How To Accept Credit Cards Online

So you’ve realized you want to start selling online. Good for you! The ecommerce market is certainly booming. But before you can start raking in the money, you probably have a few questions, like “how do I make a website?” and “how do I accept credit cards online?” Here’s the good news: There are plenty of software options and payment processors to choose from! The bad news? There are plenty of software options and payment processors to choose from. So how do you choose?

As always, there’s no one perfect solution for everyone. You need to know your business (and where you want to go with it) and have a rough idea of what you need. If you have no idea where to start, never fear! In this article, we’ll cover some of the basic considerations about accepting credit card payments online, as well as types of payment processors and how to accept credit card payments online with and without a website. We’ll also discuss some of our favorite solutions for ecommerce and provide resources to help you learn more.

5 Questions To Ask Before You Start

It’s really important, before you dive headlong into any kind of financial investment in your business, to sit down and make sure that you know what you want and what you need. I say that a lot, but with selling online it’s especially important to look before you leap because if you get any component of your setup wrong, redoing it will cost time and money.

So before anything, here are some questions to consider:

  1. How technologically savvy are you? Simply put, are you even able to build and maintain your website yourself? If you’re not exactly a technological wizard, your priority should be finding an easy-to-manage solution. You can also outsource tasks you can’t handle yourself, such as design or even data entry for the creation of products. Of course, if you have an ambitious idea and no ready-made solution exists, or you need a lot of customization, you might need a developer who can work with software APIs to create what you need. You can find freelance developers to help out as you go, but the more high-tech you go, obviously, the more you should consider having a full-time developer.
  2. Do you already have a website? If yes, do you like your website? Would you rather abandon it for a better site with more features? If you already have a site and don’t want to go through the effort of creating a new site to sell a handful of products, payment buttons or plug-ins are better options. If you don’t have a site or you don’t mind nixing your current site in favor of something better, shopping cart software might meet the brief nicely. But of course, you don’t need a website to accept payments online. We’ll talk about all of these options more below.
  3. What’s your budget? When it comes to numbers, you need to look at both upfront costs and monthly (or yearly) costs. How much can you spend at the outset, and how much do you expect to be able to afford on a monthly or annual basis? Keep in mind the more technically advanced your website, the more you can expect to pay to build and maintain it. Likewise, the busier your site — the more products you have and the more sales you make — the more you can expect to pay. Don’t forget the tangential costs, such as hiring a designer or a developer, or data entry, and of course, the costs of payment processing itself!
  4. What are you selling? Whether you’re offering digital goods, subscriptions/services, or retail products, look for service providers that cater to your industry so you don’t have to find creative workarounds. Many solutions are generalized for a broad array of merchants, but with add-ons and integrations to make them more tailored. You can also find payment processors and software that offer ready-made specialized solutions and service plans, such as micropayments for merchants who sell low-priced digital goods.
  5. How comfortable are you with handling security features? If you want to sell online, you have to make sure your website is secure. That means ensuring your site is PCI compliant. The more involved you are in the payments process and the more sensitive information your website handles, the more of a burden you are taking upon yourself. Fortunately, many payment processors and other software providers offer solutions to keep your customers’ information secure and reduce your PCI burden — in some cases, you may not need to do anything at all.

Once you’ve got the answers to these questions and a list of the features you need and want, it’s time to actually start looking at your options. One of your primary considerations should be finding a payment processor. However, depending on your business model, you might want to first look at what kind of ecommerce options work for you and then select a payment processor from the available options.

We’ll begin by talking about payment processors and go on to look at what other software or platforms you should explore.

Types Of Payment Processors

No matter how you go about finding a payment processor — choosing a standalone, going with the default processor included with your shopping cart, or choosing a recommended partner from a software provider — you need to consider what kind of business model the processor uses. If you’ve been here before and read any of my other articles, you know that I am talking about the difference between third-party payment processors versus traditional merchant accounts.

Traditional merchant accounts are very stable. It would take a clear violation of either your contract or card network rules in order to trigger an account termination, and you’re unlikely to encounter a hold on funds unless you’ve had a series of issues with chargebacks or fraudulent transactions. However, most merchant account providers expect you to have an established business and a monthly volume of $10,000 in credit card transactions. Plus, setting up a merchant account will typically take a few days. It could take longer depending on how many processors are on your short list and how much negotiation is required.

Third-party processors are not quite as stable as merchant accounts. That’s because instead of issuing separate accounts for each of their merchants, everything is lumped together in one giant, communal merchant account. It takes very little effort to apply for an account with one of these processors, and you can often get approved and set up to accept credit cards online within a day. Factor in no monthly minimum volume requirements and third-party processors provide a great way for new businesses to take payments. However, the trade-off is that you’ll face greater scrutiny and a higher risk for account holds or terminations, often with no warning. Check out our article on how to prevent merchant account hold and freezes to learn how to reduce your risk.

While third-party processors are riskier than merchant accounts, they are a great option for new businesses who don’t know what sort of volume they can expect and don’t have an established history. Even for established businesses, there are some advantages: namely, third-party processors offer predictable, flat-rate pricing, so you know exactly how much you’ll pay. The best merchant account providers typically offer interchange-plus pricing, which, while clear and transparent, doesn’t make it easy to accurately estimate processing because interchange rates vary.

It’s up to you to decide which type of processor is right for your business. I do want to point out that some software companies (ecommerce shopping carts, point of sale solutions, invoice platforms, and more) often build white-label payments into their solutions. These solutions can take the form of third-party processors or merchant accounts, so make sure you investigate before just going with the default processor. In addition to their native payment processing services, most ecommerce software providers support integrations with an assortment of merchant accounts and third-party payment processors.

Square is our top-pick for third-party payment processor. In addition to predictable, flat-rate pricing with no monthly fees or contracts, Square offers a whole suite of seamlessly integrated apps to address in-person and online sales at no charge at all. eCommerce transactions process at 2.9% + $0.30 each.

For merchant accounts, we recommend CDGcommerce, which offers flat-rate pricing and an interchange-plus option depending on the merchant’s payment volume. There are no monthly minimums and no contracts, just a $10 monthly fee. Low-volume merchants will pay 1.95% + $0.30 for most transactions, or 2.95% + $0.30 for premium, corporate, or international cards. Merchants who process more than $10,000/month are eligible for interchange-plus pricing with a 0.30% + $0.10 markup.

Does Your Payment Processor Include a Gateway?

If you want to accept credit card payments online, it’s not enough to find a credit card processor. You also need a gateway. As the name suggests, a gateway is an intermediary software program that transfers the payment data from your website to the customer’s bank to be approved or declined (and then routes the money to your merchant account).

Many payment processors offer gateways as part of their services. For example, PayPal, Square, and Stripe all offer gateways bundled with the rest of their services at no additional cost. CDGcommerce offers its Quantum gateway as part of its services for online merchants.

However, some processors will charge you a setup fee and/or a monthly fee for use of the gateway. While it’s fair and legitimate to charge for this service (especially if you’re being offered other discounts or freebies in exchange), there’s no reason for you to overpay, either. Make sure you know how much a gateway service will cost if it’s not offered for free.

While it’s rare to find a processor that doesn’t include some sort of gateway access, they do exist. In the event that you find yourself leaning toward one of these processors, you can find your own gateway. Authorize.net is nearly universally compatible and reasonably priced, which makes it a good option for most merchants. (Worth noting: CDGcommerce’s gateway, Quantum, also includes an Authorize.net emulation mode to maximize compatibility.)

Want to know more about how payment gateways figure into your ecommerce setup? Check out our article, The Complete Guide to Online Credit Card Processing With a Payment Gateway, for more information.

How To Accept Online Payments With A Website

A website is a pretty integral part of selling online (but it’s not 100% necessary — we’ll look at some alternatives in the next section). As mentioned above, the first question to consider is: Do I already have a website? Then ask yourself: Do I like that website, or would I rather start over completely? Fortunately, there are solutions for both of these scenarios. For existing sites, you can implement payment buttons or seek out a plug-in or extension that supports ecommerce.

Adding Payments To An Existing Site

best templates

If you’ve used a site builder such as WordPress, Weebly, Wix, or Squarespace, it’s fairly simple to implement online payments. Simply check out the sitebuilder’s available third-party apps, extensions, and plugins. If you already know which payment processor you want to use, you can search directly for an available add-on. Otherwise, you can browse and see what options are ready-made for you. These add-ons will allow you to securely collect payment information from your customers as well as manage the order fulfillment process. Do your research and go with solutions from your site builder rather than third parties, if possible. Check reviews of any plugins or extensions you add and make sure they are well supported and any glitches are fixed in a timely manner.

If you run a WordPress site, WooCommerce or Ecwid could be good starter options. WooCommerce is actually a free plug-in to add to your site, with a basic theme and your choice of payment processors. It’s a very modular setup, so you can choose from a mix of free and paid extensions that allow you to customize WooCommerce to your needs. That includes payment processors, subscription tools, the ability to create add-ons (such as gift wrap for products), and more. Most WooCommerce add-ons are charged on an annual basis, which could require more of an up-front investment than a monthly subscription, so be aware of this fact.

Ecwid is another plug-in designed for WordPress. However, it also works on an assortment of other website-building platforms, including Wix and Weebly, Ecwid does offer a free plan for businesses with 10 or fewer products, but for higher-tiered plans you’ll pay a monthly subscription fee. Ecwid supports a wide assortment of integrations, including payment gateways. With higher plan tiers, you also get access to expanded sales channels.

Wix and Weebly’s website builders can be used for blogging, personal portfolios, and any other purposes. They both offer online store modules. Online stores from Wix start at $20/month with no transaction fees and your choice of processors. Upgrading to an eCommerce plan is fairly simple from within the Wix dashboard and won’t require any substantial reworking. Simply add the “My Store” module to your dashboard, make the upgrade, and start creating products.

Finally, there’s Weebly. Square actually bought Weebly in the spring of 2018, so it’s possible we could see Weebly start to favor Square pretty heavily in the future. For now, though, Weebly’s online store plans start at $8/month (on a yearly plan), with a 3% transaction fee on top of your processing costs. The transaction fee drops off with higher-tier plans, leaving just the monthly fee.

The other way to add payments to an existing site is to look for a payment processor that supports customizable payment buttons. A good payment button creator will give you power over the appearance of the buttons as well as the settings for transactions. The obvious, go-to solution for many is PayPal, which offers a pretty powerful array of tools. PayPal’s buttons are a good option whether you are selling a single product or multiple ones. You can set up payment buttons to allow products to be added to a cart or to go directly to checkout. PayPal even allows nonprofits to create a “Donate” button for their site, which can be configured for one-time and recurring donations.

An alternative to PayPal is Shopify Lite, an entry-level solution. For $9/month plus transaction costs (2.9% + $0.30), you can accept payments on your website by adding payment buttons. The plan also includes access to Shopify’s mPOS app and the ability to sell on Facebook (we’ll talk about that option in the next section, too.) And it’s worth mentioning that Ecwid also supports the creation of custom buy buttons.

While adding payments to an existing site is incredibly convenient and often requires little work, you won’t get quite as many tools as you would with a hosted ecommerce software solution. Which brings us to the best solution if you would rather build a new site or have no website to start with:

Building A New Site With Shopping Cart Software

eCommerce software apps, sometimes also called shopping carts or shopping cart software, are hosted, all-in-one solutions to online sales. Adding an ecommerce feature to an existing website requires you to choose a platform, buy the domain, and pay for hosting, but with shopping carts, you’ll get everything in a single package: online sales and product management, hosting, and sometimes even the ability to buy a domain name directly. Typically, shopping carts will also help you centralize control of sales across multiple channels, so that if you sell on social media, on eBay, or through another channel, you can handle order fulfillment through a single platform. That even includes buying postage (at a discounted rate) and printing the shipping labels. Some shopping carts will offer marketing tools or integrations with marketing platforms, as well as integrations with point of sale systems.

As far as payment processing goes, some shopping carts have opted to include their own white-label payments as a default part of their services. One such cart is Shopify, which offers its own Shopify Payments service (read our review). However, this is just a white-label version of Stripe. Be aware that choosing a payment processor other than the default can incur additional fees.

Generally speaking, even if a shopping cart doesn’t offer all of the features you want, you can search the app market for available extensions and integrations to get what you need. It’s worth researching the available add-ons as well as the native software features.

There’s a lot to consider and compare with a shopping cart. Obviously, you can use a sitebuilder such as Weebly or Wix, which both offer eCommerce modules. Then there are ecommerce-exclusive platforms, including Shopify and BigCommerce, which make it easy to build your site and customize the design (and even offer blogging so you can centralize control of your website).

If you want a whole lot of freedom and have coding knowledge, an open-source platform such as Magento might be more to your liking. Open-source platforms tend to be chock-full of specialized features (particularly if they have attracted active user communities) and you have almost limitless control of your site. A closed-source, SaaS platform is certainly a lot easier and more convenient for business owners who are just starting out and want to go the DIY route.

If you aren’t sure what you want, we recommend you start by checking out Shopify and BigCommerce, both of which are affordably priced for new businesses and offer extensive customer support resources. They also both offer multi-channel sales manage so you can sell through your own site and through other platforms but manage all of your orders from a single portal.

If you’re still curious about what makes a great ecommerce platform, check out some of our other resources!

  • The Beginner’s Guide to Starting an Online Store (eBook)
  • Shopping Cart Flowchart: Choose the Right eCommerce Software for Your Business (Infographic)
  • Shopping Carts 101: How to Choose a Shopping Cart for Your Business (Article)
  • Questions to Ask Before You Commit to a Shopping Cart (Article)

Managing Services, Subscriptions & Other Recurring Charges

A lot of merchants, from accountants and other professional service provideres to lawn care and cleaning services, could benefit from being able to automate recurring charges. And of course, the ability to automate charges is essential for SaaS providers and subscription-box sellers.

Generally speaking, the ability to accept recurring payments — for monthly services or subscriptions — isn’t a default option for payment processors or shopping carts, which tend to be retail-focused. However, you can find plenty of solutions that will work with your existing eCommerce setup. For example, Stripe and Braintree both offer extensive subscription management tools along with their payment gateway and processing services. Add-on services such as Chargify, Recurly, and ChargeBee work with a variety of processors. Zoho Subscriptions and Freshbooks also offer recurring billing tools. PayPal offers recurring billing tools for its merchants; Square offers “recurring invoices” but not a lot of advanced customization for subscription billing.

Proper research will be very important when selecting a provider that offers all of the features you need, whether you require metered billing for usage-based online services, the ability for customers to upgrade to a higher tiered plan mid-billing cycle, the ability to offer free trial periods and extend them, or a way to calculate taxes. Tools that automatically update expired cards can also help reduce failed charges and therefore improve revenues and reduce customer loss.

Accepting Online Payments Without A Website

Most people equate taking payments online with having a website. That is the most common option, but you don’t actually need your own website. Let’s talk about a few of the alternatives for how to accept credit cards online.

Creating Online Invoices

You could create your own invoices in Microsoft Office and send them out via email, but then you’ve got to keep track of which invoices have been sent and which have been paid — and you’ve still got to deal with waiting for the check in the mail. Online invoicing solutions can eliminate every single one of these hassles.

Generally speaking, invoicing software is cloud-based, so you can access it anywhere. You can customize invoices and send them via email (or generate a shareable link to the invoice). But unlike old-fashioned invoicing, these invoices include a link to pay directly in the invoice. Your customers follow the link, enter their payment details, and bam! You get paid much quicker.

Depending on which invoicing software you choose, you can get some powerful features. For example, PayPal allows you to enable partial payments on an invoice if you are willing to accept installment payments. Square’s invoicing links up with the platform’s customer database, allowing you to send recurring invoices and even store customer cards on file to make getting paid even easier. Zoho Invoice, which starts at $0/month, also allows for a customer database, as well as project management (so you can generate an invoice based on the number of hours worked). Shopify offers invoice creation within its platform at no additional charge as well — and this feature is even available on the Lite plan.

For most merchants, Square Invoices may be the most appealing, as it’s available with a Square account at no additional charge. However, Shopify’s built-in invoicing will work for merchants who want to sell with or without a website. Merchants who need project management as part of their invoicing should look at Zoho Invoice.

Using Online Form Builders

So you don’t have a website, but you still need to collect user information and accept payment. Online form builders offer an easy way to do both. Plus, you can post links to forms on social media or send them out via email.

Off the top of your head, you might think of Google Forms, which is free to use and quite advanced for a freemium software. However, it doesn’t integrate seamlessly with payment processors. Your best option, in this case, would be to use PayPal’s embeddable buy buttons and include the button in the form’s submission confirmation page as a second step. However, you’ll have to manually reconcile the payment records versus form submissions.

Subscription-based form builders will cost you money but offer far more capabilities than Google Forms, including direct integrations with payment processors/gateways such as PayPal, Stripe, Square, and Authorize.net. Subscriptions generally work on annual or monthly plans, but one option, Cognito Forms, offers an entry-level plan that charges 1% of the transaction amount instead. (Note, that’s in addition to any processing fees.) Other form solutions worth looking into are Zoho Forms and Jotform. Zoho Forms starts at $10/month and includes unlimited forms and up to 10,000 submissions. It integrates with both PayPal and Stripe. Jotform’s paid plans start at $19/month and are limited to 1,000 submissions, but include integrations for quite a few payment processors, including PayPal, Stripe, Square, and even Dwolla. Cognito Forms’ paid plans start at $10/month plus 1% of the transactions and include up to 2,000 form submissions. Integrations include PayPal and Stripe.

And we haven’t even talked about event registration sites. There are a lot of them, but the one many people are likely familiar with is EventBrite. EventBrite allows you to put all the details of your event online and sell tickets — including setting multiple tiers of admission and promotion cards, automatically setting price changes for registration deadlines, and so on. You can even collect marketing data about your patrons, from their zip codes to how they heard about the event. Your event is searchable from within the EventBrite platform, allowing people searching for something to do to discover your event as well. EventBrite does charge fees on top of processing costs, but these can actually be passed onto event registrees, saving you some money at least.

Selling On Social Media

It wasn’t all that long ago that the idea of being able to buy products directly through social media channels was novel and experimental, but nowadays you can create your own online shop through Facebook, or sell on Instagram or even Pinterest.

With Facebook, you just need a Facebook business page to get started. You can choose your payment processor (PayPal or Stripe) and start manually uploading products, all of which have to be reviewed by Facebook before they can go live. An easier option is to link your Facebook shop to an online store builder such as BigCommerce, Ecwid, or Shopify.

Shopify is actually an interesting solution because, while its core offering is an online shopping cart, it offers a “Lite” plan for $9/month that includes access to its mPOS app, buy buttons for a website, and a Facebook store with automated tools to make the process easier. You wouldn’t necessarily have to go through the hassle of building a website with Shopify just to sell on Facebook, but you still get more tools than you would by going through Facebook directly. Check out our Shopify Lite review for an in-depth look at the plan and all its features.

Selling on Instagram requires you to have a Facebook shop (because Facebook owns Instagram) to create what it calls “Shoppable posts.” That shop can be managed directly via Facebook itself, or via Shopify or BigCommerce as one of multiple sales channels. I’d like to point out that Instagram isn’t available as a sales channel with the Lite plan; you’ll need to upgrade to Shopify Basic at $29/month to be able to manage sales via Instagram.

Lastly, Pinterest allows merchants with a business account to create “Buyable pins,” so you can sell from your Pinterest page. Unlike Facebook, where you can manage the buyable pins from the platform, to sell through Pinterest you will need to go through either Shopify or BigCommerce and actually apply for approval before you can start selling.

Shopify Lite is an ideal option if you want to start with Facebook and maybe add buy buttons to a website. You can upgrade to Shopify Basic ($29/month) to get your own site, plus access to Instagram and Pinterest if that appeals to you.

Selling In Marketplaces

Online marketplaces are a good alternative to having your own website if you’re selling retail goods. You don’t have to pay for hosting or invest anything in web design. You simply create your product listings using the tools provided and publish them. Marketplaces allow you to get your products in front of a large audience without you having to build a stream of traffic yourself. However, the trade-offs are that you generally pay more in fees (listing fees, seller’s fees, and payment processing) than you would with your own website, and you have zero control over the design of the site or even how your products are displayed. Generally speaking, you are limited to using whatever payment processing the marketplace offers as well.

A few popular marketplaces include:

  • eBay
  • Etsy
  • Amazon
  • Jet (owned by Walmart)
  • Ruby Lane

Accepting Payments Through Virtual Terminals 

The final alternative is a bit of a stretch, I’ll admit, but it can be a powerful tool for some merchants. A virtual terminal is a web portal where you can manually enter credit card information to process a transaction. (There’s the stretch: VTs require an internet connection, so they’re technically online payments.)  Virtual terminals are a necessity for merchants who want to accept payments over the phone (or even by mail).

Some payment processors offer a virtual terminal as part of their software package, others as an add-on. These providers include PayPal, Payline Mobile, Square, and Fattmerchant. However, if you want the best value for a virtual terminal, we recommend Square. You pay only the payment processing costs (3.5% + $0.15) and it is interoperable with the rest of Square’s platform.

Beyond Credit Cards: Alternative Online Payment Methods

Credit cards are the go-to for accepting payments online, but they aren’t the only options. For starters, there are ACH bank transfers, which are generally less expensive for merchants to process. They’re often preferred in B2B environments, but some consumers favor them too.

Offering ACH processing as an additional option, especially if you’re in the B2B space, could win you more customers. According to a 2017 Payment Benchmarks Survey by the Credit Research Foundation and the National Automated Clearing House Association (NACHA), ACH transfers currently account for 32 percent of B2B transactions, lagging behind checks, which took the no. 1 spot at 50 percent. Credit cards account for just 11 percent of B2B transactions. By 2020, the survey estimates that ACH will take the top spot and account for 45 percent of B2B transactions.

Despite this, most merchant accounts or even third-party processors don’t offer ACH by default. Some offer it as an add-on plan, others may require you to look for a supplemental option for ACH acceptance.

ACH is far from the only option as far as “alternative” payment processing now, too. Mobile wallets are bridging the gap between in-person and online payments, and card networks have implemented their own online checkout options for cardholders. The major advantage to accepting these options is that they offer an extra layer of security for consumers. For example, Apple Pay on the web still requires biometric authentication before approval.

Some of these alternative payment methods include:

  • Apple Pay on the Web
  • Google Pay
  • Microsoft Pay
  • Chase Pay
  • MasterPass
  • Visa Checkout
  • Amex Express checkout

Apple Pay and Google Pay are fairly widely supported, but you may not see the other options on this list everywhere.

Two noteworthy providers that offer ACH, as well as other alternative payment options, are Stripe and Braintree. However, both are developer-focused platforms, so you’ll need someone with the technical know-how to implement them. Merchant accounts that specialize in eCommerce and provide a solid gateway might offer these options too.

We recommend Stripe because of its extensive developer tools, customizable checkout, and resources for recurring billing. The company also offers round-the-clock customer support (an admittedly recent addition to its feature set). Plus, Stripe is great for international merchants who want to be able to accept localized currencies in Europe and Asia.

Begin Accepting Payments Online

Starting an online store and learning how to accept credit cards online can seem like a daunting task! There are so many factors to consider, but I hope I’ve been able to shed some light on the process and point you in the direction of some good options. A merchant account can give you security and stability, but it may not be the most cost-effective option for low-volume merchants. A third-party processor can get you set up quickly with predictable pricing that often favors low-volume merchants, but the trade-off is account stability. And of course there’s the matter of compatibility: You need to make sure that whatever payment processor you choose offers a gateway compatible with the software (and sales channels) you want to use.

But you also need to have a good idea of what you can afford to spend up front and on a monthly basis and understand your limitations when it comes to technology and software. If you want to go the DIY route, you’ll need to be fairly tech-savvy. Otherwise, be prepared to outsource tasks to designers, developers, and even admin assistants. Some software solutions make it incredibly easy to do everything yourself, others will require lots of hands-on effort to make them work.

If you’re still not sure where to go from here, we recommend you check out our article: The Best Online Credit Card Payment Processing Companies. You can also view our merchant account comparison chart for a quick look at our favorite providers.

Have questions? We’re always happy to hear from our readers, so please leave us a comment!

The post How To Accept Credit Cards Online appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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What’s The Best Chase Ink Business Credit Card? Compare Cards Here!

Chase ink business credit card comparison

Chase’s lineup of Ink Business credit cards is well-regarded in the business credit card industry and by reviewers. After having done the math and the research, we here at Merchant Maverick concur with this assessment. However, that doesn’t answer the question you may be asking: Which Chase business credit card should I get?

We thought we’d explore this question so that you know which of Chase’s small business offerings suits your particular goals. Our Chase Ink business credit card comparison will cover four cards. Let’s take a look at the Chase Ink Business CashSM, the Chase Ink Business UnlimitedSM, and the Chase Ink Business PreferredSM.

Chase Ink Business CashSM

  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Bonus Offer: $500 cash back when you spend at least $3,000 within 3 months of opening your account
  • APR: 14.99% – 20.99%, Variable
  • Introductory APR: 0% APR for the first 12 months
  • Foreign Transaction Fee: 3%
  • Rewards:
    • 5% cash back on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at office supply stores and on internet, cable, and phone purchases each year
    • 2% cash back on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at gas stations and restaurants each year
    • 1% cash back on all other purchases

The main selling point of the Chase Ink Business CashSM credit card is the 5% cash back earning potential — it’s one of the few business cards available to offer such a high cash back rate. You stand to earn 5% cash back on the first $25,000 spent on the purchase categories listed above each year — a potential $1,250 value. Max out the 2% cash back tier, and you’ll be sitting pretty with $1,750 cash back each year. You can continue to earn cash back on your purchases in these categories after spending $25,000 in a year, but at a 1% rate. It’s a great deal for the business owner whose spending is concentrated in these high-earning categories, but if your spending on said categories is significantly above this $25,000 limit, you might want to consider a card offering unlimited cash back.

The Chase Ink Business CashSM has no annual fee. Combine that with the $500 cash back you stand to earn if you spend $3K or more within 3 months — a bar most businesses will clear –and you’ll be rewarded nicely for your card use right off the bat.

When you go to redeem your rewards, you’ll find that your cash back rewards are technically counted as points. 5% cash back is counted as five points per $1 spent, 2% back is two points per $1, etc. Your points will never expire so long as your account is open, and you can redeem your points not only for cash back, but for rewards like gift cards and travel. You can also transfer your points over to other cards with Chase Ultimate Rewards, which could then be transferred over to one of 13 different airline travel partners.

Additional benefits of the Ink Cash card include:

  • Fraud protection
  • Zero liability protection
  • Purchase protection
  • Extended warranty
  • Travel and emergency assistance services
  • Auto rental collision damage waiver

Read Our Full Chase Ink Business Cash Review

Apply For Chase Ink Business Cash 

Chase Ink Business UnlimitedSM

  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Bonus Offer: $500 cash back after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months
  • APR: 14.99%–20.99% variable APR
  • Introductory Rate: 0% APR on purchases and balance transfers in the first 12 months
  • Foreign Transaction Fee: 3%
  • Rewards: 
    • Earn unlimited 1.5% Cash Back rewards on all purchases

chase ink business unlimitedLaunched in May 2018, the Chase Ink Business Unlimited℠ card is Chase’s newest business credit card. Like the Ink Cash, the Ink Business Unlimited is a cash back business card. However, with the Unlimited card, there are no purchase categories, and you earn 1.5% cash back on all purchases with no limits on the amount of cash back you can earn. As this card will always draw comparisons with the similar Ink Cash card, let’s take a closer look at the similarities and differences between the two cards.

Chase Ink Business Cash vs Ink Business Unlimited

If you want a Chase Ink business credit card with no annual fee, you’ll have to go with one of these two cards, as the Chase Ink Business PreferredSM carries a $95 annual fee. To compare these two cards, let’s take note of where the Ink Cash and the Ink Business Unlimited don’t differ at all. Neither card carries an annual fee. Both cards offer the same welcome offer ($500 cash back after you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months), the same variable APR, the same 12-month introductory 0% APR period, the same 3% foreign transaction fee, and the same package of travel/shopping benefits.

The difference between the two cards lies entirely in their respective cash back reward structures. The Ink Cash offers 5% and 2% cash back spending categories along with 1% cash back on all other purchases, but the amount of annual spending in the 5% and 2% categories that will earn you this extra cash back is limited to $25,000 each. By contrast, the Ink Business Unlimited offers 1.5% cash back on all purchases with no limits — very simple indeed. If your business spending is diffuse and variable, the Business Unlimited is clearly a better deal, while the business owner whose spending is concentrated in the Ink Cash’s high earning categories will obviously find the Ink Cash to be a better deal. This is true only up to a point, however. Due to the fact that only your first $25,000 in annual purchases in these high-earning categories earns you cash back at these enhanced rates, the Ink Business Unlimited may earn you more cash back even if your spending is concentrated in the Ink Cash’s bonus categories. If you spend over $83,333.33 annually on the Ink Cash’s 5% cash back categories, you’ll actually earn more cash back by charging these same purchases to an Ink Business Unlimited card. Likewise, spend over $33,333.33 annually on the Ink Cash’s 2% cash back categories, and the Ink Business Unlimited starts earning you more cash back.

Essentially, the choice between the Ink Cash and the Ink Business Unlimited comes down to what your business expenses are and the total volume of said business expenses. Spend a light-to-moderate amount on the Ink Cash’s high-earning categories, and the Ink Cash is a better deal. Spend a large amount on these categories (or on other things entirely), and the Ink Business Unlimited will earn you more cash back.

Read Our Full Chase Ink Business Unlimited Review

Apply For Chase Ink Business Unlimited

Chase Ink Business PreferredSM

  • Annual Fee: $95
  • Bonus Offer: 80,000 points (if you spend at least $5,000 within the first three months of opening your account)
  • APR: 17.74% – 22.74%, Variable
  • Introductory Rate: None
  • Foreign Transaction Fee: None
  • Rewards:
    • 3 points per $1 on the first $150,000 spent in combined purchases on travel, shipping purchases, internet/cable/phone services, and advertising purchases made with social media and search engines each account anniversary year
    • 1 point per $1 on all other purchases
    • Points are worth 25% more if redeemed for travel via Chase Ultimate Rewards

The Chase Ink Business PreferredSM card was introduced by Chase in 2016 as a replacement for the now-discontinued Ink Business PlusSM. Being Chase’s flagship business card, the Ink Business Preferred offers an eye-watering rewards package: 3 points for every dollar spent on the first $150,000 in purchases in the categories listed above, and 1 point per $1 spent on everything else. Plus, your points will be worth 25% more when you redeem them for travel via Chase Ultimate Rewards. Let’s compare this card with the first two Chase Ink cards I’ve discussed.

Chase Business Ink Preferred vs Chase Ink Cash vs Chase Ink Unlimited

You’ll notice some significant differences between the Ink Business Preferred and the other two Ink business cards mentioned in this article. Obviously, the reward structure is different, as is the fact that your rewards will be worth 25% more when redeemed for travel. There’s also a more valuable bonus offer (the 80,000 points you’ll earn if you spend over $5K within 3 months are worth $800 or more, depending on what you use them for), and the 3% foreign transaction fee borne by Ink Cash and Ink Unlimited is absent in the Ink Business Preferred. Furthermore, along with all the same travel and shopping benefits of the Cash and Unlimited cards, you’ll get cell phone protection of up to $600 per claim, trip cancellation insurance, and trip delay coverage.

All these extra benefits aren’t free, however. The Ink Business Preferred carries a $95 annual fee. Its variable APR is a bit higher than that of the Ink Cash and Ink Unlimited, and unlike those two cards, the Ink Preferred has no introductory 0% APR period. But if you spend heavily on business travel, the Chase Ink Business PreferredSM should provide you the most value of all the Ink Business cards. And if you already have the Ink Cash or Ink Unlimited, pairing the Ink Preferred with either of them will get you extra points, an 80,000-point signup bonus, cell phone protection, and additional travel benefits you won’t get with Chase’s other two Ink Business cards. If you’re a frequent business traveler, such a pairing may work in your favor. Just bear in mind Chase’s infamous 5/24 rule: if you have opened five or more credit cards (from any bank) within the last 24 months, you won’t be approved for a new Chase card.

Read Our Full Chase Ink Business Preferred Review

Apply For Chase Ink Business Preferred 

An Alternative To Chase’s Ink Business Cards

capital one spark cash selectIf you’re looking for a good cash back business card but aren’t convinced by Chase’s Ink Business offerings, the Capital One Spark® Cash for Business card is a flat-rate cash back business card that lets you earn an unlimited 2% cash back — even more than the Chase Ink Business Unlimited℠. It’s a simple yet attractive advantage, made somewhat less appealing by the $95 annual fee (a fee the Ink Cash and Ink Unlimited do not carry) and the fact that you can’t transfer your rewards to travel rewards programs like you can with Chase’s business offerings. Still, Spark Cash for Business is an attractive proposition for the business owner who can’t be bothered with keeping track of spending categories and wants the highest universal cash back earning rate possible.

Check out our Spark® Cash for Business review to learn more.

Final Thoughts

So, which is the best Chase credit card for business? That depends on the amount and nature of your business spending. I hope the information given here has given you some guidance as to what options make the most sense for your particular business needs.

To compare high-ranking business credit cards in more detail, check out our credit card comparison chart or read the Best Business Credit Cards for 2018.

The post What’s The Best Chase Ink Business Credit Card? Compare Cards Here! appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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Is WordPress Easy To Use For eCommerce?

If you know anything about web development, you know about WordPress. WordPress is now the most popular Content Management System (CMS) in the world, powering over 31% of websites globally. In fact, WordPress is the software behind the very website you’re currently on!

As an everyday WordPress user myself, I can say with confidence that WordPress is a great CMS for many purposes, including online selling. The software is open-source and popular, meaning that it’s fully customizable and that there are plug-ins available to extend the functionality of the software.

While it’s true that WordPress was originally built as a blogging platform, several eCommerce plugins make it possible to transform your website into a full-fledged online store. In this article, we’ll be taking a look at three of the most popular eCommerce software systems that work with WordPress.

But first, let’s take a look at WordPress as a stand-alone software.

Is WordPress Easy To Use?

WordPress is a very learnable software. The software is fairly easy to use once you get the hang of things. However, this initial learning process may take some time.

This is particularly true if you are new to web development. As open-source software, WordPress is not exactly plug-and-play. In order to get your site online, you’ll have to find your own web host and then install WordPress on your hosting account. In addition, you will be responsible for maintaining your site’s security.

Once you’ve finished setting everything up, you will find that when it comes to daily operations, WordPress is very usable.

As you consider using WordPress for your online store, you’ll have to keep in mind the pros and cons of the software. Here’s a quick breakdown of those advantages and disadvantages:

Pros

  • Open Source: Because WordPress is open source, you have the freedom to modify the software however you choose. In addition, you can choose to sell your modifications to other users!
  • Free: WordPress is free to download and use. However, you should note that operating a website comes with other expenses. Take a look at our “Cons” list for more information.
  • Large User Community: With so many bloggers, sellers, and developers using WordPress, you can expect to find lively community forums in WordPress’s support resources. Get help from fellow users or purchase plug-ins from a wide range of developers.
  • Reliable Software: You can depend on WordPress as a glitch-free CMS.
  • Lots Of Plug-Ins Available: WordPress and third-party developers alike have put out thousands of plug-ins that you can purchase and install to add features to your platform.

Cons

  • For Do-It-Yourselfers Only: When you use WordPress, you will be responsible for managing your web hosting and site security.
  • Some Experience Required: You either must have some experience editing HTML/CSS or you must be willing to learn.
  • Limited Technical Support: WordPress offers some support via email and live chat. However, for the most part, you’re on your own when it comes to technical issues.
  • Common Target For Hackers: Open source software is often the target of security attacks. You’ll have to keep an eye out for any new security patches.
  • Difficult To Estimate Total Costs: Although WordPress is free to use, you will still have to pay the typical costs of operating a website. You’ll need to pay for hosting, an SSL certificate, a theme, and any plug-ins you choose to use.

Now you know a bit more about the usability of WordPress, let’s start talking about our favorite eCommerce plug-ins for WordPress! All three of the following plug-ins are affordable, easy-to-use, and easy to integrate with any WordPress website.

Let’s get started!

WooCommmerce

WooCommerce is a free, open source eCommerce plug-in that is designed specifically to be used with WordPress. WooCommerce fits businesses of all sizes, from startup to enterprise. In fact, WooCommerce has been downloaded over 48 million times, making it one of the most popular eCommerce solutions in the world.

WooCommerce is easy to incorporate into your WordPress site. All you have to do is install and activate the WooCommerce app in your “Plug-ins” tab. Activating this plug-in turns your blogging back-end into an online store admin. Take a look:

In this dashboard, you can manage everything for your online store. For example, you can create products, access pending orders, adjust shipping setting, enter product information, and set up inventory tracking.

WooCommerce provides enough features to handle all the basic operations of online selling. Everything else is available as an extension. Here are a few of the features built-in:

  • Sell Digital & Physical Products
  • Inventory Management Features
  • Shipping Calculator & Shipping Options (Pickup, Local Delivery, Calculated Shipping)
  • SEO Features
  • Coupons & Discounts

WooCommerce offers lots of themes to choose from. Most of these are designed by third-parties; however, WooCommerce also creates its own designs called “WooThemes.” We recommend you stick with these WooThemes as they tend to work best with WooCommerce updates. For the most part, in order to change large aspects of these designs, you will be required to edit the HTML and CSS.

Like WordPress, WooCommerce offers very limited customer support to their customers. You are mostly on your own. Fortunately, WooCommerce does have a detailed knowledge base as well as a supportive user community to help you through any difficulties.

We love WooCommerce for its customizability, its scalability, and of course, its price. To learn more about WooCommerce, take a look at our full review of the software. Or, download WooCommerce today to test it for yourself.

Ecwid

Another plug-in you might consider using is Ecwid. Ecwid is an eCommerce software that lets you incorporate shopping cart widgets–such as buy buttons or a full online store–into any pre-built website. Ecwid is a perfect solution for small to medium-sized businesses that want a simple way to add an online store to their website. Over one million merchants currently use Ecwid for their online selling.

Ecwid is a SaaS (software as a service) solution, which means that although you have to find hosting for your WordPress site, hosting for your Ecwid store is already included. Instead, you’ll just have to pay a monthly price to use the software. This price depends primarily on the number of products you plan on listing. Each step up in pricing also includes more advanced features. Take a look below for a quick breakdown of pricing:

  • Free Plan: $0/Month
    • 10 Products
  • Venture: $15/Month
    • 100 Products
  • Business: $35/Month
    • 2,500 Products
  • Unlimited: $99/Month
    • Unlimited Products

To add Ecwid to your WordPress account, sign for an Ecwid account at ecwid.com. Then, install and activate the app in your WordPress dashboard. Completing these actions will let you make changes to your Ecwid store from WordPress.

Here’s a look at Ecwid’s dashboard within WordPress:

Alternatively, you can choose to manage your store from Ecwid’s own dashboard. Since the two programs are now connected, every change you make in Ecwid will be reflected in your WordPress site. Here’s Ecwid’s dashboard:

We recommend using Ecwid’s dashboard to manage your online store. We think Ecwid’s dashboard is more intuitive and easier to use in general.

Using Ecwid will give you access to many of the necessary selling features. Here are a few of our favorites:

  • Buy Buttons
  • Multi-Channel Selling
  • Real-Time Shipping Rates
  • Promotions & Discounts
  • Sell Digital Products
  • Mobile Management App

Ecwid supplies users with one Starter Site theme that you can use to develop your storefront using drag-and-drop tools. There are also third-party themes available as well as HTML and CSS editors for more in-depth customization.

As is typical with SaaS solutions, Ecwid provides technical support through several channels. Your pricing plan will determine how you are able to reach customer support, whether that is through email, live chat, or phone. Everyone has access to a knowledge base and community support forums. Remember, Ecwid can only help with issues related to their software. They do not provide WordPress support.

Ecwid is a great solution for any merchant who’s looking for a simple way to sell products on their website. The app is easy to use with WordPress, it’s affordable, and it works. For more information, read our full review or sign up for Ecwid’s free plan to try it out.

Selz

Selz, selz review

Selz is another SaaS shopping cart solution that plugs into any website. Like Ecwid, Selz offers users both ease of use and versatility. Selz gives merchants the option of adding eCommerce features to any website in a variety of ways. You can choose to add an online store to an established website, embed buy buttons for select products, sell directly on social media, or set up a fully hosted online store.

Selz is designed for startups, artists, writers, and musicians, and the platform currently serves over 100,000 merchants worldwide. Ease of use is Selz’s strongest feature, which is wonderful for many beginning merchants.

On the other hand, sometimes Selz’s ease of use can be a limiting factor for sellers who are looking to grow. Selz does not offer many advanced features or integrations. Nevertheless, many sellers find that Selz fits their needs perfectly.

As a SaaS solution, Selz charges a monthly fee for the use of their software. There are four plans to choose from. These plans are organized by the number of products you plan to list. Additional features are available on higher level plans. Here’s a quick overview of pricing:

  • Free Plan: $0/Month
    • 5 Product Maximum
    • 2% Transaction Fee
  • Lite Plan: $19/Month
    • Unlimited Products
    • 2% Transaction Fee
  • Standard Plan: $29/Month
    • Unlimited Products
    • 1% Transaction Fee
  • Pro Plan: $49/Month
    • Unlimited Products
    • 0.5% Transaction Fee
    • No Transaction Fee If Using Selz Pay

To add Selz to your WordPress site, you’ll have to create a Selz account and then install and activate the Selz app in your WordPress dashboard.

Then, head back into your Selz dashboard. Using this dashboard, you can create products and discounts, process orders, and manage shipping settings. In order to test your setup with WordPress, you should add at least one or two products.

Now, you can decide how you’d like to add eCommerce to your site, whether that’s via buy buttons or an entire online store. When you make your decision, you’ll just have to follow Selz’s instructions to add products to your WordPress site.

During my testing, I decided to add my entire Selz store to WordPress. I looked into Selz’s instructions, but I had a bit of difficulty locating the correct buttons. I eventually figured out that WordPress’s new Gutenberg editor was complicating the process. Selz has not yet updated their support documentation to provide instructions for this new WordPress version. When I switched back to WordPress’s older Classic Editor, I was able to quickly integrate my store.

While both WooCommerce and Ecwid give you access to store management features within your WordPress dashboard, this is not the case with Selz. In order to add new products, process orders, etc. you will have to log back into your Selz dashboard.

Selz offers the basic features you need for online selling. Although Selz focuses mostly on the basics, they do include a few advanced features such as abandoned cart recovery and digital downloads. Take a look at a few of Selz’s features:

  • Sell Anywhere
  • Sell Physical & Digital Products
  • Real-Time Shipping Rates
  • Pay What You Want
  • Discounts & Coupons
  • Multi-Currency Capabilities
  • Abandoned Cart Recovery

When it comes to web design, Selz users are all set. There are 25 beautiful, image-focused designs to choose from, and they’re all free. Users can customize these designs by using the drag-and-drop editor or the HTML/CSS editors.

Support is available for all Selz users in the form of 24/7 live chat and email. There is also a Help Center full of useful documentation for users who prefer a do-it-yourself approach. As always, you’ll have to keep in mind that while Selz representatives love to help you use their software, they can’t help when it comes to WordPress difficulties.

Selz is a perfect solution for makers and startups who want to get their online stores started quickly. In particular, Selz works well for merchants who want to offer lots of digital products. If this sounds like you, head over to our full Selz review for more information. Or, you can take a look at Selz yourself.

Final Thoughts

So, is WordPress easy to use for eCommerce? We certainly think so, especially when you use the right eCommerce plug-in.

Take a deeper look at any of the three options we present above, and don’t be afraid to test out the plug-ins before you commit. All of these eCommerce solutions offer a free platform (or free download) so you can integrate the software with your WordPress site without paying a dime. And if you decide it isn’t a good fit for you, it’s easy to deactivate the integration. In fact, it just takes a few clicks.

So, what are you waiting for? Head over to our reviews or sign up for one of these shopping carts and get testing!

The post Is WordPress Easy To Use For eCommerce? appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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How Strong Is Your Business Loan Application?

How Strong Is Your Business Loan Application?

We all like to know that we are succeeding in our endeavors. It’s easy to tell how successful you are when exercising — just pull out a scale or a measuring tape. It’s equally easy to judge a successful work day by how many items you checked off the good ol’ planner. But when it comes to loan applications, how do you know when you’re ready to submit it?

What if I told you that you could measure how likely your loan application is to be approved before you sent it? While there’s no sure-fire magic secret to ensure your business loan application gets approved, there are ways to tell how strong your application is and how likely lenders are to accept it. In this post, we’ll cover seven ways to measure the strength of your business loan application.

Before sending your loan application, check how it stacks up in these seven areas first…

A Clear Plan

How Strong Is Your Business Loan Application?

Lenders want to know exactly how you plan on using a loan if approved. For this reason, it’s incredibly important to explain in detail how you plan on using the funding to grow your business.

If you ask a lender for $100,000 and don’t give a reason for the loan, there’s no chance you’re getting that money. Instead, provide a specific reason for the funding. For example, you may need $100,000 of new equipment that will increase your company’s productivity, allowing you to take on 100 new clients.

Common reasons for business loans include:

  • Hiring new employees
  • Purchasing inventory
  • Purchasing equipment
  • Expanding your business
  • Buying property

The more detailed you can be on your application the better. Some lending experts even recommend adding a detailed business plan to your application. A business plan will show that you are prepared, organized, and knowledgeable about your business field. When it comes to getting approved for a loan, these extra brownie points could make the difference between securing a loan and being declined.

Double check your loan application to make sure it clearly explains what you need the money for and how your business will benefit from this loan. Also, make sure you are asking for a reasonable amount for your business’s specific purposes. If your business loan application can demonstrate a clear plan, you’re off to a great start.

The 5 C’s Of Credit

How Strong Is Your Business Loan Application?

A strong loan application will highlight the 5 Cs of Credit. But what are the 5 Cs of Credit?

The 5 Cs of Credit are a measurement that lenders use to judge the trustworthiness and creditworthiness of a potential borrower.  If your loan application doesn’t display these traits, then most lenders view you as high-risk and decline your application entirely.

Here is a basic breakdown of the 5 Cs of Credit and what lenders are looking for on your loan application.

Character

Character refers to your business’s reputation. Lenders want to see that you pay your debts on time and are trustworthy.

To judge your company’s character, lenders will often check your credit history, your business credit score, and your personal credit score. They may also try to gauge your personal character through social media, references, or a phone consultation.

A loan application with strong character will have:

  • A good credit score
  • A record of on-time payments
  • Sound references (if required by lender)

If your application doesn’t demonstrate these qualities, read our post 5 Ways To Improve Your Personal Credit Score.

Capacity

Capacity refers to your business’s ability to pay back the loan. Lenders want to be assured that you have the cash flow to actually afford loan repayments.

To judge your company’s capacity, lenders often view your cash flow statements, bank statements, income, and existing debt.

A loan application with strong capacity will have:

  • Strong cash flow
  • Enough income to cover monthly payments
  • Minimal existing debt

Capital

Capital refers to how much money you have invested in your business. Lenders view owner’s capital as a sign that you “invested” in your company’s success and are then more likely to do whatever it takes to make your business succeed (which for lenders means paying back your loans).

To judge your capital, lenders view how much is invested as well as how it has been invested.

A loan application with strong capital will:

  • Show the total owner’s investments
  • Give detail on how those investments have grown the company

We understand that not every business owner has invested personal money into their business. Read our post The 5 Cs of Credit: What Lenders Look For to learn how you can still impress lenders without owner’s capital.

Collateral

Collateral refers to any assets that are offered up as insurance should you default on the loan. Many lenders require collateral as a safeguard that they won’t lose everything should you be unable to pay your loan.

To judge your company’s collateral, lenders may vary. They may require specific assets or a blanket lien or a personal guarantee.

A loan application with strong collateral will:

  • Understand their specific lender’s collateral requirements
  • Provide the proper collateral
  • Include any paperwork associated with the collateral

Conditions

Conditions refer to the conditions of the loan as well as those of the current economy. Lenders want to make sure that you can afford a loan.

To judge your company’s conditions, lenders will not only evaluate your loan application but also the details of the loan you are applying for (such as borrowing amount, interest rate, etc.). The economy and your business’s current market can also play a role.

A loan application with strong conditions will:

  • Have enough income to cover monthly payments
  • Demonstrate an understanding of their industry, current market, and competitors

Ultimately, the 5 Cs of Credit are a great way to determine how strong your loan application is. Make sure your loan application highlights your company’s character, capacity, capital, collateral, and conditions. If your business application demonstrates each of there traits, you are well on your way to getting the loan you want.

If you want to tips about how to master the 5 C’s of Credit, read our post The 5 C’s of Credit: What Lenders Look For.

Strong Cash Flow

How Strong Is Your Business Loan Application?

For lenders, it’s all about being certain that you can pay your loan back on time and in full. Your business loan application and the documents you send with it should demonstrate that you have enough cash flow to comfortably make payments.

Almost all lenders will require that you include cash flow statements and projections with your business loan application. Most accounting software will generate cash flow statements for you. A strong loan application will provide this information upfront so that lenders can calculate your debt service coverage ratio (DSCR).

  • Debt Service Coverage Ratio (DSCR): Measures the relationship between your business income and debt and is used to determine how healthy your business’s cash flow is. It also plays a key role in knowing exactly what size monthly payment you can afford on a potential loan.

Before applying for a loan, I recommend calculating your DSCR so you can know exactly what you can afford. You don’t want to go into a spiral of unpayable debt or bankruptcy. Be sure that the borrowing amount you’re asking for and its monthly payments are realistic. A lender will shoot your application down if they aren’t convinced you can pay a loan back.

A loan application that displays weak cash flow or a poor DSCR is not likely to get approved. By calculating your DSCR and evaluating your cash flow ahead of time, you can be sure that you can afford the loan you want before submitting the application.

To learn more about DSCR, read our post Debt Service Coverage Ratio: How To Calculate And Improve Your Business’s DSCR.

Minimal Existing Debt

How Strong Is Your Business Loan Application?

In addition to displaying strong cash flow, business owners seeking a loan should have little-to-no existing debt. A strong loan application is one that shows again and again “I can afford this loan.” If your business already has a large amount of existing debt, it’ll be hard to convince lenders to approve your application.

When lenders look at your application, they will check your existing debt using the DSCR mentioned earlier as well as the debt-to-income ratio (although, the DTI ratio is used more for sole proprietors and freelancers who aren’t considered separate legal entities and don’t have a DSCR).

  • Debt-To-Income (DTI) Ratio: Measures the relationships between your personal debt and income and is used to determine how high-risk you are.

Working to get rid of existing debt also proves to lenders that you pay your debts in full and on time, which increases your credit score and betters your chances of getting approved for a loan. The less debt, the more cash you have available for a loan, and the stronger your application is.

Proper Documents

How Strong Is Your Business Loan Application?

Every lender requires certain documents to be included in a potential borrower’s loan application. Specific documents will vary from lender to lender, so be sure to check your lender’s requirements. Have all of the proper documents prepared beforehand.

Often, these documents include:

  • Cash flow statements
  • Bank statements
  • Income sheet
  • Statement of owner’s equity (or capital)
  • Tax Returns
  • Collateral documentation
  • Legal documents and licenses
  • Business history
  • Business owner’s history

Some lenders may ask for these documents in the loan application itself, while many online lenders require you to submit an initial application and then provide the required documents at a later time. Having these documents ready to go whenever the lender asks for them demonstrates that you are timely and organized.

Taking every opportunity to impress lenders and put your best foot forward can make or break the chance of you getting that loan.

Borrower Requirements

How Strong Is Your Business Loan Application?

No matter how beautifully polished and impressive your loan application is, it’s not going to get you anywhere if you don’t meet the lender’s requirements.

Every lender has specific requirements borrowers must meet in order to qualify for a loan. They often include:

  • A minimum credit score
  • A specific amount of time in business
  • A minimum monthly or yearly income
  • Certain collateral

Be sure to carefully research potential lenders so that you can be certain you meet all of the borrower requirements. If you meet and exceed all of the requirements and have a beautifully polished loan application, you make yourself a strong applicant and increase your chances of being approved for the loan you want.

If you are having trouble finding a loan you qualify for, we can help you find the perfect loan for your business.

No Spelling Or Grammatical Errors

How Strong Is Your Business Loan Application?

You’ve checked that you can afford a loan; you’ve met the borrower requirements; you’ve prepared all the proper documents. That should mean you’ve got the green light and are all clear, right?

Not quite. There’s one key final step.

Before sending off your loan application, double and triple check that there are no typos, spelling error, grammatical errors, or missing information. Maybe even get another set of eyes to read over it. This is an easy step to skip over, but I can’t stress how important it is.

Spelling errors and typos simply make you look unprofessional. Additionally, loan applications require a lot of legal information that you really don’t want to goof up on.

Once you’ve read and edited your finished loan application multiple times, you can be confident that you’ve done everything to make your loan application as strong as possible.

Final Thoughts

Now that you have a better idea of what lenders are looking for, you can more easily measure how strong your application is. After all, the stronger your application, the strong your chance of getting that loan.

Before you send off your application for good, be sure to ask yourself these questions regarding your loan application:

  • Do I demonstrate a clear plan for the loan?
  • Do I display the 5 Cs of Credit?
  • Do I have enough cash flow for monthly payments?
  • Did I eliminate most or all of my existing business debt?
  • Are the required documents included (or at least prepared)?
  • Do I meet or exceed the borrower requirements?
  • Did I edit everything correctly?

If your application is strong, great! You can go ahead and send it off with confidence. If your application seems weak, you can save yourself the heartache and time and avoid being denied. Instead, take the time to strengthen your application and better your chances of getting approved.

For more information on how to improve your loan application, read our post 20 Tips To Improve Your Business Loan Application.

The post How Strong Is Your Business Loan Application? appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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20 Tips To Improve Your Business Loan Application

Improve Business Loan Application

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

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

Easier said than done, right?

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

1. Have A Plan

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

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

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

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

2. Choose A Realistic Borrowing Amount

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

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

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

3. Calculate Your Monthly Payments

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

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

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

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

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

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

4. Find The Right Type Of Loan

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

Here are the most common types of business loans:

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

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

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

5. Find The Right Lender

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

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

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

6. Understand The Loan Process

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

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

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

7. Have A Strong Business Credit Score

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

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

8. Don’t Forget Your Personal Credit Score

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

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

9. Know What’s On Your Credit Report

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

10. Pay Off Existing Debt First

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

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

11. Increase Your DSCR

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

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

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

12. Offer Up Collateral

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

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

To learn more about collateral, check out these resources:

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

13. Prepare The Proper Documents

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

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

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

14. Create A Cash Flow Projection

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

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

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

15. Use Accounting Software

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

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

16. Create A Business Plan

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

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

17. Be Professional

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

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

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

18. Wait Until The Market Is Good

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

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

19. Don’t Ignore Social Media

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

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

20. Seek Extra Help

What Information to Bring Accountant for Small Business Taxes

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

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

Final Thoughts

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

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

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

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How To Advertise On Zillow Effectively

How to Advertise on Zillow Effectively

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

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

What Is Zillow?

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

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

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

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

Some other statistics about Zillow Group’s audience include:

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

Property Management, Rental And Brand Advertising With Zillow Group

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

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

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

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

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

Ad Products For Brands

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

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

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

Search Ads

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

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

Property Ads

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

Home Expenses Ads

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

Rich Media Ads

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

Programmatic Ads

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

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

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

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

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

Lender Advertising

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

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

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

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

The information that is stored here includes:

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

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

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

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

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

Co-Marketing On Zillow

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

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

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

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

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

Premier Agent Advertising

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

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

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

My Agent

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Premier Agent Concierge

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

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

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

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

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

Premier Agent Direct

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

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

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

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

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

Seller Boost

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

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

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

Free Websites

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

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

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

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

How Much Does Premier Agent Cost?

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

Zip Codes

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. Log into your Premier Agent account.

2. Click on My Ads.

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

Impressions

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

How To Calculate Your ROI

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

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

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

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

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

How To Generate Leads For Free Using Zillow

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

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

Enter your information to create a free profile.

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

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

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

Optimize Your Profile

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

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

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

Add Sold Listings

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

Get Great Reviews

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

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

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

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

Don’t Hesitate

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

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

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

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

Zillow Agent Toolkit

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

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

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

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

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

Next Steps

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

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

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How To Advertise on Snapchat Effectively

How to Advertise on Snapchat Effectively

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

profitable space to advertise businesses on to see tangible results.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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Are HubSpot’s Inbound Marketing Services Right For You?

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

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

What Is Hubspot?

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

HubSpot CRM Tool

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

But what does it do?

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

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

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

HubSpot Inbound Marketing

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

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

But what do you actually get from there?

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

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

HubSpot Sales

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

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

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

HubSpot Service Hub

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

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

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

Why Go Hubspot?

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

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

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

The post Are HubSpot’s Inbound Marketing Services Right For You? appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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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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