes in which you want to appear.

This isn’t as straightforward as you might think. Some zip codes have a waiting list. These are usually the more desirable zip codes with higher-priced properties. For example, a zip code with a median home price of 2 million dollars will be more expensive to advertise in than one with homes that cost $150,000.

Agent competition affects the price of advertising too. When a large number of agents wants to advertise in a particular zip code, that zip code becomes more expensive.

That doesn’t necessarily mean that the higher-priced zip codes are the best ones to advertise in, though. If so many agents are advertising in a particular area that your voice would be limited, you might consider paying less to advertise in a nearby zip code.

Consider this example: You have a client that’s looking for a property in the most expensive zip code Brooklyn. While that area may be their first choice, they may be willing to look at homes in the neighboring zip codes, even if prices are a little lower there. What’s great for you is that they’ll probably seek out the highest priced homes in those areas. If you advertise in the zip codes that border the more expensive ones, you’ll still tend to close high-priced sales, but you’ll pay less to advertise in them.

To view the pricing at the zip code level, follow the steps below:

1. Log into your Premier Agent account.

2. Click on My Ads.

3. You can view and compare zip codes here by clicking on zip codes on the map or using the Add New ZIPs search.

Impressions

You pay for your advertising based on the number of impressions that each advertisement gets. The cost per impression changes for each zip code. The cost is calculated as a cost per 1,000 impressions, or CPM. For example, if Zillow charges $0.05, that’s the equivalent of $50 CPM.

How To Calculate Your ROI

Let’s say you pay for 4,800 impressions per month at a cost of $0.16 per impression. You’ll end up paying $300 a month. If it takes 500 impressions for one person to click and become a lead, you should get about 9 to 10 leads per month.

Divide the total amount that you pay per month by the number of leads that your advertising generates to get the price that you pay per lead. In this scenario, $300/10=$30. You pay $30 per lead.

At that point, it’s up to you to convert a lead into a purchase. If you have selected the most expensive zip code in which to advertise, but you don’t know much about the homes there, you won’t be able to provide the best service to your clients. Some people recommend choosing your own zip code, where you can provide local market knowledge and serve your clients well. You’ll position yourself to get more leads and pay less for each one.

After you have advertised and analyzed your metrics, you can calculate your ROI. Your ROI is your gross income from those sales divided by your total Zillow spend.

One of the perks of advertising on Zillow is that you can roll those sales into reviews and listing histories. When potential clients see that you’re successful, they’ll be more likely to click on your ad in the future. The more leads and sales that you get, the more leads and sales you end up generating in the future.

How To Generate Leads For Free Using Zillow

You don’t have to pay for a Premier Agent account to take advantage of Zillow’s lead-generating opportunities. Creating a free agent account gives you a chance to showcase your listings and stand out with a comprehensive profile.

To create a free account, go to Zillow’s Premier Agent page, and click Sign Up Now.

Enter your information to create a free profile.

You don’t have to be a real estate agent to create a profile here. Select from one of the following professions from the drop-down menu:

  • Real estate agent/broker
  • Mortgage lender
  • Home improvement services
  • Property management & other real estate
  • Landlord
  • Photographer
  • Home builder
  • Home inspector
  • Property manager
  • Real estate marketplace investor
  • Other real estate professional

After you fill out this form, you can do one of the following:

Optimize Your Profile

Many agents create free accounts on Zillow without completing their profiles. At minimum, your profile should include a photo, your license number and other information. However, you’re competing with many other real estate professionals.

Your profile will stand out more, and you’ll have a better chance of creating a connection with your leads, if you include a video. The leads from your profile are do-follow leads. Therefore, adding links to your website will boost engagement and enhance your site’s SEO. Don’t forget to add links to your social media profiles too.

Zillow makes it easy to do this by tracking how complete your profile is. Aim to reach 100% if you want to maximize your profile.

Add Sold Listings

While it’s vital to have beautiful, comprehensive and descriptive listings of the current properties that you’re selling, it’s important to show the homes that you’ve sold in the past. Buyers want to know that you’re able to make good on your promises. The best way to demonstrate that is by showing a strong history.

Get Great Reviews

If you were about to choose whether to work with an agent that has 30 five-star reviews or no reviews at all, which would you be more likely to click on? Most people would choose the agent with more reviews. It’s crucial to have reviews on your Zillow profile.

One way to get the reviews that you need is to ask your best clients. Chances are, you have worked with some people who had wonderful experiences and connected with you on a personal level. Those people would probably love to share their home-buying experiences.

All you have to do is ask. Whether or not you close a deal with a client, you should ask them if they would be willing to leave you a review on Zillow. You can do this easily by sending them an email with the request and a link to your Zillow profile page.

They can leave a review by clicking on the Review section of the profile. They must be logged in or leave a valid email address and phone number in order to do this. That’s because Zillow authenticates the reviews to make sure that they were left by legitimate customers.

Don’t Hesitate

There are so many real estate agents using Zillow that clients are likely to contact more than one agent during their home search. You should reach out to potential leads immediately in order to have the best opportunity to connect with them. You can do this using the Concierge service.

You can also use the Premier Agent app to set up an auto-responder. You need to be able to respond to leads from wherever you are. If you use a third-party customer relationship manager, make sure that you can access it from a mobile device so that you don’t waste any time.

Sending a personal message as soon as possible is also a good practice to get into. This lets potential clients know that you’re interested in working with them and have attention to detail. Customize these messages by referring to something specific about the property that they’re interested in. You can even let them in on some similar listings.

Asking questions in these personal emails encourages the client to respond. Creating a real connection is one of the best ways to secure new clients.

Zillow Agent Toolkit

Zillow offers plenty of free resources for those in the home and property markets. Its Agent Toolkit includes scripts, templates and handouts that can help you run your business.

The toolkit also contains free courses, webinars and trainings on subjects such as:

  • Growing your brand
  • Converting online leads
  • Using Premier Agent

Take advantage of this free wealth of knowledge to learn as much as you can about positioning yourself as visibly as possible on Zillow Group’s sites.

Zillow offers coaches and Business Consultants to work with you if you’re ready to advertise. The best way to learn more about advertising with Zillow is to contact Zillow directly.

Next Steps

Zillow represents a solid opportunity for anyone looking to reach homebuyers. Your specific strategy will be different depending on your business, but Zillow’s sheer scale and reach are make it worthwhile to explore the platform.

The post How To Advertise On Zillow Effectively appeared first on ShivarWeb.

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How To Advertise on Groupon Effectively

How To Advertise on Groupon

The odds are that if you’ve been scouring the web for a deal, you’ve come across Groupon. In recent years, Groupon has become a touchstone for people who are looking for great deals on quality services, products, and more. And advertising your business on Groupon can put you in the millions of people who use the platform each day.

I believe that Groupon is one of the least utilized advertising platforms around. Using this e-commerce platform means that you won’t have to compete as much with competitors for advertising real estate. Utilizing the platform efficient can help attract repeat customers, increase brand recognition, and make more profit along the way.

So, save some paper and embrace the era of digital couponing we’re all living through right now. Here’s how you can advertise your business or brand on Groupon.

between 18- and 44-years-old. Men and women appear to use the platform in similar numbers, meaning that businesses can expect advertisement and deals that are inclusive to all genders to do best.

Using Groupon couldn’t be easier: both merchants and customers create profiles geared toward their interests or businesses and can choose to shop or advertise throughout the e-commerce platform. The ease of use and access to Groupon has only helped the commerce company not only grow in popularity but made it a viable place for other business to market their products, services, etc..

By leveraging Groupon’s broad demographic appeal, you can establish a strong presence on the platform that directly affects your bottom lines.

www.groupon.com/login, a login page will pop up that will request the following criteria:

  • Your legal first and last name
  • Your business or personal email address
  • Your desired Password
  • Choose whether or not you want to receive email newsletters from Groupon
  • Choose whether or not you want the device you’re on to remember your inputs

After signing up, you’ll have the ability to do deep dives in local, national, or international markets. It’s worth noting that more than 70 percent of all Groupon sales remain bought by locals seeking deals on products and services in their neighborhoods.

Groupon Merchant Blog, which we’ll get into later, has many accounts of restaurants experiencing more traffic from using Groupon. From offering one-time deals on certain dishes to revolving discounted specials, Groupon can help grow your business traffic.

One of the more exciting perks of your restaurant being a Groupon Merchant is that you can offer Loyalty Rewards programs. Much like in other iterations, these loyalty programs can help attract long-time customers and bring attention to your eatery.

There needs to be a reason for your customers to want a loyalty program through Groupon. Consider offering deals and incentives to customers to sign up for loyalty rewards to receive. Recently, The National Restaurant News found that people who have a Loyalty Program to a specific restaurant will spend almost 40 percent more (on average) when they’re closer to receiving an award.

Even if you don’t choose to start a Loyalty Program for your restaurant, you can continue to offer deals. Research shows that people are many times more likely to spend more on a more expensive meal if they believe they’re getting it cheaper than usual.

Advertising on Groupon for your restaurant is a win-win: Your bottom lines and customer traffic grow, and your eaters leave having saved on a good meal.

How to Advertise on Groupon for Health and Beauty

Nail and hair salons, spas, massage companies, and more health and beauty businesses can all benefit by leveraging Groupon to expand their outreach. Research shows that even during times of recession, Americans tend to continue to spend the same on health and beauty products and services. But Groupon can do more than help you get more clients.

Groupon allows Groupon Merchants to streamline appointments by simplifying the booking process. Using “Groupon Appointments,” you can allow customers to request appointments after they purchase a ticket, voucher, or digital reservation card for your business. Your “Groupon Calendar” will immediately be updated to accommodate the customer, and that specific time will be unable to be booked that day. This streamlined process also eliminates the risk of double booking from happening.

Also, you can help boost traffic for our other online health and beauty services by cross-linking to your “Groupon Page.” You’ll have the option to link to your main business website through both your Groupon Page and advertisement, itself. By creating easy access to your main website, you can introduce new and old customers to services that are available, but not through Groupon.

How To Advertise on Groupon Effectively appeared first on ShivarWeb.

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The 8 Best Places To Order Business Checks Online

Best Place To Buy Business Checks

When running a business, every penny counts. One of the best ways to keep your expenses in check is to reconsider where you’re ordering your checks from.

Those of you who are still ordering your business checks directly from your bank may be seriously overpaying. If you want to order business checks cheap, there are tons of reputable, online check ordering services that allow you to get more bang from your buck and refill your check supply without ever leaving the office.

But with so many online check suppliers, how do you know which is best? And more importantly, how do you know which you can trust with your sensitive bank information?

Well, that’s what we’re here to tell you. We’ve spent hours researching and comparing the most popular check suppliers to bring you the best of the best. We chose the top eight places to order business checks based on affordability, reliability, customizability, compatibility, and security. Compare each supplier below and read on for more specific about each company’s offerings.

1. CostcoBest Place To Buy Business Checks

You may love Costco for its bulk groceries and $1.50 hot dogs, but did you know that Costco can also be a great choice for business checks? Of all the check suppliers on this list, none can even come close to Costco’s cheap bulk check pricing. Costco’s computer checks are compatible with 35 different accounting and payroll software solutions and come with basic check customizations. The only problem is that you have to be a Costco member to take advantage of these great deals.

Products Offered

  • Standard business checks
  • Payroll checks
  • Computer checks
  • High-security checks
  • Invoice checks
  • Proprietor checks
  • Personal checks

Costco also offers business check accessories such as address labels, tax forms, ink stamps, envelopes, and more.

Pricing

Costco has compelling bulk pricing for Costco members, and Gold Star Executive or Business Executive Members can receive an even bigger discount on their purchases. Prices vary based on quantity and whether you choose single or duplicate checks. Here is a basic overview of Costco’s checks pricing for regular Costco members:

  • Standard Business Checks: Start at $26.38 for 600 checks.
  • Payroll Checks: Start at $29.38 for 600 checks.
  • High-Security Checks: Start at $80.54 for 600 checks.

For computer checks, price varies based on your accounting or payroll software, but to give you a general idea, Costco’s QuickBooks Multi-Purpose Checks start at $45.55 for 500.

There is an extra fee for adding a custom logo to your checks as well as a standard shipping and handling charge.

Security

Costco is not particularly communicative about their check’s security measures. However, their high-security checks have several counterfeit safeguards such as a foil hologram bar and heat reactive ink. You can contact Costco by phone or email to learn more.

Takeaway

By far, Costco gives business owners the most bang for their buck where checks are concerned. If your business uses a large number of checks, Costco is a cost-effective option.

2. Checks SuperstoreBest Place To Buy Business Checks

Checks Superstore offers one of the biggest selections of business checks available. Top that with strong security features and tons of check customizations options and it’s easy to see why this online check supplier is one of the top picks for small businesses.

Products Offered

  • Standard business checks
  • Payroll/voucher checks
  • Computer checks
  • High-security checks
  • Desk checks
  • Wallet checks
  • Personal checks

Checks Superstore also offers business check accessories such as envelopes, checkbook covers, binders, custom ink stamps, and more.

Pricing

Checks Superstore offers a wide array of checks with affordable pricing. Prices vary based on quantity and whether you choose single or duplicate checks. Checks Superstore often runs promotions, so be sure to take advantage of any deals when ordering. Here is a basic overview of Checks Superstore’s prices:

  • Standard Business Checks: Start at $28.99 for 252 checks.
  • Payroll Checks: Start at $26.99 for 252 checks.
  • Computer Checks: Start at $36.99 for 250 checks.
  • High-Security Checks: Start at $72.99 for 252 checks.

There are extra charges for customizing your check’s font, signature line message, and logo. A standard shipping and handling charge also applies.

Security

With up to 27 security features, Checks Superstore has some of the strongest security measures available. Some of these features include holographic foil, fluorescent fibers, watermarks, and heat sensitive ink. You can contact Checks Superstore via phone, email, live chat, contact form, fax, or read their FAQs to learn more.

Takeaway

With affordable prices, strong security, and great customization options, Checks Superstore covers all of the basics and then some. The company’s wide selection of checks and impressive customer support make it a compelling option. The only potential drawback is that Checks Superstore’s computer checks are only compatible with three software programs: QuickBooks, Quicken, and Microsoft Money.

3. Check AdvantageBest Place To Buy Business Checks

Check Advantage is an affordable online check supplier. This company offers one of the best deals on computer checks and has good customization options. With decent security options and customer support resources, it could definitely be to your, er, advantage to order business checks online from Check Advantage.

Products Offered

  • Standard business checks
  • Payroll/voucher checks
  • Computer checks
  • Desk checks
  • Personal checks

Check Advantage also offers business check accessories such as checkbook covers, check registers, envelopes, labels, binders, and more.

Pricing

Check Advantage is one of our picks for “best business check supplier” because their checks are so affordable. Check Advantage also offers business check kits that can save you a bit of money when ordering multiple types of checks and check accessories. Prices vary based on quantity and whether you choose single or duplicate checks. Here’s a basic breakdown of Check Advantage’s pricing:

  • Standard Business Checks: Start at $33.65 for 300 checks.
  • Payroll Checks: Start at $33.65 for 300 checks.
  • Laser Checks: Start at $19.45 for 100 checks.

There is an extra fee for adding a custom font or logo and standard shipping and handling rates apply. You can also purchase EZShield Plus for additional check security.

Security

Each Check Advantage checks come with six built-in security features including microprinting, invisible fluorescent fibers, a heat sensitive icon, and more. While Check Advantage does not offer high-security checks, you can purchase EZShield Plus protection for added check security. Check Advantage also partners with McAfee and VeriSign for their security measures. You can contact Check Advantage by phone, email, live chat, contact form, or fax to learn more.

Takeaway

For small businesses in need of computer checks, you’ll be hardpressed to find a better deal than Check Advantage. Check Advantage’s computer checks are compatible with five different software programs, but the company also promises to “match any laser format free of charge.” While other online suppliers take the cake for high-security checks, small businesses requiring computer checks need to look no further.

4. QuickBooksBest Place To Buy Business Checks

You may know Intuit QuickBooks for its accounting software, but did you know that you can purchase business checks and accessories from Intuit as well? While QuickBooks checks are a bit more expensive than those of other online check sellers, Intuit boasts the most security features. You don’t have to be a QuickBooks Online or Pro user to purchase checks from Intuit, but QuickBooks users can rest assured knowing these checks are specifically designed with QuickBooks software in mind.

Products Offered

  • Standard business checks
  • Voucher checks
  • Computer checks
  • High-security checks
  • Wallet checks
  • Office and away checks
  • Personal checks

Intuit also offers business checks accessories and office supplies such as deposit slips, tax forms, envelopes, labels, ink stamps, high-security pens, and more.

Pricing

While Intuit checks are on the spendier spectrum of business checks, the company often runs promotions. Prices vary by quantity, security level, and whether you choose single, duplicate, or triplicate checks. Here’s a basic overview of QuickBooks business checks’ prices:

  • Standard Business Checks: Start at $58.99 for 300 checks.
  • Voucher Checks: Start at $36.99 for 50 checks.
  • Computer Checks: Start at $102.99 for 250 checks.
  • High-Security Checks: Start at $61.99 for 50 checks.

Intuit charges a fairly hefty extra fee for adding a logo and a standard shipping and handling fee.

Security

Intuit offers three different security levels: Basic, Secure Plus, and Secure Premier. The highest level offers 29 built-in security features including watermarks, heat sensitive icons, a security hologram, and an exclusive security coating that protects against tampering, counterfeiting, and photocopying. You can contact Intuit’s check support via phone, live chat, email, or read the support FAQs to learn more.

Takeaway

While not the most affordable option on this list, Intuit QuickBooks offers the best check security features. For QuickBooks users seeking peace of mind or who don’t print many checks, Intuit could be a good option for ordering business checks and supplies.

Order Checks, Tax Forms & Other Supplies From QuickBooks

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5. Carousel ChecksBest Place To Buy Business Checks

While ordering checks may not be as fun as riding a carousel, Carousel Checks does their best to make the experience easy and enjoyable. With great check customizations, affordable prices, and the highest number of compatible software programs, Carousel Checks is definitely worth looking into.

Products Offered

  • Standard business checks
  • Payroll checks
  • Computer checks
  • High-security checks
  • Desk checks
  • Wallet checks
  • Invoice checks
  • Personal checks

Carousel Checks also offers business checks accessories such as checkbook covers, check registers, address labels, envelopes, ink stamps, and even calendars.

Pricing

Carousel Checks are affordable to begin with, but the more checks you purchase, the more you save. Prices vary based on quantity and whether you choose single or duplicate checks. Here is a basic overview of Carousel Checks’ pricing:

  • Standard Business Checks: Start at $31.99 for 300 checks.
  • Payroll Checks: $31.99 for 300 checks.
  • Computer Checks: Start at $19.99 for 50 checks.
  • High-Security Checks: Start at $27.99 for 50 checks.

You can add customizations such as check styles and logos for no extra charge. However, standard shipping and handling fees apply and security features cost extra.

Security

With Carousel Checks, you can purchase EZShield security for an additional cost. Contact Carousel Checks by phone, contact form, or fax to learn more.

Takeaway

Besides competitive pricing, one of the biggest perks of carousel checks is the number of compatible software programs. With over 70 compatible software programs, Carousel Checks is a great option for nearly any small business looking for computer checks. Security does cost extra, but this service still may be worth it for some small businesses.

6. Checks In The MailBest Place To Buy Business Checks

Checks In The Mail is an online check supplier that sets itself apart by offering over 200 check styles. In terms of check customizations, no other supplier on this list even comes close. Add strong security features and custom check formatting to the mix and it’s easy to see why Checks In The Mail is a contender for your small business check needs.

Products Offered

  • Standard business checks
  • Payroll/voucher checks
  • Computer checks
  • High-security checks
  • Desk checks
  • Wallet checks
  • Office and away checks
  • Personal checks

Checks In The Mail also offers tax forms, deposit slips, ink stamps, envelopes, binders, and other business check accessories.

Pricing

Checks In The Mail’s prices are a bit steep next to their competitors, but the company does offer check value kits and occasional promotion codes that can help save you some money. Prices vary based on quantity and whether you choose single or duplicate checks. Here’s an idea of what to expect from Checks In The Mail’s pricing:

  • Standard Business Checks: Start at $53.99 for 252 checks.
  • Payroll Checks: Start at $39.99 for 252 checks.
  • Computer Checks: Start at $49.99 for 250 checks.
  • High-Security Checks: Start at $53.99 for 252 checks.

Standard shipping and handling rates apply. You can also opt to add Fraud Armor protection to your checks for an extra $0.04 per check.

Security

Checks In The Mail offers 15 built-in security features including invisible fluorescent fibers, microprinting, a foil hologram, chemical reactive paper, a patented security weave, and more. You can also add Fraud Armor to your checks for an added layer of protection. Contact Checks In The Mail by email, phone, or fax for more information.

Takeaway

Checks In The Mail is ideal for small businesses looking for a high degree of customizability and strong security when they order checks online. The company only supports three compatible software programs for their computer checks, but Checks In The Mail will create a custom check format for you if you use a different software. While the prices are a little steeper than the other suppliers on this list, small businesses looking for strong customizations may find the price more than worth it.

7. Checks UnlimitedBest Place To Buy Business Checks

Checks Unlimited is your average, run of the mill online check supplier that makes its mark in the industry by offering a 100% satisfaction guarantee. It is ostensibly part of the America Mail Order Check Association (AMOCA), which “guarantee that the checks they manufacture meet or exceed the standards set by the Amercian National Standards Institute Committee,” according to Checks Unlimited. Information about the AMOCA online is scarce at best, so take that with a grain of salt.

The company offers average prices, decent customizations, and computer checks compatible with 10 different software programs.

Products Offered

  • Standard business checks
  • Payroll/voucher checks
  • Computer checks
  • High-security checks
  • Desk checks
  • Personal checks

Checks Unlimited also offers address labels, envelopes, ink stamps, check registers, and other business check accessories.

Pricing

Checks Unlimited falls in the mid-range of online check supplier pricing. The company does offer discounts for ordering checks in bulk. Prices vary based on quantity and whether you choose single or duplicate checks. Here is a basic breakdown of Checks Unlimited’s prices:

  • Standard Business Checks: Start at $43.12 for 300 checks.
  • Payroll Checks: Start at $43.12 for 300 checks.

For computer checks, prices vary depending on your accounting or payroll software, but to give you a general idea, Checks Unlimited’s QuickBooks Voucher Checks start at $83.80 for 500 checks.

Checks Unlimited offers free shipping, although you can pay a shipping and handling fee to expedite the process.

Security

Checks Unlimited does not offer high-security checks. Each of their checks comes with only four built-in security features, although you can add EZShield Pro security for an additional cost.

Takeaway

Reliability is the name of the game when it comes to Checks Unlimited. The thing that sets this supplier apart is that it’s the only program on this list that comes with a 100% satisfaction guarantee. Checks Unlimited may be perfect for small businesses that don’t mind paying a little extra for quality, reliable service.

8. StaplesBest Place To Buy Business Checks

Living up to its slogan, Staples’ online business check ordering service will have you saying “that was easy” in no time. Although their checks are on the spendier end of the spectrum, Staples offers great customizations as well as a “design your own check” option. Their computer checks are compatible with over 45 different software programs.

Products Offered

  • Standard business checks
  • Payroll/voucher checks
  • Computer checks
  • High-security checks
  • Desk checks
  • Office and away checks
  • Personal checks

Staples also offers a huge array of business and office supplies as well as business check accessories.

Pricing

Staples business checks are a bit spendy compared to some other the competitors on this list. However, Staples rewards members may qualify for free shipping which can help offset the cost. Prices vary based on quantity and whether you choose single or duplicate checks. Here’s an idea of what you can expect to pay with Staple’s business checks:

  • Standard Business Checks: Start at $53.99 for 250 checks.
  • Payroll Checks: Start at $53.99 for 250 checks.
  • Computer Checks: Start at $54.99 for 150 checks.
  • High-Security Checks: Start at $68.99 for 150 checks.

You can add a custom logo or check color for an additional cost.

Security

All checks come with six built-in security features including chemically sensitive paper, microprinting, invisible fluorescent fibers, and more. High-security checks add additional security features. Contact Staples via phone, live chat, support, form, or read their FAQs for more information.

Takeaway

While Staples may be one of the more expensive check options on this list, there is a comfort and reliability in ordering checks from a well-known, reliable company. Staples checks are ideal for small business owners who may be wary of other online suppliers or want the option to create their own custom checks.

Which Online Business Check Supplier Is Right For Me?

With eight great options to choose from, it can be a bit overwhelming to choose the best place to order business checks. Carefully consider which features and qualities are most important to you about a check company, whether that be price, security, customizations, customer support, reliability, etc. Knowing your priorities can help illuminate which business check company is best for you.

To help choose the perfect check supplier, ask yourself these five questions before you order business checks online:

  1. What’s my budget?
  2. What type of business checks do I need?
  3. Does the check supplier work with my accounting or payroll software?
  4. How important are check customization options? Security?
  5. How many checks will I realistically use?

Asking these questions can not only help narrow down your choices but also ensure you get the perfect checks for your business needs. Before ordering business checks, look to see if the company is running any promotions or offering any discounts for ordering checks in bulk.

While we heavily researched each of these eight check companies to bring you secure, reliable online check ordering options, be sure to do your own research and carefully compare all of your options before committing to any online purchases. This way, you can be sure you are getting the best deal and the most bang for your buck.

The post The 8 Best Places To Order Business Checks Online appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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How To Advertise on Snapchat Effectively

How to Advertise on Snapchat Effectively

The digital marketing landscape is evolving quicker than ever before. While print and more traditional mediums still have their place, those who want to take their platforms need to the next level need to embrace the new digital landscape. And no platforms are more influential to your business than the social media, including Snapchat.

Facebook, Linkedin, and Twitter are common social media vehicles to advertise. However, because Snapchat is so new, many businesses don’t know how to or don’t want to, leverage the platform to their advantage. And I think that’s a great mistake on their end.

By explicitly targeting specific demographics and meaningfully engaging with them, Snapchat offers a variety of tangible benefits to growing your business.

Scroll through to learn more about Snapchat itself and how to advertise on Snapchat, one of the most popular social media networks in the world.

Snapchat is now part of the larger Snap Inc.. In addition to their primary product, Snapchat, Snap Inc. will expand its influence in the social media space. Their flagship product, Spectacles, a pair of “smart glasses” that syncs with the user’s Snapchat account and records videos as they go about their business.

One of the core principles of Snapchat is that media recorded, the pictures and messages, are just available temporarily before they need user input. Snapchat was once only meant for peer-to-peer photo sharing through such platforms as “Stories,” but has now introduced “Discover.” The latterly mentioned platform allows brands and media outlets to run ad-supported content through short-form entertainment.

As of this February, Snapchat has around 190 million daily active users who use the platform. Snap Inc., which continues to own and operate Snapchat and is now a public company, is worth an estimated $20 billion. And there’s a good chance the company could exceed $30 billion in worth by 2020.

profitable space to advertise businesses on to see tangible results.

Since going public, Snap Inc. is keen on growing their demographic appeal. This recent choice to go public is promising to those who want to advertise on the platform. It also means those companies can broaden the product and services they push on Snapchat.

“They are eventually going to tap out of these younger age groups and will have to court older demographic groups,” said eMarketer principal analyst Catherine Boyle to Forbes in response to Snapchat’s demographic appeal. “They may not need Facebook-level penetration across every age group, but growth will happen among an older user base.”

Snapchat also is widely aware that their interface isn’t the easiest to use for those who are new to social media.

“The onboarding experience is difficult,” chief strategist of Kuuhubb Tero Kuittinen said of Snapchat’s account sign up to Forbes. “It’s not easy to learn how to use it. If you’re 18, it’s not a big stretch, but if you’re 45, it’s tough to figure out.”

Snapchat is already making stride to making the platform more comfortable to use to those who aren’t social media savvy. And when these older demographics do eventually become more prominent on the platform, Snapchat will gain more traction as a place to not only get news but see new products and consume media.

“Older groups are now more likely to tune in [to Snapchat] for content,” eMarketer analyst Jamie Chung said in an email to Forbes. “The platform has multiple partnerships with television networks for mini-episodes. Meanwhile, the younger groups are less likely to add Snapchat when Instagram Stories can fulfill their broadcasting needs.”

By leveraging Snapchat now, you can get ahead of the crowd and establish a strong presence on the platform.

within the first 15 second of seeing it. Those brands who can capitalize on early engagement will be far more successful than those who need “build up.”

Long-form Video Ads also lend themselves to a higher amount of creativity than most of the platform’s other ad services. Because creators have such a long time to craft an image, a business can introduce storytelling aspects into these ads. Research has shown that brands who can create themes and stories within their ethos have greater longevity and increased product sales.

In the end, Long Form Video ads aren’t for business who aren’t media-focused. But for those who are, there’s no better ad service on Snapchat to convey a story, theme, or concept than by running a well-made Long Form Video ad.

News’ on Snapchat’s main website to do just that.

The blog also regularly highlights general market trends, news, and practices that Snapchat business are using to help grown their efforts.

Snapchat is continuing to grow quarter after quarter. It’s presence and importance is only increasing as it stocks share.

I recommend using Snapchat as a vehicle to tell stories through ads. Unlike its contemporaries like Facebook and Twitter, Snapchat lets you engage with your audience in profound, meaningful ways. You can share your brand with narratives and creative designs, rather than just with clickbait copy.

In the coming years, storytelling will become one of the most potent marketing tools. Snapchat and it’s creative ads do just that: tell stories in pleasing ways that can draw an audience from near and far to your business, brand, etc.. Snap away, tell stories, and reap the benefits from being an engaged, creative “Snapchatter.”

 

 

The post How To Advertise on Snapchat Effectively appeared first on ShivarWeb.

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Are HubSpot’s Inbound Marketing Services Right For You?

If you are a marketing guru with loads of experience in the trade, you probably know all about inbound and outbound marketing. And the world absolutely needs people like you. But if you are like the rest of us, just trying to get your product noticed and understood by the teeming masses, these terms are just more industry jargon gibberish.

Fortunately, Merchant Maverick is here to provide definitions and cut through the jargon. Basically, an inbound marketing methodology requires you to market yourself in such a way that customers naturally find their way to you, rather than employing more aggressive marketing efforts and strategies (like cold calls).

What Is Hubspot?

Apps like HubSpot are designed to be the backbone of your inbound system. Visit the HubSpot website and you will see multiple references to the company’s commitment to inbound marketing. Specifically, HubSpot offers three separate products that each address a distinct aspect of a business’s inbound marketing strategy. The first is HubSpot’s “free-forever” customer relations management (CRM) system; the second is HubSpot Marketing. Finally, HubSpot offers a Sales tool. But what exactly do these products offer subscribers? And are HubSpot’s inbound marketing services right for you? Join us as we dive into the deep end of inbound marketing. We’ll cover HubSpot pricing, support, and more.

HubSpot CRM Tool

As mentioned above, HubSpot’s CRM tool is free forever. Now, I have been writing and reviewing tech products for a while now, and I have come to expect a few things when I see the “free forever” label. Usually, that just means there is a free version of a software, but with most useful features removed. HubSpot’s CRM is not like that. There are no other subscription tiers, no other fees. HubSpot CRM is 100% free.

But what does it do?

Basically, this tool is designed to help you manage your interactions with customers. When adding a new contact into your database (that can hold up to 1,000,000 people), the CRM begins cataloging every interaction. As you communicate with prospective customers, you retain access to your entire history with them. No more losing emails in the depths of your inbox. All the details are saved and easy to access. In addition to the microscopic view of each contact, the CRM also provides you a broad perspective on what HubSpot calls your “sales funnel.” Using the dashboard, you can quickly identify which customers are locked in on the road to closing a deal and which ones might need more assistance. You can use this tool to automate those communications as well, ensuring no customer falls through the cracks.

So do you need HubSpot’s CRM? Basically, if you are attempting to sell any sort of customizable product where different customers will receive individually tailored products, then you definitely want some kind of CRM service. And HubSpot’s is free. Not only that, but it works, and works well. So yes, you probably want to at least try it out.

But what about HubSpot’s other products? Let’s take a look.

HubSpot Inbound Marketing

You may have a way to manage your relationships with all your customers, but how do you get those customers in the first place? The obvious answer is that you need to market yourself somehow. Fortunately, HubSpot also offers an inbound marketing service that works seamlessly with their CRM product. You can use the free-forever version of this product, but really you will want to start at the $200/month “Starter” level, which includes such crucial features as Calls To Action pages for your website and email marketing. HubSpot pricing for larger subscriptions (which run into the $2,400/month range) includes marketing automation, A/B testing, and custom event triggers.

This is where HubSpot’s “inbound marketing” philosophy really starts to show through: Most of the marketing that you will do with this product involves creating content that draws prospective customers to you. Inbound methodology could entail content marketing, like writing blogs, or optimizing your website to bring in customers rather than investing in outbound marketing through social media sites Facebook, Google, or other advertising platforms. It is organic lead generation, in other words. Keep in mind that you will need a website already in order for this to work. If you’re using a hosting service like Squarespace or Wix, you will need to add a few lines of code (provided by HubSpot) to the source in order to integrate with HubSpot. If you use WordPress, on the other hand, you can simply install the HubSpot plug-in. So far so good.

But what do you actually get from there?

Like I mentioned above, the idea of HubSpot’s marketing service is to attract customers organically to your own content by optimizing your website. HubSpot provides blog and email templates designed to look great across devices, then allow you to insert the all-important ‘Call to Action’ boxes that encourage people to enter their information to your email list and start that customer relationship. The more money you spend per month, the more automated this process becomes.

So do you need inbound marketing services through HubSpot? In my opinion, yes. This service is worth at least the $200/month subscription. From there you will have to decide how much you want to spend on increased automation.

HubSpot Sales

So now you have a way to attract potential customers and manage your relationship with them. But really the whole point is to convert those leads and prospects into sales. Once again, HubSpot offers a product to fill that gap. HubSpot Sales Hub is all about communicating with customers, lead nurturing, and centralizing the process of negotiation so that you can focus on the warmest leads without sacrificing the others. The free version of this product is relatively viable, including meetings, calls, task tracking, and more. However, by paying for the $50/month subscription, you also gain features like live chat, prospects, and dedicated customer support. For a whopping $400/month, you can automate your sales process, as well as unlock HubSpot’s excellent Salesforce integration.

Like all of HubSpot’s products, the Sales Hub is built with centralization in mind. All your leads are kept in the same place, organized to keep them from getting mixed up or lost. The focus in sales, though, is on communication with clients. All subscribers gain access to HubSpot’s calls feature, which simplifies the process of scheduling phone meetings with customers. You also get access to powerful email marketing tools, allowing you to track which customers read your messages or downloaded your attachments.

So do you need it? I think the free version of the software is definitely worth a try. If you find you like your experience with the free version, you might consider paying a higher price for some more advanced features.

HubSpot Service Hub

Offered at $400/month, HubSpot’s Service Hub is the final square in the grand customer management quilt that HubSpot has created. As with all their other products, the key to understanding the Service Hub is organization. The goal is that you will be able to keep all your customer interactions organized and arranged so that no one gets left out.

The Service Hub comes with several communication tools, including a live chat and enhanced email inbox to ensure your customers never feel ignored. Additionally, you can create a “knowledge base” of self-service articles to allow your more independent customers a chance to figure out their problems on their own. There is even a feature allowing you to create chatbots to increase the efficiency of your customer service interactions. Finally, use comprehensive data insights to make sure you are getting optimal interactions every time.

So do you need the sales hub? Really, it will only be useful if you have a lot of customers every month. Of all the HubSpot products I have reviewed in this post, this is the one I would recommend skipping out on, at least at first. Having said that, if your products require extensive customer service, this might be a great option for you.

Why Go Hubspot?

HubSpot provides products that cover every facet of customer interaction, from marketing to sales to leads to customer service. Supporting all other products is the Hubspot CRM, which serves as the bedrock product that makes the others work smoothly.

But do you need HubSpot? Frankly, I think you do. If you are trying to market or sell a product on the internet today, you will want to use these kinds of products in some way, even if you use low-level or free subscriptions for some of them. The only possible exception would be the customer service hub, depending on the level of service required by your product.

Fortunately, most of HubSpot’s products have a free-forever option, so you can try before you buy. I recommend signing up and putting the different apps through their paces before committing to paying a monthly subscription.

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