How To Advertise on Yelp Effectively

How to Advertise on Yelp Effectively

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The 5 Cs Of Credit: What Lenders Look For

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

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

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

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

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

Character

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

Why Character Matters

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

How Lenders Evaluate Character

When evaluating character, lenders look at:

  • Credit report
  • Credit scores
  • Personal qualities
  • References

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

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

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

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

How To Improve Character

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

1. Raise Your Credit Score

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

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

2. Understand Your Credit Report

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

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

3. Be Professional

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

4. Establish A Relationship With Your Bank

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

Capacity

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

Why Capacity Matters

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

How Lenders Evaluate Capacity

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

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

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

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

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

How To Improve Capacity

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

1. Pay Down Past Debt

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

2. Improve Your DSCR

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

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

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

3. Lower Your DTI

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

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

  • Increase your monthly income
  • Pay off existing debt

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

4. Use Accounting Software

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

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

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

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

Capital

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

Why Capital Matters

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

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

How Lenders Evaluate Capital

When considering capital, lenders want to see:

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

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

How To Improve Capital

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

1. Increase Owner’s Capital

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

2. Highlight Investment Successes

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

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

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

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

Collateral

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

Why Collateral Matters

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

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

How Lenders Evaluate Collateral

Every lender has different requirements when it comes to collateral.

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

Some examples of collateral include:

  • Property
  • Vehicles
  • Equipment
  • Savings accounts

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

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

How To Improve Small Business Collateral

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

1. Know What Collateral You Have To Offer

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

2. Decide What You’re Comfortable With

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

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

3. Find The Right Lender

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

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

Conditions

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

Why Conditions Matter

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

How Lenders Evaluate Conditions

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

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

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

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

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

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

How To Improve Conditions

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

1. Have A Plan

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

Common reasons for requesting a business loan include:

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

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

2. Time It Right

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

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

3. Show Your Expertise

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

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

4. Improve Your DSCR

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

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

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

Sealing The Deal

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

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

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

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

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

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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 Nextdoor Effectively

How To Advertise on Nextdoor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

business set up page on Nextdoor.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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How to Advertise on eBay Effectively

How To Advertise on eBay

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Optimizing Your Listings

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

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

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

    How to Advertise on eBay Effectively appeared first on ShivarWeb.

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    Box.com Cloud Storage Review

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

    Pricing

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

    Starter

    • $5/user/month
    • 100 GB storage

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

    Business

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

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

    Business Plus

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

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

    Features

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

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

    Ease Of Use

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

    Final Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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    Webbased.com: An Alternative To Website Builders

    webbased

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

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

    Webbased.com: Services Offered

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

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

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

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

    Customer Service & Support

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

    Reviews Of Webbased.com

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

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

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

    Final Thoughts

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

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

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    3dcart VS Volusion

    3dcart-vs-Volusion

    3dcart VS Volusion
    ✓ Pricing
    Ease of Use ✓
    ✓ Features
    Web Design ✓
    ✓ Integrations & Add-Ons
    ✓ Payment Processing
    Tie Customer Service & Technical Support Tie
    Tie Negative Reviews & Complaints Tie
    Tie Positive Reviews & Testimonials Tie
    Winner Final Verdict
    Read Review Read Review
    Visit Site Visit Site

    Everyone knows starting a business is a challenge, and setting up an online store can be particularly difficult. Not only do you have to find a product and make a business plan, you also have to build an entire website that can operate as your selling platform. This was an almost impossible obstacle for many sellers just a few years ago, but modern software has eliminated many of the hurdles merchants would otherwise have to overcome.

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Web-Hosted Or Licensed

    Both platforms are web-hosted.

    Hardware & Software Requirements

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

    Pricing

    Winner: 3dcart

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

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

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

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

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

    V1 Pricing

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

    V2 Pricing

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

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

    Get Started With 3dcart

    Get Started With Volusion V1

    Get Started With Volusion V2

    Ease Of Use

    Winner: Volusion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Use tutorial videos to quickly learn your way around.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Features

    Winner: 3dcart

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

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

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

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

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

    And here are features for V2:

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

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

    Get Started With 3dcart

    Get Started With Volusion V1

    Get Started With Volusion V2

    Web Design

    Winner: Volusion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Integrations & Add-Ons

    Winner: 3dcart

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

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

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

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

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

    Payment Processing

    Winner: 3dcart

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

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

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

    We’re giving the category to 3dcart.

    Customer Service & Technical Support

    Winner: Tie

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

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

    Negative Reviews & Complaints

    Winner: Tie

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

    3dcart

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

    Volusion

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

    Positive Reviews & Testimonials

    Winner: Tie

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

    3dcart

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

    Volusion

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

    Final Verdict

    Winner: 3dcart

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

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

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

    Get Started With 3dcart

    Get Started With Volusion V1

    Get Started With Volusion V2

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

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