Franchise Financing: The 7 Best Places To Get A Franchise Loan

franchise loan

Opening a franchise can be a smart choice for an aspiring entrepreneur. Becoming a franchise owner gives you the flexibility of owning your own business with the added security of being part of an established brand. However, as with owning any new business, startup costs can be high and you may require infusions of capital if you encounter slim times. Franchisees must also pay a franchise fee when opening a new franchise, as well as ongoing royalty fees.

Assuming you don’t have upwards of $100,000 set aside, how can you get the capital you need to open a franchise, purchase an existing franchise, or keep your franchise business functioning optimally?

Most franchisees will have to get a business loan at some point. Fortunately, compared to independent small business owners, franchisees have traditionally had an easier time securing financing from banks — including loans backed by the SBA (Small Business Administration). But bank loans and SBA loans are still not easy to get even for franchise businesses, and the application and approval process can be prohibitively long for a lot of franchisees in need of quick capital. Some franchisors offer their own financing programs, but the practice is far from widespread.

For these reasons, many franchise owners are turning to the alternative lending space. Online lenders are generally more lenient in their borrower requirements and they also offer a much faster time to funding than traditional bank loans, often depositing funds in your account within a week of receiving your application.

What follows are some of the best online loans for franchise businesses. Note that the order in which I’m presenting these lenders does not reflect their ranking; they’re all pretty great, and the best choice for you will depend on your business’s particular requirements.

1. ApplePie Capital

ApplePie Capital (see our review) is an online lender that specializes in franchise financing. Founded in 2014, ApplePie was one of the first online lenders to offer franchise financing. After recently acquiring another franchise lender, ApplePie has expanded its offering to include SBA-backed loans, equipment loans, and conventional loans, in addition to its original “core” 3-7 year loan.

ApplePie currently has partnerships with 42 franchises, such as 7 Eleven, Dunkin’ Donuts, Jimmy John’s Pizza, and Wetzel’s Pretzels. Other franchise brands can get loans through ApplePie, though the process might take a little longer. ApplePie offers loans for both new and existing franchises, including franchise startup loans, loans to purchase an existing franchise, franchise equipment loans, franchise refinancing loans, and more.

Some things we like about ApplePie Capital include reasonable interest rates, relaxed borrower qualifications, and easy application. Read our ApplePie Capital review to learn more about their online franchise loans.

2. Funding Circle

Funding Circle (see our review) was established in 2010 when one of its founders started a gym franchise and realized how difficult it was to obtain funding. Today, Funding Circle has numerous franchise partners across the US, including Papa John’s, Pinkberry, Quiznos, and many others.

Offering medium-term installment loans with repayment periods as long as 5 years, Funding Circle is a lending partner for established franchisees with a strong credit history. Specifically, you’ll need to own a franchise at least two years old and have a credit score of at least 620. For qualified applicants, Funding Circle has the advantages of offering faster funding than a bank loan would, as well as offering relatively low rates and fees.

While Funding Circle’s application process takes longer than that of some other online lenders, it is still much quicker and easier than getting a bank loan. Funding Circle is not suitable for aspiring franchisees who haven’t opened up shop yet, but it should definitely be on your short list if you have an existing franchise.

Read our Funding Circle review to read up on this franchise loans provider.

3. SmartBiz

SmartBiz (see our review) is a viable online loan option for franchise owners that want the security and low-interest rates of an SBA-backed loan, but with the ease and speed of an online loan. SmartBiz is the #1 marketplace for SBA 7(a) small business loans online, offering an SBA/online loan hybrid with low interest rates and long-term repayment terms. However, this lender is only an option for established franchises — you’ll need at least 2 years’ time in business to get a working capital or debt refinancing loan, and 3 years to be eligible for a commercial real estate loan.

SmartBiz does not originate loans. Rather, it is a service that matches business owners with SBA-preferred banks. If you don’t qualify for an SBA loan, SmartBiz can match you with one of its non-SBA partners to secure a loan. While SBA loans have the lowest interest rates and longest repayment terms — up to 10 years for most loans — you might still be able to get a medium-term non-SBA loan with an interest rate as low as 7.99% through SmartBiz.

We love this lender for their sterling reputation, excellent customer support, and reasonable terms and rates. But again, you’ll need to already have an established franchise to qualify, as well as good credit. This loan also takes longer to apply for (and receive) compared to most other online loans, and it can potentially take a couple months for the money to come through. You’ll need to submit all the documentation you’d need to get a traditional SBA loan, and it will be helpful if your franchise is already listed in the SBA Franchise Directory. Even though there are a few more hoops to jump through than with other alternative lenders, SmartBiz is still one of the quickest ways for a franchisee to get an SBA loan.

Check out our SmartBiz review to learn more about this SBA lender.

4. OnDeck

If you have a newer franchise or need capital ASAP, OnDeck (see our review) is one of the easiest and quickest ways to get a short-term loan or line of credit. Though OnDeck isn’t specifically geared toward franchise owners, it’s a viable online loan option for any type of small business owner that doesn’t qualify for a bank loan or doesn’t want to wait months to receive loan funds. OnDeck also recently partnered with the Franchise Council of Australia in an effort to better serve the global franchise market (fun fact: Australia actually has more franchise outlets per capita than America).

OnDeck’s borrower requirements are much more relaxed than those for a bank or SBA loan, and time-to-funding is super speedy; the entire process from starting your application to receiving your funds normally only takes a couple days.

Short-term loans like the ones offered by OnDeck have higher rates and fees compared to longer-term loans. Effective interest rates start at 9.99%, and if you have a newer franchise and/or poor to fair credit, your rate will likely be higher than that. Nevertheless, OnDeck is one of the few reputable sources of short-term, unsecured business loans offered to franchise owners, and also one of the fastest. OnDeck is additionally one of the few online franchise lenders willing to lend to applicants with poor credit.

Read our OnDeck review for more information on this recommended lender.

5. Fundation

Fundation (see our review) is another high-quality alternative lender that provides capital to franchise businesses. Fundation has some of the lowest rates and fees you can find outside of a bank or credit union, offering up to $500,000 deposited in your account within a couple weeks after applying. However, the borrower requirements are more stringent than those for other some online lenders, as you’ll need good credit, one year’s time in business, and at least three full-time employees.

Fundation offers an 18-month line of credit in addition to 1 – 4-year installment loans. The time from application to funding generally takes between 2 and 7 days. All in all, Fundation is a smart choice for established franchisees that don’t want to wait months to get a loan approval. Read our Fundation review to find out why we rate this alternative franchise lender 5/5 stars.

6. StreetShares

StreetShares (see our review) is a P2P lending service that brings together business owners and investors. StreetShares is especially geared toward veteran-owned businesses. Indeed, owning a franchise can be a good transition for veterans transitioning to civilian life. However, even if you’re not a veteran, you can still use this innovative loans marketplace to get an unsecured short-term business loan or line of credit of up to $100,000. You will need to have been in business a year, or in some cases only 6 months, in order to qualify.

Some things we like about StreetShares include its excellent customer service, easy application, competitive rates, and speedy time-to-funding. You don’t even need to put up any business collateral for a StreetShares loan (though you will need a business guarantor who is willing to essentially “co-sign” your loan). Another thing that makes StreetShares special is that franchise owners who are also veterans and/or who have an interesting business backstory are preferred. See our StreetShares review to learn more about this alternative lending leader.

Final Thoughts

Alternative business lenders are comprising a growing part of the financing industry as bank loans become increasingly hard to get. Franchise owners benefit from alternative loans, which have less-strict borrower qualifications than traditional business or SBA loans, and also put the funds in your account a lot faster. Generally, alternative loans have higher rates than bank loans, but they represent an important source of capital to many small business owners, including franchise owners, who would not otherwise qualify for financing. Moreover, some of the best online lenders offer rates that are on par with big banks.

Here’s a quick roundup of which alternative lender will best serve your particular franchise needs:

  • ApplePie: Startup-friendly franchise loans
  • SmartBiz: SBA loans for franchises
  • OnDeck: Bad credit-friendly franchise loans
  • Fundation or Funding Circle: Loans for established franchisees with good credit
  • StreetShares: Veteran-friendly franchise loans

Keep in mind that whenever you’re applying for a business loan, it’s a good idea to apply for more than one loan so you can compare rates and terms. Most lenders will only do a “soft” pull on your credit in the pre-qualification stage and will not do a hard pull (the kind that dings your credit score) unless you accept the loan offer. Happy applying!

The post Franchise Financing: The 7 Best Places To Get A Franchise Loan appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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How to Advertise on Pandora Effectively

How to Advertise on Pandora Effectively

For much of the 20th century, radio was a dominant advertising platform. Every operation from the nation’s largest companies to small and mid-sized local businesses allocated much of their advertising budgets towards advertising on the radio each year.

Radio has always provided effective opportunities to build a brand or drive awareness about a product or service. Compared to print or television ads, they’re also more affordable.

Plus, radio remains the only advertising medium that’s inherently portable. Through radio, you can reach people at home, and while they’re away. Other avenues, such as print, digital, or television, require that the user is paying attention, either to a screen or what’s on a page.

Of course, radio ads weren’t without their flaws. They were expensive, they were virtually impossible to track or determine an ROI on, and people would often switch stations to avoid hearing ads in the first place.

As new advertising products become available, traditional radio advertising grows continually less popular. For many businesses, radio advertising isn’t a strong fit for their advertising needs anymore.

While the popularity of traditional radio has declined, a new way to listen to the radio has breathed new life into the industry and restored radio’s usefulness as an advertising medium.

Internet radio solves many of the problems that were inherent in traditional radio advertising. It’s affordable, it’s highly targeted, and it’s easier to track, and it may make a useful addition to your advertising portfolio. Of the internet radio providers, Pandora is by far the largest, and most compelling for advertisers of all sizes.

Whether you’re a national brand, a mid-sized company, or a local business that’s looking to reach a specific type of customer in your area, Pandora has ad products that are geared to your needs and may work well for your business.

This raises the question of how to advertise on Pandora. Today, we’ll cover the ins and outs of how you can advertise on this popular platform, and the different products Pandora offers.

two years without pay to work towards their goal of launching Pandora.

Pandora launched officially in 2004, originally as a paid service. The company continued to iterate to find it’s fit in the market, and they quickly shed the paid model in favor of an advertising-based model, which is how we know Pandora today.

In 2011, Pandora became a publicly traded company and cemented its status as the undisputed leader in internet radio. Today, they employ over 2,000 people throughout 26 offices and have revenue of well over a billion dollars per year. With over 81 million active users each month, Pandora has also become a compelling place for advertisers both large and small.

22 times on their commute to work. The main reason for all that switching, of course, is commercial breaks. Other contributing factors include an obnoxious radio DJ or a string of songs that the listener just isn’t connecting with.

Meanwhile, Pandora’s advertising model is completely different. Instead of sandwiching large blocks of ads together, Pandora users hear just a few ads per hour. Plus, unlike traditional radio, there’s no way to change the station to escape the ad.

Combine that with the fact that Pandora stations are personalized to the listener’s taste, and there’s no DJ to get in between the listener and the music, and you create a climate where listeners are far more receptive to the advertising they’re hearing.

This ad unit replaces the 300×250 album art window with your display ad. Users who are interested in engaging with your ad can click the ad to open up your full-screen landing page. These units are also a good way to drive product or brand awareness.

To dismiss the ad, the user can either swipe the ad off the screen or tap the mini player at the bottom of the page. This helps reduce the number of misclicks on the ad, which leads to truer engagement statistics when you’re tracking the success of your campaign.

Responsive mobile ads provide similar functionality to their non-responsive counterparts. However, they provide room for interaction between the user and the ad, which non-responsive ads do not.

The example above from Express provides a completely different experience when the ad is opened to full screen, and there are different points of interaction the user can have with the ad before they dismiss it. These types of ads allow one click to an external landing page. So, they can serve your advertising goals beyond just product or brand awareness.

The photo above shows the display components of audio advertising. In addition to the :15 or :30 audio spots, display ads take the place of album artwork, and there are also secondary display ads available in certain formats, such as on a desktop computer.

The display component is available across most formats. However, they are not available on all of them. In connected cars, there’s no album art tile or banner ad. With connected home products, there’s no album art tile displayed.

The display advertising that’s inherent with audio ads is one feature that completely differentiates Pandora audio ads from terrestrial radio advertising. Users who are particularly engaged with the ad they’re hearing can seamlessly click the display ad on their screen to learn more about the product or service.

Depending on the needs of the advertiser, audio ads can be restricted to certain formats, or broadcast throughout all available formats.

The photo above shows how all of the different Pandora video ad products are displayed, including their new muted mobile video product.

here.

pilot program for their audio ads that will allow advertisers to bid on ad space in real time.

Until that marketplace is rolled out for all of Pandora’s advertisers, you should always press your account rep to try and secure the best possible price on advertising.

expand upon the data you have available by creating unique landing pages and tracking them through Google Analytics.

Create a unique landing page for your Pandora ads, add a Google Analytics tag, and you’ll be able to track the success of your campaigns with much greater detail, while also gathering even more demographic information about the user who clicked your ad.

Another way to supercharge your landing page is to provide a special offer or coupon in exchange for the users’ opt-in on email marketing. That way, you’ll be able to continue to reach engaged users from your Pandora campaigns, without ever having to pay to reach them again.

local business looking to drive awareness about your store, products, or an sale you’re having, a ecommerce brand looking to reinforce your position in the market, or somewhere in between, Pandora’s suite of ad products has something for everyone.

Thanks to robust targeting ability, a strong listener base that’s about as large as ¼ of the entire United States population, and tracking and reporting that greatly exceeds what terrestrial radio has been able to deliver to advertisers, Pandora is certainly a platform to consider when planning your advertising budget.

If you’re wondering how to advertise on Pandora, the next step for you is to contact them here. An account rep with Pandora will contact you so you can discuss the different options that are available for your business and create a plan around your advertising goals.

The post How to Advertise on Pandora Effectively appeared first on ShivarWeb.

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How To Advertise On Pinterest Effectively

How to Advertise on Pinterest Effectively

Pinterest was launched in 2010 and has grown to at least 200 monthly active users in 2017. The social sharing platform is designed to help people discover information on the internet. Therefore, just creating an account on Pinterest can draw viewers to your brand.

Pinning content from your own website puts it in front of a new audience. Even pinning other people’s content can draw followers to your Pinterest account. You can get more data from your account. Optimizing the SEO of your Pinterest boards can boost their organic search rankings in Google. All of these strategies are free.

The platform began experimenting with monetizing certain pins in 2014, initiating an effective way for companies to advertise. Nowadays, advertisers can create Promoted Pins, which show up alongside all of the other pins on the page. In this image, you can see that the pin that says “Get 500% more traffic” indicates that it’s promoted by Pinterest in the description below it:

In this case, Pinterest is using its platform to advertise tips for businesses. It’s always encouraging to see a company using its own advertising services. That’s one way to know that the system works.

What Is Pinterest?

First, let’s discuss Pinterest and how it works. Some people say that Pinterest is a social network. Others refer to it as a search engine. Through Pinterest, you create a profile and then “pin” visual content onto different “boards.”

It’s like a collection of virtual bulletin boards. Instead of cutting out paper images from magazines, though, you save images that you find on the internet. You can write a description or include a link with those images so that you can refer back to the website from which they came.

You can create several boards and label them however you’d like. Most people set up boards for different categories. For example, you might have boards that are labeled:

  • Home décor
  • Fun summer activities
  • Dessert recipes
  • Knitting and crochet
  • Boho style

If you’re looking for inspiration for a project, a shopping venture or content that falls in line with your interests, you can search for it on Pinterest. Your search results appear as visual pins with short descriptions underneath them. This is what came up when we searched for “watercolor tutorials”:

To find out more about each search result, you can click on it. From here, you can see the full description, the URL from which the image came, when it was published and any comments that other users have left.

Here’s where things get social. You can leave a comment or ask a question. You can also follow the original poster’s account. Therefore, simply pinning items that interest you can drive traffic back to your Pinterest page and potentially to your website.

Emarketer says that there are 2 billion monthly searches on Pinterest. The platform drives about 5 percent of referral traffic to websites.

When you log onto Pinterest, you’ll see your feed, which shows the pins that the platform thinks that you’ll be interested in. You might see pins from people you follow or a combination of content that you might care about, based on other items that you’ve pinned.

However, Pinterest prefers to show content from trusted sources in users’ feeds. Therefore, if you’re using Pinterest for your business without advertising, you need to make sure that you pin high-quality content and that your pins are receiving engagement in the form of click-throughs, saves and comments.

Why Pinterest Advertising Works

While Facebook is the largest social media platform, Pinterest is competitive with Instagram, LinkedIn, Reddit, and Twitter, according to Pew Research. Twenty-six percent of all American adults use Pinterest, and most of them are women. Pinterest reports that 40 percent of people who actively pin have a household income of at least $100K. If you sell products targeted toward women who want to shop, you’re in the right place.

Here are some other statistics about Pinterest users and their purchasing power:

  • Millenials use Pinterest as much as Instagram.
  • People who use Pinterest are ready to make a purchase.
  • 93% of active pinners use the platform to plan future purchases.
  • 73% of pinners say that brand content makes the platform more useful.
  • 61% of pinners have bought something after viewing a promoted pin.
  • 75% of saved pins are initiated by businesses.
  • People who use Pinterest spend 29% more on retail than non-users.

People search the platform for information that they can use to fuel upcoming purchases for things like home renovations, weddings, parties, vacations or having a baby. This is the place where people are looking for new information, ideas and brands. If you can provide these new ideas, you can make connections with a new audience.

Pinterest advertising looks natural. It fits into place with the other pins in your feed, and it doesn’t detract from or interrupt the user experience. Promoting your pins puts you in front of a receptive audience who is looking for products and ideas that will help them make their next move.

Types Of Pinterest Advertising

There are several types of Pinterest ads, including:

  • Promoted pins
  • Promoted video pins
  • One-tap pins
  • Promoted app pins
  • Cinematic pins

Promoted pins look just like a regular pin, except that they have the word “Promoted” at the bottom of the pin. Businesses pay Pinterest to give these priority over non-promoted pins. Once someone saves your promoted pin, it’s considered an organic find, and that person will no longer see the word “Promoted.” Other people who follow these pinners may find and save these pins, bringing you added traffic for free.

If your promoted pin contains a video, it will appear in search results, news feeds and a “More Like This” section that comes up below a clicked pin and shows similar content. The video will play automatically.

One-tap pins bypass the close-up image and “more details” page that normally shows up when you click on a pin in your feed. When a user clicks on these ads, they go straight to a landing page that you designate. You might think that this is a great way to get your audience in your lap, but some users are surprised by the change in the normal process and click off of your website quickly to get back to Pinterest.

If you are promoting an app, you can use a promoted app ad to get people to install it. The ad will include an app icon and install button so that users don’t have to leave Pinterest to sign up for your app.

Cinematic pins contain animation that moves when a user scrolls. This captures users’ attention and makes them feel like they’re in control without missing the end of the video.

5 Things To Do Before Advertising On Pinterest

Paying to promote pins can be an effective marketing strategy. However, there are a few steps that you should take before you set up your first advertisement on Pinterest.

1. Register For A Business Account

If you haven’t used Pinterest before, you’ll need to create a new account. It’s free to set up, and it takes less than a minute. Start by going to Pinterest’s Business Account page and clicking “Sign Up.”

Enter your email address, password and business name, select your business category from the drop-down menu and click “Create account.”

Follow the next steps, which are self-explanatory. These include selecting your language and country, adding your website URL and picking at least five categories in which you’re interested.

If you already have a Pinterest account, log in and click on Settings. It will say “Business Account Basics” on the top left if it’s a business account. If it’s a personal account, you can convert it to a business account by going to this link.

2. Claim Your Website

When you set up your business account, you should have added your business website URL to your profile. If you didn’t do that yet, go to your settings by clicking on the profile image on the top right when you’re logged into your account. Scroll down until you see the “Claim Website” section.

After you claim your website, you can utilize features such as:

  • Website analytics – Track traffic to pins from your site.
  • Featured logo – Add your profile picture to any content that’s pinned from your site.
  • Early access to tools – Be the first to hear about new business tools that Pinterest rolls out.

To claim your website, you’ll need to either add a bit of code to the <head> section of your website’s index.html file or download a file from Pinterest and upload it to your site’s root directory. After you do that, you can submit your website to Pinterest for review.

3. Install A Conversion Tag

You can add another Pinterest code to every page that you want to track on your website. The code is the same for every page, but you can use it to retarget people who have visited specific pages on your website.

To do this, click on “Ads” on the top left of your account, and then select “Conversion Tracking.”

Choose “Generate Pinterest Tag.” You’ll get code that you can insert between the <head> and </head> elements in the HTML of every page on your website for which you want to track visitors.

4. Upload Your List

If you have amassed a list for your newsletter, you can upload it to Pinterest so that you can target the same users with your Pinterest ads**. Just create a .csv file with the email addresses that you’ve collected over the years. Log into your Pinterest account.

**If you go this route – you need to have your audience’s consent. If you are in the EU, because it’s the law. If you are outside the EU, because you need to be cool, not creepy.

Click on Ads > Audiences.

Then, click on “Create Audience.” Choose “A list of customers that you upload” from the window that appears. Name your audience, and include the date so that you can update it a few months from now.

Pinterest will match up the email addresses from your list with those of its users so that you can show ads to the same people. In the future, you can also create “an actalike audience that behaves similarly to the one you already have.” This will choose people with similar demographics and interests as the people on your email list.

5. Pin Some Content

You can’t promote a pin unless you’ve pinned it publicly. Therefore, if you have created a new Pinterest account in hopes of setting up some ads, you should take some time to create boards and pin content for free before you put money into it.

Make sure that all of your pins contain high-quality images. The visuals are going to grab people’s attention before anything else. Therefore, they need to be top-notch.

Vertical Pins

Pinterest displays images vertically. Therefore, you need to use the correct aspect ratio to get the most out of your pins’ appearance. For years, Pinterest has claimed that a 2:3 aspect ratio is ideal. However, some pinners said that posts with these dimensions didn’t perform well. Some people even created extra-long posts to capture people’s attention.

As of June 2018, however, Pinterest said that those “giraffe pins” may be cropped and won’t show up as frequently in people’s feeds. The ideal aspect ratio is 600 pixels wide by 900 pixels high (720 x 1080 works well too). Square images look good, and they are easy to import from Instagram.

An aspect ratio of 600 x 1260 (with 1260 being the height in pixels) won’t be cropped. Anything taller will.

If you’re creating long giraffe pins, make sure that they add value. Infographics and step-by-step tutorials are ideal for these space-hogging pins.

Rich Pins

Creating Rich Pins can help people learn more about your products. Rich pins contain additional information, including:

  • App – Takes viewers to the app store for download
  • Article – Includes a headline, author and story description
  • Product – Includes pricing, availability and purchase location
  • Recipe – Includes title, ingredients, cooking times, serving information and ratings

By adding the metadata directly to the pin, brands can increase engagement. Picture a recipe that contains a gorgeous picture of the food that you’re eating with the recipe itself below it. The pins pull from the metadata on your website.

Creating Rich Pins is a two-step process. First, you must add metadata to the articles, products and recipes on your site. If you have a WordPress site, you can do this easily with a plugin like Yoast. Then, you need to verify your Rich Pins with Pinterest. Once you validate one URL with a Rich Pin on your site, you’re all set. You don’t need to validate all of the URLs with Rich Pins.

Buyable Pins

Pinterest rolled out Buyable Pins in 2015 to make it easier for its audience to shop directly from a pin. These pins list the price in blue and contain a Buy It button so that people can make a purchase right from the app. When someone clicks Buy It, they go directly to the checkout, where they can pay with a credit card or Apple Pay.

If you’re a retailer or sell your own products, you’ll need to have a Shopify store that’s linked with the Pinterest sales channel to take advantage of Buyable Pins. As long as you point a pin’s URL to the product detail page on your Shopify store, it will activate as shoppable.

Pinterest automatically matches your product feed with your pins and generates Buyable Pins for any products that you have already pinned. For any other product, you should create pins from scratch. These can include additional images so that more people can discover your products.

Buyable Pins are similar to Rich Pins in that they display additional information. Rich Pins, however, don’t send you to the checkout when you click on them.

How To Set Up A Pinterest Ad

If you’ve decided to spend money on advertising, you might wonder how to advertise on Pinterest. This is a step-by-step tutorial that teaches you how to do it.

1. Create The Ad

When you’re ready to start advertising, click on the + sign that appears toward the top right, and then select “Create Ad.”

This brings you to your Ads Manager, where you can create your campaign.

2. Set Your Goals

You’ll begin by selecting your campaign objective.

Then, you’ll enter your campaign details. You’ll have to come up with a name for your campaign if it’s new, or you can select an existing campaign from the drop-down menu. You’ll also designate your daily and lifetime budget for the campaign here.

Then, decide on your campaign placement, which includes whether you want to make your ads one-tap. This feature can’t be edited once your campaign starts running.

If you’re creating an app install ad, you will have the option to select whether to optimize the campaign for completed installs or visits to the app download page. Both are charged on a cost-per-click basis. Pinterest also has direct integrations with mobile measurement partners, or MMPs, which help you track the install performance.

Finally, click “Create campaign and continue.”

3. Set Up An Ad Group

An ad group is a set of promoted pins that fall under the same campaign. You can have multiple ad groups for one campaign, which means that you will have a separate budget for your ad groups than you do for the campaign as a whole.

Understanding Ad Groups

Each ad group can have multiple promoted pins within it. You can assign different budgets and targets to each ad group, though. Therefore, you can use ad groups to set up unique budgets for different marketing areas, such as regions, demographics or products. You can also use ad groups to test the design, placement and objectives of your advertisements without building separate campaigns.

For example, you could create separate ad groups with maximum daily budgets to target:

  • Your email list
  • People who have visited related pages on your website
  • Actalike audiences

To keep everything straight, you should name your ad group based on its organizational structure, such as who you’re targeting or what promoted pins are showing up within that group.

4. Create A Target Audience

On the ad group page, you’ll be asked to create a target audience. This helps you get your ads in front of the right people. You can target viewers based on the following criteria:

You’ll need to give this audience a name and description. If you choose to retarget people who have visited your website, you’ll have to create a Pinterest tag to track them. If you choose to target individuals from an email list, you’ll be asked to upload the list.

You’ll be able to further clarify your audience by interests, such as boards and pins that they’ve interacted with in the past, keywords, languages, locations, devices and genders.

5. Create Your Maximum CPC Bid

On the page where you create your ad group, you’ll be asked to set a maximum CPC bid. This is the maximum amount that you want to pay per audience action, whether that’s impressions, clicks, engagement or app download. You won’t be charged the full bid unless it’s necessary to beat out the next-highest bidder.

6. Select Your Promoted Pin

Now, you can select the pin that you want to promote. You can only choose from items that you’ve publicly pinned. The pin doesn’t have to be one that you have initiated through your own website, although it would probably be a good idea to use an image that you’ve created.

Next, you’ll give the promoted pin a name (optional) and set the URL of the landing page that you want visitors to end up on when they click on it.

Consider the URL carefully. Ideally, you’ll send people who click on your ad to a page dedicated to your Pinterest audience. The landing page should have something to do with the pin that led people to it. If you’ve added Pinterest tag code to your website, you’ll be able to track the success of each promoted pin.

Click “Promote Pin” when you’re finished. The ad will go to Pinterest for review, which can take 24 hours. At this time, add your billing details so that you can pay for your ad once it’s approved.

The Quick Way To Promote A Pin

Pinterest also provides a way to promote your pins in about 10 seconds. Go to your profile and hover over a pin that you want to advertise. Click on the Promote button.

A window will open up where you can add all of the promotional details, including the URL, daily budget, campaign duration, target audience and keywords.

Tips And Tricks For Optimizing Your Pinterest Advertising

Just putting yourself out there isn’t always enough to gain an audience. Instead of wasting your dollars by advertising blindly, follow this advice to get the most out of your budget.

Promote The Best Pins

You might wonder what pins to promote when you advertise on Pinterest. Those with strong visuals do best. Making multiple pins for the same product is a good idea. You can show different angles, styles and descriptions to pull in different customers. Adding your brand name or logo to the image improves credibility.

If you sell products, Pinterest says that photographing them in lifestyle shots is more effective than displaying the product on its own. For example, a fashion pin should show someone wearing the clothing in a real-world setting. Home décor pins do better when they concentrate on the product instead of people. Hair and beauty products get great engagement when the items are displayed against a plain, contrasting background.

Most experts recommend promoting pins that are already doing well. Even though you might figure that boosting a low-performing pin could help it get in front of your audience, promoting a high-performing pin is more likely to give you results. Wouldn’t you want to pay for results as opposed to a lackluster reception to your ad?

When you’re picking a pin in step 3 of the ad creation process, you have the option of choosing from all pins, 30-day most clicked pins or 30-day most saved pins. Use this to your advantage to promote your most engaging content.

Add Text To Your Pins

Even though Pinterest relies on photos, it doesn’t hurt to add a little text to your images. The text overlay should clarify what viewers are looking at without detracting from the design as a whole. The words shouldn’t detract from the aesthetic. A simple overlay works wonderfully.

Make sure that you’re using the description wisely too. A call-to-action helps users stay engaged. You can ask people a question or give an instruction, such as “Learn more” or “Buy now.” You might even try having your call-to-action say, “Pin this for later” to remove the urgent sales quality but encourage people to save your pin.

Consistently Monitor And Analyze Your Ads

It’s hard to predict what’s going to resonate with viewers. Pinterest is a visual platform, and some images may capture more attention than others. When you’re just starting out, test everything, including the:

  • Image
  • Description
  • Call-to-action
  • Keywords
  • Bids
  • Audiences

After doing this consistently for a while, you’ll begin to notice which combinations are more effective.

Focus Your Keywords

Although you’re allowed to include up to 150 keywords with a promoted pin, you don’t have to use all of them. If you’re all over the place, you won’t get many click-throughs. Think about the way that your audience interacts with Pinterest.

The keywords should match the way that your target audience uses the platform (similar to how you “theme” keywords for SEO). Make sure that the keywords are also consistent with the information in the pin and the landing page to which they’re directed.

Because Pinterest is a search engine, keywords are crucial to your pins’ visibility. Create your descriptions the way that you would create meta tags for a web page’s title and description. Using trending keywords earlier in the text will help your pins get noticed.

When you place pinnable images on your website, make sure that you include keywords in the alt text. Your boards should contain long-tail keywords. Use Pinterest Analytics to track which pins get the most impressions and experiment with the keywords that you use.

Add Value

The best practices for advertising on some other platforms involve using a call-to-action to send people to a lead page. However, people who search using Pinterest are looking for information. They might get annoyed if they come across your promoted pin, click on it to investigate it further and reach a page that simply asks them for their email address.

An effective way to use Pinterest for advertising is to send people to a landing page where they can explore what you offer. You can certainly include a lead generation form on this page, but don’t make it the only asset at that URL.

Group Boards

Group boards are sometimes referred to as shared, community, collaborative or contributor boards. Using them can lead to significant increases in traffic.

More than one person can add pins to a group board. Therefore, when anyone adds pins to the board, those pins may appear in the home feed of anyone who follows any of the board members. This exponentially increases your reach.

If you focus on sharing your own content to group boards, you’ll gain exposure for your brand. Keep the content relevant, however.

Because Pinterest rewards high-quality pins with exposure, make sure that you join the right group boards. Those that are targeted to a specific theme usually have more traction with an audience and get more engagement. Click on several of the pins on a group board that you’re thinking of joining to make sure that the links aren’t broken or redirect to a spammy or inappropriate site.

Pinterest is an opportune way to expose your brand to a new audience. The platform isn’t just used by crafty people, DIY-ers and foodies. Travel, fashion, design, hobbies, health and beauty, entertainment, accessories and sporting goods are commonly searched categories on Pinterest. Creating a business account for your brand is free, and you can play around with promoting your pins at a low cost to determine whether it works well for your business.

Next Steps

Pinterest holds a lot of opportunity for businesses of all sizes. It’s also straightforward and fairly risk-less to experiment there.

You’ll learn more from running a single experiment than any blog post – so go for it!

If you want to know other ways to use Pinterest for marketing, check out Nate’s post on Pinterest & SEO research in addition to Using Pinterest Analytics.

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

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How To Advertise On Spotify Effectively

How to Advertise on Spotify Effectively

People don’t just listen to music anymore; they experience it. Advertising on a platform like Spotify can expose listeners to your brand in an engaging, involved way.

Spotify can be used to market your business similarly as a radio ad. You can also sponsor streaming sessions and playlists to get in front of the people who are most likely to resonate with your message.

Why Advertise On Spotify?

Statista reports that there were 70 million paying Spotify subscribers in January 2018. However, it’s really the people who listen for free that get to hear your ads. In March 2017, there were about 90 million people who took advantage of the service for free, according to the Verge.

If Spotify is trying to push listeners to its premium version, which doesn’t play or show advertisements, why would you want to advertise on the platform? Sure, Spotify is trying to make money from premium memberships. However, it isn’t writing off the free offering. In fact, a recent statement by Spotify’s vice president of product, Jason Richman, confirmed that the company views its free version as a separate service that it wants people to use.

The Wall Street Journal reported in 2017 that Spotify was slated to become the third-largest advertiser in the world, following the footsteps of Facebook and Google. Spotify started out offering a free, advertisement-sponsored subscription service to help music fans connect with the songs and artists that they love. They quickly realized the opportunity that advertising could provide them.

Business Insider said that because of its global scale and huge collection of data, Spotify is trying to be a primary advertising solution for just about everyone, including small and medium-sized businesses. The company launched Spotify Ad Studio, a self-serve advertising platform, in 2017. This allows smaller and mid-sized companies to advertise.

Plus, Spotify uses its advertising platform to convert users to the premium product, as you can see in the image below, which shows a mobile takeover ad that appeared while we were navigating to our Discover Weekly playlist. The fact that the company believes in the power of its own advertising gives us faith.

If Spotify can’t sell ad space, it will lose quite a bit of revenue. The free platform isn’t going anywhere.

And if you think that people get annoyed by ads on Spotify, think again. Acquisio reports that 75 percent of listeners expect advertisements on a free streaming service. Almost 50 percent say that commercials are less disruptive on Spotify than on regular radio.

Part of the appeal of Spotify is its ability to connect users. Those who register their Spotify account through Facebook can share playlists with their friends. Spotify is largely about discovery. Check out what your friends are listening to, and you might learn about an artist that you’ve never heard before.

Even if users don’t connect to Spotify through social media, the platform incorporates a similar connective quality. Users can follow other Spotify users on the platform. When they search for a particular song, artist or album, they can view playlists that other people have created using that song.

So why should you advertise on this platform? Because people are using it to stay up-to-date with the world. If people are using Spotify to learn about new music, they might also learn a little about what you have to offer when they hear your advertisement.

If you want to target a hip audience that’s interested in staying in the know about current trends, you might want to advertise on Spotify. If you’re a musician, advertising on the platform is a no-brainer.

Plus, Spotify collects data from all of its logged-in users. According to Smart Insights, this means that marketers can take advantage of unique intelligence, such as users’:

  • Moods
  • Preferences
  • Listening habits
  • Activities

Over time, companies can learn more about the people they wish to target, gaining insights into platform behaviors, routine activities and wider interests. This allows brands to create tailored experiences that aren’t possible on other platforms.

Because Spotify requires users to log in, it has extensive data about what people are listening to and how they listen. The company also compiles real-time information about lifestyle, entertainment preferences, family status and technology use.

How Do Ads Work On Spotify?

If you have used Spotify for free, you probably know how often advertisements are played. When you start a streaming session, you can listen to one sponsored advertisement to get a 30-minute session of uninterrupted music. After that, Spotify will play an advertisement about every 15 minutes.

Users can’t skip or fast-forward the ads. They can choose to watch a video from an advertiser to get another 30-minutes of ad-free music from time to time. If they’re listening via a laptop or computer, a branded overlay hangs out on the screen at almost all times. It’s not disruptive—it can be closed so that the user can navigate the site—but it will reappear.

Audio and display ads aren’t the only way to market a brand using Spotify. Businesses can sponsor listening sessions, providing videos that users watch in exchange for uninterrupted listening.

Marketing on Spotify can be even more creative, though. Businesses can put together branded playlists. These can include a logo and a link to the company’s landing page. Even President Barack Obama used a branded playlist to help bring awareness to his brand in 2016.

In sum, there are three main paid advertisement types with which marketers can experiment:

  • Audio – Plays between songs during active listening sessions. Accompanied by a clickable display that can take users to a specific URL or landing page.
  • Video – Sponsored sessions, video takeovers or branded moments video advertising that rewards viewers with 30 minutes of uninterrupted music after watching.
  • Display – Homepage banners, homepage takeovers.

What Can You Advertise On Spotify?

You can use Spotify to raise awareness for any brand, company or organization. You can also use it to promote music-related content or an event, such as a concert.

If your target audience uses the platform, it makes sense to try it out. Using multiple channels for advertising can lead to steady growth for your brand.

One of the benefits of using an audio ad instead of a video or image is that users can access it when they’re not watching a screen. For example, many people listen to Spotify while driving or in the shower. Reaching them with a DIY audio ad using Spotify’s DIY Ad Studio can help you influence them in a way that you might not have tried before.

In fact, Nielsen analyzed Spotify audio ads and found that listeners are more likely to enjoy and recall audio ads through streaming services than display ads. Audio ads are also more apt to increase purchase intent.

How Much Does Advertising On Spotify Cost?

Using Spotify’s self-serve advertising platform is the way to go if you don’t have a huge ad budget, although the service is available to companies and budgets of all sizes. The minimum is $250, with each ad served costing marketers about $0.015 to $0.025. The price varies depending on your targeting choices. Aiming at a larger target market will typically cost you more per ad.

You can target your audience based on the following:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Location
  • Activity
  • Music taste/listening behavior
  • Mobile
  • Desktop

When you initially set up an ad using the DIY Ad Studio, you can choose from a range of options for your total campaign budget. As we describe in more detail below, you have to select a custom option to enter the minimum of $250. If you launch your ad and realize that it’s not bringing you the results that you want, you can stop the ad.

That means that you’re technically not committed to the $250 budget minimum if you find that the platform isn’t working for you. If you stop an ad after paying only $30, you won’t be billed for the unused portion.

You can also purchase advertising programmatically and through Spotify’s direct sales department. These options usually cost more than using Spotify Ad Studio.

What Spotify Ad Studio Can And Cannot Do

Spotify Ad Studio makes it simple for anyone to set up, track, manage and analyze audio ads. Some of the other things that you can do with Spotify Ad Studio include:

  • Creating and record your own audio ad
  • Reaching free Spotify users
  • Retarget people who have engaged with your ads
  • Create successive ads to share an extended story
  • Track your campaign, including clicks and cost

If you are an approved advertiser for a specific artist, such as the label or a promoter, you can target people who follow that artist. For example, if you’re promoting a concert, you can reach out to the people who follow the performer on Spotify.

You won’t be able to target fans of particular musicians if you’re not an approved advertiser, but you can still target by genre or playlist. Genre targeting lets you deliver your ad after a user has listened to a specific type of music. This is helpful if you know that the majority of your target audience listens to smooth jazz, for example.

Playlist targeting lets you deliver your message to people who are listening to tunes that are associated with certain activities or moods. Spotify categorizes different playlists and refreshes its inputs every day.

You can’t target fans by zip code, but you can select a country, region or U.S. state. As of the time of this writing, Spotify didn’t offer a feature to exclude certain people. That might come in handy if you’re promoting a concert but don’t want to waste money marketing to people who have already bought tickets.

How To Create Spotify Ads Using Ad Studio

To start creating your own Spotify ads, head over to Spotify Ad Studio and click Sign Up. The platform is still in beta, and it’s currently only accepting advertisers from the U.S., U.K. and Canada. You’ll also need a Spotify account. The system will set you up with one when you sign up for Ad Studio if you don’t have one already.

Once you have registered, you can start creating an ad. Click on Your Ads on the top right corner of the screen. Then, click Build Ad on the top left corner to begin working on your ad.

There are three steps to building an ad:

  • Set Up
  • Budget & Audience
  • Ad Creative

1. Set Up

In the set-up phase of ad creation, you get to choose your objective and name your ad. This step is easy; unless you’re an authorized promoter for a particular musician, you’ll choose “Raise awareness for a brand, business, or organization.”

Next, give your ad a name. This will only be visible internally and serves as a good way to organize your ads if you’re creating more than one.

2. Audience & Budget

In this step, you’ll select your audience and budget. Start by choosing a location, gender and age range for your target listener.

You can choose listeners in a particular country, state (Australia and U.S.), city (Australia, Canada and U.K.) or DMA (U.S). The DMA, or designated market area, includes a metropolitan area as well as its suburbs.

Next, narrow down your audience by listening behavior.

Targeting by genre delivers your ad right after someone has listened to the type of music that you selected. You can choose more than one genre.

Targeting by playlist uses Spotify’s ability to categorize playlists by mood and activity. After someone listens to a playlist that matches the playlist categories that you choose, they’ll hear your ad.

You can also target by fans of a particular artist if you’re a record label or promoter. You can’t target by all of these options; you must choose All Music, Genre, Playlist Category or Fans.

Next, you’ll need to choose the platform or device on which you want your ad to display. Choose all of them unless your ad is platform-specific.

At this point, you can also choose when you want your ad to display. For example, Spotify says that moms are 25% more likely to listen at 5 or 6 am. If mothers are in your target market, you might want to set your ads earlier than a brand that caters to college students. You don’t have to fill this in if you want your ads to play throughout the day.

Finally, you’ll set your schedule and budget. To set your schedule, enter the start and end dates and times that you want the ad to run. Campaigns run from midnight to midnight in your local time zone by default, but you can enter different start and end times.

Remember that it takes time for an ad to be approved. If your ad is approved after the start time, it will begin immediately once it is accepted.

To choose your budget, either pick from the given options or select Custom. You cannot enter an amount lower than $250.

3. Ad Creative

Now, you get to choose what your ad will look like. Every audio ad has a corresponding display to go along with it. This includes a companion image, headline and link to a URL that users will go to when they click on the ad image.

The image must be a JPG or PNG image that’s 640 x 640 pixels and no more than 200KB in size. You can preview the way this will look on a mobile or desktop. If you have a call to action, it must be included on the image. A directive like “Click here” or “Learn more” will help users understand that they can drill down on the picture to explore your brand further.

Finally, you get to set up the audio creative for your ad. If you already have a sound recording, that’s great. Upload it here.

The audio specs are as follows:

  • Length – 30 seconds or less
  • File types – WAV, MP3, OGG
  • Max file size – 1MB
  • Audio – WAV – 16-bit 44.1 kHz MP3, at least 192 kbps RMS normalized to -14dBFS Peak normalized to -0.2 dBFS

You can also provide Spotify with a script, and the platform will create a voiceover for your ad at no additional cost. If you do this, you can choose the profile of the voice that you’d like based on age, gender, dialect, etc.

When you write the script, you’ll need to make sure that it’s the perfect length to sound natural in a 30-second time slot. A script of about 50 to 75 words is perfect. If it’s longer, the actor will speak too quickly, and if it’s shorter, it might sound like it drags on.

If you’re uploading your own audio and you want background music, it will need to be incorporated into the audio file. If you’re asking Spotify to record the voiceover, you can select your background track separately from a library of pre-selected genres or upload your own.

4. Review Your Order Summary

Before you submit your order for processing and approval, Spotify will show you a summary of all of the options that you chose. If you need to edit anything here, you can go back and do so. Once you click Place Order, your ad will be reviewed by Spotify.

This typically takes 48 hours, according to Spotify’s FAQs. However, you should provide your creative materials at least five days before you want the campaign to start if you don’t want to be rushed.

If you request a voiceover, Spotify will send you the final recording for your approval. If you want to change something, you can request a revision at that time.

5. Editing Your Ad

You can stop or pause your ad at any time. You might want to pause it to change your targeting selection. You can change any target demographics except for fans. If you want to edit Fan Targeting, budget or start/end date, you have to email Spotify, and they’ll recommend the best solution for you.

You may even want to stop an ad that doesn’t seem to be converting. If you do that, you’ll only be charged for the number of ads that were displayed during the run.

6. What If Your Ad Isn’t Approved?

If your ad doesn’t meet the terms of Spotify’s Advertising Terms and Conditions, it will be rejected. An ad that’s longer than 30 seconds or promotes a Spotify competitor will not be approved. You can always reach out to Spotify if you’re not sure why your ad wasn’t approved.

Can You Create Other Types Of Ads Using Ad Studio?

If you’ve ever used Spotify’s free streaming service, you’ve probably seen ads that aren’t just audio with companion displays. You have the option of working with Spotify through direct sales or programmatic ads. This will give you the option of delivering your message through different types of ads on the platform.

Some advertising options besides audio include the following.

Sponsored Session

When users start streaming on Spotify mobile, they’re usually asked if they’d like to watch a short video to get 30 minutes of uninterrupted listening. After the video runs, an image with a link will appear if the user wants to learn more about your brand. This type of ad is available on mobile devices or tablets.

Video Takeover

Video Takeover ads are presented to logged-in users when they’re engaged with the app in between songs or during commercial breaks. They’re available on mobile devices or desktops. Videos are less than 30 minutes long and contain a call to action as well as a link to the brand’s URL.

Display

There are a few display options that can be purchased through direct sale or programmatic marketing.

The Overlay welcomes users back when they return to the Spotify app. Your brand message covers the screen while users listen to music. They can click through to a URL or click to close the image.

The Homepage Takeover shows up on Spotify’s desktop Browse page for 24 hours. This option can include interactive elements to engage your audience further.

The Leaderboard is shown as a smaller banner on the bottom of the desktop or web app. It’s served when Spotify is the top app on the screen, and it appears exclusive of any other messages for 30 seconds.

Sponsored Playlists

Spotify’s top real estate includes the playlists that the company owns and operates. Brands can sponsor these playlists based on the categories that their target market listens to. This is available on mobile and desktop.

Tips And Best Practices For Creating Spotify Ads

Spotify ads run between songs and are an interruption for users. If you want people to pay attention to what you have to say, it’s probably best to resonate with their listening preferences and interests.

Stay Within The Context

If you’re marketing a brand that will be used by energetic party-goers, like an alcoholic beverage, you might not want to place your ad on a yoga music playlist. On the other hand, an ad for a relaxing product might not be what people tune into when they’re listening to upbeat electronica. If your ad feels like it fits in with the music your target audience is listening to without creating a disturbance, it’s more likely to resonate with the listener.

Know Your Target Audience

In order to keep your ads relevant, you’ll need to understand your target audience. Age, gender and language are important when selecting your target. One way to choose the right demographics is to analyze ads that you’ve run in the past. If people from a particular age range, location or gender convert more than others, choose those when setting up your Spotify ad.

If you don’t have data from other ads, accept the fact that you’ll need to experiment to find what works best for you on this platform. You might wonder what someone’s music interests have to do with your non-music-based brand. Spotify compiles data based on the mood and emotion elicited by certain songs, and users choose to listen to certain playlists based on their current state of mind.

If you can tap into that, you can drive conversions.

Personalize The Location

You can target users who live in specific areas when setting up an ad. If your audience lives in London, you might want to start your ad with, “Hello, London.” The personalization and association with their location might grab their attention.

Create A Story

What makes you get emotional when you listen to a particular song? It’s likely the story behind the music. You can touch your audience’s emotions when you incorporate a story into your advertisement too.

People are more likely to tune in when they’re being told a story than being sold a product or service. You can do this with words, but you can also build a story with a playlist.

Fox promoted its TV show Star by developing a branded playlist to share the inspiration behind the show’s music. Between songs, the cast offered some commentary.

Creating a playlist as part of your narrative can capture your audience. People will tend to listen to the playlist even after your advertising campaign is over.

Use Music

Your audience uses Spotify to listen to music. Therefore, if you use the perfect soundtrack for your ad, you’re going to fall in line with the platform’s mission and design. You can use music in the background of your ad or create a branded playlist to keep listeners involved.

The music that you use must do two things:

  • Resonate with your audience
  • Reflect your brand

Create A Specific Call To Action

When creating an ad, think about what you want users to do, and then instruct them to do this. Most of the time, this will involve clicking on the ad image for more information.

This Google Home Max ad that appeared on Spotify mobile has a clear “Buy Now” button that takes you to the Google store when you click on it:

Free Advertising On Spotify?

If you don’t want to pay for advertising fees, you can get creative with Spotify’s playlist options. Any user can create a playlist, and it’s free. Brand it by adding an image, and you have a new way of connecting with your audience.

Some ideas for creating engaging playlists include:

  • Making holiday playlists to get consumers in the mood to buy your products
  • Putting together workout playlists for companies geared toward sports and fitness
  • Compiling comforting and enthusiastic music for a restaurant

Once you’ve created some playlists, you need followers. If you’re serious about marketing, this involves strategy, not just asking your grandmother and best friends to follow you.

The strategy begins when you set up your playlists. They should match your listeners’ moods and interests. If you are trying to appeal to yogis, you might not want heavy metal on your playlists. Also, playlists should be curated and short. Split up the 500 songs that you want to share into several different playlists.

You can collaborate on playlists to allow your followers to add their own tracks. This is a great way to make some friends on the platform and gain visibility. If you choose to do this, you’ll need to keep tabs on the list so that it doesn’t get out of hand.

Once you’ve created a few playlists, share them. You can do this on social media or your blog. Ask questions, such as “Which is your favorite track?” to boost engagement. Add a Spotify Follow Button to your website so that new followers are only a click away.

Remember, Spotify is a social platform. You’ll need to keep up with it the same way you do with your Facebook and Twitter accounts. Follow artists that are appropriate for your brand so that others can learn what you’re listening to. Network by asking others what they’re listening to.

If your target audience listens to music, they’re likely to be on Spotify at some point. Harness this powerful platform by using it socially, creating your own ads for it or working with Spotify’s advertising sales team to dream up a campaign that will engage listeners and increase your brand’s exposure.

Next Steps

Advertising on Spotify is not quite as easy as setting up a Google or Facebook ad. But, that barrier to entry provides a unique opportunity for brands and businesses of all sizes looking to reach an audience in a personal and memorable way.

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

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How To Advertise on Nextdoor Effectively

How To Advertise on Nextdoor

Astute marketers are constantly looking for new platforms to connect with their audience in useful and meaningful ways, and Nextdoor is one of the most promising social platforms for local business marketing to look towards as we approach 2019.

As a platform designed to connect neighborhoods and the people who live there, Nextdoor seems to have that special sauce that’s so appealing to marketers of all sizes. Over 75% of neighborhoods in the United States are already part of the platform, the user base is constantly growing, and it provides neighbors with the tools they need to connect on a local level to the businesses in their area.

As with any new social network, there’s a learning curve associated with it. If you’re wondering how to advertise on Nextdoor, and you’re hoping you’ll be able to jump right in, you’ll need to cool your jets, unfortunately. But, this helpful guide will provide you with everything you need to know about this exciting new local social network and how you can leverage it to the advantage of your business.

From your Nextdoor homepage, click the tab at the right for recommendations. Then, click the link that says “claim my business” on the right side of the page.

From there, you’ll just fill out some brief information about yourself and your business. Once you’ve completed the forms, your business page is ready to go, and you can begin sponsoring real estate listings in your area.

From your business page, you’ll want to click the Sponsorship button on the left of your business page. Then, you’ll enter the first zip code you’d like to sponsor.

You can enter as many neighborhoods as you like. Depending on the number of neighbors who are currently using Nextdoor, you’ll be charged a set monthly fee that varies depending on how active the real estate listings are, how many other sponsors are in the area, and how many neighbors are currently using Nextdoor.

You’ll also be charged a prorated rate for the current month that covers the remainder of the current month. That amount is shown next to “total billed today.”

The way this program is set up can be especially helpful to smaller realtors, or anyone who’s skeptical about the return they’ll receive on their Nextdoor investment. Since you’re able to pick and choose the neighborhoods your ad appears in, you’re able to get started at little cost. If your advertising on Nextdoor is driving you leads, you’ll be able to expand your reach and sponsor more neighborhoods.

After you’ve defined the area you’d like to sponsor, just input your payment information, and shortly after that you’ll be sponsoring the real estate section on Nextdoor in the neighborhoods you’ve chosen.

Considering that there’s limited competition on the platform at this point and that real estate listings are one of the areas of strength for Nextdoor, advertising now may be a great way to achieve maximum exposure at a low price.

As Nextdoor continues to grow, and more realtors take advantage of the platform, you can expect that the cost of sponsoring neighborhoods will become increasingly more expensive.

this page. From there, you’ll fill out a brief form with your contact information and projected advertising budget. After that, a representative from Nextdoor’s sales team will contact you to discuss advertising.

Smaller businesses interested in advertising on Nextdoor should also fill out the advertising contact form, as someone from Nextdoor will reach out to you as soon as advertising opportunities for your business become available.

Presently, the advertising opportunities available for larger businesses are limited to sponsored content posts, and there’s no way to target the posts. A single sponsored post will appear in the feed of each neighbor, and each neighbor will see the same sponsored post. This is far from ideal from a targeting perspective, but keep in mind that this is still part of a pilot program and additional functionality will be rolled out soon.

Presently, this type of advertising makes a lot of sense for home improvement stores and products, which is why brands like Nest, Ring, Lowe’s and Slomin’s have become early adopters of the platform.

Even if your business is large enough to enter Nextdoor’s pilot program, it may be best to proceed with caution. Considering how limited the targeting potential currently is, it can be difficult to track the return you’re receiving from your ads, and since Nextdoor is only working with companies with sizable advertising budget, it’s an easy way to burn through your ad dollars.

business set up page on Nextdoor.

You’ll need first to decide which type of business you are. Click business if you’re operating under a business name, or individual if you’re a one-person show that provides services using your own name.

Assuming you’re operating under a business name, you’ll need to search for it to see if your page has already been created, thanks to recommendations from other users. If your page already exists, you’ll be able to claim the page and begin updating it. If not, you’ll create the page from scratch.

If your page doesn’t exist yet, you can either sign in to your personal Nextdoor account, or you can create a new business account to manage the page from. This is a matter of personal preference. Some people prefer to keep their business and personal profiles separate, while others like the simplicity of being able to manage both business and personal from a single account.

When filling out this form, you’ll want to check the box for “public” as it will provide you with maximum reach for your new business page. Once you click the “add your page” button, you’ll be transported to your new profile page. There, you’ll add content to make your page helpful and inviting for the people in your area.

To increase your reach, allowing your page to be seen by more and more of the people in the neighborhood, you’ll need to garner some recommendations. This is a unique feature in that it limits to reach of businesses based on their reputation. This eliminates fly-by-night businesses from taking advantage of the platform, and it helps to keep the focus on the neighborhood.

To grow your reach, you’ll need members of the neighborhood to recommend your business. You can click the “get recommendations” button and Nextdoor will provide you with a pre-written email, Facebook post, or tweet that you can share with your followers on other social networks.

All it takes to increase your reach is a single recommendation. As you garner more recommendations from people in your neighborhood, your reach will increase, allowing more and more people to see your business’ page.

billion dollars a year from advertising by 2020. To accomplish that lofty goal, they’ll need ad products to sell to the different businesses interested in advertising on the platform.

According to Tolia, Nextdoor is receiving over 1,000 requests for more information on advertising each month. If that’s true, it’s easy to see why he expects Nextdoor to become social media’s next advertising giant.

In the meantime, there’s still plenty of potential to grow your business locally by using Nextdoor. Make use of the best practices we’ve discussed above. Not only will this help to increase your organic reach on the platform today, but it will provide you with a framework of content and neighborhood recommendations to build off of when Nextdoor finally rolls out advertising products for more businesses.

When setting up your business profile, be mindful of the fact that this social network exists to serve the needs of your neighborhood first. Make sure that anything you post falls within the guidelines set forth by Nextdoor, and do your best to position your business as an established pillar of the community.

So, while the question of how to advertise on Nextdoor may not have an easy answer as of yet, there’s still tons of potential for the platform. Take some time to set up your profile today so you can reap the rewards of this powerful social network tomorrow.

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

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How to Advertise on eBay Effectively

How To Advertise on eBay

eBay is one of the oldest and most well established online marketplaces. With millions of active users, it can be an important sales channel for your ecommerce business, regardless of the industry you’re in.

While eBay has been thought of by many as a marketplace that connects individuals, akin to a sort of digital yard sale, the climate has certainly changed in recent years.

eBay has been able to successfully shake the connotation that it’s a forum for used merchandise, collectibles, and heavily discounted new merchandise. In doing so, they’ve been able to diversify their customer and seller bases.

Today, many of the largest retailers and manufacturers in the country use eBay. For many businesses, it has become a particularly lucrative way to sell their products.

Not only has eBay become a powerful sales tool for these businesses, but it’s also one of the cheapest marketplaces for sellers to move their products. Compared to other powerful marketplaces like Amazon, eBay fees are typically 25% less for sellers.

In 2017, eBay opened up a whole new world to their network of sellers: advertising. Their unique set of advertising tools has made it easier than ever for sellers to reach the customers who are prepared to make a purchase.

But, before you can use these advertising tools to maximize your sales, you’ll need to learn how these tools work, and what makes them different from other advertising options you may have on different marketplaces.

Today, we’ll cover the ins and outs of how to advertise on eBay to increase sales. Whether you’re an individual looking to sell a few items quickly, or you’re a brand or distributor looking to establish a presence on eBay, we’ll cover everything you need to know.

advertising services boost the visibility of your listing by 30%.

Most sellers find that new items with no sales history and seasonal items tend to benefit the most from eBay advertising. eBay advertising can also be a great way to increase the sales velocity of some of your best selling items as well.

As with any other form of digital advertising, a strong product coupled with a compelling advertising campaign will ensure the best possible results. Fortunately, eBay makes it easy for you to test and tweak your campaigns until you’ve arrived at the ideal advertising mix for your particular product.

In addition to their performance-based advertising, which is popular with sellers of all sizes, eBay also has a program designed for major brands and manufacturers. This program provides your brand with key ad placements throughout the customer sales journey.

eBay’s brand solutions combine precision targeting, display advertising, and meaningful content to create a comprehensive advertising solution across all platforms, including the eBay app, desktop, and mobile sites.

These tools are particularly helpful for large brands, especially those dealing in big-ticket merchandise. This interactive demo featuring Trifex drones is a good example of how these types of campaigns work.

Google Adwords and Amazon Sponsored Products are good examples of CPC advertising.

CPS (cost per sale) advertising is the type of advertising that eBay uses. With CPS advertising, you’re not charged for impressions or for clicks that don’t result in a sale. The only time you’re charged is when the click results in a sale for your store.

This type of advertising is usually the most expensive form of digital advertising, but it’s also the most effective. If your primary goal is to drive sales for your store, CPS advertising may be a good fit for you.

The other characteristic that separates eBay’s advertising is the way you pay for it. Unlike other ad programs, which charge your credit card for a set number of impressions or for each click you receive, eBay keeps everything in-house, and deducts the cost of your advertising from the sale of each product you advertise.

This helps to keep things simple, and it also makes it much easier for small stores with limited capital to advertise their products and compete with larger sellers. Because of the way eBay’s ad program is set up, it’s also inherently easier for you to scale your advertising as you grow.

To create a promoted listing, you’ll need to log into your seller account on eBay. Once you’re logged in, eBay will redirect you to your seller dashboard. From there, hover over the marketing tab, then select promoted listings.

On the promoted listings page, you’ll see information about any campaigns you currently have running. To create a new campaign, scroll down to the bottom of the page and click the button on the right.

Then, you’ll have the option to choose between selecting individual products to advertise, or selecting listings in bulk. If you’re looking to advertise thousands of products at once, all under the same campaign, the bulk tool will be the best fit for you.

Otherwise, selecting the individual listings you wish to advertise as part of this campaign is probably the best fit for you. When selecting products individually, you can still include up to 500 different SKUs as part of each campaign, which helps to save a significant amount of time.

Once you’ve selected the different products you want to include in the campaign, you’ll set the ad rate you’re willing to allocate towards the campaign. You can apply a uniform ad rate for every product in the campaign, or you can select individual ad rates for each product.

eBay makes this process easy for you by providing a trending rate for each product in the campaign. The trending rate is what other sellers in the ad program are allocating towards their advertising. You can control the ad rate percentage by clicking the +/- icons.

Once you’ve set the ad rate for each item in your campaign, all you need to do is name your campaign, select a start date, agree to the terms of service, and launch your campaign.

As you can see, creating an advertising campaign on eBay is a streamlined process that’s much more user-friendly than creating ads on other platforms or marketplaces.

The promoted listings dashboard lets you know how many campaigns you have, how many listings you’re promoting, how many ad clicks you’ve received, how many units you’ve sold, the ad fees you’ll be charged for the sales you’ve made, and your total sales.

You can adjust the dashboard to show you your results from the last 7, 14 or 31 days. You can also create a custom date range.

Scrolling down past the advertising dashboard will provide you with more information for each campaign you have running.

From the actions tab to the right, you can pause or end your campaigns, and download detailed reports about each campaign, which makes it much easier to track the success of your various campaigns.

free shipping. Free shipping at $49 would be an example of this type of discount.
  • Codeless coupon – This unique promotion allows you to create custom URLs with a built-in coupon for you to share on social media, or with friends and family.
  • Category Markdown – With this promotion, you can create a sale event on an entire category of products, like “25% off all laptops” or something similar.
  • To create a promotion, click the marketing tab from your seller dashboard and navigate to “promotions” on the left-hand side of the page. There, you’ll find info about any promotions you’re currently running and promotions you’ve run in the past. This is also where you’ll create new promotions.

    Click the blue “create a promotion” button on the right of the page. This will trigger a drop-down menu where you can choose between creating an order discount, shipping discount, codeless coupon or a sale event.

    Depending on your goals for the promotion, one of these sale types may be better suited to you than the others. If your goal is to drive sales of an individual product, a no minimum purchase discount is typically best. If your goal is to liquidate inventory, a buy one get one deal may be helpful. Or, if you’re looking to increase customer awareness of the other products in your inventory, a quantity discount could be a good fit.

    Once you’ve chosen the promotion you’d like to run, you can select the products or categories the promotion will apply to. eBay gives you the option of doing this for the specific products you choose, or you can create rules based on categories and filters, and eBay will automatically add any product that fits your rules to the promotion, including new products you add in the future that also fit the rules you’ve defined.

    Once you’ve selected the products you’d like to include in the promotion, you’ll set how long you’d like the promotion to run for, and provide some copy for the offer banner. eBay will display the offer banner throughout the shopping journey of your buyer. Once that’s complete, hit the launch button, and your promotion will go live.

    You can offer a shipping discount on a minimum dollar amount or a minimum order quantity. You can also offer a discount with no minimum at all. The most popular and effective promotion is free shipping, but you may wish to create a flat rate shipping discount instead.

    For example, if you typically charge $12 to ship an order, you may want to consider offering $5 shipping on orders of $50 or more. You can also use this promotion to offer shipping upgrades, such as free or discounted two-day shipping when you buy three or more items from the store.

    Once you’ve defined the type of shipping discount you’d like to create, you can select the products you’d like to exclude from the promotion. You can select SKUs individually, or create a rule to exclude certain SKUs.

    Next, you’ll enter a short description for your promotion. For example “FREE shipping on all Marc Jacobs handbags.” This description will display underneath the promotion on your product pages.

    Next, you’ll schedule the start and end dates of your promotion. You can also set the promotion to begin immediately. Once scheduled, you can select a product image to display next to the promotion if you’d like, or you can leave that field blank, and eBay will automatically pull a relevant picture from your listing into this field.

    The final step before your promotion is created is to prioritize the promotion. If you currently aren’t running any promotions, you’ll skip this step. But, if there’s more than one available promotion for these products, you can choose which promotion displays first to prospective buyers.

    Once you’ve completed all these steps, your promotion is ready to launch.

    First, you’ll define the terms of the discount. You can offer either a dollar discount or a percentage discount when a customer spends a specific dollar amount in your store, or when they offer a specific number of products.

    Once you’ve defined the terms for your offer, you’ll select the items in your store you’d like the offer to apply to. From there, you’ll create a description of your campaign and schedule it.

    Once you’ve completed the campaign, eBay will provide you with a special link that your customers will need to use to unlock this special discount. The deal will not be visible to any eBay shoppers that don’t have access to the link.

    You can include this special discount link in emails, on your website, or in other advertising your store engages in outside of eBay. This promotion is virtually identical to the order discount promotion we covered earlier, with the only difference being it will only be available to a select group of shoppers who have a link to the promotion.

    Next, you’ll define the discount. You can either offer a percentage off, or a dollar amounts off of the total purchase price. With a percentage discount, you’re able to set up to ten different discounts within a single campaign. Let’s say you run a camera store; this promotion would be particularly useful if you’d like to offer 20% off the purchase of a camera and 50% off the purchase of camera accessories.

    When creating a new eBay listing (or when revising an existing one), there are a few small promotional options available to you. You can choose to have the title of your listing bolded, and you can also add a subtitle that will display below your title to describe your item more fully.

    These are small steps you can take to improve the visibility of your listing beyond the advertising methods we’ve already discussed. But, you’ll need to evaluate your listings on an individual basis to see if this makes sense for your products. At $6 for a bolded title, smaller ticket items don’t make economic sense to promote in this way.

    Optimizing Your Listings

    In addition to the variety of advertising and promotional tools eBay makes available to its sellers, you can also optimize your listings to increase your item’s exposure.

    Much like Google, eBay has their own proprietary search engine that it uses to pull up relevant search results for buyers. These tips may be able to help your overall performance in eBay search, which will lead to an increase in views, which should translate to an increase in sales.

    Offering free shipping may be the single most effective way to optimize your listings and search positioning. Plus, just because you offer free shipping doesn’t mean you’re offering free shipping. You can bake the cost of shipping into the price you’re charging for the item.

    How to Advertise on eBay Effectively appeared first on ShivarWeb.

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    Box.com Cloud Storage Review

    There is no shortage of options when it comes to selecting the optimal cloud storage platform for your business. Google Drive, Dropbox, Microsoft OneDrive, and more compete as solo options, while innumerable other services offer their own native storage options. Into this mix comes Box, an app with an unfortunately generic name attempting to offer non-generic features and services. Do they really manage to set themselves apart from the competition? Is this service worth a subscription? To find out, read on! We’ll review Box’s pricing, available features, and ease of use.

    Pricing

    Box Cloud Storage offers three separate pricing plans, each targeted at a different set of users. These are:

    Starter

    • $5/user/month
    • 100 GB storage

    This option is designed for small teams with minimal storage requirements. Really, you probably don’t want to subscribe at this level, though the price tag may seem tempting.

    Business

    • $15/user/month
    • Unlimited storage
    • Data loss prevention
    • User and security reporting

    The business subscription is almost certainly the option you will end up with, and though it is three times more expensive than the starter plan, you get unlimited storage and data loss prevention. These two major perks are almost enough for me to recommend it on the spot, but this tier also comes with admin features like user and security reporting, as well as a number of others, that make it an even better deal. Still, if you want the ultimate Box experience, you can take it one level higher.

    Business Plus

    • $25/user/month
    • Unlimited Storage
    • Unlimited external Collaborators
    • Admin role delegation

    This tier is primarily intended for graphic designers and other professionals that interact regularly with clients. By adding customers as external collaborators, you can bring them into the creative process and grant access to the files you create for them. The business plus tier also steps up the level of admin control you have, including allowing you access to all user activity.

    Features

    A Box subscription comes with a heap of features, all designed to increase the effectiveness of your document management. Here are some of the highlights:

    • Management: Box gives you control over who uses your data, then gives you information about how they use it. This includes reporting geographic location of access points, as well as timestamps and more. Basically, you get to choose who sees what, then know when and where they saw it.
    • Workflow Management: With this feature, box delivers a sort of “project management lite.” Using Box relay, you can set up workflows, assign tasks and due dates, and generally keep your team on the same page. If you need a basic task management app, you might find that the feature alone meets all your needs, without having to look for a third-party service.
    • Data Security: It wouldn’t be much of a cloud-based storage service if it was not secure. Box takes security seriously, using AES 256-bit encryption, and maintaining numerous redundant servers around the world. On that point, some subscription tiers gain access to Box Zones, which allows you to select which geographic regions you want your data in.
    • Machine Learning: Using Box Skills, you can put AI to work for your businesses. You start by creating smart labels and workflows, and over time the AI will learn your systems and find new ways of making your business more efficient. It is pretty impressive, and Box seems convinced it is the way of the future. This feature is in Beta currently but undergoes constant improvement.
    • Integrations: One of the best things about Box in my book is the sheer number of third-party apps it integrates with. This is one versatile platform and the fact that you can pretty much count on your other business services playing nicely with it means your experience is that much more likely to be comfortable and confident.

    Ease Of Use

    I am of two minds about Box’s ease of use. At basic levels, this is a pretty run-of-the-mill cloud storage service. It is easy to get signed up, easy to start storing documents. So far, so simple. However, when we start getting into the higher subscriptions, things get a little more difficult. While I wouldn’t say any feature is exactly hard to use, they definitely take more forethought and planning, where the more basic capabilities can be operated intuitively. It definitely feels like the kind of thing that would take a considerable amount of time to set up, but once that setup process is complete, your work is done.

    Final Thoughts

    From one perspective, it doesn’t really matter if you use Box or some other cloud storage service. If that is, you only plan to use it for cloud storage. If that is you, just looking for a place to dump your files in the cloud, then my recommendation is to take a look at several storage services and pick the one you like best from a visual and mechanical design standpoint.

    But if you are looking for a cloud storage service that does a bit more, then Box takes a step into the limelight. In another post, I compared Box with similarly-named Dropbox, and I will stick to what I said there. If you are in a position where you need limitless storage and lots of customer interaction, Box becomes your best bet. Add to that basic task management features and lots of admin tools to keep on top of access to your files, and you have what is now an extremely desirable option.

    As always, I do recommend test it out before committing completely, and fortunately, Box offers a two-week trial to give you the chance to try before you buy. Go try it out, then make your decision from there.

    The post Box.com Cloud Storage Review appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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    Webbased.com: An Alternative To Website Builders

    webbased

    As a reviewer of website builders, you might say I have a vested interest in promoting the main idea undergirding the DIY website builder: The notion that anybody, given access to inexpensive online editing tools, can create a perfectly functional website for their business or for themselves. However, there are plenty of reasons why a prospective website owner might seek to go another route. Perhaps you want more functionality out of your website than Squarespace or Wix can provide. Or maybe you simply have more pressing business or personal priorities than personally creating the website you want.

    An obvious alternative to using a website builder is to hire a web designer to create your site. Sadly, this option is out of the reach of anybody who doesn’t have thousands of dollars (or more) on hand to spend on a website. That’s where intermediary web companies like Webbased.com come in. Webbased.com is a company that offers a variety of web services, including web design, SEO, support, and marketing. It’s meant to be kind of a one-stop shop for getting your website created, marketed, and monetized. Let’s take a closer look at what they have to offer.

    Webbased.com: Services Offered

    Here are the service packages webbased.com has to offer:

    • Web design services
      • 5 to 15 unique page designs
      • $99/month to $249/month
    • Local search engine optimization
      • Get found by local clients
      • $299/month to $999/month
    • National search engine optimization
      • Boost your search rankings in Google, Yahoo, and Bing
      • Get a marketing dashboard with stats
      • $698/month to $2978/month
    • Pay-per-click management (eCommerce)
      • ECommerce PPC management — best for businesses with products with SKUs
      • $158/month to $298/month
    • Pay-per-click management (local)
      • Increase brand exposure in a specific geographic area
      • $218/month to $1480/month
    • Pay-per-click management (national)
      • PPC management services
      • $478/month to $3198/month
    • Pay-per-click management (retargeting)
      • Boost your ROI by re-engaging previous users
      • $158/month to $398/month
    • Animated video explainer
      • Boost your conversion rates with explainer videos
      • $199/month to $529/month
    • Video production services
      • Get videos made for any marketing purpose
      • $249/month to $625/month
    • Social media management
      • Social media team manages your social media presence
      • Detailed auditing and reporting
      • $199/month to $999/month
    • Logo design services
      • $299 (one-time charge)
    • Landing page design
      • $229/month
    • WordPress maintenance and hosting
      • Get maintenance, security, and updates for your WordPress site
      • $44.99/month to $99.99/month
    • WordPress optimization and performance tuning
      • $99/month to $369/month
    • WordPress support and help
      • Get updates and maintenance on your WordPress website
      • $59 (one-time charge)
    • Merchant services
      •  Better rates than PayPal and Square
      • Fully integrated into your site
      • $20/month

    Additionally, if you have an existing business website, webbased.com will analyse your site, free of charge, and send you a report assessing your site based on a number of metrics: speed, security, page views, conversion rate, mobile-compatibility, and SEO.

    Here’s webbased’s full list of services, detailing everything that’s included in their product packages along with pricing.

    Customer Service & Support

    Webbased.com provides a plethora of ways to get in touch with a company rep. In addition to the standard email contact form, there’s a phone support line and live chat. There’s even a chat room you can join between the hours of 9:30 AM and 2:30 PM Pacific in which you can chat with Webbased’s developers about any issues you might have with your website.

    Reviews Of Webbased.com

    On its website, webbased.com actually directs users to review their services on both Google and Yelp — a sign of confidence in its products. The reviews posted by customers on these two sites are almost entirely complimentary, with users praising both the services offered and the customer support they received. One user’s opinion is fairly representative:

    They provided creativity, valuable feedback, analysis and guidance in designing our logo, website, SEO optimization and producing our live company video.

    The users with complaints get replies from the company — it’s always good to see companies responding in good faith to the complaints of their users.

    Final Thoughts

    Not everybody has the time and/or patience to build a website on their own, and it’s not easy for the layperson to personally negotiate with individual web designers over the particulars of services and pricing. Services like webbased.com help give aspiring webmasters the ability to select from a menu of services to get exactly what it is they need in a website. If you feel like passing on the heavy cyber-lifting to a team of experts, webbased.com is worth investigating.

    The post Webbased.com: An Alternative To Website Builders appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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    What Is DocuSign And How Does It Work?

    Picture it. You are buying a house, and you live a 30-minute drive from your realtor. Every time they have another paper for you to sign (which feels like once or twice a day at this point) you have to abandon your very pregnant wife and drive over just to put your John Hancock on that piece of paper. Sit back and consider the frustration, the amount of time wasted. Then wake up to reality: it’s 2018 and we no longer live in that kind of world. Now we have DocuSign.

    What Is DocuSign?

    DocuSign has actually been around since 2003, practically an eternity in the tech world. Since that day, they have been helping ensure that twenty-something soon-to-be-dads don’t have to drive all over the world just to sign some papers (is it clear this is a personal anecdote yet?). Having said that, though, DocuSign is about more than just facilitating secure digital signatures. This app helps arrange every step of document preparation and integrates with more than 300 other business apps. That’s a whole lot of convenience on offer here, both for businesses and client signers. But is it worth it? To find out, we examine price, features, and ease of use. Let’s dig in!

    DocuSign Pricing

    There is a pretty wide array of options for DocuSign pricing, from general access to DocuSign for realtors to full access to the service’s API. In all plans, you get one user account, with the option to contact the sales team for more. Here is what you get for your money in the general DocuSign accounts:

    Personal

    • $10/month
    • Send five documents for signature/month
    • Basic Fields
    • Mobile app

    Standard:

    • $25/month
    • Unlimited Documents
    • Reminders and Notifications
    • Personalized Branding
    • “Comments”

    Business Pro:

    • $40/month
    • Collect payments
    • Advanced fields
    • Signer attachments
    • Bulk Send

    As I mentioned above, DocuSign also has pricing specific to realtors, who often need to sign documents (and have documents signed electronically). These plans include some industry-specific features, and are available at the following prices:

    Real Estate Starter

    • $10/month
    • Send five documents for electronic signature/month
    • Basic fields
    • Mobile app
    • Strikethrough
    • zipForm Plus integration

    DocuSign for Realtors

    • $20/user/month
    • Up to 5 users, contact sales for more
    • “Comments”
    • Reminders
    • Collaborative Fields
    • REALTOR-logo branding
    • In-person digital signatures
    • Signer attachments
    • Advanced recipient types

    Finally, DocuSign offers their full API on a subscription model if you want to get into the nitty-gritty of customization. Here is what you get for your money:

    Basic API

    • $50/month
    • Start at 40 document sends per month
    • Unlimited Templates
    • OAuth
    • Basic Fields
    • Mobile Signing & Sending
    • Authentification

    Intermediate API

    • $300/month
    • Embedding signing and sending
    • Personalized branding
    • Real-time reporting and analysis

    Advanced API

    • $480/month
    • Bulk Send
    • PowerForms for API
    • DocuSign Connect

    You can decide for yourself how valuable each of these different tiers might be for you, but I will say that for most subscribers, 5 documents per month is pitifully small, and not particularly useful. This means just about everyone will be forced to spring for a more expensive plan, whether they want the other features on offer or not.

    How Does DocuSign Work?

    Obviously, the primary feature of DocuSign is sending and receiving secure digital signatures. Docusign’s electronic signatures are secure, easy to use, and offer an excellent mix of convenience and efficiency.  You can also easily build your e-signature documents with DocuSign templates and the program’s drag-and-drop editor.

    Beyond that basic feature, though, are the other things DocuSign offers to aid and assist the primary function of making signatures easier. Here are the best features available with a DocuSign account:

    • Streamline Process: DocuSign allows you to automate your approval and agreement processes. Using a solution called “System of Agreement,” you can digitize your messy paper trails and make the whole process electronic.
    • Payments: DocuSign is all about convenience and efficiency, and what better example could there be but this: using the payments feature, you can send requests to clients for payment. Your customer can sign and pay in one easy step using their credit or debit card, bank account information, or even Apple and Android pay.
    • Mobile Apps: While I would think most DocuSign users will confine their use of the app to their desks, you can download the mobile version and create documents for an electronic signature on the go. This seems especially useful in real estate and sales, especially if you need to travel to make pitches.
    • Integrations: DocuSign’s integration list includes expected apps like Google, SalesForce, Apple, and others. However, the list also includes such software as Oracle and SAP. As mentioned above, DocuSign integrates with more than 300 other apps, so the chances are it will work within the framework that you already have up and running.

    How To Use DocuSign

    My test of DocuSign covered the basic document-signature creation, but I was unable to test some of the more advanced System of Agreement features. With that in mind, I found DocuSign absurdly easy to use. To create your document for an electronic signature, you import your PDF or Word doc, then drag-and-drop whatever signature elements you need to any part of the document. This includes your signature or initials (which you can custom-draw if you would like), but also your printed name, business name, and more. It is a seamless, difficulty free process. If the rest of DocuSign works as simply and easily as the parts I was able to test, I can’t imagine anyone experiencing serious difficulties.

    Final Thoughts

    Overall, my verdict on DocuSign is that if you have a need for digital signatures, this is definitely a good service for you. Especially if your area of business deals with multiple signatures per day, Docusign seems like a positive addition to your day. You will find it helpful on your own, and if you have clients, they will likely thank you for the increased efficiency e-signatures can provide. On the other hand, if you don’t need many signatures in your line of work, this product is likely not worth the expense. If you are still on the fence, keep in mind that DocuSign offers a 30-day free trial to help you make your decision. My recommendation: give it a try and see for yourself how helpful it can be.

    The post What Is DocuSign And How Does It Work? appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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    3dcart VS Volusion

    3dcart-vs-Volusion

    3dcart VS Volusion
    ✓ Pricing
    Ease of Use ✓
    ✓ Features
    Web Design ✓
    ✓ Integrations & Add-Ons
    ✓ Payment Processing
    Tie Customer Service & Technical Support Tie
    Tie Negative Reviews & Complaints Tie
    Tie Positive Reviews & Testimonials Tie
    Winner Final Verdict
    Read Review Read Review
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    Everyone knows starting a business is a challenge, and setting up an online store can be particularly difficult. Not only do you have to find a product and make a business plan, you also have to build an entire website that can operate as your selling platform. This was an almost impossible obstacle for many sellers just a few years ago, but modern software has eliminated many of the hurdles merchants would otherwise have to overcome.

    Cloud-based, all-inclusive store building software programs like 3dcart and Volusion can give you the tools you need to make your idea a reality. And because these software place a strong focus on ease of use, all sellers (even those with little technical knowledge) can get a store up and running in just a few weeks–or less!

    As a fully hosted solution, 3dcart aims to be accessible and affordable for all merchants. Small and large businesses alike can use this eCommerce platform successfully, as is evidenced by the 22,000 current users. What’s more, 3dcart is continually expanding its features and services to fit even more users.

    In the same way, Volusion is a comprehensive shopping cart solution for small to large businesses. Volusion hosts over 30,000 stores and is now offering two versions of their software: the more feature rich V1 and the easy to use (but still developing) V2. Volusion gives merchants the option of choosing between the two.

    So, which of these shopping cart solutions should you choose? Well, it depends.

    3dcart and Volusion both come with unique advantages and disadvantages, and your choice will depend on your business’s needs. To learn which solution is right for your online store, keep reading. We’ll compare the two shopping carts head-to-head in categories such as pricing, ease of use, and web design. Read on.

    Don’t have time to read an entire article? Take a look at our top-rated eCommerce solutions for a few quick recommendations. Every option we present here offers excellent customer support, superb web templates, and easy-to-use software, all for a reasonable price.

    Web-Hosted Or Licensed

    Both platforms are web-hosted.

    Hardware & Software Requirements

    None. You just need a computer, secure internet access, and an up to date browser.

    Pricing

    Winner: 3dcart

    3dcart and Volusion follow similar pricing models. Both services are billed on a monthly basis, no contract required, with advanced features included in higher level plans. If you commit to a year-long purchase, you can benefit from a discount of 10%. Keep in mind that many software solutions do not offer refunds on year-long purchases, so don’t commit to a full year until you’re sure the platform will work for you.

    3dcart determines pricing levels by the number of staff users and availability of features. All plans beyond the startup plan come with unlimited products and bandwidth. Take a look at a brief breakdown:

    • Startup: $19/Month
      • 1 Staff User
      • 100 Products
      • Sell Up To $10K/Year
    • Basic: $29/Month
      • 2 Staff Users
    • Plus: $79/Month
      • 5 Staff Users
    • Pro: $229/Month
      • 15 Staff Users

    3dcart also makes an enterprise platform available for any merchant with an annual revenue of over $400K/Year. There are also discounts available for charities and non-profits.

    Pricing for Volusion differs between their two versions: V1 and V2. The most notable difference is that pricing for V1 does not include any transaction fees; however, bandwidth on this plan is limited and bandwidth overage fees apply. On the other hand, V2 comes with unlimited bandwidth, but merchants will have to pay transaction fees on all their sales. See both pricing models below:

    V1 Pricing

    • Mini: $15/Month
      • 1GB Bandwidth
      • 100 Products
    • Plus: $35/Month
      • 3GB Bandwidth
      • 1,000 Products
    • Pro: $75/Month
      • 10GB Bandwidth
      • 10,000 Products
    • Premium: $135/Month
      • 35GB Bandwidth
      • Unlimited Products

    V2 Pricing

    • Personal: $25/Month
      • Unlimited Products & Storage
      • 2% Transaction Fee
    • Professional: $75/Month
      • Unlimited Products & Storage
      • 1% Transaction Fee
    • Business: $135/Month
      • Unlimited Products & Storage
      • 0.5% Transaction Fee

    When we compare 3dcart and Volusion, we can see that monthly rates for each pricing level are similar, with Volusion offering cheaper premium level plans. However, Volusion also charges fees in addition to these monthly rates (either bandwidth overage fees or transaction fees, depending on the version). For this reason, we’re awarding the category to 3dcart.

    Get Started With 3dcart

    Get Started With Volusion V1

    Get Started With Volusion V2

    Ease Of Use

    Winner: Volusion

    3dcart and Volusion both claim to be easy to use solutions. Let’s take a closer look at each software.

    3dcart offers all potential users a risk-free, 15-day trial, so you can test out the platform for yourself without handing over any credit card information.

    When you log in, you’ll get to explore 3dcart’s dashboard. 3dcart organizes all features in a toolbar on the left. Use categories and subcategories to navigate the software. Use video tutorials to learn the basic procedures.

    Adding a product to your store is a two-step process.  First, you have to input and save basic product information. Once you’ve saved that page, you’ll be able to add in more detailed product information. For example, you can adjust shipping, inventory, and SEO settings.

    3dcart is relatively easy to learn, though you may have difficulty locating features initially. Some features are buried in places you wouldn’t expect under titles you might not know to look for. Discounts features, for example, are available under “Promotion Manager.” Overall, we give 3dcart a four out of five stars in ease of use.

    Volusion also offers trials of their software. You can sign up for free 14-day trials of both V1 and V2. Let’s start with V1.

    When you log into your trial, you’ll find this dashboard:

    Use tutorial videos to quickly learn your way around.

    As it is with 3cart, adding a product on Volusion is a two-step process. First, add your basic product information. When you’ve saved that, you can add advanced information like SEO and shipping details along with more product descriptions.

    While we don’t think Volusion V1 has the easiest dashboard in the eCommerce industry, it shouldn’t take too long to learn. You’ll find plenty of features available in the tool bar up top; you just have to figure out how to implement them the first few times.

    Volusion V2 is the company’s newest attempt to make an easy to use eCommerce platform. The software is still in development, and while it is missing a few features, the UI is looking pretty good.

    We’d still like to see a bit more work done to this admin. In particular, we’d like to see subcategories added to the toolbar on the left. This would make navigation require fewer clicks, which can really add up for online sellers.

    V2’s “add a product page” is inviting in its simple and colorful design.

    We have experienced some frustration with V2’s simple design, however. V2 tends to railroad users through basic operations, which can be a pain when you don’t need the help.

    For example, when you go to set up a discount, you will encounter this screen:

    You have to select the appropriate options before you’ll be presented the more typical discount creation page:

    I would rather enter my information first into this second page. I don’t find the first page to be particularly helpful.

    Volusion’s goal with V2 was to create a platform that’s easier to use, and they accomplish that goal. Personally, however, if I were to choose a version of Volusion, I would still pick V1. I think it’s worth learning a slightly more difficult software in order to access better features.

    With so many versions of these software available, it’s difficult to directly compare 3dcart and Volusion. As far as ease of use goes, I think 3dcart and V1 are comparable, and V2 is slightly easier to use.

    For this reason, we’re giving ease of use to Volusion.

    Features

    Winner: 3dcart

    To get the best idea of these shopping carts’ features, a good plan is to visit each platform’s website and review the full list. However, if you don’t have time to do that just now, we’ll provide a brief overview of a few special features that each software offers below.

    3dcart offers users lots of features, even at the lowest pricing plan. Here are a few:

    • Sell Digital: Sell digital products alongside your physical products.
    • Checkout Options: Choose either one-page or three-page checkout.
    • Automatic Calculators: Use tax and shipping calculators to generate real-time quotes.
    • Abandoned Cart Saver: Email customers to remind them to complete their orders.
    • Built-In Blog: Boost your brand and SEO with a blog.
    • SmartCategories: Create an “On Sale” category to showcase items.
    • Bulk Import / Export: Migrate platforms or make large scale edits with import and export features.
    • POS: Sell in-person with 3dcart Point Of Sale.

    As you might expect, Volusion’s two versions come with different feature sets. Here are a few V1 features:

    • Abandoned Cart Reports & Emails: Encourage more conversions.
    • Allow Reviews: Let customers leave reviews on your products.
    • Returned Merchandise Authorization (RMA) Tool: Easily process returned products.
    • Sell On Facebook, Amazon, eBay: Sync channels with your store and manage your multichannel orders from Volusion.
    • Content Delivery Network (CDN): Use a CDN to deliver site content faster.

    And here are features for V2:

    • Instant Search: Let customers search products on your storefront.
    • Checkout On Your Domain: Customers will not be redirected to a Volusion subdomain at checkout (available for merchants on the Professional and Business level plans).
    • Shipping Features: Create shipping options like signature-required shipments, discounted shipping, and flat rate shipping.
    • Bulk Import: Use CSV files to import new inventory in bulk.
    • Returned Merchandise Authorization (RMA) Tool: Process returns easily.
    • Dropshipping App: Use Volusion’s already-integrated dropshipping app to fulfill orders without handling merchandise.

    3dcart is well known for their robust feature set. Volusion, on the other hand, is still working on expanding their feature set to better match their competitors’. 3dcart wins this one.

    Get Started With 3dcart

    Get Started With Volusion V1

    Get Started With Volusion V2

    Web Design

    Winner: Volusion

    As hosted software, 3dcart and Volusion work to provide elegant, easily customizable design templates for their customers.

    3dcart users can find 90 free themes in 3dcart’s marketplace, all of which are mobile responsive. These themes are rather middle-of-the-road. They aren’t spectacular, but they aren’t ugly.

    3dcart also has a few dozen premium themes available for purchase. These themes cost $99-$199.

    Sellers can edit these themes in a variety of ways. Tech savvy users can edit the HTML and CSS, and less experienced users can use the WYSIWYG editor to make changes to your store’s language (like buttons, tabs, etc.). 3dcart also has a drag and drop available for merchants who request it, but it isn’t a very strong editing option.

    Volusion features different themes for V1 and V2. V1 has a selection of 46 themes, 11 of which are free. V1 also sells premium themes at $180.

    V2 has a much smaller set of themes–just 14–and all of them are free and mobile responsive. There do not appear to be any premium templates available for V2.

    Theme editing between the two versions is different as well. V1 users are equipped with code editing tools. You can use HTML and CSS editors. There are also a WYSIWYG editor and visual style editor, which you can use to adjust and add blocks of content to your site.

    Theme editing with V2 is much more focused on ease of use. You can use V2’s visual editor to make larger changes without touching the code. Or, if you’d prefer, you can make changes directly to the CSS.

    While 3dcart provides more template options, we think Volusion has more user-friendly editing tools. Volusion wins web design.

    Integrations & Add-Ons

    Winner: 3dcart

    3dcart’s marketplace features plenty of add-ons that offer a variety of features, including order management, shipping, security, social media, dropshipping, channel management, advertisement, and more. There’s also a RESTful API that developers can use to build more customizations and connections.

    Volusion also has a strong app marketplace for merchants on the V1 version. There are over 70 integrations available for shipping, email, accounting, and more.

    V2, on the other hand, does not provide so many options. There are only 22 applications currently available. It’s worth noting, however, that one of those applications is Zapier, which facilitates connections to many, many more integrations. Zapier is a paid service.

    Both versions of Volusion also have APIs available for further development.

    We’re basing our decision for this category on numbers. 3dcart wins!

    Payment Processing

    Winner: 3dcart

    3dcart connects with over 100 payment gateways. You’ll have plenty of options.

    Both versions of Volusion connect with significantly fewer payment gateways. V1 has 30+ payment gateways, and V1 only connects with two options: PayPal and Stripe (if you connect with Stripe, you can also enable Apple Pay).

    In addition, Volusion offers its own in-house payment service for V1 merchants only: Volusion Payments. Volusion Payments lets you process transactions for around 2.15% + $0.30 per transaction with no monthly fee (note: this rate is a ballpark number. Your actual rates may be lower or higher). Volusion Payments requires users to sign a three year contract. If you terminate this contract after the 45 day grace period, you will be charged a $99 termination fee. While we’re happy that Volusion has its own payment services, we are displeased with the way they provide information about the services. Volusion is not very upfront about their fees on their website. We wish they were more transparent.

    We’re giving the category to 3dcart.

    Customer Service & Technical Support

    Winner: Tie

    All 3dcart plans come with personalized support via email, live chat, and phone. Self help support options include a knowledge base, video tutorials, a support forum, webinars, and an e-university. 3dcart’s response times are good for inquiries via phone or web ticket. However, their response times for live chat support are significantly delayed. Essentially, “live chat” is just another way to submit web tickets. It takes hours for support reps to get back to you.

    Customer support is the same for both versions of Volusion. All plans (except Mini on V1 and Personal on V2) come with 24/7 support via phone, chat, and email. Self help resources include a knowledge base, webinars, video tutorials, a blog, and guides. There are mixed reviews only about the quality of Volusion’s customer support. Some have great experiences, others don’t.

    Negative Reviews & Complaints

    Winner: Tie

    Every shopping cart comes with its fair share of negative reviews. Here’s what users dislike about each platform:

    3dcart

    • Poor Customer Service: Users claim customer support is slow to respond to inquiries. Note below in the “Positive Reviews” section that this is not a universal experience.
    • Plain Templates: 3dcart’s templates aren’t bad, but they lack pizzaz.
    • Expensive Add-Ons: The cost of using multiple integrations and extensions can add up.

    Volusion

    • Additional Fees: Merchants on both versions face additional fees: bandwidth overage fees on V1 and transaction fees on V2.
    • Dated Software: Users complain that Volusion’s features are not up-to-date with cutting edge software.
    • Misleading Sales Reps: I have seen a lot of reports of misleading sales tactics. It’s worth noting that Volusion has recently put a lot of work into improving their support system, and they claim higher levels of customer satisfaction.
    • No Free SSL On V1: Merchants on V1 have to purchase their own SSL certificate. These are normally included for free with hosted software.

    Positive Reviews & Testimonials

    Winner: Tie

    Despite these negative reviews, there’s still a lot of good things to say about both of these platforms. Here’s what users love about 3dcart and Volusion:

    3dcart

    • Low Price: 3dcart’s prices are competitive with other leading eCommerce software.
    • Good Customer Support: Some users have positive experiences with 3dcart’s support team.
    • Easy To Use: 3dcart’s UI is easy to learn, no matter what your technical ability level is.
    • Many Features Built In: 3dcart offers a robust feature set right out of the box. You’ll be able to access advanced features without add-ons.

    Volusion

    • It Works: Users like that they can get started right away with all the necessary features. In addition, Volusion users say the software is bug-free, which is a huge plus.
    • No Transaction Fees On V1: Merchants on V1 do not have to pay transaction fees. They just need to monitor their bandwidth usage to make sure it stays within limits.
    • Ease Of Use: Volusion’s UI are very user friendly, especially on V2.

    Final Verdict

    Winner: 3dcart

    It’s a close race, but in the end, 3dcart takes the lead. A strong feature set, low pricing, and high ease of use make 3dcart an excellent eCommerce platform for many merchants.

    Despite the results of this comparison, Volusion may still be the right choice for your business. Volusion’s two versions give merchants a level of choice that 3dcart can’t offer. You may find that V1 or V2 fits your needs perfectly.

    Whichever you choose, we hope you’ll consider signing up for a free trial of the software before you purchase. You can learn a lot from just a couple of hours exploring a software’s admin panel. Click the links below to get started with a trial of 3dcart or Volusion.

    Get Started With 3dcart

    Get Started With Volusion V1

    Get Started With Volusion V2

    The post 3dcart VS Volusion appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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